Book Reviews: May 1999

By Rob Krott

The Long Range War: Sniping in Vietnam
by Peter R. Senich.
Boulder CO: Paladin Press, 1994,
ISBN 0-87364-789-0
268 pages. $39.95
Review by Rob Krott

Adherents of the “Death by long rifle” school of thought, target interdiction specialists, and especially Vietnam veterans interested in sniping will like The Long Range War. It is a well-researched technical and historical work. Senich is also the author of eight other books on sniping and weapons including: The German Sniper 1914-1945, US Marine Corps Scout-Sniper, World War II and Korea, and two other books on US military sniping. He has recently turned his interest in the history of sniping to the US military’s sniping efforts in Vietnam. The most recent book in the genre being The One-Round War, USMC Scout Snipers in Vietnam (also available from Paladin Press).

The author’s research began in the late 1960s during the height of the Vietnam conflict. Senich concentrates on this somewhat narrow but important part of the Vietnam war and ably documents the wide use of sniping tactics and new technologies, including the fielding of a wide range of experimental equipment, that was, until then, unprecedented in the US Army and USMC. The paddies and jungles of Vietnam became a laboratory for such erstwhile innovators as Gordon Ingram, James M. Leatherwood and Mitchell WerBell III.

The preface includes a special acknowledgement of the contributions of the late LTC William S. Brophy. While a captain during the Korean War Brophy was known for using a Model 70 Winchester .30-06 target rifle in his one man sniping campaign and was one of the first to adapt the Browning .50 HMG to sniping. But Senich’s primary focus is on the US Army’s sniper program during the Vietnam War. He begins his history of sniping in Vietnam with the lack of adequate equipment in the early days and the fielding of supplemental and expedient sniping systems. Advisory teams and other special units often adopted a “whatever it takes” attitude towards the use of civilian equipment. He painstakingly covers the history and circumstances of the XM21 sniping rifle and the Adjustable Ranging Telescope (ART) development, as well as the sound suppressors and their subsequent combat application in Vietnam. The book progresses to the rapid development undertaken after the 1965-1966 period when most sniping was done by troops with field expedient systems operating on their own agendas to the end of the war.

The Long Range War is a thorough and exhaustive study of the training, equipment, and combat experiences of American snipers in Vietnam. It is without a doubt the most definitive work yet published on the subject. Photos are numerous, averaging about two per page and the book includes seven full-page illustrations by talented military artist Max Crace. Chapters address such topics as the development of the XM-21; auto-ranging telescopes and the Leatherwood Principle; noise suppression; night vision and sniper instruction.

There are plenty of blueprints, developmental drawings, tables of technical data, equipment photos and copies of correspondence and official documents to please even the most hardcore of weapons techno-wonks plus some good combat “After Action” narratives to appease lovers of “bang-bang”.

Though Senich includes various aspects of the early Marines Corps sniping effort (the first recorded sniping kill by US forces in Vietnam was credited to a 3d Marine Division sniper in 1965). Senich’s The Long Range War is focused primarily on the US Army’s efforts. He presents a detailed examination of USMC sniping in Vietnam in The One-Round War, which is really a companion volume to The Long Range War. Anyone who has an avid interest in sniping has probably already added this volume to his or her military book collection. Those in any way involved in the sniping effort in Vietnam and especially veterans of the 9th Infantry Division, which led the way in US Army sniper training, will appreciate The Long Range War. This book will hold the interest of anyone previously or currently assigned as a unit sniper or interested in the history and development of sniping weapons.

CIA Special Weapons & Equipment; Spy devices of the Cold War
By H. Keith Melton
Forward by the Honorable Richard Helms
Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
387 Park Avenue South,
New York, New York 10016
Price $11.95 plus $4.50 s&h
Reviewed by Stephen Stuart

During the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency developed some of the most specialized equipment ever fielded. In this war, it was spy against spy. The side that trained their operatives the best and supported them with the best equipment had an edge against the enemy. These technological marvels (radios, one-time pads, cameras, etc) were tools of the trade for these unseen warriors.

Mr. Melton’s book covers the time period from 1945 through 1970. Some of the devices covered are very similar to those used by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. A good example would be the W.W. II Liberator handgun, the idea of which was updated into the newer Vietnam era Deer Gun. The Deer gun is a simple singe-shot pistol, like the early Liberator, it also held spare ammunition in the pistol grip (the Liberator held 10 rounds of .45 ACP, the Deer gun 3 rounds of 9mm). As its WWII counter part was, it is designed to be dropped behind enemy lines and be used to acquire a better firearm.

Explosive initiated devices are featured: dust explosive initiator, the Firestarter, Combustible notebook, and Equipment destroyer. These explosive devices were mostly used to sabotage equipment.

One of the “neatest” devices listed in this text is the “Dog Doo” transmitter. The Dog Doo is a transmitter that acts as a homing beacon. The device itself was camouflaged as dog “doo”, so a person wouldn’t take note of it or think that it as a electronic device.

This book is a mere 128 pages. There are numerous line drawings and black and white photos describing the materials. This is Melton’s fourth book and like the others it is top notch in its field. Some of us seem unable to get enough information on actual spy gear; this is a nice addition for one’s spy library.

Black Magic; The Ultra Accurate AR-15
By John Feamster
Published by: Precision Shooting Inc, Manchester Connecticut, 1998.
303 pages.
Numerous black and white photos.
Review by Brad Browne

For someone interested in learning more about how to make their AR-15 turn out some impressive results, John Feamster has a lot of good things to tell you. His book starts with his own experiences with the famous “Black Rifle” and goes on to describe in seven chapters how to make your “Mousegun” deliver the performance that you never thought you’d get from it.

The first chapter is the author’s introduction, with a bit of the AR’s history thrown in to boot. Chapter two discusses AR’s and competitions, comparing it to the longstanding M1/M14 rifles used in the US National Matches at Camp Perry. Chapter Three is 44 pages of information about the service rifle, covering sights, zeroing, triggers, free-float tubes, barrels, twist, chamber size, magazines, and slings. Chapter four takes you past the original mil-spec rifle and shows you how a match or varmint rifle can be built on an AR action. For the reloader, chapter five will help you along, from basic safety rules for the newbie, to “Mexican Match” ammo, VLD bullets, Moly coating, plus more. There’s a lot of good info here for reloaders. Chapter six covers how to accurately test an AR from a benchrest, how to clean for best accuracy, and the ever-present gasgun question “Well, just how clean is clean?” Chapter seven is a number of experiments, tips and tweaks: Comparisons between tight and loose upper/lowers, receiver-tensioning pins, fast/slow twist rates and light bullets. These are some of the things that John Feamster covers in the book.

I started reading the book when I was on watch one night (I’m a sailor, and I’ve been out to sea for the past 6 months...it’s amazing how much you can read when you’re at sea!) I didn’t manage to put the book down until it was done. (I was somewhat tired the next day, because I didn’t get all that much sleep in my off-watch time...too busy reading.) I liked the flow of the book; it followed a logical (in my opinion) progression. It started with an introduction of the author and progressed into service rifles, then into match rifles, reloading, testing, and finally some of the experiments that the author has performed.

Throughout the book there’s plenty of good photos, although some are a little bit dark, so it’s tough to pick up some of the details on those.

There are a number of tips and procedures that are thoroughly explained, including bedding the receivers, bedding those cheap scope mounts to the carry handle, plus a few other useful tips. There is an appendix that contains a list of the manufacturers and suppliers that are mentioned and also information on various parts such as the Milazzo-Krieger two stage trigger, and the J.P. Enterprises single stage trigger.

To me the book does not seem to be written for a beginner with the AR family. I feel that it’s targeted at the more experienced shooter who wants to get more out of their rifle. If you’re a beginner, or someone not familiar with the American shooting community, you may find some of the terms unfamiliar, and I would suggest including a glossary.

I’m quite happy with the money that I spent on this book, and look forward to further books from Mr. Feamster. This book is (IMHO) well researched, and well written.

The book can be purchased through Precision Shooting magazine for a price of $29.95 (softcover 24.95) by calling (860)-645-8776.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N8 (May 1999)
and was posted online on May 27, 2016


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