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Would you stake your life, right now, on the condition of your equipment?
NEWS | Oct. 25, 2022

Special Interview: US Army Marksmanship Unit

SFC Matt Nelson (left) and SSG Alex Telck (right), gunsmiths assigned to the US Army Marksmanship Unit
SFC Nelson (left) and SSG Telck (right), USAMU gunsmiths
Photo courtesy Michelle Lunato, USAMU Public Affairs

MSG Half-Mast recently traveled to Ft Benning, GA, to get some insight into the US Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) and, more specifically, small arms maintenance. He spoke with SFC Matt Nelson and SSG Alex Telck, gunsmiths in the Custom Firearms Shop at the USAMU.
For an overview of the USAMU and its affiliation with the US Army Recruiting Command, click HERE.

SFC Nelson was born in Moore, OK. He joined the Marines in 2008 and served on active duty for five years. He subsequently joined the National Guard and attended Murray State College, where he obtained degree in gunsmithing in 2015. While there, he interviewed with the USAMU and, upon acceptance, was assigned to the USAMU as a rifle gunsmith. He is a graduate of various military schools including the Marine Corps’ Infantry Assault Leaders Course and the Army Sniper School and Basic, Advanced and Senior Leaders Courses.
SSG Telck was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He joined the Army in 2013 and completed basic training at Ft Jackson, SC, and AIT at Ft Lee, VA. He left service and attended the Colorado School of Trades for gunsmithing. While there, he interviewed with USAMU and, in 2019, was selected to serve in the Custom Firearms Shop as a pistol gunsmith. That same year, Telck graduated from Basic Leaders Course, Ft Benning, GA.

In the responses below, SFC Nelson provides advice for rifle maintenance, while SSG Telck answers for pistol maintenance.

MSG Half-Mast: Gentlemen, thank you for taking time to speak with PS Magazine about small arms maintenance and its role in marksmanship training and competition. Please explain how and why a well-maintained weapon aids in your ability to win in competition. 
SFC Nelson: The how, put simply, is a well-maintained weapon will function reliably. Why? Dry and/or carbon-caked, dirty weapons will eventually cease to function. Weapons maintenance (or the lack of it) directly affects time and accuracy, both factors when competing. Having to clear malfunctions or deal with ammo issues is less than ideal if your goal is to win.

SSG Telck: While we in the Custom Firearms Shop definitely go the extra mile with our maintenance with regular barrel testing and full rebuilds, basic maintenance is key to any weapon operating effectively. Regular cleaning and lubrication ensure the weapon will have fewer malfunctions when it comes to competitions or the rigors of combat.

MSG Half-Mast: Can you share some key points to maintaining your weapon(s)?
SFC Nelson: Ensure all parts are wiped clean of dust, dirt, carbon and that the chamber, bore and crown have been properly cleaned. Beyond that, a light coat of oil at friction points is all you want. For example, on an M4, you would want to leave a light film on the bolt, firing pin, inside of the bolt carrier and the four contact pads on the exterior of the bolt carrier.

SSG Telck: Never overlook keeping your weapon(s) properly and consistently lubricated and free of dirt and debris. Excess dirt and debris on those moving metal parts will cause wear and tear by opening up tolerances. This will ultimately make your weapon less accurate and more prone to malfunction. Don’t buy into the rumor that a dirty gun is a “tight shooting gun.”

MSG Half-Mast: How do you handle a weapon malfunction while in competition?
SFC Nelson: Clearing a malfunction in competition should be treated the same as any situation, combat or otherwise. Preparation through training! You must put in the effort to decrease the time it takes you to recognize you have a failure, identify the issue and clear the malfunction.

The corrective action you take can be broken down into two categories: immediate and remedial action. Immediate action can take the form of Tap, Rack, Bang or SPORTS (slap, pull, observe, release, tap, shoot). This will solve failure to feed, failure to fire, magazine not fully seated and some failures to eject. Remedial action involves removing the source of ammunition and racking the weapon several times, if possible (this will clear double feed and failure to eject). If you cannot rack the weapon and your bolt carrier is stuck mid-way, you more than likely have brass over bolt and need to pull the carrier to the rear via the ejection port or magazine well, while pushing the charging handle forward. The stuck case should fall free at this point and allow you to get your weapon back up and running.

SSG Telck: Quite like how you would handle a weapon malfunction in combat, with SPORTS. In Action Pistol, for example, most of the courses of fire are timed. If one of our competitors runs into a malfunction, they will often utilize SPORTS to clear it. If that doesn’t work, then they will bring the weapon to us.

MSG Half-Mast: Do you have any firing tips you can share with our readers?
SFC Nelson: I advocate for deliberate training on the fundamentals of marksmanship. Mastering the basics is the key to being successful at any task. These skills translate to every discipline and position of shooting and will pay much greater dividends than any new widget you can bolt onto your rifle or pistol.

SSG Telck: Fundamentals. Instead of spending money on gear and accessories, spend your money and time on ammo and safe practice at the range that reinforces the basics.
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