Everything You Wanted To Know About Wind, Target Conditions, & Shooting Moving Targets (But Were Afraid To Ask)

We will be continuing our prior discussion Aiming as a part of the shot process. Specifically, we will be focusing on how Target Conditions, moving targets, the wind, and limited visibility affects the Paratrooper’s hold. All of these will be addressed individually.

The conditions that the threat presents to the Paratrooper that affect their ability to engage it are as follows: the threat’s range, the nature of the threat, and the terrain surrounding it. We will discuss each one of these separately.

Accurately estimating the range to the threat is determined in one of two methods: immediate and deliberate. Immediate methods are some of the most reliable methods of determining range based on time constraints of the battlefield.

Immediate methods are the front-sight post method, the BDC method (RCO), the recognition method (formerly appearance-of-objects method), the 100-meter unit of measure method, and the Laser Range Finder. Deliberate methods will be discussed in another post.

Of these methods, the most commonly used by the Paratrooper will be the front-sight/BDC method and the 100-meter unit-of-measure. The recognition method can be employed. However, it takes frequent practice to remain proficient at. The 100-meter unit-of-measure method also takes practice visualizing the distance of 100 meters (approximately the length of the straightaway on a running track), and it is generally only good out to 500 meters.

Image 1

Image 2

The images above illustrate the front sight post and BDC methods respectively. The front sight post rule of thumb is if the target is wider than the front sight, it is within 300 meters if it is smaller than the front sight, it is past 300 meters. The RCO’s Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) horizontal stadia lines represent the approximate width of the average human (approx. 20 inches) at the respective distance. This method can be used rapidly to assess the distance to a threat that his showing the ideal presentation that the E-type target represents.

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Once the Paratrooper has estimated the range to their threat, what should their adjusted point of aim be? The image above illustrates what the immediate hold should be for the standard Army zero (the three hundred meters zero). For one-two hundred meters, the Paratrooper aims one quarter target form low from Center of Visible Mass (CoVM). Three hundred meters is point-of-aim=point-of-impact. Four hundred meters and further, the Paratrooper will apply a half- or full-target form above CoVM to ensure a hit.

Image 4

If using the M150 RCO, the Paratrooper will use the BDC as illustrated in image two at the appropriate offset point of aim below the chevron. Keep in mind that the tip of the chevron is only the 100-meter aiming point, the inside of the chevron is the 200-meter aiming point, and the tip of the ‘post’ is the 300-meter aiming point. Image four illustrates this.

Now that we have discussed how to estimate the range to and engage the threat, we need to consider what threat targets will actually be doing in combat, which is moving. A moving threat is one that has a consistent pace and direction. This allows the Paratrooper the ability to deliver lethal fires to the threat based on the engagement techniques of tracking and trapping.

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Tracking is when the Paratrooper leads the threat in a consistent manner with the muzzle following the threat. An example of tracking is what a shotgun shooter does when they engage a clay pigeon. A key to remember when using this method is the follow-through. The Paratrooper continues the track the threat’s projected course, even after they engage. This ensures that the track is smooth, and it allows the paratrooper follow-on shots if the first round does not hit the threat. Image five illustrates what a hold for this would look like.

Trapping the threat is where the Paratrooper visualizes a hold distance off of their point of aim in front of the direction of the threat’s movement, and once the threat reaches that hold, they engage. Trapping requires practice, however since the Paratroopers’ weapon remains stationary (and therefore has a smaller wobble zone) it is the preferred method of engaging targets at distances past 300 meters.

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All of this applies to a threat giving the optimal presentation of movement (perpendicular to the Paratrooper’s location), what do we do with threats at less than the optimal presentation? Image six illustrates the clock method of visualizing the threat’s movement, and what hold to apply. If the threat is moving at a generally 2- to 7-o’clock direction, the Paratrooper applies half the hold they would apply for that particular distance if they were moving perpendicular to their location (3- to 9-o’clock).

Keep in mind for all of this that this is for a target that is moving consistently. Threat targets may not do this in combat and may need to be aware that the threat can change directions. A good rule of thumb to remember when engaging moving targets is that if you cannot observe impacts and your target does not drop, increase your lead. We increase lead because logically speaking, if you shoot in front of the target and miss, they will more than likely alter their direction of movement. If they continue to move in the same direction of travel we can assume that the shot was placed behind the intended target.

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Now that we have discussed engaging a moving target, the Paratrooper needs to address environmental conditions, and how they impact the projectile’s flight between them and the threat. The primary environmental consideration is wind. Of all the forces acting on the projectile during its external ballistics phase of flight, the wind has the greatest overall effect. Image seven illustrates this for us.

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There are three types of winds that the Paratrooper needs to be aware of: no-value, half-, and full-value. No-value winds are winds generally out of the six- to twelve o’clock, relative to the Paratrooper’s position. These winds have negligible (therefore the name ‘no’) effect on the projectile’s flight. Winds from the three- to nine o’clock direction generally have the most effect on the projectiles’ flight. Winds from one-, five-, seven-, and eleven-o’clock are oblique to the projectile’s flight, and like the moving threat discussed earlier, has half the value of the full wind. Image eight illustrates the projectile’s flight and why it is important to apply the hold.

Image 9

So now that we have an understanding of what the wind does to our projectile, what kind of hold should we apply? Image nine illustrates this for us, with holds in target form dimensions off the CoVM. For example, a full-value, 6-10 mph wind would require a 1-form target hold off CoVM for a target at 400 meters in the direction the wind is blowing from.

The final environmental consideration we will discuss is engaging threats during periods of limited visibility. The major thing the Paratrooper needs to keep in mind is that limited visibility conditions can limit the viewable size of a threat, or cause the threat to be lost after acquisition. If this happens, the Paratrooper may choose to apply a hold for where a target is expected to be rather than wait for the target to present itself for a more refined sight picture.

Paratroopers can also use multiple enablers to refine their point of aim for themselves and their fellow Paratroopers. An example of this is a Paratrooper with a PAS-13 mounted on their M4A1 using their laser to designate a target for their fellow Paratroopers. Keep in mind, this requires the Paratrooper to practice with their enablers and to zero them to be effective.

To sum up, we have discussed estimating range to the threat, what hold we should use based off the standard Army Zero for 300 meters, How to engage a moving threat, what affects wind have on our projectile while in flight towards our threat and how to compensate for them, and how to engage during periods of limited visibility. We will be discussing shooter conditions, and compound engagements.

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Raymond Miller
82nd Airborne Division Small Arms Master Gunner: primary weapons trainer, force modernization for individual weapons, and range liason for the 82nd.