“Software Drives Hardware”: Part 1


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My name is Ash Hess. I am a Senior NCO in the US Army currently serving as the NCOIC for the Marksmanship and Tactics courses at a Division level school.  Army Schools I’ve attended include Rifle Marksmanship Instructor Course, Urban Combat Leaders Course, Air Assault, Senior Leaders Course, Army Basic Instructor course, High Angle Marksmanship Course, and Unit Armorer course. I have also attended the TigerSwan Basic Carbine course, Defoor Proformance Advanced Carbine, Sionics Weapon Systems M4 Armorer course, and the MDTS Practical Small Knife course. I also have 4 combat tours totaling 52 months overseas. This post is my introduction to this website as a contributing writer and the lead in to a series of testing that I am doing.

“Software drives hardware” – Part 1

I value skills more than I value tools. A Master at work is something that will draw my attention regardless of the trade. For instance, there is a Taco Bell manager in town that has had my respect for a long time now. When he is on shift, you can observe him rising to the occasion during a rush and he efficiently tracks all the orders, the crew, and food quality (for Taco Bell). I have seen “professional” leaders in the Army crumble under less pressure with more tools available. Tools do not make the master.

I have had the privilege of using some of the finest firearms in the world. The big names like Noveske, Colt, Knights, and BCM. I have also been able to observe those same firearms put to use by both Masters and Novice shooters. The results can be predicted. A sub 1 MOA rifle in the hands of a 6 MOA shooter produces 6 MOA groups. Whereas a 3 MOA gun in the hands of a sub MOA shooter produces 3 MOA or less groups. I have also fired some of the “low tier” brands of rifles. In fact, I own an Olympic Arms lower. It started out life as a very close friend of mines National Match rifle. Currently, it is topped by a Noveske Infidel upper in 6.8mm just to make the point.

In the Book of Five Rings, Musashi never mentions a brand name of a sword. He never states you must use a sword built by Ebina Kokaiji who built a sword for the Ashikaga clan. Musashi knew the sword in your hand during the fight was the best one. If it broke, and you lived, you would have learned the lesson on your own to find better quality.

I am not by any means declaring myself a master of my trade. I am but an apprentice as evidenced by my performance recently in competition. I know many Masters and do not hold myself to their level. On the other hand, I am better than some. My students may or may not over take me in skills and wisdom someday. That doesn’t matter. I truly hope they do. I hope that I accelerated their learning to the point that they are masters by the time they have dedicated 5 years to this trade.

This Journey started in earnest in the summer of 2009. While there was some advancement during 2006-7 I truly began this path to mastery on a small outpost in Afghanistan. Videos and the Internet showed me what an M4 was capable of and when I attempted to duplicate that, I failed. Many thousands of rounds later, I was doing well. I followed up “the learn the hard way” with a basic carbine class with TigerSwan. Kyle Defoor was an instructor there at the time. And my timing proved to be impeccable. The weekend class that I drove 10 hours to attend turned out to be the Great Ice Storm of 2010. My fellow students bailed on day 2 of the class and I ended up with Kyle as a personal trainer for the day. I learned more in 800 rounds that single day than I had in thousands of Army rounds. This is the day 4 MOA came about as a true combat accuracy standard. I continued to grow and learn and trained a second time with Kyle in the spring of 2012 for the Defoor Proformance Advanced Carbine.

In the spring of 2013, I was charged with building a 10 day marksmanship course for my Division. I gathered five NCO’s up and we began writing the course. Six weeks later we ran our first class of 30 Soldiers. This was a chance to rapidly change Army shooters and we nailed it. We have trained over 1000 Soldiers since then in manipulations, stance, movement and night operations. Our students use one of two optics, those being the TA31 ACOG or the Aimpoint Comp4. One of the reasons for this test is the Aimpoint users cannot get PID beyond normal vison ranges and the ACOG users are handicapped during short range engagements.

The shooting style I developed is aggressive. Aggressive stances, movements, language. I shoot fast, sometimes too fast, reload fast and get into positions fast. I move as fast as I can. I am not the fastest but then again I am old. I enjoy shooting fast 50 yards and in moving on multiple targets. I do venture out to other distances but that is not where I feel at home. Most of my shooting is done 300 meters and in. I enjoy that.

The standards I have recently applied to my shooting are simple yet reasonably hard. 4 MOA at any distance with a 90% hit rate less than 50 yards in less than 1 second standing. 1.5 seconds out to 200 with a 90% hit rate, Standing and kneeling followed by 300-500 with a 75% hit rate and a time standard from 5-15 seconds on a 1 sec per shot cadence. Easy enough huh?

In order to achieve this standard, I would need an optic as fast as a red dot up close and the magnification to assure hits at distance. There are a myriad of choices on how to accomplish this. Quick detach mounts, magnifiers, variable magnification all with their own particular pros and cons. This is where the wallet (and my lovely and forgiving wife) begins to scream. My rule is “the Optic price should match the rifle” If you have a $1700 rifle with a $120 scope, you sir are lacking. My Franken gun has roughly $1500 worth of parts. It would have been easier to buy the rifle straight out, minus the communist state in which I reside. My work gun is similarly priced. Applying my rule, the optic should cost around $1500. Optics in this price range include most Trijicon products and the SpectrDR (which I found to be worth its weight in turds, and would rather have the turds)

Moving up the scale slightly opens the world to high end to the reason for this whole story……Enter the Leupold Mark 6 1-6x20mm…..

I am not going to be testing this optic for durability. There will be no thrashing it, no drop tests, and no explosives. The test will be if this optic will allow me to achieve the standards set forth above with a single optic. The failure points and successes will be noted and discussed in depth. Again, I only wish to see if this optic is capable of assisting in achieving the standards. Once it has shown it and I can, then I will go back to other optics to see if it was the optic or the shooter.

The platform that will be used for the testing is as follows:

  • BCM 16 inch Mid length gas 1/7 twist barrel
  • BCM Gunfighter Comp MOD 1
  • BCM Gunfighter MOD 3 charging handle
  • Troy 13 inch Alpha rail
  • Black Rain Ordnance Drop In Trigger
  • H2 Buffer
  • Tubbs Flat wire action spring
  • BCM Gunfighter Grip
  • BAD ASS selector

To be continued…..

Ash Hess


© 2014 The Ballistic Blog

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