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Marine Recon Troops in the Field 

“Recon Tips of the Trade” was developed by SFOD-B 52, 5th SFG(A), with assistance of the MACV Recondo school. From Mountain Guerilla.

Part Two: Rifle/Carbine-Specific Tips

1) Tape or otherwise cover the muzzle of your weapon in rural/wilderness environments, to keep out water, dirt, and other debris. Condoms are, of course, a popular mainstay for this, and there are plastic caps available for AR-15 platform muzzle devices (I’ve always used 100-mph tape, and never had a problem. –J.M.). You can shoot through the cover when needed, with no deleterious effects on combat accuracy.

2) If you are the only guy in your element running NODs, alternate tracer and ball ammunition in your magazines (I run a 4:1 ratio of ball:tracer. –J.M.). This will allow you to identify targets for your technologically-impaired compatriots to focus their firing on (I never bother with the whole “last three rounds are tracer” concept, because when I did, I never noticed I was dumping tracers before I hit bolt-lock anyway –J.M.).

3) Sleep with your weapon locked and loaded, safety engaged, in case you are awakened by hostile fire and need to engage bad guys, right-the-fuck-now! In the morning, if you haven’t fire it, always replace the round in the chamber (quietly, if it needs to be said…). Condensation in the chamber, combined with powder residue CAN lead to stuck cases. Further, if you are dumb enough or cheap enough to run a non-chrome-lined barrel, this will lead to a pitted chamber that will result in you dying with a fucking cleaning rod jammed down the barrel of your weapon, even with non-corrosive powder.

4) Lube your weapon thoroughly, every day in the field. A wet weapon is a happy weapon (they’re like women that way). A dry weapon WILL fucking choke.. Carry a bottle of lube on your fighting load-out. The choice of lube doesn’t matter in the long run. (Yes, CLP sucks. We all know it. Yet, I used CLP exclusively for almost 20 years and have NEVER had a problem, because I oil the ever-loving-shit out of them. I currently run motor oil…yes, motor oil, and have had absolutely no problems, whatsoever.).

5) Keep your fucking safety selector switch on “safe” unless you’re killing someone. It will NOT make you any faster to have it already on “fire,” but you WILL end up shooting your buddy, or dumping a round in the dirt on a patrol, leading to a compromise and the whole fucking element getting killed. A negligent discharge is ground for dismissal from the Ranger Regiment. I firmly believe a negligent discharge in the field should be a fucking hanging offense.

6) Slings are to rifles what holsters are to pistols, but don’t treat your sling like some sort of irreplaceable sensitive item. Outside of vehicle-based operations and MOUT, most of the time, you ought not have the fucking thing slung anyway. An M4 weighs less than seven pounds, until you start adding shit to it. If you can’t carry that, all day, without a sling, do more PT.

7) Keep your weapon as slick as possible. A light is a necessity. An optic is not a necessity, but is useful enough it ought to be considered one for most applications. A sling is generally a necessity. If you are running NODs, an IR laser is a necessity. Nothing else is a necessity. Run your gun as slick as feasible. Your first magazine change should be a speed-reload. Do not worry about retaining or retrieval until after the fight is over. Focus on getting rounds downrange to occupy the enemy and disrupt his OODA loop. Other than that, the only time a speed reload is necessitated in a gunfight is a) when you are providing suppressive fire to protect a buddy who is still exposed to enemy fire when your rifle runs dry, or b) shooting while moving from one position of cover to the next and your weapon runs dry. B) should seldom occur, because you should be conducting reloads-with-retention while in a covered/concealed position if you know or believe you are close to running dry. C) should NEVER occur, for the same reason, and because when moving from one position of cover to the next, you should be moving fast enough that it’s faster to get to cover than it is to perform a speed reload.

8) Inspect and test all magazines before conducting an operation. Ensure they feed properly and inspect for bent/damaged feed lips, weak springs, etc. Mark every magazine you own and if one fails to perform in training or inspection, throw the motherfucker away. DO NOT PUT IT UP FOR SALE ON TOP OF YOUR GUNSHOW TABLE!

9) Never assume your weapon is clean enough on an operation. While an IG-level cleaning may lead to premature wear on some parts (still open for debate in my mind), at a minimum, wipe down the bolt-carrier group, and run a patch down the barrel.

10) It should be self-evident, but place your magazines in the mag pouch with the feed lips pointed down, to prevent loose rounds from falling out on the ground.

11) These rules apply, regardless of what type of weapon you carry. We all “know” AKs are impervious to abuse, can be run over by a fucking Abrams tank and still function flawlessly (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little…), but humor the Gods of War, and maintain them any-fucking-way.

12) Forget about shooting center-of-mass on a standard silhouette and for CQB. Yes, you should still shoot for the center of the largest piece of a concealed enemy that shows, but if you can see the torso, aim for the hips and the head. Bad guys (of all persuasions) wear body armor and rifle plates. A hip shot, contrary to what some instructors were once teaching, is not a fight-ender. A few rounds to the hips WILL put a dude on his ass however, severely limiting his mobility. This makes it MUCH easier to make head shots that will end the fight, right-the-fuck-now. “Hips and heads, kids. Hips and heads.” Instructors that are not teaching this need to re-think their paradigms.

13) Paint your fucking weapons! Black items stick out in pretty much every single operational environment I’ve ever experienced. It’s not a financial investment. If it is, you’re a fucking moron and have your head in the sand. It’s a fighting tool designed to help you kill bad people more efficiently (as a retired LEO said to me recently, “God created guns, because we suck at throwing bullets!”). So, let it help you kill them more efficiently by reducing the chances that it will be the thing that gets you killed. You can Dura-Coat it, or whatever. It really doesn’t matter. I use Krylon. It costs a whopping $4-5 at China-Mart, and I generally use most of two cans to completely paint a rifle (I use a base coat of tan, with highlights of green, since I live in the high-desert. If I lived in a more densely forested region, I’d probably reverse that….maybe….updated to add, “Nope, same pattern still works in a more densely forested region…)

14) Practice shooting while you are moving. This is an issue subject to a lot of disagreement amongst seriously professional and extremely experienced gunfighters. My take is: Inside of twenty meters with a rifle, and inside ten meters with a handgun, it is possible to get solid, well-placed aimed shots to the vital targeting areas of a moving hostile (I can make solid hits at 100+meters while moving, on a stationary, so….). If you’re that close to a guy who is shooting at you, and not solidly behind cover, you BETTER be fucking moving! Past that, pause for the half-step moment it takes to plant a solid hit on the dude, then keep on moving. In the meantime though, master the ability to make solid hits to the vitals (“Hips and heads, kids! Hips and heads!”), while you are sprinting from cover to cover.