C.J. Chivers, the New York Times’ excellent war reporter and a former Marine, has a great post on why the Taliban make lousy marksman. The fact that Chivers compiled the data from first hand experiences in the field, mainly interviews with Marines fighting in the south, lends some real heft to the analysis. Chivers noticed a common theme from survivors of multiple Taliban small arms ambushes who said they were at engagements ranges where they should have been hit, but emerged unscathed.
The main reason the Taliban are so lousy at gun fights is the lack of formalized training, he says, and a limited knowledge of marksmanship fundamentals.
“Let’s dispense outright with talk of born marksmen. Although some people are inclined to be better shots than others, and have a knack, marksmanship itself is not a natural trait. It is an acquired skill. It requires instruction and practice. Coaching helps, too. Combat marksmanship further requires calm. Yes, the combined powers of clear vision, coordination, fitness, patience, concentration and self-discipline all play roles in how a shooter’s skill develop. So do motivation and resolve. But even a shooter with natural gifts and strong urges to fight can’t be expected to be consistently effective with a rifle with iron sights at common Afghan engagement ranges (say, 200 yards or more, often much more) without mastering the basics.”Other reasons include: relying on “pray and spray” automatic fire from AK-47 assault rifles, the really poor condition of many of those rifles which are often foreign knock offs of the original Kalashnikov design, old and mismatched ammunition (as any frequent shooter knows, good ammunition is key to consistent marksmanship), widespread eye and vision problems among Afghans that go untreated and the difficulties in standardizing training across a widely separated and not all that connected insurgent fighting force.
All of which is good news for American troops, Chivers says. “When it comes to rifle fighting, the Taliban – absent major shifts in training, equipment and logistics – are likely to remain mediocre or worse at one of the central skills of modern war. And the chance of any individual American or Afghan soldier being shot will remain very small.”
It’s a really worthwhile post so go and read it now.