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M-21 vs. M-16 sandbag accuracy

Discussion in 'US Army Forum' started by Klebanoff, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. I know this is a something of a silly and perhaps irrelevant question, but I’m going to ask in anyway, since it’s been puzzling me for over two decades.

    I was in the army in the mid-80s. I was infantry (11-B), stationed at Fort Ord, California and Fort Sherman, Panama. When I enlisted we still had the old M-16 A1s; we got the A2s about a year before I completed my term of service. I also attended sniper school, where we trained with the so-called “M-21 system,” which (for anyone who doesn’t already know) is an accuraized M-14 fitted with a scope and firing match grade ammo.

    In sniper training we received the common sense instruction that the best way to fire from the prone position using a sandbag rest is to remove one’s hand from beneath the weapon—since any human appendage is certain to wiggle at least a little—and wedge the M-21’s magazine and receiver tight against the sandbag so as to obtain maximum stability.

    I did this with great results. In fact, I was one of the best marksmen in my class.

    Here’s the rub: We were told that the same technique should be used with all weapons—including the M-16—which sounded like good advice at the time. But when I tried shooting the M-16 this way, I wasn’t anywhere near as accurate as I had been using the old “hand between the weapon and sandbag” approach I’d learned in basic training.

    So why did a seemingly common sense shooting technique produce excellent results with the M-21/M-14 and horrible ones with the M-16?

    Okay, I know asking something like this means I’m bored and have nothing better to do with my evening, but I’d still like to know.

  2. tc556guy


    Mar 15, 2000
    Upstate NY
    The National Guard Marksmanship school in Little Rock has gone back to teaching the use of the magazine on the ground technique in the past few years, after many years of it being viewed as a heresy as a shooting technique. I've had no issues using the technique, nor do I know why you'd have issues using the technique with one weapon type over another, absent some sort of design or equipment differences.....

  3. The Garand marksmanship training (and likely earlier) was to grip the forend normally and place the back of the hand on the rest rather than rest the riifle in front of the hand. It was taught to always grip the forend and rest the back of the gripping hand on the rest. This was to help the hand remain stable. The rifle was never to sit directly on the rest.
  4. bennwj

    bennwj CSM Silver Member

    May 24, 2008
    Fort Drum
    The pins on the receiver of your M-6 are a natural pivot point. You became accustomed to grasping the rifle a certain way and were able to maintain a consistent cheek to stock weld and sight picture. You basically torqued the weapon.

    When you set it on sandbags without touching the fore end the pivot point served to increase your wobble zone, reducing accuracy.

    The A2's that I had were MUCH, MUCH tighter than the A-1 I started with and this was not an issue.
  5. rifle-cop624


    Sep 4, 2004
    Klebanoff, You and I had similar career paths. I was 11B in the late eighties, early nineties and went to sniper school at Benning in just before being stationed in Panama (C 5/87th) in 95. The difference is we only used the M21's for stalk excercises and not live fire at school. The M24 was standard kit by then. Hell, the M21's were in really bad shape and had a mix of ART1 and ART2 optics mounted on them.

    I had the exact same results with my A2 after school as you did. I chalked it up to the weight of the M16A2 vs. the weight of the M24. It just didn't stay as motionless using the sandbag on the handguards and sandsock on the buttstock as the heavy-ass M24. I always shot my M16 qual's using the standard method after that and went back to my usual 39 or 40 out of 40. It seems weird to me too, man. I just figured don't try to fix what ain't broke.