3 June 2016 – Following on from yesterday’s news that the new .22″ cadet forces rifle will be called the L144, UK Shooting News’ author wonders how many weeks it’ll be in use for before the entire fleet is out of service awaiting spares.
Yesterday UKSN also became aware of a photo album from Somerset ACF depicting the new L144A1 in some detail.
Towards the end of that album is a sequence of photos showing the Normal Safety Precautions drill, carried out every time someone picks up an unattended rifle (and on a very long list of other occasions, including the start and end of every range session).
In essence, you pick up the rifle, open the bolt, check the chamber is clear … and then close it before firing it off (“in a safe direction”).
This is stupid. Rimfire rifles, unlike centrefire rifles, are not designed to be capable of dry firing. The No.8 happened to be OK with that treatment because of its very generous headspace (of up to 50 thou), meaning the striker could not peen the chamber face, and its two-piece firing pin. If the pin shatters, it is a two minute job to unscrew the bolt head and drop in a replacement.
The Savage rimfire firing ‘pin’ is actually a rectangular strip of metal that slots into the top of the bolt body (the slot at 12 o’clock on the bolt, as seen here) rather than a pin as such – the bottom forward corner of the rectangle strikes the cartridge. Does the L144’s design guarantee that it will not contact the face of the chamber when dry fired? If not, the MoD’s stupid drills will knacker their new rifles more or less overnight.
Where does this idiotic requirement to constantly dry fire the rifle come from?
Small arms drills are written, in the military, by the Small Arms School Corps. They are a corps of professional skill at arms instructors who write the weapon training pamphlets used to teach soldiers how to safely fire machine guns in the field at night. Unfortunately for the cadet forces, the SASC does not understand target shooting at all.
Cadets use the MoD weapon training system and philosophy devised by the SASC. This is built around drills; a sequence of actions you go through in response to a stimulus. If your rifle misfires, the drill is to wait on aim for 30 seconds. If the RCO shouts “unload”, you apply the safety, take the mag off, check the chamber, etc.
One key part of this philosophy is that the unload drill must include dry firing the firearm. This makes sense when you are dealing with SA80 rifles, where the chamber is not easily visible, or the GPMG, where the chamber cannot be seen at all unless the feed tray cover is open. You fire off the action to a) ease the tension on the main spring, and b) physically prove the chamber is empty. If you are about to start walking around the Middle East with your bolt forward and a magazine or belt fitted to your gun, this is a sensible precaution to prevent negligent discharges.
It makes absolutely no sense on a static, level, well-lit target shooting range with bolt action rifles where all shooting takes place under close personal supervision.
It is to be hoped that a grown-up somewhere in the military or cadet hierarchy takes another look at these silly drills and orders them to be changed to fall into line with real world practice: the only time the bolt should be closed and the trigger operated is when there is a round in the chamber and the rifle is about to be fired. Anyone who closes the bolt and starts pulling triggers on my ranges after I order “unload, show clear” is likely to get a size 11 up their arse closely followed by being physically removed from the range. Ditto anyone who follows the cadet-endorsed practice of leaving the bolt closed when removing the rifle from the firing point.
Cadets should be taught to handle their bolt action rifles in accordance with sensible and safe civilian practices and not some mis-applied military philosophy intended for use with automatic weapons in warzones. That will lengthen their rifles’ lifespan and help stop them engaging in dangerous practices on civilian ranges and in civilian competitions.