First off, yes, I went to the range this weekend with 109 of my "friends". I say friends because we all dress alike, go "camping" together several times a year, meet at least once a month and do lots of things together.
Yes, I am part of the "militia". I am in the Federal Funded Militia, not to be confused with the State/Federal Funded Militia, the State Funded Militia, and the State Unorganized Militia. (Reserves, National Guard, State Militia and your local right wing tinfoil hat brigade respectively)
So I got to fire an Assault Rifle. No quotes around Assault here like the NRA would say. No one would argue this was not an Assault rifle. It was an M16A4, 5.56 mm NATO with selective fire Semi/Burst. It did not have an Adjustable stock or grenade launcher but did have a bayonet lug and pistol grip. Which means that other than the Burst option under the 1994 AWB (and the current proposed but dead at the door bill) the bayonet lug is what makes it an "Assault" rifle.
So how does the military do gun control? Lets look after the fold. (warning! this is long!)
(See below the ** for a summary.)
Here is how it went: I arrived early on Friday morning after driving 190 miles to be at the Reserve Center. As others arrived for the 0700 formation we had to hear the normal complaints about having to come to the Reserve Center when the range we are going to is just down the road from about 1/3 of the unit. (yeah, it sucks, but why should you get to drive your car to the range while the rest of us have to bring your weapon, your gear, your assigned truck, then bring them back and clean them up?)
After formation and accountability: we were missing over 30, some were at military schools - excused - some were high school students -yes, you can join at 17 in violation of the UN Child Warrior laws the US won't recognize - and about 14 dirt bags that won't fulfill the commitments they made when they joined the military (but does not stop some of them from bragging about being in the military on Facebook).
We then lined up our trucks (HMMWV - humm-vees and 5-ton's) then loaded up the gear for three days in the field. This was a practice run before we head out for our "two-weeks" (28 days this year) training. At this point it was time to get our weapons.
See the military does not just give everyone a gun and say "here you go, take care of it". They assign you a weapon, give you a card that you sign and turn in when you draw your weapon out of the vault. (If more than one day, you have to sign an additional sing out sheet that tracks all weapons.) These weapons are inspected at least once a month, some times more. Each month a different senior NCO or officer validates the serial numbers of each weapon. You can't have the same person twice in a row either.
The weapons are kept in a locked rack in a locked cage in a vault that is in side a locked room. The person that has the combination for the Vault does not have the keys to the room the vault is in. The person with the keys to the cages and locked weapon racks is not allowed the combination to the Vault. No one can get access with out permission from the Commander of the Unit.
You can't just show up and draw out your weapon anytime you want either. They can only be drawn out with permission from the Commander for specific reasons. And hunting is not one of them.
You are also not allowed to bring your own weapons out on training or to the Reserve Center. On Active Duty you have to get permission from the Post Provost to have guns in your barracks or post housing.
Did I mention that when you join the military you give up your rights? So don't go crying "the second amendment gives me the right to have guns" if you're a soldier on post.
After drawing our Assault Rifles, Protective Masks, NVG's and radios, we cleared the rifles into a "clearing barrel" (designed to catch any bullet that gets fired into it, you are validating that all weapons are unloaded and on Safe for transport) then loaded up on the trucks and drove for three hours a distance that takes an hour an forty five minutes by car. Yeah, these high speed chases you see on tv with HummVee's, they are fake. (we also added to the tinfoil hat rumors of "military movements to lock up citizens in FEMA camps when some 30 military trucks went down the highway)
While transporting weapons, some Soldiers are armed with loaded weapons, but a majority are not. These Soldiers have received special training and authorization to have ammo when not on a range.
On arriving we immediately did a "sensitive items check". Making sure all weapons and important gear was accounted for. Then we set up "camp".
At the end of the day another accountability check was done. Guard duty was established, and off to sleep for a few hours.
In the morning another accountability check was done, chow served and lunch handed out (MRE's), and we loaded up to go to the ranges. Ammunition was delivered to the range, and you only have it when you are ON the firing line. All ammo is accounted for much like weapons, and when you're done shooting, you pick up the spent cartages to turn in. If you drew 15,960 rounds they want you to turn in at least 15,162 spent cartages.
The first range was the "grouping/Zero" range. This is a 25 meter target range, meaning the target is 25 meters from your firing point. For the M-16 it displays an outline of a person from the waist up scaled to the same image it would be at 300 meters. You get "rodded" onto the range, meaning they slide a metal rod through the barrel of your rifle into the chamber making sure there are no bullets in your rifle. You get to your point (keeping the barrel facing down towards the targets) at all times. Any violations are severely punished.
When the range safety is ready, you are given the command to load your weapon with three rounds. You then are given a command to start shooting. The goal for grouping is to 5 out of 6 rounds inside a 3 cm circle. When you do that, you start to "zero", meaning making adjustments to your sights so that the bullet hits the target where you aim at.
Zero is when your point of aim at a 300 meter target puts the bullet in the center of the target. Because the bullet travels in an arc, there will be two points of the arc that the bullet travels through if you drew a straight line over the arc. For the M-16 that is 25 meters and 300 meters (ruffly). You could do this on a 300 meter range, but after three shots you walk down to the target, figure out what you need to adjust then walk back to adjust. 25 meters makes more sense.
When you "zero", again 5 out of 6 consecutive shots in the center of the target, you are "pulled from the range" and sent to the qualification range. On the way off the range they "rod you off" and you turn in all magizens
The qualification range is the real fun, we had a "pop up" range this time. Which means the targets pop up and down and are not on a paper target. You get immediate feed back if you hit the target or not.
The Qual range has targets set at 50 meters, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300. They are on either side of your lane (the area you are allowed to fire into, again shooting someplace else will get you in trouble). You fire from three positions: Prone supported - laying down with your rifle resting on a sandbag or three; Prone unsupported - laying down holding your rifle with it not resting on anything; and Kneeling - just like it sounds.
This is moving from a stable to less stable position and better reflects reality. (When I joined the Army back when we were about to go to war with the Soviet Union in the late 1980's, we had fox holes we shot from too.)
You can only shoot when directed to, and like the other range, you are rodded on and off, only get the ammo when on the range and have to recover all the brass after your targets get done popping up.
What many may find interesting is that you are given 40 rounds and 40 targets. You become "qualified" if you hit 23 out of 40. This is because it is hard to hit people with a bullet. Especially moving targets. Which is why you hear about bystanders being shot when the person being aimed at is not hit. Again, unlike tv just shooting at someone is not going to hit them unless you aim at them and not the gangster point and shoot aim you see on tv.
After you qualify you head to the NBC fire. Where you put on your protective mask and then shoot at targets. This requires different aiming techniques and is not as easy. Again, you have to be rodded on and off the range only get ammo on the range and account for all rounds.
After that we broke for dinner chow, did accountability, re-trained our "hard-core bolo's" (people who can't shoot because they are doing it wrong.) then moved to the night fire range. Once it was dark we moved onto the range with tracer rounds in our ammo. These are the special tipped bullets that "light up" when fired. Normally you have 1 tracer round for every four normal rounds. So when you see on TV news all those red and green bullets being shot, there are often four non-red/green rounds going there too.
As normal you are rodded on and off, don't get ammo till on the range and because it is dark, things are done slower to make sure nothing goes wrong.
Then we went back to camp, did an accountability check, set the guard and off to sleep for a few hours. In the morning another accountability check, our hard core bolo's were rushed down to the range while the rest of us tore down camp, did inventory of packed items, made notes of what we were missing and what was used that needs restock. in the early afternoon we all went down to the range, cleaned it up, turned in the ammo residue, did another accountability and moved back to the center.
At the center, all weapons were cleaned, inspected and inventoried. They were turned in, locked up, and the vault was sealed. When all that was done, we were sent home till April.
I love going to the range, the challenge of shooting at targets is exciting and you get a great feeling of accomplishment when you improve over last time. Sadly we only get to do this once a year. Active duty normally gets to shoot twice a year. I do see why members of the Active Duty, Reserves and Guard would want an AR-15. So you could practice on your own with a rifle that aims and functions just like the M-16 (other than the burst option). I would be happy to see these people exempted from any ban as long as they were in good standing with the military, registered their weapon with the police, and kept them secured. Heck I would support a stipend for them to cover the cost of a 100 rounds a year for extra training (about the same as one grouping, zero and qual - 72 rounds max but 100 is an even number.)
So how does the military do gun control? First off, no one person has access to the weapons. No weapons are left 'laying around', they are either locked up or held by the person who signed them out. No non-issued weapons are allowed on military property. And civilian weapons are greatly restricted in housing areas on post. When weapons are drawn, they are not loaded till they are needed, the ammo is kept in a different place and just as restricted in access. Accountability is maintained at all times and all weapons are registered on a manifest. Each month they are checked and several times a year get extra unannounced checks.
Every aspect of weapon access is regulated and controlled. People have lost their careers because proper process was not followed even though all weapons were accounted for.
Now when deployed, this is different, you have ammo when you get to the war zone that you keep at all times, but full accountability is an always thing, clearing the weapon before you go into any building or on/off FOB always happens. Negligent discharges (there are NO ACCIDENTAL DISCHARGES, EVER) are severely punished up to and including loss of rank, pay, bar on re-enlistment, even jail time.
So when you hear people saying we need 'assault' rifles, point out how the military, which has a very defined need for Assault rifles manages its gun collection.