Sunday, July 06, 2008

We're the only ones tactical enough...

I don't know when, exactly, it started.

I do know that by the mid-'80s, any reasonably well-informed Soldier of Fiction reader knew that the British SAS did an annual exercise involving real live bullets flying about as they "rescued" real live members of the royal family sitting amongst cardboard bad guys. This became the de rigueur thing to do for any unit that prided itself on its innate awesomeness and elite-itude. Not having a royal family handy, the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team would happily "rescue" any old visiting VIP's in a live ammo shoot-ex, one-upping the Brits by using NVGs and doing it in the dark.

By the turn of the millennium, civilian attendees at some weekend gun camps were standing next to targets that were being shot at by their fellow weekend gun campers, supposedly to "inure them to incoming fire" or something. At some level, a healthy respect for the business end of a firearm and what it can do to human flesh had been lost.

The world got an awful reminder on the last weekend in June, when a team of elite French para marines turned a public demonstration of a hostage rescue into a "How Many Of The Four Rules Can You Break At Once?" competition, Team Category.

For whatever reason, perhaps dramatic effect, the troop laying down full auto mag dumps from his FAMAS rifle as suppressive fire was doing it right at the crowd. When his first mag, which was full of blanks, ran dry, he dumped it in a fast mag change and slapped a second magazine into the weapon, ripping it off downrange as well.

Only the second magazine wasn't full of blanks.

I've never gotten a close look at the Blank Firing Adaptor on a FAMAS, but apparently it was sturdy enough to cause much of what went downrange to fragment. Even so, 17 people wound up hospitalized for one moment of idiocy.

The Four Rules are devised so that at least two must be broken to put holes in something you don't want to. In this case it was Rule One ("All guns are always loaded,") and Rule Two ("Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.")

The Four Rules are the Four Rules. No matter how tactical you are.


Anonymous said...

I have long held that the four rules should be tat'ted on the arm (or maybe forehead) of anyone that injures anyone breaking them. Or maybe branded with a soldering iron, either one.

perlhaqr said...


I was feeling ill all day yesterday. I was feeling better this morning.
Reading this post has "fixed" that. Yeesh.

This is why when I was working on the last movie I shot, I left all ammo at home, except on days we were using prop guns that had no bolts, and threatened to beat the holy snot out of anyone who brought their own.

Anonymous said...

I won't mention any names but about a year ago I was made aware that a well-known firearms trainer and commentator was having people stand next to targets so they learn what incoming rounds sound like. Say What?

Idiocy was my first thought after I learned it was NOT a joke. Most of us who have hung around guns, shooting ranges and idiot shooters long enough already KNOW what incoming rounds sound like and we don't need to do it intentionally, or even to repeat the experience. (I've ONLY got so much luck and I'm not going to test it.)

As for the French incident, those in command of that squad need several weeks of remedial latrine duty for not checking each individual trooper's equipment, because I blame those in charge more than the idiot who pulled the trigger.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

phlegmfatale said...

Here's a big hint: never go to a shooty demonstration in a place whose name starts with "carcass."

Anonymous said...

I remember reading about that SAS drill in one of Andy McNab's books (Immediate Action probably, but maybe Bravo Two Zero). No idea if it's what started the flood of idiocy, but those were/are popular and I have no doubt they contributed.

Anonymous said...

"Pierre, hold my wine and watch this..."

Anonymous said...

Stand next to targets to get an appreciation for incoming fire? Some people are so dumb it would be a public service to shoot them.

I expect Army Basic Training still has the demonstration where you sit behind a big berm, while a DI onthe other side shoots an MG over your heads while another DI explains how to judge the bearing and distance of the gun by triangulating the crack of the rounds with the discharge of the weapon. Completely controlled, and safe, and unforgettable.

With modern firing ranges, perhaps troops no longer have to sit in the butt, pulling targets. That was another way to learn to appreciate live fire, and safe.

But stand NEXT to the targets? Damn. Never heard of that one.

Anonymous said...

Amen Tam!

DoubleTapper, blogging on Guns Politics Defense from Israel

Earl said...

Have had too many real war stories about blanks and live ammunition being mixed by paranoid professional soldiers and the grief it caused, so will drop that. But wasn't the tricking of the Guerrillas in Columbia the very best way to get the hostages all back alive? That one is beyond cool, so good that worked so well. Good guys getting it right rocks!

Chas S. Clifton said...

So he did have a blank-firing adapter in position then? That fact might quiet the conspiracy theorists who wanted the shooter to be a French Muslim out to kill as many infidels as he could.

Tam said...


That was, indeed, a beautiful piece of work. I wonder how many FARC guys have, um, "lost their jobs" over it? :D


Seeing as how the crowd was all families and squadmates and that a BFA was in place, I'm of a mind to believe it was indeed a cockup of awful proportions. My Reynold's Wrap yarmulke is staying in the drawer for this one.

Johnny said...

If French paratroopers are anything like British paratroopers then they did it deliberately and are only pretending it was accidental, just because they're so desperate to kill people at every possible opportunity. And that's when they're in a good mood. Everyone dreaded it when it turned out it was the Paras who playing opfors on an exercise. It meant there would be casualties.

Hunsdon said...

For Mr. Frank W. James--

Sir, I can at least report that the Chief of Staff for the French Army submitted his resignation over the incident.

It is nice to see some "command responsibility."


Anonymous said...

BFAs (at least American ones) are designed to come apart if live rounds are fired into them to avoid damage to the gun. Seems the designers had their priorities wrong when they designed them. My old unit lost a man to this design flaw several years ago.

Anonymous said...

I saw a picture in a gun rag once of Charles and Di sitting at a table during one of the SAS "hostage rescue" training exercises. Charles looked rather nonplussed, but Di was decidely NOT happy. They both had vests on, IIRC.

I've never seen that picture, or any other like it since, and wish I could find it since people doubt me when I mention this SAS exercise.

Tam said...

That photo may have been in the Soldier of Fiction article I referenced.

The SAS were very much the bomb diggity shizznit flava-of-tha-month in the '80s, in the wake of Operation Nimrod and The Final Option...

dr mac said...

Only the French_______.

Fill in the blank.

Anonymous said...

I believe this makes him the most lethal French soldier ever.

Anonymous said...

The mil have on interest in always obeying the “4 Rules”

The main use of a BFA is to let you point a real gun at someone and make it go bang.

In my opinion you can make a good case for this being a necessary part of mil training. However careful they are to keep live and blank ammo separate this sort of accident will happen from time to time. If you don’t like the risk don’t sign up.

The really unacceptable bit is putting the public at risk just for a PR demo.