Muzzle up or down? Why did the army change?


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mljdeckard
March 30, 2011, 02:18 AM
When I went through basic training in 1991, pretty much all of the time we kept our rifles at 'port arms'. When we were on the range, we were to keep the muzzle 'up' and 'downrange'. Fast forward .....a few years. Now, they have magically decided that up is no longer a good idea. Muzzle is always down. I asked why the change, and when it happened, and no one seems to know for sure. The best definitive answer I could get was that they want muzzles down, so that if there is a ND in a helicopter, it will not hit the blades or power train. I don't really buy this, because if it wasn't for the occasional shuttling of passengers in Iraqistan, most soldiers would never touch a helicopter.

I see a lot of problems with the 'always down' idea. They expect us to rest them against walls resting upside-down on the flash hider. This means they are more likely to fall, and that often you are putting the flash hider in the dirt. When soldiers carry them they often point them at toes and legs. The mentality is that if a muzzle is pointed at someone's upper body it is terrible, but their legs are expendable. Requiring it to always be down makes soldiers flip the rifle to comply, and sometimes it is difficult to fine a clear lane to point the muzzle to flip it.

When I have discussed this with other soldiers, they ask me what I think would be a better idea. I tell them, "How about we always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, whether that means up, down, sideways, or otherwise? Seems simple to me."

Why and when did they change?

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isc
March 30, 2011, 02:30 AM
Seems like I started hearing that put out at ranges about 2 or 3 years ago. I don't lke it because I see soldiers with dirt packed into their flashhider all the time. Then again, I still have a hard time teaching the POGs that came through my classes to keep their trigger fingers out of the trigger guard.

It's funny how the army wants to pretend everyone is a "warrior" by giving them all berets and labeling everything "warrior" this and "warrior" that. You can call a fat POG anyhing you want, but he's still a POG.

I wish they spent as much time training soldiers how to use their weapons as they do making us attend mandatory EO briefings, "Town halls" and standing in formations listening to officers we never knew try to convince us how hard they are working to look out for our best interests. I'm glad I'll probably be retiring soon.

wideym
March 30, 2011, 02:44 AM
Maybe the powers that be decided that it's better to have a joe shot in the leg than the head?

oldfool
March 30, 2011, 02:51 AM
mostly, American aren't the nation of riflemen they used to be
back in the day, your average teenage lad knew how to carry a loaded rifle, whilst keeping the trigger guarded and carrying the rifle safely side/front, up/down
most of 'em have to be taught "there can be only one" these days, because it's hard enough just to teach 'em even one

Gromky
March 30, 2011, 02:51 AM
I don't think it's entirely a new idea in the military. A friend was trained to shoot by a Marine who served in Nam, and he taught her to generally carry down...because there's a trick to bring it up and wrap the sling to stabilize a bit more quickly. I don't think it was official, and I don't recall historical photos of soldiers carrying down. But he carried that way in service.

I can understand that you're much less likely to have your barrel swing towards a vital area when it's down (never a pleasant experience on the receiving end). But I really don't understand a rifle leaned against a wall being muzzle down. I guess it's not a big deal with a flash hider (if you don't care about the accuracy of your first shot), but that scares the crap out of me with a standard rifle.

Also, junk (water, dirt, snow, etc.) on the ocular lens is a huge deal with optics. The objective lens, it's not nearly as big of a deal.

ball3006
March 30, 2011, 04:20 PM
I have always carried muzzle down. It is just a second to mount the rifle to your shoulder that way and your arm is stabilized in the sling. If you have the rifle slung muzzle up it is alot slower to the shoulder that way......chris3

Nushif
March 30, 2011, 04:58 PM
I was trained to carry down for two reasons:

1. We're at war. Hence out of tradition we don't carry at port arms and
2. It is faster to bring up the gun than taking it off your back or coming from port arms.

Now, when someone said they're expected to also rest it against things with muzzle down ... that's dumb... and probably the product of a junior leader who doesn't handle guns much. Anytime we use rifles we don't let the muzzle really touch *anything*

Remember that some flexibility is inherent in the new doctrine of the army. I know this may be a bit of a shock and counter intuitive but you'd be surprised at the leeway low end leaders have. So ... Carry it with muzzle down, keep it ready and when you put it down either put it flat (with the ejection port up) or muzzle up is the only way I've ever been told to carry it. Aside from rifle drill, of course.

Army Doctrine isn't like the FOUR GOLDEN RULES OF GUN HANDLING OF LEGEND AND LORE PASSED TO US BY THE MOST BENEVOLENT AND POWERFUL AND ANYONE WHO VIOLATES THEM IS OSTRACIZED BY THE NRA. Modern Army doctrine calls for rules changing at times. And gun handling goes along those same lines. I know they teach to the lowest common denominator, but ALWAYS MUZZLE DOWN EVEN WHEN IT CLOGS YOUR BARREL is most definitely not part of them.

TxPhantom
March 30, 2011, 04:59 PM
When I was in the Army (1961-1965) we were ordered to always keep the muzzle up and down range. Any violation of this rule would result in lots of push ups with the rifle not touching the ground, layed across the tops of your hands. You were to hold this position until some NCO told you at ease.
Of course if you ever made the mistake of calling your rifle a gun......well I'm sure some of you ex-military know what happened then!:what:

Owen Sparks
March 30, 2011, 05:01 PM
Think it might be because the trendy new combat slings are designed to hold the rifle across the front of the body at a 45 degree angle? If the muzzle was up it would be pointed at the head of the guy next to you.

Up is also not as safe as you might think unless you are hunting in the wilderness. I saw a man disqualified at a pistol match once because he pointed his muzzle straight up. The range officer explained that he had potentially pointed his pistol at everyone there because if it had discharged the bullet could have landed on any person or car within half a mile and a 200 grain chunk of lead does not have to be falling all that fast to really hurt someone or break a windshield.

X-Rap
March 30, 2011, 05:08 PM
Try shooting trap from port arms or muzzle up then the typical low ready. The gun comes up better than it goes down when acquiring a target.
The same can be said for travel in a vehicle, it is easier to dismount with the muzzle down then raise to the target than have the muzzle up in your face.

Owen Sparks
March 30, 2011, 05:14 PM
I really think it is because of the new slings like the excelent Vickers Blue Force.

Shadow 7D
March 30, 2011, 07:42 PM
Deckard..

And how many times did you sleep in the back of a LMTV with your K-pot NODs mount on the barrel...

Just saying, it's one guy in the unit who has a bright idea that command picks up,Unless this stuff is coming down from TRADOC in the Infantry School. Being in a helicopter unit, once upon a time, I can tell you that we had two companies of infantry that all but moved in with us, and I can tell you they flew a hell of a lot more than we did. They only brought a companies worth of tents etc. for good reason.

The whole barrels down, is because a hole in the floor is a pain, one in the transmission, is a crash. And all the crewchiefs I know/knew, would take you head off for a unsecured weapon (loose) in their bird.

Like many good ideas, there is a reason for it, and it might not be the best in every situation, but you have to start somewhere.

Mt Shooter
March 30, 2011, 07:50 PM
I cant speak for the Army, but imagine this. If I come at you muzzle up, and we are at bad breath range, I try to bring my rifle (or pistol for that mater) to bear. Try to stop me, easy to do grab the muzzle or my arm. Now same thing muzzle down, I try to bring it to bear, stop me. Easy to do again, until I start shooting your feet.

thralldad
March 30, 2011, 10:28 PM
If you are moving in Afghanistan it's likely by helicopter. Nowadays we carry at the low ready. Much faster target engagement. And yeah, less damage to the aircraft.

One-Time
March 30, 2011, 10:35 PM
'Alert to the Dirt' its faster to bring up a gun to target, then down. While riding helos, its better if there an ND for the round to go through th floor, than through the engines/rotor blades

GRIZ22
March 30, 2011, 11:06 PM
I see a lot of problems with the 'always down' idea.

I don't as One-Time said its faster to bring up a gun to target, then down. .

Its a matter of an old Army doctrine "train as you fight".

If you carry muzzle up in combat and find you have to engage a target quickly you will shoot air if you shoot early you will shoot air. If you carry muzzle down and you shoot early you stand a chance of hitting your target, maybe in the foot but you'll hit him.

There are also other techniques that favor muzzle down.

Tim the student
March 30, 2011, 11:21 PM
I think it may have been an SOP on one of the FOBs we stayed on in Iraq, but I guess I don't remember. I know I always did because it was most comfortable for me, if nothing else. I know it is not an SOP on Ft. Bragg - or wasn't when I left at least. Joes walking to and from arms rooms could generally carry the rifles as they pleased.

They expect us to rest them against walls resting upside-down on the flash hider. This means they are more likely to fall, and that often you are putting the flash hider in the dirt.

Whoever does that is an idiot. Is that really the standard, or are you just kind of thinking out loud so to speak?

What level is this coming from?

HorseSoldier
March 30, 2011, 11:32 PM
I've been told that down versus up is a practice that trickled out from the cool kids to Big Army. When you're training live fire in a shoot house that has a cat walk for observers and trainers to watch the show, muzzle up isn't a safe practice, it flags them. So for safety the muzzle down practice became SOP.

It also gels well as a point of practice running fighting rifle slings ("let 'em hang"), etc. However . . .

They expect us to rest them against walls resting upside-down on the flash hider. This means they are more likely to fall, and that often you are putting the flash hider in the dirt.

. . . In the finest tradition of all things Big Army it sounds like you're dealing with some el retard(os) grande who is taking a perfectly logical idea, applying their complete lack of common sense and understanding of intent, and screwing it up.

benEzra
March 31, 2011, 01:07 AM
Rifles with pistol grips encourage a muzzle-down carry, and recent thinking is that muzzle down is safer than muzzle up if an ND does occur, particularly when in close proximity to others. And when carrying muzzle down, there is no reason to sweep people's feet; in close quarters, the muzzle can be pointed down (as in at the ground in front or just to the left of your feet), not merely at an angle.

For a rifle with a pistol grip, muzzle down is also faster on target than muzzle up, and you are less vulnerable to a shove-the-barrel-up disarm.

Flfiremedic
March 31, 2011, 10:40 AM
If you are in the habit of muzzle down, and aren't used to combat etc, that panicy green recruit may squeeze the trigger with muzzle down...recoil MAY bring the rifle up onto target...just my thoughts.

MattTheHat
March 31, 2011, 11:02 AM
and you are less vulnerable to a shove-the-barrel-up disarm.

But, doesn't that make you vulnerable to a shove-the-barrel-down disarm?


-Matt

Crazy Uncle Al Gore
March 31, 2011, 11:42 AM
We almost always have our rifles slung with a three point sling. It would be a little difficult to carry at port arms with a three point sling on.

AhmadShah
March 31, 2011, 11:59 AM
Entered Active Duty in 2004, and Port Arms/Muzzle up and down range at all times was fairly strictly enforced. Starting in about 2006 and on, practice changed to muzzle down. I got the feeling at the time that no one really understood why, but that it came down from on high (TRADOC flavor) and spread from there. I prefer the muzzle down carry for a number of reasons, to wit:

1. Done correctly, is basically the low ready carry
2. "Train as you fight"
3. On patrol, it's basically the way you're going to be carrying, and an ND into the dirt limits the local populace's ability to claim that this one bullet slaughtered their entire herd of sheep.

Reviewing the above, it's basically a personal preference. I like it, but can't really articulate why. I find that my muzzle down to engagement is faster than the port arms to engagement from a speed to rounds at target standpoint...but I'm sure with training anything would get as fast.

impartial
March 31, 2011, 12:18 PM
during the first few years of the Iraq war there were several hundred deaths and 1000;s of injuries related to "accidental discharge" which was later to be deemed as "negligent discharge" I believe this could have something to do with it

When I went through basic in 2003, we were to keep our rifles pointed towards the ground unless we were engaged in training or marching drills.

lemaymiami
March 31, 2011, 12:33 PM
Since my Army years were in the stone age (101Abn, 1971) I've enjoyed reading the various points of view expressed in this thread. I agree that an idiot anywhere in your chain of command can certainly take a reasonable procedure and turn it into something ridiculous.... While all of this is about military training and doctrine, if I were training police shotgun use it would be "high port" all the way out in the open since there's other things than shooting (running, working through obstacles, dealing with situations where the shotgun as weapon will not require firing a round, etc) that a police shooter may have to contend with.

These kind of discussions make this site worth a look any time....

matty-vb
March 31, 2011, 01:34 PM
in the opinion of this soldier muzzle down at the low ready is much faster and effective than the muzzle up position with today's modern battle rifle/carbine. regular rifle stocks are faster muzzle up (years of pheasant hunting). just my $.02.

I would suppose that the change also comes from the locations of our wars. muzzle up would be the way to go in the rice paddies of Vietnam but low ready in the streets and alleys of today's battle arena. muzzle up works nowadays too though. just yesterday I pulled rear guard as our patrol made our way through flooded vineyards out in indian country early in the morning. with the M4's in the air, I couldn't help but think of every 'Nam movie I grew up watching!

kk0g
March 31, 2011, 02:32 PM
But, doesn't that make you vulnerable to a shove-the-barrel-down disarm?


-Matt

That is extremely easy to counter; drop to kneeling and pull the trigger. You can't do that with the muzzle up.

HorseSoldier
March 31, 2011, 02:58 PM
That is extremely easy to counter; drop to kneeling and pull the trigger. You can't do that with the muzzle up.

+1. The physiology of getting a muzzle back onto target if it is shoved down versus up is easier.

in the opinion of this soldier muzzle down at the low ready is much faster and effective than the muzzle up position with today's modern battle rifle/carbine. regular rifle stocks are faster muzzle up (years of pheasant hunting). just my $.02.

For actual carry and movement, not safing the weapon, low ready has the added benefit of not obstructing and portion of the carrier's field of vision and impairing situational awareness, which a high ready or port arms would.

We almost always have our rifles slung with a three point sling. It would be a little difficult to carry at port arms with a three point sling on.

While non-shooters who sign off on Big Army unit purchases seems to remain fascinated with them because the Rangers used (and discarded) them 15 years ago, I've always found it difficult to do much of anything with a Three Point Sling. Great for wandering around a FOB with no kit on, horrible to do anything in full battle rattle . . .

crossrhodes
March 31, 2011, 03:13 PM
The only time I remember having our muzzles up was on the range it was for that purpose...the range. It made it easier for the PMI's to eyeball the area and keep track of shooters and safety for shooters at large because you had a mixed bag of POG's and grunts, also for Marines that only handled their weapon once a year for quals, ie POG's. The rest of the time it was muzzle up for all the reasons that have been posted. low ready, high ready...fire

benEzra
March 31, 2011, 03:17 PM
Quote:
> and you are less vulnerable to a shove-the-barrel-up disarm.

But, doesn't that make you vulnerable to a shove-the-barrel-down disarm?
It's easier to combat a muzzle-down hold by dropping and shooting than it is to combat a muzzle-up hold by levitating and shooting. :D

crossrhodes
March 31, 2011, 03:44 PM
I ment to say Muzzle Down not up for anything then the range.

leadcounsel
March 31, 2011, 04:41 PM
Down makes more sense and is safer when doing most everything. If the barrel is up, you freqently point it forward, at people, when you transition it. It also goes forward when you bend down (if it's slung over your shoulder), and is pointed at aircraft flying overhead. And riding in aircraft your muzzle is down. Pointed upward, a ND or AD sends a round in the air somewhere .... And rifles now are more often carbines, carried at the low ready. Easier to go to the low ready from barrel pointed down then up.

The ground is usually the safest place to point your barrel in all circumstances - not so with the air.

However, for ceremonies and drill the barrel is often pointed skyward...

mgmorden
March 31, 2011, 05:24 PM
during the first few years of the Iraq war there were several hundred deaths and 1000;s of injuries related to "accidental discharge" which was later to be deemed as "negligent discharge" I believe this could have something to do with it

When I went through basic in 2003, we were to keep our rifles pointed towards the ground unless we were engaged in training or marching drills.

This sums it up completely for me. The main rule of firearms safety is to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, because sometimes "stuff" happens. If the gun happens to go off unintentionally then as long as you were pointed in a safe direction, then no harm done.

If you're carrying pointed straight down to the ground, the bullet is going to typically plow into the dirt. Messy, and startling, but ultimately harmless. If your muzzle is pointed skyward however, there's no telling where that bullet is truly going. Even on a firing range it doesn't take a whole heck of a lot of holdover for the bullet's trajectory to go over the backstop.

Overall, I just see pointing down instead of up as far more safe.

Tim the student
March 31, 2011, 07:00 PM
during the first few years of the Iraq war there were several hundred deaths and 1000;s of injuries related to "accidental discharge" which was later to be deemed as "negligent discharge" I believe this could have something to do with it

Source?

crossrhodes
March 31, 2011, 07:22 PM
I don't think I, or anyone else, every patrolled holding the rifle at port arms or muzzle up. Most of the time it was parallel with the muzzle pointed slightly down as we moved along the street.

GRIZ22
March 31, 2011, 08:14 PM
When you're training live fire in a shoot house that has a cat walk for observers and trainers to watch the show, muzzle up isn't a safe practice, it flags them. So for safety the muzzle down practice became SOP.


If you look at photos of guys actually on patrol or in comabt in Vietnam you'll see a lot of them carrying muzzle down. Not something that was policy or SOP but just something you found worked better.

CathyGo
April 1, 2011, 10:12 AM
Train as you fight is extremely applicable. We carried at low ready all throughout basic, ait, field training, deployment training, and now on deloyment. My personal set up is my rifle stock clipped to my shoulder with a carabiner and maybe 2-3 inches of 550 cord. No sling. I can use my right arm to briefly "cage" it against my body to do stuff and it sits vertical. Am I "flagging" my body? Sure, but the rifle isn't going to spontaneously fire. It's extremely fast to bring up to a target and doesn't get in my way.

I had to look up what port arms was. It's simply not used anymore.

As others have already pointed out a ND in a vehicle or aircraft is generally aimed at less important components with the muzzle down.

Whatever idiot that told you to rest a rifle with the muzzle in the dirt needs to be brought to the attention of their supervisor. Stupid advice like that will lead to damage of equipment and possible injury of a soldier.

Those of you that want to critisize our choice of slings need to get out of your armchair and hand a bunch of slings to a few different shapes/sizes of people wearing body armor. Some will choose the 3 point, some will take my carabiner(wolkhook) approach, and other will use a modified 2 point. It comes down to fitting the rifle to your body in a manner that is easily accesible and comfortable for them. Body armor alters the way the sling sits enough to make a difference with all the crap they have us wearing on them these days.

Alexey931
April 1, 2011, 04:13 PM
Concerning flexibility. Russian Field Manual written no less than fifty years ago mostly with SKS and AK-47 in mind is remarkably terse on carrying modes. It shows pictures of port arms and present arms, says that the magazine is to be inserted at all times and that while riding a truck the rifle must rest between your knees butt on the floor as you sit on a bench. That's all. No restrictions to worry about unless on parade ground.

It's either negligence or wisdom on the part of those writers. I suspect wisdom.

rocky branch
April 1, 2011, 04:15 PM
My area os VN was fairly heavily vegitated.
In "injun Country" your muzzle went where your eyes went.

I will never forget the last look on the face of a NVA troop who looked under a different bush than the one he was pointing at.

Sometimes I wonder that there were not more accidental shootings.
Guess that's why I avoid group shoots.

earplug
April 1, 2011, 05:34 PM
I asked a soldier with over 20 years of experience and he told me the muzzle down was adopted due to the shoot house training that is more common today.
They have observers on the walls to watch the training/firing. Soldiers are trained to keep the weapons down instead of up so the observers are not put in harms way.
The veteran told me that in close combat or guarding battlefield prisoners or road block situations, the muzzle up is better due to the rifleman's having better control of the weapon if its grabbed by a bad guy.

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