Pinch Baggers Anonymous

Enter the no pinch bag zone.

Pinch Baggers Anonymous
By: BJ Bourg

It wasn’t until I wanted to become a sniper that I first learned about pinch bags. This is a small bag filled with sand that went under the butt of the rifle to add support and to help with aiming. They come in all different shapes, sizes and packaging. I read in a sniper book that it was part of a sniper’s basic equipment, so I got one. Before long I was “driving tacks” with my rifle / bipod / pinch bag combination. While it worked wonders, I felt like a cheater and I began to think that almost anyone could shoot as well as a sniper if only they knew this secret about pinch bags.

I attended my first sniper school in 1996 and my second one in 1998. All of the snipers had pinch bags and, although it was a real pain, I lugged mine around like the rest of them. I hoped that I would never forget it or lose it during a callout. By 1999 I was team leader of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office sniper team and was supervising three other snipers. I shared all of my training and experiences with them, and this included the use of the sniper’s best-kept secret: the pinch bag.

Later that year we received word that we would be attending a sniper school put on by the United States Marshals Service’s Special Operations Group. I had received the equipment list and agenda for the school and I met with the other Lafourche snipers to make preparations. One sentence on the sheet immediately caught our attention: “No pinch bags.” After our “huh?” moment, we began training without pinch bags so we would be better prepared for the school. According to my sniper log, Dec. 5, 1999 was the last time I trained with a pinch bag.

At the SOG school, Instructor Mike Cameron showed us the prone shooting position he uses and taught us his technique for shooting without a pinch bag, which involves using your offhand to support the butt of the rifle. Your wrist offers bone support and the “V” formed by your thumb and index finger support the butt of the rifle.

Before long, we were “driving tacks” without pinch bags and we were true believers. Having been permanently weaned off of this unnecessary and limiting piece of equipment, we quit carrying pinch bags altogether. Our training and self-confidence had been elevated to a new level and we owed a great debt of gratitude to Mike Cameron.

Whether a veteran sniper or beginner, if you use a pinch bag, consider weaning yourself off of it. Once you become as proficient without it as you were with it, your confidence will soar. In sniper work, confidence in yourself and your equipment is immeasurable.

You will enjoy a number of benefits. You will no longer have to lug it around from place to place on callouts and from one shooting station to another during training or competition. You will never again worry about what would happen should you forget it or lose it during a callout. Lastly, but most importantly, it will decrease the time it takes for you to set up to take a shot. When you are in the business of saving lives, you know every split second counts. This alone should motivate you to wean yourself off of the pinch bag.

All in all, you will be a better sniper for having done it. Like Mike Cameron, we should all make it our unrelenting goal to continually challenge ourselves and to improve in every way possible. “My name is BJ Bourg and I am a sniper. I am 13 years, four months, and seven days pinch bag free.”

Published in Tactical Response, May/Jun 2013

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