Sunday, April 06, 2008

Some Lessons Learned From Paintball

Yesterday I went up to Skirmish USA in the Poconos to play paintball for a friend's birthday. Aside from a chance to run around in the woods and get muddy, I tried to approach it as a force-on-force learning experience. Keeping in mind that there are certain rules which decrease realism (e.g., hits below the elbow or knee, or on the gun don't count, the paintball guns hold a lot more ammo than any gun that's not belt fed), and the fact that rather than a bunch of trained operators each team was more like an uncoordinated mob, I think there were a few lessons to be gained as to the use of *real* force. In the end, it was still an exercise in which two groups of "armed" people were trying to shoot each other.

In no particular order:

1. People hide behind things when you shoot at them. If this was a real firefight, I'd want a round that offers good penetration. E.g., 7.62x39 or 7.62 NATO. I've witnessed multiple 5.56x45 bullets get stopped cold by a sapling which was maybe 3" in diameter. For home defense this may be an advantage. For combat, give me something that will turn cover into concealment.

2. Peering out from concealment is frequently enough to get you shot in the head. I think I got hit in the face/head 3 or 4 times yesterday.

2(a) Frequently, the only shot you may get on an opponent is of a head or other body part sticking out. For anything further than 20 yards, you're going to want a rifle, unless you have a shotgun with slugs and you can shoot it as well as a rifle. I hope to have a rifle if I ever get in a firefight.

3. Even when behind cover or concealment, frequently you will get shot by someone you didn't know was around.

4. That said, it's safer to stay hidden than to try closing with your enemy. Let him come to you and you'll survive longer.

5. When operating in thick woods or a built up area, there may be 40 people within an acre or two, and you may still not see anybody, friend or foe. The same applies if it isn't a paintball game. Some kind of short range radios for tactical commo would be *very* valuable.

6. Gloves are good. They allow you to drop to the ground without scraping your hands and provide limited protection against glancing blows. I wore Mechanix brand mechanic's gloves, which are thin enough to allow you to be reasonably dextrous. I wore these gloves in a practical carbine match back in December and they worked well for real shooting (I won the iron sight class, AAMOF). I got them at Lowe's.

7. Well-aimed suppressive fire can keep your opponent pinned down so he can't shoot you or your buddy. This is NOT "spray and pray." Rather, if you see an enemy behind cover, you can put rounds close to him, which will prevent him from poking out at you. Obviously, civilians don't usually have the luxury of using suppressive fire in defensive situations, since we need to be careful about not shooting innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, your opponent may not care. Keep this in mind so you can adapt your tactics to fit the situation.

8. Plain black iron sights won't be easy to see in the woods or inside a dimly lit building, especially when it's overcast or near dawn or dusk. At a minimum, your front sight should have a white or orange insert or paint. A (real) gold or ivory bead, or fiber optic front sight will be much better. A red dot sight is better yet. Fiber optic sight inserts and illuminated optics are two of the best innovations in the gun world ever, IMHO.

9. Even though I wasn't in any kind of danger, this kind of exercise made my adrenalin level skyrocket. Unless you are the kind of person who's unfazed by anything, expect your heart to be pounding. This is less of a factor if you're in good physical shape. Unfortunately, I'm a fat middle aged guy.

10. If you wear glasses or goggles, get some anti-fog coating if it's at all humid. Until I got some "Fog[Tech]" wipes from the pro shop I couldn't see much because my glasses and protective mask kept fogging up. If you can't see, you can't fight.

10(a) If you wear protective goggles, pick ones that wrap around so they don't limit your peripheral vision. The masks supplied by Skirmish USA eliminated peripheral vision, which exacerbated my inability to keep track of my surroundings. OTH, this helped simulate the tunnel vision many people report in the aftermath of a real encounter.

11. When involved in a force-on-force encounter (real or simulated), getting shot is a very real possibility. There's a good chance you won't even see who shoots you. Unlike the movies where the hero gets shot in the arm but goes on to prevail, expect to get shot in the hands, arms, face, head, chest, back, butt, and groin.

11(a). Yes, I got hit a two or three times in the crotch. Thankfully, I was wearing my spare ammo carrier so that it covered up my boys, so it didn't hurt. If you decide to practice force-on-force with airsoft or paintball, wear protection down there.

12. "Too much ammo" is an oxymoron.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that is funny, couldn't stop laughing thinking about my own paintball experiences. great stuff.