If our new weapons were to be believed, then the enemy may as well pack up and go home now. I sat there on my bunk, flicking over the data sheets.
An automatic rifle that could be configured as per the users personal preference. Made from composite alloys, it was lighter than anything we had ever used before, but could take hard handling. Able to be used in sub zero and high temperatures without modification. Generic hard points, for ergonomic fittings. A telescopic shoulder stock, allowing a third of its length to vanish at a click of a button. A mimetic hard point for the telescopic sight if it is fitted, so that when the weapon is zeroed, the scope could be taken off, then replaced, and the sight would still be accurate. A receiver that could accept either a box magazine or a linked belt with just a simple swap of parts that could be done in seconds. The standard version of the rifle is accurate out to a thousand metres. The sniper variant is accurate to one thousand and eight hundred metres. A barrel that was threaded to take a sound suppressor.
And finally, the cherry on the cake. A new bullet. Not just a new calibre, but an entirely new kind of bullet. A 7.9mm Variable Impact Projectile. The rifle has a micro computer or something, that when ordered, could change the molecular structure of the bullet. It could become high-explosive, armour piercing or just a standard round. The controls for which were designed around the pistol grip, allowing an ambidextrous user.
And that was just the personal assault rifle itself. There was a 9mm heavy machine gun, a 20mm grenade launcher. New types of grenades.....the list went on and on.
Dawn. I had slept fully clothed, just to see what it felt like. Admittedly, I had slept on a bed, but the clothes felt good. The sounds of trucks pulling up outside wafted through a window. I pulled my boots on, and went to begin what was going to be a long day.
Crates of assault rifles, dozens of them, all marked M-22. Crates of pistols, grenades, knives, you name it, it was there.
Lt Adam took a briefing explaining the new weapons to the NCO's. It would be 'learn as you go' training. We all pick up a rifle from an open crate, then spare magazines. We spend an hour loading bullets into magazines, thousands of rounds. Hundreds of magazines. The oily/brass smell of new ammunition sticks to everything. It mixes with the plastic/metal smell that the new rifles have. Gun oil, plastic, metal, brass. Its enough to make you gag.
The suns are high overhead as I take a prone position in the range. The target is out at a decent distance of four hundred metres. I tap the back of the mag' against the stock, making sure all the rounds are flush inside. I slide the magazine in, clicking it into place. Pull the cocking lever back in one fluid motion, chambering a round. Settle into a firing position, steady my breathing. Select 'Standard' on the round-type selector. Flick safety off with thumb. Bring target into focus over the iron sights. Guestimate windage and distance drop. Gently squeeze the trigger, don't pull. The recoil from the shot 'feels' good. A solid thump into my shoulder, practically no rise from the barrel. The spent shell case tumbles end over end off to my right. I look at the plasma screen just off to my left. The target down range shows a neat little black dot, about 5cm to the left of the bullseye.
All along the range, the sound of shots. Some single, some burst fire.
I take aim on the target again. A full magazine holds thirty rounds. I loose off all thirty over about forty seconds. BANG......BANG.....BANG.....BANG.....
I check the screen again. Twenty nine more little black holes, now in a group about 15-20cm. I clip the Mil-Dot Reticle 10x telescopic sight onto the rail fitting on the top of the rifle. I select 'Learn' on the memory setting, letting the on board computer know I am sighting the system. Press the release lock, eject the empty magazine. Insert full mag, lock and load. Press the reset button on the range screen, and a new target is set up.
Looking through the eyepiece, the little dots of the MDR scope help me gauge the correct distance to target. I adjust for the perceived windage, and drop. Again, gently squeeze the trigger, dont pull. BANG.....BANG....BANG.....
The first few rounds helped me to adjust for height. The next four of five adjusted the spread. The last ten rounds dialled in the sight fully. I look at the screen. Thirty rounds in a 10cm group at four hundred. Poor. New magazine, settle in, fractional adjustments. It takes over an hour, and almost one hundred and eighty rounds until I am happy with my grouping. A 3cm grouping at four hundred metres.
What's that I hear you cry, dear reader? Did you just cry bullshit!!? On the contrary. You forget. I am a clone, superior eyesight and brain power and all that.
With standard iron sights, I can make a grouping of about 4cm at a hundred metres, with aimed shots. What we call 'a lid at a hundred'. The screw-top of a water canteen is about 4cm in diameter. A proficient marksman should be able to hit the lid, if it were used as a target, at one hundred metres easily. With slightly rushed shots, I would be happy with a grouping of around 6cm. And that was with our old M-20 rifles, with their little by comparison 5mm rounds.
For the rest of the day, we stay at the range, using up boxes of ammo. We calibrate rifles to all ranges, from fifty metres out to almost the maximum. We get used to switching from standard, to high explosive and armour piercing and back again. We field strip and reassemble the rifles. We try to break them basically. Rather fuck them up here and now, instead of out in the middle of the field.
The same is done for pistols. Load, calibrate, strip, clean, load, fire, clean, load. The cycle continues until dark.
Food was ate at the range, whereever and whenever you wanted to step away from the firing line.
By the end of the day, everyone knew that their rifle was as good as it would get, accuracy wise. Gus tells us to now personalise the rifles. How do we do that you ask? Simple.
You don't like the stock length? Shorten it. You're left eye dominant? Swap the spent case ejector port to the left side, so you don't get a shell case in the face. Prefer a pistol foregrip? Clip one on then. Pretty soon, everyone's rifle is now their own. The may look the same, but if I picked up the rifle of the Sergeant next to me, I would feel the difference.
Walking back to the barracks, the smell of 'new' is gone from the weapons. They now have the 'used' smell that all veterans know and love. Sweat from palms and cheeks, burnt cartridge propellant, burnt gun oil. Small scuffs and scratches are now present, making each weapon as unique as though they had fingerprints.
When we reach the barracks, I tell the men to make sure they clean the weapons before turning in. I didn't need to, to be honest, but its better to be safe than sorry. Just before we leave the briefing hall, Gus says he has a few announcements to make.
Everyone had been rated 'Expert' by the range masters. Corporal Foster had taken top marks on the range. When doing the 'one hundred shot' challenge that we all did, he hit ninety eight out of one hundred bullseye's. The bullseye being 1cm across, at the distance of ninety metres. I had scored in the 'ninety five or better' category. Sergeant Cooper took the booby prize, with a score of eighty six.
I shower, and climb onto my sleeping rack. The last couple of days had been so hectic, I hadn't really had time to think of Megan. I had spoken to her briefly, and found out to our mutual amazement that her medical unit was being assigned to our Battalion. It meant that the chances of our being separated by postings were small. Maybe tomorrow, after the final checks at the range, I would be able to grab an hour with her.
With the memory of her smile in my mind, I dropped into a solid sleep.