By Robert Sternowski
The national gun debate appears to lack understanding of what an assault rifle is designed to do. I can explain that, based on my expensive, taxpayer-financed Army training as a Vietnam era assault rifle sharpshooter.
Basic combat training trains a soldier with endless repetition and practice. We could not stop and think about what we were doing; that would get you killed in combat.
Weapons training started in the classroom. The M16 (parent of the popular Bushmaster assault rifle) was the subject, and they burned every detail about it into my memory:
l The 1/4-inch-diameter bullet leaves the rifle barrel at three times the speed of sound (the enemy is dead before they hear the rifle crack).
l You can accurately hit someone a quarter-mile away
l The bullet will travel about 2 miles if it doesn’t hit something before that.
l In semi-automatic, I could shoot one bullet per second (one per trigger pull).
l In automatic, I could shoot 14 bullets per second holding down the trigger.
l In 1970, we only had 20-bullet magazines — 1.5 seconds worth in automatic.
The high-velocity bullet was a separate lesson:
l The odd copper-colored bullet tumbles after hitting something, disintegrating into a cloud of sharp, tumbling pieces of shrapnel.
l The bullet makes a 1/4-inch-diameter entry hole, and exits a body with an 8- to-12-inch diameter hole, carving out a cone-shaped chunk of tissue and bone.
l “Knick” the enemy, disabled by losing a chunk of his body to shrapnel.
l Miss the enemy but hit something near him, the shrapnel cloud will disable him.
l The bullet was engineered to penetrate one side of a steel helmet and come out of the other side.
Imagine these effects on a 7-year-old child. Maybe this is what’s missing from gun training.
Next was the rifle range. I shot a few thousand bullets at human-looking targets. Then there was the Army gun control program. I showed my picture Army ID card to be issued my assigned serial number rifle. The rifles were locked with heavy steel bars and big pad locks, in a masonry building with barred windows and doors, while we were confined inside an Army base.
I’m not against people owning guns, but maybe high-velocity ammunition and assault rifles, like the one I mastered, designed solely to obliterate living things, ought to join that banned ownership list along with machine guns, grenades and nuclear weapons.
Robert Sternowski, 65, of Cedar Rapids, was an Army draftee. He is a retired engineer, owner of a small business, big band musician, father of three and grandfather of four. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org