When people ask me what was the most fun I had in the Army, the answer is simple: bustin’ caps.
Or in Army terms: Heading to the weapons range.
Like anyone else who has gone through basic training, the correct term is “weapon” — not “gun” — when describing an M16 rifle, Beretta 9mm, M240 machine gun or countless others.
But, c’mon. We all say it. These are guns.
I got to fire those three guns during my enlisted days as an M1 tanker back in the 1990s.
I fired the M16 a lot back in basic training, but I had to keep qualifying on it every year because we kept a rifle in the tank.
More fun to fire, however, is the Beretta 9mm — the standard sidearm of all tankers. I journeyed to the pistol ranges on Fort Hood many a time to shoot with this gem. I remember one time my buddy gave me a couple of extra magazines to shoot the little green, man-shaped, pop-up targets with the red stars on their helmets.
My trigger finger was sore that night.
As a gunner on the tank, I got to fire the M240 quite a bit. Enemy infantry targets dropped like a house of cards in a strong wind when this puppy started to spit rapid fire.
If I remember right, the M1 can hold around 900 rounds of M240 ammunition (7.62 mm) in a single load.
That’s a lot of bullets, and deadly accurate using the M1’s sophisticated weapons system.
There are two M240s on an M1, by the way; one next to the next main gun, and the other on top of the turret.
Also on top of the turret is the .50-caliber machine gun. It’s the tank commander’s weapon, but I got to fire it a few times.
The .50 cal can take out trucks and lightly armored vehicles. With a hundred rounds, it can probably ruin a house. And if a .50 cal round hits an infantryman in the arm … the arm is gone.
But the biggest, baddest gun I ever fired in the Army is the M1’s big gun: the 120mm main cannon.
I remember during training to be a tanker at Fort Knox, Ky., one of our drill sergeants would tease us about what it feels like to shoot the main gun.
I can’t repeat exactly what he said in this column, but he more or less compared it to sex.
He was right.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.