Monday, May 14, 2012

Firing guns is fun!

Back in the day I was in the Danish Territorial Guard, called Hjemmeværnet (HJV) and probably the main reason for this was it meant I got to shoot military grade weaponry for a few years and participate in multiple exersizes.

The primary weapon the HJV had was the standard Danish army rifle; the German made, 7.62mm Heckler & Koch G3 automatic rifle. This was a fantastic rifle by all accounts and I found it easy to manage. Stripping it down for cleaning was easy, and blind assembly wasn't difficult either. It had superb accuracy and I even won a bronze badge on the 200m range. The only disadvantage was the recoil but with time I learned how to accomidate the rifle's power and avoid coming home with a bruised cheek.

If you watch the video above, you can see in the slow motion part where the person firing the rifle closes his eyes instinctively. This was something I learned how to avoid and it greatly improved my accuracy. Ever since, I've noted how often in films, actors who are often meant to prtray weapons experts, instinctively close their eyes when firing (Mel Gibson in 'Lethal Weapon' for example). 

Some units had a sniper variant of the G3, with an adaptable stock, a bi-pod and optics. These were said to be accurate to 600m+ but in my unit (Hammel 2522) the sniper rifles were so jealously coveted by their owners that I never actually got to see one, even though I was next in line for sniper training.

Infantry groups in the HJV were based around ten men units of two fire teams, preferably with a light machine-gun in each fire team. The HJV was issued with the German built 7.62mm MG3. This was an amazingly efficient weapon and highly accurate if used right.  I was the forward scout for my group so I was never asked to carry the 'motor-gun' as we called it, but I was trained to use it of course and I was surprised at how little recoil it had and how much it actually weighed. Unloaded, the gun was easily 12kg. By comarison, my rifle, fully loaded with two 20 round magazines taped together, was about 6kg.

I trained on the LMG at Aalborg airbase where I also ate the best military canteen meal of my life. I think with hindsight, the fact that I can better remember that meal than the training must mean something. I was a fairly good shot with the LMG, but not much better than average.

The biggest bang we had, was the Swedish built 84mm 'Carl Gustav' recoilless rifle. When I first joined the HJV I was allowed to tag along on an exersize to get a feel for the service. At that point I hadn't been trained on any weaponry so I was given the 84mm to carry and I found it some what difficult as it was quite large and cumbersome when moving through a forest at night. Especially when wearing brand new army boots that chafed. I forgot all that when I heard the weapon fired for the first time.

I trained on this weapon at the Boris military firing range sometime in 1990. It happened during a particularly cold week end with snow on the ground and a rather terrible wind chill that made the experience somewhat uncomfortable. We spent most of the time firing 20mm practice rounds at a white square some 200m down range then switched to live rounds fired at a rusty old tank hull. The HJV was always strapped for cash so I was lucky to get an extra shot, which meant in total I fired three live rounds. I shall never forget the feeling of those three rounds however. I was terrified of firing the weapon because it made such an amazing, awe-inducing bang when fired and I remember pressing the trigger with an expectation of the weapon exploding next to my head. On exersizes the 84mm fired a practice round which made a spectacular racket but fired nothing but hot gas. The live anti tank round was even louder and it generated a vacum that sucked the air from your lungs.

When we fired the 84mm the gunner and the loader lay perpendicular to the rifle, with feet crossed to avoid the back blast. The loader was meant to look backwards and make sure no one was standing behind the weapon because the back blast was so strong it was said to be able to kill. The instructors told us of an officer who had had both his boots blown off by an 84mm when his crew had prematurely fired their weapon whilst he was standing behind it. We took great care when handling 'Carl Gustav'.

I fired a few other weapons during my time in the HJV (Browning 9mm automatic pistol, and Husqvarna 9mm SMG) but I was only trained on the three weapons shown above.

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