Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Queen’s Lee Enfield

I was very young when I was introduced to shooting. It was serious business but it was also made fun for me and I recall the instant satisfaction of hitting a reactive target.

As I grew into adolescence I started to focus this interest into more formal shooting associations through my dad, local gun club and sponsors. Our local gun club partnered with the Boy Scouts of Canada to instil the principles of target shooting in the community’s youth. We had affordable 22 Rifles with peep sights installed. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun right!

Before I knew it I was 15 years old and I was an accomplished marksman but I was also starting to lose interest in the sport. I did not entirely appreciate the coaching or skill base I had developed back then until I was an adult and started to compete again. My father was a good teacher and his fundamentals of shooting technique and method were very solid. I stopped competitive shooting for fifteen years to obtain a useful education and establish a career path.

Then one day…
Someone I knew handed me a minty Danish refurbed M1 Garand and told me if I gave him $400 it could be mine. In that moment it suddenly dawned on me that I had just been given an opportunity to catch up on something that I had adored as a child and bring it back into adulthood. A significant portion of the activities we enjoy as adults were intrinsically influenced by our youthful endeavours.

I researched when our local gun club meetings were scheduled and started attending them. I did this for about four months until I got to know who the players were and how things operated. Eventually I approached the club’s executive and told them I wanted to start a new branch of the Terrace Rod & Gun Club. It was 1999 and Terrace had not hosted a formal rifle competition in just over 20-years. After a basic interview of who I was and what my intentions were I was promoted to the club’s vacant ‘Rifle Chair’ position. I built and designed an annual vintage military service rifle event that grew in complexity and sophistication over a decade.

Numerous competitors shot this match, many of which travel long distances to attend the course of fire. It was a very large club sponsored event, which sustained its own tradition of shooting, fellowship and an opportunity for new shooters to get involved in the interesting sport of service rifle shooting.

In the process of invigilating these matches I became familiar with members of the Canadian Rangers whom are a sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces. I signed up, received some weapon handling drills and was issued a 1950 CNo4Mk1* Lee Enfield. Through the Canadian Rangers the military has provided me with an avenue to build on the principles of marksmanship that I developed as a youth. I have been able to involve myself in shooting opportunities with the Canadian Forces that I would never have been able to partake in otherwise. I have travelled within Canada to compete with the military in service rifle competitions and concentrations with this old Lee Enfield and the two of us have performed admirably.

I attended the Canadian Forces Small Arms Concentration (CFSAC) in 2009 which is located at the Primary Training Centre in Connaught, Ottawa. At this concentration the shooter is exposed to deliberate, snap and rapid fire serials in prone, kneeling, standing and run-down events. Distance to targets vary from 25m to 500m and the lee enfield, when wielded by someone that knows how to use it, can perform these tasks with impressive results. During this concentration I placed fourth highest Ranger shot in Canada, qualified to shoot the Queen’s Medal Round and came home with the highest scoring Tyro Trophy. Not too shabby for a chap that had never shot CFSAC before.

I've shot a lot of ammunition through this rifle over the years and ‘baby it’ more than any other rifle in my collection. I can’t help but feel ‘she’ deserves the extra attention. It is this particular rifle that I know best because of the significant experiences we have enjoyed together.

·         I know where almost every scrape, bruise or blemish on this rifle came from;
·         We have hiked and beat our way across some of Canada’s most difficult and extreme remote wilderness locations together;
·         This Lee Enfield has been relied upon to provide sustenance;
·         This Lee Enfield has won trophies in competitions;
·         I rely on this rifle to protect me from dangerous animals;
·         This rifle may have served Canada in the Korean War and;
·         This rifle has also helped me accumulate and demonstrate the experience required to bridge the gap from student to teacher.

Sufficient to say that I advocate the Lee Enfield rifle every chance I get. I have only one problem with this worn and tired 1950 CNo4Mk1* Lee Enfield rifle. Of all the expensive and modern rifles in my gun safe my favourite rifle is the Ranger issue Lee Enfield - the only rifle I do not own. This favourite rifle belongs to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second; Queen of Canada whom has loaned it to me for my service with the CF.

I’m now the age my father was when he introduced me to shooting. I’m looking forward to passing these milestone lessons down to my sons so that their lives may be enriched by them, as they have enriched mine. 

Riflechair on the right side of this photo

Friday, March 18, 2011

Your job as the leader is to create more leaders.

1. The Learning Leader: If the leaders thinks he knows it all he is not a leader “There is nothing new in the world for me” attitude...
·         Episodic Learning VS Continuous Learning
·         What did you do today VS What did you learn today?
2. Sustainable Leadership: Recruiting leaders from within;
·         Identify and recruit NCO’S that share a concern or have a passion about leadership. People who want to deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting with one another on an ongoing basis;
·         Leadership must be grown, cultivated and explored at all levels (not restricted to NCO’s);
3. Leadership Space: Leaders create space, they don’t occupy the space (goldfish grow bigger in a larger pond);
·         The old way of thinking: “How few people can we involve in the planning”? Your Rangers are left in the dark until the plan is mobilized....
·         The new way of thinking: “How do we empower our Rangers to make recommendations about a proposed plan”? Ideas are captured and considered in advance of mobilizing...
4. Relationship Leader:
·         We take it for granted that we have a good relationship. Many people need to know you before they will do business with you or trust you.

Action without relationship has no commitment
Action without possibility has no imagination
Action without reflection is doomed to make the same mistakes

·         Hard Skills VS Soft Skill Leadership
o   Hard Skills: Developing a set of orders, assigning tasks, completing an equipment inventory, etc...
o   Soft Skills: People Skills – People feel appreciated for their efforts, people are recognized for going over and above, some members are going from high performing to low performing Rangers – why?
5. Leading Change
·         We often take a good idea and kill it by turning it into a program or a flavour of the month;
·         Good change happens from the foundation up not from the management down;
·         Leadership places just as much emphasis on the soft skills as the hard skills;
·         Team building is not an event – it is an everyday practice;
·         People will resist change if they perceive that you are trying to change them;
·         People generally do not resist change if the focus is spent on the system within which we work;

Leading Effective Meeting Management
·         The problem with meetings is that they often have too much information or too much talking by one or two people. Here is how to shrink the ballance:
·         L.I.D. template (put some thought and preparation into your meeting and combine all of the top five leadership aspects).
o   1/3rd Learning
o   1/3rd Information
o   1/3rd Dialogue
Reference: B. Chartier

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Understanding Minute of Angle (MOA)

If you have a vernier rear sight on your No4Mk1* each click is approximately one MOA. If your No4Mk1 has the sliding ladder (Mk 3 or Mk 4), adjusted in 100 yard increments, or the 300/600 yard 'flip sight' (Mk 2), swap it for the Singer vernier sight immediately. The No 5 (Jungle Carbine) sight is in 2/3 MOA increments. This offers more precise adjustment than the No 4 Singer sight.

MOA is popular because 1 MOA is approximately one inch at 100 yards, a traditional distance on imperial rifle ranges. Note the CF shoots on metric ranges but your sights are calibrated in yards. A shooter can easily re-adjust their rifle sight by measuring the distance in inches the bullet hole is from the desired impact point, and adjust the sight that many MOA in the same direction. More to come on this subject - I think it deserves more attention. In the meantime enjoy the video.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Strengths or Weaknesses - What should we focus on?

A few years ago I attended a Royal Roads University seminar on subjects such as ‘Exploring Within’ and ‘Leading the Way’. Very reflective subject matter that gave one pause to consider what had just been heard. I’m going to transcribe some of my thoughts on what I heard for you (mainly descriptions from my notes) because I think a lot of this stuff is applicable to anyone that is interested in leadership.

It seems to me that most human beings are fixated by fault and failure. Certainly throughout my entire education and throughout my career I have been encouraged to identify and correct areas of weakness before I had any chance of being successful. I now believe that there are sometimes choices to be made where this model has no bearing what-so-ever and may very well be an inherent flaw in logic.

I believe that sometimes there needs to be a shift of focus, or a decision, that allows us to pursue success by concentrating on what we’re strong in; not what we’re weak in. I think this can be said of individuals and I believe this can be said of clubs or organizations. To me this just starts to make sense.

Two poorly considered assumptions we make about people:
1. People can learn to be proficient in almost anything;
2. A person’s greatest opportunity for growth is through concentrating on their areas of weakness;

Many employers maintain an employee performance review, and in these reviews, your supervisor works with you to identify ‘areas of opportunity’ or ‘skill gaps’ (aka nice way of saying “Weakness”) that you need to bring up to a more acceptable level. It’s a management tool to minimize weaknesses in the organization and then you are possibly sent off to a remedial course or workshop. Is this development or is this damage control?

If this is your modus operandi then I suggest you, or your organization, will never be able to capitalize on your subordinates strengths.

A new way of looking at this dilemma:
1. A person’s talents are unique;
2. A person’s greatest opportunity for growth is through their strengths;

We don’t ignore weakness but we maximize strength. The people that wake up in the morning and look forward to their day at work are called “The Blessed Ones”. These people have been able to identify in themselves some recurring patterns of behaviour then developed them into productive strengths.

Attributes of Strengths?

• Must be able to consistently demonstrate it successfully time and time again;
• Must derive satisfaction from the activity

Capitalizing your strengths and managing around your weaknesses is a lot easier to say than it is in practice. I’m still struggling with this however I have been able to demonstrate this numerous times at work by negotiating jobs that I find interesting and that I am good at into my work portfolio. This work is showing dividends for me and is starting to open doors that would otherwise be closed. Additionally I am building competencies that can be demonstrated should other jobs that I consider more aligned to my interest become available.

I’m only touching the tip of the ice berg on this subject because this medium is a blog. Needless to say strengths are constructed, developed and polished out of specific raw material. Sometimes you don’t know that you have these skills until you step outside of your comfort zone and accomplish things you never knew you were capable of accomplishing. If you are surprised by a feeling of satisfaction, elation and sense of accomplishment then you really need to pay attention to it. You may have just tripped over a strength that has been buried inside of you that just needed an outlet.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Survival Enthusiasts – Dooms Day Flagellants or Students of Cause and Effect?

I’m a fairly tolerant person but I must admit that I get bored easily. I always want to learn something new and then demonstrate it to myself; that is how I learn and retain. Acquiring survival skills isn’t something you can learn from reading books, watching television shows or hearing stories around the campfire. You gain proficiency by testing yourself through the art of practice.

I look at the development of my skill base as a ‘Survival Practice’ just like a physician has a ‘Medical Practice’ or a Professional Forester has a ‘Practice in Resource Management’. A ‘practice’ is not something that can be taken away from you. If they can take away your ‘practice’ then it was never yours to begin with.

I have a practice in survival that seems to shift emphasis from time to time as new knowledge, experience and technology influences how I prepare and conduct myself in the bush.

Some folks want to be able to walk into the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on their back and a pocket knife to subsist with. While I appreciate the skill required to do this my practice focuses on different priorities because I go through the rigour of ensuring I have certain tools available to me. When it comes to specific equipment I have a very simple philosophy “It is better to have it and not need it, than it is to need it and not have it.” I borrow that from Les Stroud (Survivorman) whom inspires me to get better at my survival practice whenever I see him on television.

Terrace floods 2007
So what is it that encourages us to develop this survival mentality and hone this interesting practice? Well, for some it is necessity (a way of life) but for most of us we live in towns with infrastructure, shopping malls, drug stores, hospitals, physicians, nurses, grocery outlets, WALMART and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I can’t speak for all of you but here is my motivation for developing my survival practice:

  1. I do not feel comfortable basing my family’s entire survival needs on the corporate system of food distribution and infrastructure because these things can be taken away in a heartbeat;
  2. I feel a strong spiritual connection to nature and the bounty that it has to offer. I have played and worked in it all of my life and it is a part of who I am;
  3. It is a passion for me with emotional linkages and this skill set has helped me to enjoy the splendour of remote wilderness locations without worry;
  4. There is great personal satisfaction in being self-sufficient and self-sustaining;
There are many people that are completely and totally dependent on the industrial establishment to provide them with life’s necessities. Many of these people are located in metropolitan centres and this has to be expected. However this does not mean that they do not have a ‘survival practice’.

Right now across this globe there are people wondering what they would do if in the same situation as the people of Japan in that horrible 8.9 subduction earthquake. Your practice should enable you to project what your most likely challenges are going to be and then develop a strategy and plan to ensure you are equipped to over-come them. What will you do when people have finished raiding grocery stores of product and clean drinking water is now a black market commodity?

For some of you, referring to the previous statement, I have now crossed the line from being a Survivalist to a Dooms Day Preacher.
I’m not apocalyptic about survival but I do take the time to reflect on the things I need to pay attention to as they apply to my surroundings in the wild. I do this as a Canadian Ranger on exercise, a Ministry Official with the BC Forest Service driving down a busy logging road or as a Professional Facilitator working with large groups of people in downtown Vancouver. Always evaluate hazards and identify ways of mitigating an impact.

I believe that establishing a ‘survival practice or mentality’ is on-par with the importance of educating young people in math, grammar, or history. How many people die every year simply because they have not developed a system of ascertaining or appreciating hazards and the potential risk posed to their safety? We’ve all heard numerous stories of easily avoidable incidents and accidents.

Where is Momma bear?
 The “WHAT IF” askers have the imaginative ability to foresee particular outcomes to a situation based on the best info available then visualizes and prepares a course of action to overcome ahead of the event. This is the survival mentality in a nutshell and for many people a good life philosophy to live by.

Perhaps one day survival practitioners will be accepted as a mainstream phenomenon and not viewed by so many as an apocalyptic fringe element of society waiting for the next earthquake to occur.

Whether you live in a concrete metropolitan jungle or a wilderness reality the method is the same.

Survival – is simply that.
Stay Alert out there and pay attention to the indicators.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Evaluating Headspace - The Lee Enfield Rifle

I've been wanting to write an article on headspace for some time now however I recently found an easy to understand article written by Parashooter on

Instead of re-creating the wheel I'd like to share Parashooter's words with you here. Hopefully this answers a few questions and raises a few more.

I've included a few of my words at the end of Parashooter's article.
Several generations of American shooters have been convinced by bad information that something mysterious and scary called "headspace" should be checked and re-checked on almost any surplus rifle, especially Lee-Enfields. The truth is less interesting but still worth knowing.

Stripped to its essentials, with a rimmed cartridge like the .303, headspace is simply the distance between the front of the bolt and the back of the barrel. It's the space where the "head" (rim) of the cartridge fits when the rifle is loaded.
Since there has to be some room to allow for varying rim thickness, the headspace is normally a bit more than necessary - giving what I call "head clearance", a little extra space so the bolt can close easily, even on the thickest rim allowed.

In addition, Lee-Enfields and their ammo were often made with a fair amount of space for dirt, mud, snow and other battlefield debris between the chamber and the cartridge's body and shoulder ("Body/shoulder clearance"). Since the cartridge is controlled by its rim, this clearance doesn't do any harm (except to handloaders who insist on full-length sizing).

When a full-power .303 cartridge is fired, a whole string of events occurs.
Click the animation below
1. The firing pin shoves the case forward, rim against the breech.

2. The primer detonates. If it's not heavily crimped in place, it backs out, shoving the bolt and barrel as far apart as it can.

3. The thin, forward part of the case expands to fill and grip the chamber while the bullet moves out of the case and down the barrel.

4. The solid case head can't expand and grip the chamber, so it moves rearward, re-seating the primer, stretching the case walls just forward of the head, and stopping when it hits the bolt face. (In rear-locking actions like the Lee, the bolt and receiver also compress/stretch to add a little more movement. The higher the pressure, the more they move.)

5. If (and only if) the amount of head movement exceeds the elastic limits of the case, the cartridge separates into two pieces.

New cartridge cases can normally stretch a lot before breaking. Even with a minimum rim .054" thick and maximum "field" headspace of .074", the resultant .020" head clearance is well within the limits of new brass and it's very unlikely a new case will separate even if the headspace is somewhat more than the field maximum (which is pretty rare).

OK, but if one does separate I'm in deep trouble, right? Not really. It seems the short "cup" left behind the break is pretty good at keeping most of the gas where it belongs. Here's a demonstration -

First I took a case that had been reloaded with heavy loads enough times so it was stretched near breaking.
I loaded it with a 180-grain bullet and 40 grains of 4895 - a reasonably stiff charge about 2 grains under "maximum" - and fired it in a much-abused Savage No.4 with a clean sheet of typing paper wrapped around the receiver.
When I opened the bolt, the separated head extracted. (The front piece of the case fell out when I happened to turn the rifle muzzle-up while removing the paper.)
The sooty paper shows where some gas escaped. No rips or holes, just a little soot - and only where the bolt meets the barrel. Had I been shooting from the shoulder and wearing glasses, I probably wouldn't have noticed the leak at all.

The point of all this is that excess headspace, even a bit beyond normal limits, isn't the terrible danger we've heard so much about. It's not a good thing for consistent ignition or long case life (although handloaders who neck-size or adjust F.L. dies carefully can control this) - but it's not a disaster waiting to happen.

Unless you're consistently getting broken cases when firing new ammo or brass, there's not much reason to be worried about headspace in these sturdy old Lee-Enfields. Relax and enjoy!
Editted to add:
It is unacceptable if you are experiencing case head separations with your lee enfield. Advise your section commander immediately (even if this has only happened once). The rifle needs to be checked out. If you are shooting WW2 / Korea vintage MkVII ammunition be aware that older brass can be a little bit more brittle. If you know that you have long headspace reconsider shooting this ammo  - especially if the ammo looks tarnished or has signs of oxidation (stay with the newer Mk8Z ammo).

I have utilized head space guages to assess the chamber specs of many Ranger service rifles now. Perhaps I have even checked your rifle. Bolts should NOT close on a field guage. This is an automatic fail and an indicator of excessive headspace. If your rifle closes on a milspec field guage +.074" then have the rifle returned to headquarters. It likely just needs one or two bolt head sizes increased but it is best to have the rifle returned to HQ.

Additionally if the bolt will not close on a 'Go-Guage' your chamber may be a little to tight (or short). This is normally an issue with semi-automatic rifles (and floating firing pins) as it may result in what is known as a 'Slam-Fire'. Under normal circumstances this may not necessarily be a problem with a Lee Enfield but if you start including moisture or other types of debris in the chamber area you may experience an issue with effective bolt cycling. This could pose a safety issue if the rifle is discharged with the bolt only partially closed. Enfields were designed to be a bit on the loose side.

You use the weapon more than anyone else so pay attention to the indicators. Examine your brass occaisonally and look for any abnormalities. Look for chamber bulges, gouges, fire cracks in the case head area, split necks or other irregularities. Pierced primers could indicate a very short chamber or a firing pin issue. Flattened or cratered primers are indicators of high pressure. Know the indicators of headspace and chamber pressure and report any information that give you cause for concern. After all, these rifle platforms are 70+ years old and some of them may have surpassed it's designed life expectancy. Be safe...


Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Learning Ranger - The High Performing Patrol

When I was in high school, learning was regarded as a “phase” you went through. The concept was that one literally got through university or college and then was rewarded with a pass into real life. A lot of people in my generation received a distaste for learning as it more or less represented an endurance run that eventually led to graduation.

“Thank goodness that’s over.”
“I’m glad I never have to go back down that road.”

The institutionalized ‘student farming’ that is our educational system has, in my opinion, been deleterious to us all in how we view learning. As I age I have come to realize that learning is a lifelong experience. I’m convinced that we are all in a mode of continuous learning throughout all phases of our existence.  Unfortunately there are still people who believe they have done their time learning and there is nothing else for them to learn. DP 1  and DP 2 are not the end-all - be-all of your Ranger training – it is but the beginning.

For a lot of us lifelong learning takes place in a workplace culture, not in a workplace policy or program. I think Rangers must contribute to that culture. If you’re not learning something new (even if it is a small thing) with every Ranger meeting then I argue that the established leadership is not placing emphasis on improving the Patrol’s knowledge resource. If you’re not learning anything then you’re probably not an engaged Ranger or part of a high performing Patrol. So let’s look at one aspect of what a high performing Ranger Patrol might look like...  

For your Consideration

Shared Purpose and Direction
All Rangers in the Patrol are committed to the team's purpose. Rangers know exactly what that purpose is because the leaders keep them focused by constantly communicating that purpose in team meetings and regular updates. Leaders help each Ranger meet their own needs while serving the overall purpose of the Patrol.

Motivating Goals
Leaders ensure that everyone on the Patrol has clearly defined goals and targets. Strategic goals and objectives are mostly determined by Group and Detachment Commanders. Patrol leaders make sure that these objectives are clearly defined to Rangers as Operational Goals. Ultimately Rangers understand how their jobs support the achievement of strategic goals. The annual Patrol Commander Working Group meeting is a great opportunity to develop goals and action plans that spell out how your Patrol will contribute to the success of the Ranger organization.

Commitment to Individual Ranger and Patrol Roles
Rangers have clearly defined expectations and they also understand how each of their roles is linked to every other role. Leaders ensure that Rangers are trained in all core positions and disciplines so that everyone can back each other up when needed. Leaders make sure that their Rangers have a SOP or process that allow them to function as a team even if all of the established leadership is absent.

Multi-Directional Communication
On the best teams, team members solve problems, communicate with each other, and keep the leaders updated on challenges or emerging issues. On low-performing teams, communication is one-way - from team leader to team members.

Authority to Decide or Act
Rangers have to earn this authority by demonstrating that they understand the team's purpose, processes and priorities. Leaders push authority for the Patrol’s or Section's outcomes to the Rangers by empowering them. Rangers know how and when to get approval for decisions and, in the best of cases, are charged with making on-the-spot decisions when appropriate. On low-performing teams, team members have to constantly get approval before taking action, significantly reducing their effectiveness and negatively affecting their sense of engagement in the Patrol. Micro Managers take note...

Reliance on Diverse Talents
Savvy NCO’s pay attention to helping Rangers understand their unique strengths, talents, and weaknesses. No individual Ranger can be good at everything. Leaders assist Rangers to develop an appreciation for individual styles, natural gifts, and personal experience. The Patrol is encouraged to accept and appreciate rather than criticize or judge. Leaders consciously promote and recognize Rangers who bring complementary skill sets, unique experience, and diverse perspectives.

Mutual Support and Trust
The seventh characteristic may be the most important, and frankly, is probably the most elusive. The NCO can't force a Patrol to be supportive and trusting--it's a natural result of shared responsibility, shared success, and mutual respect. The high-performing Ranger Patrol achieves mutual support and trust because they have a history of working together to achieve grand dreams and results. They have met challenges, overcome obstacles, backed each other up in good times and bad. These Rangers have earned each other's trust.

I believe 85% of this should be achieved through regularly scheduled meetings and training. Don't rely on the limitations of two Field Training Exercises (FTX) per year to establish your skill base when it only represents 15% of the training year. Every meeting should have a training exercise associated with it so that your fellow Rangers can see you demonstrating your skills. This builds confidence and this builds trust.

If you were a Patrol Commander or a Section Commander how would you apply these seven basic characteristics? Unless a learning culture is created it is unlikely all of the above will be successfully achievable.