News: Snipers ‘Zero’ New Rifle Aboard USS Peleliu
Story by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Lewis
ON BOARD USS PELELIU – Marine snipers with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were given a rare opportunity to practice their specialized skills aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, July 9.
The Scout Sniper Platoon received their new M40A5 rifle just days before their scheduled Western Pacific deployment, preventing them from setting accurate measurements to properly employ the weapon.
“We needed to get her dialed in,” said Sgt Nicholas B. Abernathy, scout sniper team leader, H&S Company, 1st Bn, 4th Marines, referring to his new best friend. “This was my first time firing the new M40A5 rifle, I deployed with my old weapon twice and she was good to me,” added Abernathy.
Adopted in January 2009, the new rifle now uses a flash hider or suppressor and a detachable box magazine.
“The new suppressor can allow the shooter to engage the enemy longer from the same position,” said Abernathy.
Despite the windy conditions and firing from a moving target, the snipers not only accomplished their goals but learned something new.
“My spotter and I figured out there is a natural pause during the ship’s movement,” stated Abernathy. “As the ship moves down, just before it rises there seems to be a natural pause, much like the same pause we experience during breathing.”
During marksmanship training, Marines are taught to slowly and steadily squeeze the trigger during this natural pause in breathing. As for the snipers, the new data made the training more meaningful.
“We never know when or where we’ll be asked to employ our specialty,” said Cpl. Emmanuel P. Velayo, radio operator and spotter, H&S Company, 1st Bn, 4th Marines. “So firing from the ship really helped us know what to expect if we ever have to engage the enemy from the ship.”
While this was their first time firing the new weapon, the snipers routinely check their weapons out of the armory. If there’s one thing Abernathy has learned in his five years as a sniper, don’t get complacent.
“Once or twice a week we break out our weapons to [dry fire] and clean them,” said Abernathy. “Marksmanship is a perishable skill and I believe [dry firing] is absolutely critical. Muscle memory is what it’s all about,” added Abernathy.
The trigger time was useful and the snipers recognized the significance of having the rare opportunity to fire their precision weapons from the flight deck.
“Firing these weapons aboard a ship wasn’t easy to coordinate,” said 1st Lt. Michael P. Buckley, scout sniper platoon commander, H&S Company, 1st Bn, 4th Marines. “I’m glad we could though, the juice was definitely worth the squeeze,” he added.