By Dan Shea
The NDIA Small Arms Symposium in Atlantic City was a good one this year. No question about it, 600+ attendees and over 60 vendors made for a very interesting experience. Exciting papers, cutting edge offerings and new technology, as well as gathering with old friends. It was a productive trip for every one I spoke with as well as a good time in general. Next year is in Albuquerque, NM on 15-18 May 2006, and intrepid reporter Robert Bruce will be bringing us the report on this past meeting of the Small Arms Group in a future issue.
I wanted to touch on one private conversation that I had while sitting in the lobby. Mark Westrom from Armalite was on a rant about magazine supply for the military, and we went on for a while about it. Magazines are an often overlooked part of the soldier’s kit, and they are expendable items. The same can be said for many accessories for firearms. The magazine issue is something close to home for most of us, though, and requires a mention.
Twenty-odd years of ranting about “Training requires shooting”, “There is no substitute for live fire experience” and the like has left most of us on the soap box feeling a bit vindicated. Military training ammunition use has gone way up and even troops who aren’t considered first line combat are now live firing frequently; truly getting familiar with their weapons as they should be. Let’s keep that up. Now, let’s turn the light onto the accessory issue. We all know, especially those of us in the business, that our troops are using the Internet and mail order to get the latest gear. I get lots of calls from “Mom and Pop” at home, buying dress up gear to make weapons better. Military policy is that nothing should come from outside the system because it screws up procurement ordering data for the future, but the fact is if Lance Corporal Jody McPherson needs a collapsible stock for his M249, he is going to find one through channels or not. Likewise with magazines.
One military group said they didn’t need to watch their inventory on magazines because they had 200,000 magazines in the system. However, on further investigation, many of these were used, and how many does each soldier need to begin with? If your basic marching off to war kit for each soldier is 8 mags, that means they had enough for 25,000 troops. However, on the battlefield, those magazines are destroyed at a very fast rate. The fact that many magazines were “in use” means that probably 30% were not reliable. Savvy troops will take their issue mags to the field on training, and every mag that has a malfunction will get a pencil mark each time. Once you have a few marks on the mag, you know it is a problem so you either DX it, turn it in, or swap mags with someone else after you rub the pencil marks off - sad fact of life that it may be. The questionable mag is still in the system. Good mags are horded by individuals to take to the battle with them, and many times the bad ones are still in the inventory and not shown as bad.
This is a call to the system managers to do a field check on what is really out there for functional magazines, and do it before deployment. It makes sense to go through the entire TO&E of course, and I am sure people do. However the bad magazine issue is a hidden fact of life that prevents proper preparedness and Mark is 100% on target to bring it up. So, the soap box has new occupants, and we won’t back off from the live fire training either. Hopefully, this will be good for the troops in general and help them on their missions.
On a personal note, my daughter Megan Shea married long time beau Benjamin Sidon this past Memorial Day weekend. Megan has been in the Class 3 community since she was 8 years old and currently works in the business. She may be “moving on” now, but I just wanted all of the people she has known over the years to know that she is married now and the offers of arranged marriages to get to play with Daddy’s Maxim guns can stop. - Dan
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