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Surefire's Total Signature Reduction

Written by Scott Oldham

The science of the precision rifle has had a revival in recent years. Being that it is a necessity in the combat zones of Iraq and other areas where military options are being carried out, the newfound interest in urban precision rifle engagements comes at an opportune moment in history. A time where technology and tactics have welded together to form a symbiosis, a marriage of the possible, with the probable.

For law enforcement, the police countersniper is often the final option for rescuing someone held hostage. Any shot that must be made has to be taken with the ultimate in precision as often the target is inches from an innocent. This is not a skill set that is gained from a book, nor is it one that should be learned from a trainer who has anything but actual real world experience.

One of the top trainers for the law enforcement precision rifle is Scott Reitz, former LAPD SWAT member and trainer. “Uncle Scotty” as he is known to his students, is the driving force behind International Tactical Training Seminars, ITTS. Located in the foothills outside of Los Angeles, ITTS is a unique training facility in that it deals in real world problems, not games or fantasy. ITTS teaches from lessons hard learned by precision riflemen, countersnipers, from across the globe. When Reitz and ITTS team up with an industry leader like SureFire to put on an urban countersniping course, you know it will push the edge of the envelope in both training and technology.

Recently SureFire and ITTS invited a select group of attendees from around the country to come to Los Angeles and take part in the initial Total Signature Reduction (TSR) course. Simply, TSR is the synergy between tactics and technology, which gives a rifleman the ability to not only take a crisis shot but also to conceal or at least obscure his location after the shot, a must when engaging multiple hostiles or when escape and evade is the order of the day after the shot, such as in a military engagement.

The inclusion of ITTS in this partnership is obvious. However, some might wonder, why SureFire? After all they make a tremendous selection of illumination tools but how exactly does this company play into an event which seeks to help eliminate or obscure the presence of a rifleman?

SureFire makes one of the most well respected, yet little known firearms suppressor lines on the market. The SureFire line of suppressors sets such a high standard for durability and lack of impact shift that most of the other suppressors on the market simply cannot compare.

In addition, SureFire’s V-series line of tactical lights, which feature the ability for a rifleman to have IR and standard visible white light being produced by one device, allows for a sniper team to remain hidden, even when they need to “light” a target for positive identification.

On the first day of the course, each participant was issued a variety of tactical and support gear from some of the finest manufacturers on the planet. Boots and eye protection from Oakley; uniforms from Crye Precision; gloves from Camelbak; and belts from Ares Gear were but a few of the items in evidence. We did not know it then, but each product had been selected to even further benefit the entire signature reduction theme.

Arriving at the range we saw the next part of the overall package, the Lewis Machine and Tool (LMT) LM308MWS .308 precision rifle equipped with a Nightforce NXS 5.5-20X50 optic, Surefire FA762K suppressor, and V-series weapon light. Couple this with a slew of MagPul .308 PMag magazines and our kit was complete.

Reitz quickly introduced both himself, and his assistant instructor, Mark Sebos. Sebos, a former Naval Special Warfare Sniper, has served in multiple combat zones around the world and offers an incredible perspective taken directly from the real world of military engagements in an urban environment. While Reitz should need no introduction to those in the tactical training arena, suffice it to say that his experience in the world of the police countersniper is second to none. Having spent years assigned to LAPD’s D platoon (SWAT), he learned his lessons in one of the toughest cities in the United States.

After a quick safety briefing we got acquainted with our rifles and accessories. While the rifles all came equipped with a bipod, they saw very little use during the entire course. Instead, Reitz and Sebos both have an affinity for using a pack as a support rather than the bipod, hence the excellent Eberlestock Gunslinger pack that we had been given and told to carry throughout the course. This is an absolutely cavernous pack that is specifically designed so as to allow easy access to all of the equipment stored within while at the same time providing for comfortable long range carry.

Why exactly would we use the pack rather than the bipod? Because the pack molds itself to the terrain it sets on and allows for an infinite adjustment of the rifle. Rather than being locked into how the bipod might swivel or cant, the pack allows for the shooter to orient the rifle to the exact position needed.

After zeroing the rifles for 100 yards, we were off to try our hand at short-range moving targets. At somewhere near 30 yards it would seem that hitting a moving target would be simple, and it is, right up to the point where Reitz adds in a hostage target immediately in front. Given a very narrow window of space through which to make your shots, Reitz continually challenged each student to excel at not only marksmanship but also decision making. Sometimes the shot cannot be made and a true rifleman needs to know when it can and cannot happen and have the guts to call it as such.

As the training progressed, each of us in the course gained in our skill sets and in our appreciation for the gear we had been provided. Each piece of equipment had a part to play and each fit well within the overall package. As this was all about training for zero fail missions, it was imperative that our gear worked correctly and it did.

Most impressive was the LMT-LM308MWS and SureFire suppressor combination. As rugged as any combination can be, the rifle itself was not cleaned during the entire multi-day course, which took place in the dusty confines of the ITTS facility in a canyon outside of L.A. As the dust blew and hundreds of rounds were fired, the inside of the rifle took on an ominous appearance but as long as it remained lubed, it functioned, without fault. This is just one of the reasons that has lead the British Ministry of Defense to select the monolithic railed rifle as the new L129A1 marksman’s rifle.

The suppressor, model number FA762K, features a stainless steel body that weighs in at 19 ounces and adds only 5.6 inches to the 37 inches of overall length of the weapon itself. Each suppressor attached to the LM308MWS through the use of the SureFire flash suppressor adapter. While we took the suppressors off of the weapons several times, each time they were refitted the rifle maintained its zero without fail, a hallmark of the SureFire suppressor line.

While no precise group measurements were ever taken, each of the rifles was easily minute of angle capable or better as they consistently placed rounds on target from various asymmetric shooting positions at distances that ranged between 30 and nearly 500 yards.

As the course progressed, students were taught such critical skill sets as how far to lead a moving target and how much adjustment would need to be quickly dialed into the outstanding Nightforce Optic so as to be able to engage multiple targets at varying distances. Pressure was added through man-on-man competitions and time hacks.

Each day that course continued, new skills were introduced until finally we were all asked to “man the line” in an engagement drill that would require not only extreme marksmanship, with some targets being as far away as 470 yards, but would also require a significant amount of observation skill as each target was camouflaged and hidden in the scrub brush on the nearby canyon walls.

As Reitz would call out the area of the target, students were responsible for locating and successfully engaging each in as rapid a fashion as possible, simulating a true counter sniper engagement. While the ranges were a bit extreme for most law enforcement engagements, this was an outstanding training tool for all involved and proved the validity of the overall equipment combinations.

In the end, the entire Total Signature Reduction course was an extremely valuable learning experience. Taught by Reitz, who is one of the true tactical shooting masters, it coupled technology and training in a package that brings a newfound confidence to any shooter, no matter how experienced. Since its inception, SureFire has consistently sat at the leading edge of technology, constantly striving to push the edge of the envelope so police officers and warfighters can achieve their missions and come home alive.

(SIDEBAR)

USSOCOM Family of Muzzle Brake Suppressors (FMBS) Contract

SureFire was awarded a $23.3 million contract for an indefinite quantity of sound suppressors, suppressor adapters, blank firing adapters and training adapters by officials of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division—the primary solicitation center for U.S. Special Operations Command—as part of the Family of Muzzle Brake Suppressors (FMBS) contract.

The FMBS solicitation was the most comprehensive modern suppressor evaluation conducted by the U.S. military to date. It focused on criteria that subjected suppressor systems to prolonged testing on a variety of firearms platforms. SureFire suppressors were chosen based on test criteria such as: Reliability, Sound Reduction, Accuracy, Point of Impact Shift, Endurance / Durability and Operational Suitability. While these requirements reflect the suppression needs for firearms including the MK13 sniper rifle, the United States Marine Corps is already employing SureFire’s FA762SS suppressor system on every M40A5 sniper rifle.

“We build [our suppressors] to enhance the operational capabilities of our customers, knowing that their lives often depend on their equipment, and we’re very pleased that USSOCOM will now have multiple models available to improve their operational effectiveness,” said Barry Dueck, Director of SureFire’s Suppressor Division.  

In 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense used the term “Signature Reduction” as a working concept mandated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to focus on reducing the environmental sound, flash and dust signatures produced by a firearm. So when SureFire launched its suppressor division in 2002, they focused on the Total Signature Reduction™ (TSR) of a suppressed firearm. TSR not only addresses the environmental signatures, but other key performance attributes such as point of impact shift (POI) and repeatability, which historically were deprioritized in favor of sound reduction. SureFire became the first manufacturer to address POI shift as a primary concern and did so without degrading attributes like sound reduction and accuracy.

Most suppressors cause a shift in a weapon’s POI when attached or detached, requiring the operator to re-zero the weapon every time. With a SureFire Suppressor, the Fast-Attach mechanism locks the suppressor onto the firearm in the same position every time, producing a negligible, repeatable POI shift, if any at all.

Scott Oldham is a lieutenant with the Bloomington, Ind., Police Department. After 18 years with the department’s tactical unit, Lt. Oldham recently left the team after serving in various capacities, including team commander. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.


Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2011

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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