Camp Leatherneck (Afghanistan ) Estonian Charity Shoot

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Every September, the Estonian contingent of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) holds a charity shoot aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Taking place every Sunday during September, this is the second annual Charity Shoot. The purpose is to raise funds for a charity organization that takes care of Estonian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan. Open to personal deployed to Camp Leatherneck (both military and civilian), the shoot is managed by experienced NCOs of the Estonian Scouts light armored Infantry Battalion. This unit is similar to a Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion or an Army Stryker Brigade. They are equipped with SISU XA 180 and XA 188 APCs. The latter being present at the shoot.

Estonian Shoot Flyer

Estonian Shoot Flyer

Shooters are required to arrive with long sleeve tops and gloves for protection against hot brass or barrels. Ear and eye protection is also required but can be supplied by the Estonians. The range used is a multipurpose range on the perimeter of Camp Leatherneck. Everything from 9mm handguns to Mark 19 grenade launchers are fired within the various lots on hand.

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Camp Leatherneck is huge (1,600 acres) for an expeditionary base. Getting around presents a myriad of options including everything from bicycles and golf carts to tactical vehicles and an organized bus system run by Dynacorp contractors. The ranges are in the far south western corner of the base and when we arrived, the shoot was already set up. A medical evacuation truck and supplies are staged nearby should a catastrophic failure occur.

Walking up to the berm we paid our 10 dollar donation to the charity and proceeded to listen to the range safety officers giving specific instructions about each weapon. The MG3 station had several machine guns along with a number of spare barrels for a barrel change. Readers will note that the MG3 design is derived from the MG42 and in 7.62x51mm NATO. Thus it has a terrific rate of fire and heats up quickly at the sustained rate. A 100 round belt is allotted per shooter as a range officer feeds the belt and monitors the firing process. All jams are also handled by this Estonian solider. As the range is literally on the perimeter berm of the base, there are no targets in the open save for the random mound of dirt or debris. Shooters are cautioned to not shoot closer than 40 meters where the initial strands of concertina wire lie. The author noted that while shooting the MG3 was a blast, an extremely tight hold on the gun must be maintained to guarantee accuracy. A loose hold and impacts will be all over the target. This took some getting used to as it is relatively light compared to the Marine Corps’ general purpose machine gun, the M240B which makes for more rigid shooting.

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Moving on to the 5.56x45mm Galil ARM in the next station, several variants were on hand including full size and compact carbines. Most had two scopes mounted, an Aimpoint 1x power red dot optic and a 3x magnifier on a QD mount. Unlike the Trijicon 4x RCO mounted on Marine M16A4s and M4s (which have close eye relief), the scopes are mounted extremely forward on the rifle. Although different, this set up didn’t affect aiming or shooting the Galil. The selectors are the traditional Safe, Auto, and Semi (marked S, A, R) with the pistol grip thumb selector.

Accuracy was good, but the first magazine was faulty causing a number of jams and malfunctions. After the magazine was changed out for a different one, the gun performed flawlessly. Full auto was quite controllable when leaning in and applying forward pressure. The compact versions were very portable and with the side folding stock would be excellent for urban patrolling and maneuvering inside a tactical vehicle. Slings were mostly One point attachments or Two points. The handguard is a modern quad rail with heat guards, forward grip and the red dot optic mounted on the 12 o’clock rail. In addition to the cocking handle knob, there is another knob pointing up to facilitate cocking the weapon with the left hand reaching over.

In addition to the Galil and MG3, the Estonians had their sidearms at hand but these weren’t for the Charity shoot. These were Heckler & Koch USP Compacts in 9x19mm NATO. Certainly an excellent quality choice for a sidearm.

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All in all the Charity Shoot was extremely well managed and conducted. The Estonians were very professional in their instruction and conduct. Not to mention very friendly and open to conversation as we talked about the differences and similarities between our two militaries and our missions in Afghanistan. In view of the overall drawdown of ISAF forces, the author cannot affirmatively say there will be another shoot in September of 2014. But if there is, and if there are any readers that find themselves on Camp Leatherneck in that time, the author highly encourages them to take part in the Charity Shoot if it takes place.

Related

Miles Vining

Prior Infantry Marine and currently studying at Indiana University. Avid shooter and hunter, you’ll find me most at home picking apart an interesting rifle or pistol. When not receiving horrible results at Steel Challenge competitions I’m busy learning Pashtu, cycling long distance, and getting outdrunk by the English.


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  • enscriptchun

    Interesting horizontal bolt on the Galil charging handle. Is that standard?

    • floppyscience

      Yep. As far as I know it’s standard on all Galils. It really makes charging the rifle easy.

      • bbmg

        In the first photo, the Galil on the right has it but the one of the left doesn’t.

        • erwos

          Galils can take straight-handled AK-47 carriers, but you need to swap the bolt and piston.

          The L-shaped charging handle has fallen out of favor because optics tend to interfere with it. You can kinda see how the guy on the left (who actually has an ARM, not an SAR) had to mount his reflex sight forward as a result. I run a forward-mounted reflex sight on my SAR using a gas tube rail for this very reason.

          • Anton Gray Basson

            Been helping out a local anti poaching unit recently, been using LM5 (semi Galil SAR/R5) with open sights. Had a donated Eotec( dunno brick of reflex sight.) on it for about a week before going back to iron sights. Call me a traditionalist but I dont like things that need batteries to work, seems like asking for trouble to me. Most of the unit didnt like it either. But the LM5 is awesome, that up turned bolt handle is great for lefties like me and the right handed mob. fire selectors on both sides is also great but when using it left the thumb selector digs into your hand.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Anton :

            Thanks for your post. Your feedback regarding “real-world” practical operational usage is what we need more of!

            I will admit I was a little surprised by the general opinion expressed in your comment about the EO Tech sight. Although it is battery-powered, the EO Tech, in its various versions, is universally held to be an excellent holographic sight which also does have a generally long battery life which would not negatively impact the logistical resupply requirements of most military units on extended field operations.

            Having said that, I can appreciate that your outfit probably has to spend very long periods in the bush in areas where ready resupply is not available, and that you are also subject to a situation and location where batteries ( especially special batteries such as CR123′s — depending of which model of EO Tech you have at hand ) are difficult to come by.

            I know it’s often a matter of budget and allocation ( the bl**dy dollar and bureaucrats again ), so you are forced to make the best of what you have under the circumstances. If — and I stress “if” — your unit were allowed sufficient funding for holographic or reflex sights, would a proven self-powered ( tritium / fiber-optic ) sight such as a Meprolight M21 or Trijicon RMR prove more useful for your needs? Or if budgetary constraints are really tight, how about simple tritium night sights such as those available from Meprolight, Trijicon, AmeriGlo, TruGlo, etc.?

          • Anton Gray Basson

            Well its hot and sticky most of the time we cant see more than 15m ahead on foot patrols. We have loads of thorn trees and thorny brush and do 3day, one week and 4 week patrols at random. (this is along the border of Mozambique and South Africa in the Kruger Park ) We tend to walk all the time. so less weight is good. Point is we dont really need optics or endeared with them. the LM5 have flip up white night sights which work but if gun fights develop, and thy do often. you can spit at the target. we train along the old Rhodesian guide lines for reactive / jungle lane shooting. Point is I guess that we like what works and doesnt need babying.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Okay, so your specific situation is essentially a variation on jungle warfare, which I am all too familiar with. In that light, it makes eminent sense that you prefer the equipment set-up that you use — functional, simple and ultimately reliable.

            Best of luck in your endeavours, and I sincerely hope that you and your colleagues will always be kept safe and sound.

        • floppyscience

          They both have them. The rifle on the right just has the same setup as the one in the last picture. There is a “traditional” horizontal charging handle bolted onto the standard Galil vertical one.

  • Gunhead

    German-designed “GOD FIST”

    • flyingburgers

      It’s better than the Apple tagline… you know, “Designed by Nazis in Doebeln. Assembled in Dusseldorf”

      • ZioKen

        I didn’t know Mauser was sided with the nazionalsocialist party

  • Valentine

    I’m intrigued what that “Estonian surprise” is.

  • derfelcadarn

    Minor detail the term “every September”appears ridiculous in reference to the second annual event. Other than that it sounds interesting.

  • Jonathan

    Sounds like you guys had fun!

  • Lance

    Bet it was fun shooting the MG-3 that’s one wicked GPMG!

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    V Kenneth, thanks so much for highlighting yet another forgotten but important human aspect of the war in Afghanistan. And, as one veteran to another, thank you for your insights and for your service. May you always come home safely to your family and community, and with mind and body fully intact.

    Considering that the contribution of the Estonian contingent to peace-keeping in Afghanistan is quite large relative to that country’s size, resources, available manpower and budget, it is all the more laudable that they have soldiered on with little fuss or complaint and have simply gotten on with the job. That they have not asked for help but have instead chosen to try and raise funds for their wounded veterans through pro-active events such as this speaks volumes for their sense of professional pride and dignity. As much as we here in the U.S. rightly decry the lack — or slowness — of aid and support for wounded veterans, we should remember that Estonia, and several other countries which have contributed to the Afghan Campaign, are much worse off than we are, and have a great deal of difficulty looking after their “vets” the way we are able to. Yet, one does not hear of too many complaints from them. All the more reason to understand and support their endeavours as best we can, in addition to our own.