Bullets, brass and barricades
Posted by PA3 Casey Ranel, Monday, June 27, 2011
In the distance you can hear cars speeding down U. S. Highway 90 in Raceland, La. It’s a warm day, but nice weather for south Louisiana. There is a light breeze outside and countless ammunition and weapons are laid out in preparation for training. As Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Lyons, a gunner’s mate and small arms instructor with Coast Guard Sector New Orleans prepares to give pre-fire instructions, several men and women from different Coast Guard units load fire arms and suit up with a gun belt and ballistic vests. Soon, the sound of bullets discharging through the barrel of a black handgun will pierce the air, as they aim from 25 yards away from a target that is in the shape of a person.
“Treat every weapon as if it is loaded,” said Lyons. “Keep your weapon pointed in a safe direction at all times.”
After pre-fire instructions are complete the shooters go right into basic pistol. Basic pistol is a series of four courses of fire; 12 rounds in 12 minutes, six rounds in 24 seconds, twice, and six rounds in 12 seconds. As the shooters step up to the line, small arms instructors give instructions on command, along with several other gunner’s mates to assist.
“This next course of fire is going to be six rounds in 24 seconds,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Dave McGrew, gunner’s mate and small arms instructor with Coast Guard Sector New Orleans. “With one magazine of six rounds, lock and load. Six rounds, 24 seconds, is the line ready?”
Once the whistle is blown and the stop watch is started by McGrew, shooters began firing at their targets. Basic pistol will continue through a total of four courses of fire. When all courses are complete, gunner’s mates calculate each shooters target shots. In order to qualify in basic pistol as a marksman, a shooter must receive a 114. A sharp shooter qualification is a 129 and an expert is 144.
“The target calculation is simple,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Blanchard, a gunner’s mate with Sector New Orleans. “The two innermost rings are worth five points and as they extend outward, the number decreases to four, three and then two. A shooter will shoot 30 rounds in a total of 13 minutes.”
In addition to basic pistol, shooters can qualify in practical pistol, the shotgun and basic and practical rifle. All these courses have different qualification totals and pre-fire instructions.
Instructing small arms to members at the range is just one of the duties of a rate that is more than 200 years old. Gunner’s mates receive training in electronics, mechanical systems and hydraulics, perform maintenance on all gunnery equipment and become small arms instructors.
The primary program goal of the standard small arms training program is to train and qualify personnel to use small arms in support of Coast Guard missions. This training program is designed to provide initial training to all entry level Coast Guard personnel, reinforce basic principles of shooting, training and requalification for those that routinely carry a weapon as well as training and evaluations of a person’s judgment.
If you need to get qualified at the range with Sector New Orleans gunner’s mates, have your personal qualification standards complete, expect the heat of south Louisiana to beat you down and be prepared to pick up brass.