Infantry: December 15, 1999

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Two years ago, the US Air Force added a 36-hour "Field Training Experience" to its basic training for new enlisted airmen. This was, for most members of the Air Force, the first training in "ground combat" in decades. During the Cold War, enlisted airmen were taught only rudimentary soldier skills (marching, pitching tents) before moving into technical training (aircraft mechanics and so forth). This was because the wars expected then would be fought from fully-staffed air bases protected by fences, Air Police security details, and ultimately by Army maneuver divisions miles away. Then the Cold War ended, and the Air Force found itself losing its overseas bases and facing the new and unknown world of Expeditionary Warfare. Suddenly, the Air Force was expected to operate from "casual" bases hastily converted out of host country airfields, and used to conduct a dozen new kinds of missions including humanitarian relief and peacekeeping. While the world was, supposedly, more secure after the end of the Cold War, the Air Force found that its air bases and ground crews were actually less secure. Basic Training began to include more practice sessions on guard duty, perimeter security, and even the occasional patrol beyond the base's fence. Two years ago, this became the "Field Training Experience" or FTX, a somewhat less stressful version of the Marine Corps Crucible, but still considerably more stressful than anything Air Force recruits had experienced before. One recruit died during an FTX, apparently of stress. The original 12-hour exercise grew to 24 hours, then 36. Now, the Air Force has gone a step further. The 36-hour "experience" has now become "Warrior Week", a "stressful" seven-day training exercise including long marches, one cold night in a foxhole, patrols and ambushes, boring videotaped lectures in air conditioned tents, base defense, firing M-16s for familiarization (not for qualification), and "buddy care" (how to get a wounded buddy back to medical help). By Army or Marine standards, Warrior Week is far from a slice of hell. For the first four days, the tents are air conditioned and the latrines have concrete floors. Only in the final 36-hour phase, when the troops move into an unoccupied area, set up a "forward airfield camp", and defend it from an enemy attack, does it approach anything like the training ground warriors get. And yet, it is a start. --Stephen V Cole

December 15; The small company of Z-M Weapons High Performance Systems is offering a new carbine in .223 caliber (and some others). Known as the LR300, the weapon (with stock folded and the shorter 11.5 inch barrel) is only 21.5 inches long! There have been numerous .223 carbines over the years, but because the AR15 action requires the bolt carrier to travel backwards against a spring in the stock, true folding stock capability was never possible. The LR300 gets around this problem two ways. First, the bolt carrier is only half as long, allowing room for it to recoil. Second, the spring is mounted in front of the bolt carrier (rather than in the stock). When the weapon fires, the bolt carrier travels back, pulling the LR300 spring rather than compressing it as would happen in the AR15. The spring then pulls (rather than pushes) the bolt carrier back into place. The stock not only folds, but can be adjusted to five different lengths. This would allow a police department to keep a relatively small number of such weapons and quickly customize them to officers assigned to carry them at any given time. The pistol grip is modeled on a .45 M1911 pistol, and a similar grip is provided forward. Semi-auto versions are available to civilians; full auto versions can be ordered by military and police organizations for $1,995. --Stephen V Cole


December 15; The Pentagon has 230,000 M1 Garand rifles in storage that it would like to sell. There are at least that many collectors in the US who would like to own an M1, renowned as one of the most accurate rifles ever created. The Clinton Administration, however, will not allow the sale as this would contradict their policy of getting guns OFF the streets. --Stephen V Cole


December 15; Kalashnikov is now offering its new VEPR carbine in both 7.62x39mm (the round used in the AK47) and in 7.62x51mm (NATO 30-caliber, also known as .308 Winchester). The .308 version is finding favor in the US sport shooting market, which respects both the dependable Kalashnikov action (and its superb 1.25 minute of arc accuracy) and the NATO-308 cartridge. The .308-VEPR weighs 8.35 pounds empty, is 39.75 inches long, and has a 20.5-inch barrel. It comes with 5-round and 10-round magazines. These are of a staggered column design made from steel reinforced black polymer. The stock is checkered walnut, with a thumbhole (creating a defacto pistol grip without violating a BATF ban on such things). The metal is black baked enamel over phosphate. The rifle is equipped with iron sights but comes with a mounting system for a telescopic sight. Suggested retail (including the two magazines, the cleaning kit, and the scope mount kit) is $699. --Stephen V Cole

 


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