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USMC rifle capabilities at Belleau Wood


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#1 devildog34

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 06:12 PM

Good evening. I am currently working on doing some research on the Marines at Belleau Wood and in doing this research I am going through hundreds of SSC citations from the battle and one in particular is to a sniper or a Marine who was equipped with a scoped rifle who earned a silver star which was down graded from a DSC for making six kills at approximately 1400 yds! I spent 8 years in the Marine Corps and granted my experience is with the 5.56mm round but is this likley accurate. I am certainly not calling this false it is in the documentation but I also realize that a lot of these recommendations were analyzed and witnesses collected months after the fact and how likely do you all think it is that these are simply honest inaccuracies in the recollections of these eye witnesses. I know that maps were available by the early 1920's in fact the Marine Corps resurveyed the battlefield in 1919 and made a very nice accurate map that is currently at the Marine Corps archives in Quantico (Grays Research Center). I am just curious of some opinions. The Marine was Roland Fisher of the 51st Company and his citation was for actions on June 11 when the battalion attacked Belleau Wood but I believe this action really occurred on June 3-5 sometime since both eyewitnesses were wounded and evacuated on June 4 and June 5 and obviously unable to witness any action on dates after that. I have a nice picture of Fisher as well, very interesting citation.
Semper Fi,
Kevin Seldon

#2 m1ashooter

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Posted 01 June 2010 - 06:19 PM

1400 hundred yards seems to be a very lucky shot considering the beat up ground of the western front. But a marine with a wood and steel rifle was a weapon indeed. I know I couldn't do it with my M1a or Garand but I've never shot an 03.

#3 12A54

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 03:21 PM

Unlikely especially without a scope. I was on the Army MTU team and we shot iron sights accurately at 1,000 yards, but the targets were proportionally much larger than a standard silhouette. Given the colors of uniforms, quality of weapons (mine was match grade, heavy barreled, glass bedded M14), terrain there, size of target, etc. etc. I would say improbable but not totally impossible.

#4 bmbrzmn101

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 04:10 PM

I am not saying he did or did not. But also consider, did he have a warner and swasey scoped '03? An '03 with a Winchester A5 scope?
Also for food for thought. The Germans did not think the Americans capable of long distance direct fire and could have let their guard down at times. Small groups of men are better targets for an easy hit at those distances than an individual man. Once your range was doped and you had an idea of how to make your holds it's possible. Remember this is a 30.06 round, not today's .223 or .308. There is much more to consider about this than is it possible to which I say yes. But one might want to look into the individuals fil;e for training, time at the front, what he did in civilian life, ie...was he also a hunter. Just some things to consider before saying it may not be possible. People were a different sort back then and shooting for some was the only way food was put on the table. Just saying....


Food for thought. Chris

#5 bheskett

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 05:06 PM

Parroting what the others have said. I am not saying it did or did not happern. My Dad served from 45-54 and he told me they started him out at 500 yards on the rifle range. He also told e about a sniper demonstration with a shaprshooter with an 03 shooting well over 1000 yards. He stated with tracers and walked his rounds in, My dad said one shot started the grass on fire and the recruits, he included, had to run down range and put it out. My grand dad served in WWI on the Mexican border with the 8th Cavalry. He told me that if you could not shoot and man sized target at 800 yards you were not a very good shot. Again not saying it could have or not, but maybe.
Bob

#6 El Bibliotecario

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 09:09 PM

I'[m sure the marine in question did a fine job. But to further muddy the waters...

Somewhere I've read an anecdote about a US cavalry patrol during the Punitive expedition who spotted a group of Mexicans on a hill 800 yards away. The patrol leader told his sergeant to dismount, loop up, and see if he could hit the chief Mexican with his M1903. The sarge did so, and the survivors rapidily departed. This was considered a remarkable shot at not much more than half of 1400 yards...and the sergeant happened to be the champion shot of the cavalry branch

As the MTU rifleman mentioned in his post, at very long ranges the issue is not only marksmanship and weapon capability, but target detection; i.e., trying to spot a figure in a drab uniform. One cannot shoot an enemy one cannot see. At that distance the bullet will be in the air over two seconds--if the target moves at the right moment the shooter is out of luck. But maybe this would be balanced by the enemy group not hearing the shot until after it had struck. I've fired the M1903 with iron sights; as many shooters have observed, the rear sight is more of a target sight than a combat sight, and its placement on the weapon is not suited to the human eye. I've hit torso sized steel plates at 500 yards--but that was on a range, with no one shooting back. I've no doubt that a better rifle shot than me (that includes most people) could make a shot at 1400 yards. What I question is if they could do it six times in one day under combat conditions.

In my personal experience award citations routinely depect the intended recipient as leaping tall buildings in a single jump. I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of padding was practiced in WW1; the marines are reknowed not only for their marksman, but by their skill at self-promotion.

Edited by El Bibliotecario, 22 June 2010 - 09:18 PM.


#7 pchepurko

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 06:04 AM

IMO 1400 with a scope while laying on the deck is within reason. I was just talking to 2 Marines who have shot the 03 spingfield and M1. I asked them about accuracy and the both said the 03 was more accurate due to a better front site. The front site on an 03 is thinner then an M1. As anyone knows who has gone through Marine Corps bootcamp marksmenship is a hallmark of the Corps.

#8 Charlie Flick

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 04:00 PM

I don't know if the Marine in question made those shots at 1400 yards or not. That would take a pretty detailed forensic investigation, I suspect, and the answer is probably lost in the mists of time.

The M1903 Rifle had a deserved reputation for having a high degree of accuracy. Note that the rear sight leaf has gradations all the way out to 2700 yards (!) In the hands of a skilled sniper with a scope equipped Springfield (even one as rudimentary as the W-S), I think it within the realm of possibility that such shots could have been made.

Regards,
Charlie Flick

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#9 devildog34

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 04:35 PM

Thank you gentleman for the insight on this, let me readdress my original post to clarify. This Marine did have a scoped rifle and in regards to training I am guess there was none outside of the numerous hours/days spent at the range. I mean 500 yds with the 5.56 round is the money maker and in my opinon the easiest phase of training at Pendelton, at least it was for me, in boot camp. Irregardless his citation estimates 1400 so give or take a few hundred yards that is still an impressive shot. I am relatively familiar with the terrain where this occurred as I have been there and there is a natural slope down towards his target and I believe that this assessment from eyewitness is more accurate than inaccurate but may not have been 1400 yards. I have spoken with some shooters including a Marine sniper as well as some of the people at the Marine Corps museum and we are of the opinion that it cannot be denied in its accuracy. Just thought it'd be a good question to generate some dialogue. Thank you gentleman again for your professional insight.
Semper Fi,
Kevin

#10 HerbG

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 10:07 AM

Such a shot is certainly possible but considering the equipment and ammunition being used it would involve a good measure of luck even for the best marksmanship. Claiming six kills at that distance stretches the imagination.

Edited by HerbG, 30 June 2010 - 10:10 AM.


#11 Sgt Saunders

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Posted 30 June 2010 - 03:34 PM

About sniping in WWI,
you should read McBride's book
A Rifleman Went to War.
Also Sniping In France?
(How the British army won the war in the trenches)
Or something like that. This should answer a lot of
questions about sniping at long distances.

#12 ksp45

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 01:59 PM

i think its possible,my uncle was a marine sniper in ww2 and his longest shot was 1200 yds,his co col whalen had it measured by an arty unit, i dont know how they measured.he spent his youth doing a lot of hunting during the depression as it was the only way to keep meat on the table,my longest shot was 600 yds at a woodchuck using a 220 swift with a 12x unertl scope,and back then(not gonna say how long ago) i could see him without an aid,point is if you are trained to see at long distances you can, so i think those boys could do it no problem

#13 Johnnymac

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 05:44 AM

Good evening. I am currently working on doing some research on the Marines at Belleau Wood and in doing this research I am going through hundreds of SSC citations from the battle and one in particular is to a sniper or a Marine who was equipped with a scoped rifle who earned a silver star which was down graded from a DSC for making six kills at approximately 1400 yds! I spent 8 years in the Marine Corps and granted my experience is with the 5.56mm round but is this likley accurate. I am certainly not calling this false it is in the documentation but I also realize that a lot of these recommendations were analyzed and witnesses collected months after the fact and how likely do you all think it is that these are simply honest inaccuracies in the recollections of these eye witnesses. I know that maps were available by the early 1920's in fact the Marine Corps resurveyed the battlefield in 1919 and made a very nice accurate map that is currently at the Marine Corps archives in Quantico (Grays Research Center). I am just curious of some opinions. The Marine was Roland Fisher of the 51st Company and his citation was for actions on June 11 when the battalion attacked Belleau Wood but I believe this action really occurred on June 3-5 sometime since both eyewitnesses were wounded and evacuated on June 4 and June 5 and obviously unable to witness any action on dates after that. I have a nice picture of Fisher as well, very interesting citation.
Semper Fi,
Kevin Seldon


If Elmer Keith can hit a deer at 600 yards with a S&W short barrel pistol, why not a man at 1400 yards with a scoped rifle?

Elmer keith has been in the NRA magazine several times
.
The story of Elmer Keith's famous, or infamous, 600 yard shot with a short barreled revolver has been told and retold many times over the decades since it happened. Sometimes this tale is told by people using it as evidence that handguns can be used at long range, sometimes by people who think Keith was another old cowboy telling tall tales. Of all the times the incident comes up the real story is seldom told. It wasn't as if Keith drew his revolver and dropped the deer offhand at 600 yards. He had been shooting that gun and load at several hundred yards that week and knew the kind of hold over he would need. He also didn't do it in one shot, and was prone. None of those facts changes the truth of the story or diminishes Keith's accomplishment or shooting ability. In my opinion it does give more credence to the story.

Elmer Keith was the most renowned long-range handgunner in the world. He invented the .357, .41 and .44 Magnum revolver cartridges, and was instrumental in the design of the Smith & Wesson revolvers that fired them, including the big Model 29. At first, many in the firearms establishment doubted Keith’s long-range load development work, his published exploits with his modified revolvers, his 700-yard accuracy, his 600-yard big-game kills, but as undeniable evidence accumulated even his doubters were forced to take Elmer’s accomplishments to heart. This one man, almost entirely on his own, was responsible for the birth of long-range handgunning, a sporting concept that would see vigorous expression on the target ranges and hunting fields of the world. Made famous by hitting running targets a quarter-mile away, Elmer Keith was known to be a devastating shot at more intimate social ranges as well. Nothing surprising about that.

#14 craig_pickrall

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 07:47 AM

I have read that the front sight on the USMC version of the '03 was the same size as a man at 1000 yards. This was the main line of fire during the charges across no man's land.

The last matches held at Camp Perry using the '03 and open sights there was a shooter whose rifle was lost in shipment. He drew an issue weapon from the Army and shot the last perfect score at 1000 yds. That rifle had a brass plate attached to it and was awarded to the shooter. During the early stages of WW2 when England was asking for any weapons this rifle was donated. It was returned to him post war. This story has appeared in the NRA's American Rifleman magazine several times over the years.

In the hands of a well trained marksman the '03 is very capable of kill shots at 1000 yards plus even without a scope. I think most will agree that Marines of the WW1 era were well trained marksmen.

#15 The General

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 09:01 AM

Man-sized width (at 1000 yards) would be 0.008" wide (8 thousanths). More likely, man-wide at 1000' (or 300m) would be 0.024" wide.

#16 artu44

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Posted 17 July 2010 - 09:04 AM

As every competitive target shooter knows, the width of a square top front sight means nothing. When the front sight is much wider than the target you have only to place the target in the middle of the post.
Six hits at 1400 yds is of course a superb performance but I'd like to know how many bullets it took. There are too many wild variables at such a distance for having consistent hits.

#17 Jeremiah

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Posted 17 July 2010 - 10:32 AM

Kevin and I had a chat the other evening about this. My feelings on it are that Fisher was probably aiming at point targets such as machine gun crews or trench mortar crews. From a stable position and taking your time with the windage, elevation, etc those types of shots are very possible.

Bear in mind too that once the battlefield was firmly in American hands and the battle was over, the Brigade most likely did a pretty thorough evaluation of what happened as part of its after action reports. Distance measurements would have been easy to confirm.

#18 ColBob506

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 05:52 AM

I have zero doubts that these shots can be accomplished.The original 06 round,the M1 was indeed a very hot round.It was found that most military ranges could not handle it.With a carry of more then the 1760 yards which is a mile at higher terminal velocities than alot of weapons develop at the muzzle.Anyone with any familiarity of the round's trajectory and ability to shoot very well,( remember,sniping duties and scoped rifles are not given into the hands of your average rifleman,not even in the Civil War.) can accomplish much,particularly if you add a scope.
I am not sure the rifle would have been an '03' as the P17 was actually in greater numbers in Europe during WW1,not that it would matter much as both are superb weapons.Sorry to say,but most men of that time were much better shots then we are today.Watch "Top Shots" to see what I mean.Most of those guys are incredible and yet,with more primative arms,not so much.
Sparrow


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