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The complete .50 Caliber Sniper Course - Hard Target Interdiction Print
Product Reviews
Written by Jacob Bynum   

The complete .50 Caliber Sniper Course

Hard Target Interdiction

(Dean Michaelis) 

by Jacob Bynum
© Sniper's Paradise 2000

It always seems that Paladin Press has some book that we all think we need for some reason or another. They have the infamous Poor Man's James Bond or some other equally exciting title. I have a few of their books, I must admit. The books are always sold with the admonishment: FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.  Good advice, as you could possibly blow yourself up, or worse. There are, however, some books out there that could possibly keep you from hurting yourself or someone else. These are not safety manuals from OSHA or 10 Reasons Not To Drink and Drive. I am talking about some “how to” books that sometimes open your eyes to things you possibly didn't know existed.

When our Director asked me to review The Complete 50 Caliber Sniper Course, Hard Target Interdiction, I will admit that I was a bit skeptical about the content. I wasn't thinking that I would find anything new or interesting. Besides that, I don't own a Fifty.

 As most of us, I have read Mr. Plaster's book, Mike Lau's book, the Army Sniper Manual, Derrick Bartlett's book and many others. They all had something to offer. Some more than others, but they cover some very important aspects of rifle work. Another thing that can be said about these books is that they do contain quite a bit of opinion. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING. I want that to be stressed, because those authors obviously put much thought and energy into their work. They are also very experienced shooters and deserve to be listened to. My point is that I am already to the part of my life that I can make my own decisions. While I will evaluate what they have to say, and even incorporate some of their ideas, I pretty much have a system that works for my shooting and me. My shooting partner is the same way, but we always tell our students to find what works for them. Once they have put in the right amount of time practicing the fundamentals and understand the theory, they will inevitably develop a unique style. It will be evident in the way they shoot. If they are smart, they will always give quality consideration to anything new that they are introduced to. They will try to consider new ideas with an unbiased mind. They must understand that if someone is taking the time to try and explain a subject to them then they should listen.  Rather than just looking at new material and making up your mind that it doesn't apply to you, or not looking at all, a person that is a student of this discipline should look at it and see if they can incorporate anything into their own technique. This should be done because there are many ways to skin a cat.

However, as said earlier, I have a technique that works for me. This is not set in stone because I consistently get my butt kicked at competitions all over the United States. Every competition or class I attend or teach is always a learning experience. This is not because of the drills or evolutions, but because I get the opportunity to observe other shooters. Even a novice will have something to teach, if you are humble enough to realize that fact. 

Back to the book.  

I didn't know what to expect. I did know that I had no desire to shoot a fifty, and that I had no reason to hit a tank or other hardened item. I do, however, have a very keen interest in extreme distance shooting. I gained the most experience in this arena shooting the tungsten- lead alloy core bullets made by Powell River Laboratory in Tennessee. All with a 300 Winchester Magnum. I had experience with this rifle and bullet combination beyond 1500 yards. I have to admit that some very strange things happen at those distances, and I couldn't explain them all. I had an idea of the factors contributing to where the bullet would actually land, but no way to accurately predict it time after time. I made up my mind that that I would look at the book and try to understand the concepts. I figured it would be a cerebral exercise that I could accomplish in a relatively short period of time. …….

 I was wrong. Again. No problem, I have been wrong before and will be again, and again, and again, and so on, and so on. 

The intro to this book told me right quick that it would be different. The targets to be hit were Hard Targets.  Hard target interdiction is the practice of engaging materiel type targets that are considered theater strategic assets. Engaging targets that are of this type is a different game altogether. First of all, medium caliber rifles do not act the way a normal rifle does. A 338 Lapua is not shot in the same manner as a 308. A fifty is not shot the same way either. This is not to say that the fundamentals don't apply, they do! It is just that distances they are designed for creates a new set of rules. They are not difficult rules, but they do have to be learned. The problem is in the trajectory. Trajectories will be different as conditions change. This is obvious to everyone that has a different zero as temperatures change. This applies to the 308 as well as the fifty. There are many other factors that will influence the trajectory of medium caliber weapons. Some are: 

1.    Temperature

2.    Barometric pressure

3.    Slant angle

4.    Altitude

5.    Ammunition temperature

 The book addresses these items and how to correct for them. It gives an explanation of ballistic tables and how to use them to your advantage. It takes the information off the tables and converts the data there into something the operator can actually use in the field.  

1.Temperature: affects speed of powder burn, affects trajectory because of air density. 

2. Barometric pressure:  affects trajectory because of air density. 

3. Slant angle: affects trajectory because it changes the distance. 

4. Altitude: an air density thing again. 

5. Ammunition temperature: this, again, affects the rate of burn in the case.

 These are just a few of the items discussed in the book that are essential to hitting targets at extreme ranges. The idea of the course is to take an operator and drop him on any point on the globe and still be able to effectively engage targets with the first round. After all, most people do very well in their home environment. When that environment changes, most bets are off. It is very important to understand that this information is designed for a shooter in the realm of 1000 plus meters. It is applicable to shorter ranges, but the error at shorter ranges is small. 

After a brief look at the book, I decided that this is a lot of information, and it should be examined with an eye to detail.  None of the information was new to me, I knew that a slant angle would cause a bullet to impact high, I knew a different altitude would cause a different impact; I knew temperature affected impact as well. The $64,000 question was: HOW MUCH? The book has the answer. The answer is in the form of calculations made to correct for meteorological and environmental conditions that affect the trajectory of the bullet. It covers a concept that is called a parallel bore zero. This type of zero enables you to use the data tables contained in the text. It comes down to math. When I first saw the math involved, I was a bit overwhelmed. It was reminiscent of the first time I saw the cockpit of a high performance aircraft. I was certainly overwhelmed on that day. With a bit of perseverance, I eventually overcame the feeling that I would never learn it all. Soon enough, it became easy. I was handling all of the duties of flying the aircraft, navigation, and communication. All of that while talking to my co-pilot about plans for the weekend. This material is much the same way. When you start to break it down into different parts, it begins to make sense. Soon, it all makes sense.My first run at the calculation sequence took me a little over an hour. Since then, I have shortened the time to about 90 seconds. 

You will need to get it clear right now that this process is for extreme range shooting. 1000 plus meters.   The question you may ask is: Why should I study this material? I shoot a 308, after all. The answers are very simple, and they are many.

1.    It will give you a better idea of how trajectory works.

2.    You will learn exactly what your 308 is and is not capable of.

3.     It will introduce you to the factors that have affected gunners all the way back to the turn of the century.

4.    Many departments have opted to go to either medium or heavy class rifles for their inventory. This will tell you exactly what they can do. (During the week of May 24th 2000, I will be giving a seminar to a department that is considering this right now.)

5.    It is applicable to medium class weapons. That will include 338 Lapua, as well as 300 Winchester Magnum.

6.    And lastly, it behooves shooters to round out their knowledge of ballistics, that means studying all the information you can get your hands on.

7.    There are many tricks in the book that are not found in other publications. Check out Reverse Image Zero.

 When a student enters college, the courses they will take include many subjects that have nothing to do with their major. This is to build a more well rounded academic. It enables the student to have a working knowledge of subjects outside their field. This is the foundation of education, and this applies to the marksman as well. At any rate, I needed to try these concepts out. I needed to go through the entire process myself to see if it was witchcraft or if it was true.

Since I do not own a Fifty, I decided I would test the tables and calculations with a 338 Lapua. The author has included this caliber in his work as well. At this time, I have done some testing at 1000, 1200, and 1400 meters.  I now know much more about this weapon's ability and limitations. The results are outstanding. The calculations work, and I am impressed.

 I think I should add, at this time, that Dean Michaelis had a big part in helping me get the information correct. The book is written well and I was fortunate enough to be able to contact the author when I had questions. He was willing to answer some extremely bone headed interrogatives. I have to tell you the reason for asking him questions were threefold. First, I wanted to see how serious he was about the material. Second, I wanted to see where this all came from. Lastly, I wanted to make sure I was doing the calculations right. I would bounce my answers off him, and he would respond if I were right or wrong.  He was completely amicable, and very pleasant to work with.Dean answered my questions without laughing at me, which was nice for a change. He answers questions from a lot of people. He can usually be found lurking about on the Internet if you want to give it a try. 

I was most impressed with chapter six. This is the math chapter. That is not to say that the rest of the book should be ignored. There is information on quite a few areas of interest.

The chapters are: 

1.    History of H.T.I.

2.    Equipment for H.T.I.

3.    Care of the big guns

4.    Sight adjustment and zero of heavy weapons (NEW STUFF)

5.    Range estimation (NEW STUFF)

6.    Training the H.T.I. operator

7.    Application of fire

8.    Field skills for H.T.I.

9.    Target analysis

10.   H.T.I. program of instruction (NEW STUFF)

11.   Original concept of H.T.I.

 In the range estimation chapter, the reader is introduced to THEODOLITE range finding. This is important because it is the most accurate way to get the range at extreme distance. This chapter also gives the strengths and weaknesses of lasers as well as the milliradian scale that is so popular among shooting schools today.

 Very enlightening.

 The mil-dot scope is such a useful tool, right?…

 The book also has some very good insight into telescopic sights in general. An explanation of the cam on the Mark IV is included. That was enlightening as well.I could go on and on about the good information in this book. A review, however, is to give some information, not all the information. 

This is the graduate course in ballistics. There are many reasons a shooter should know this material. One of my discussions with Dean went along the lines that one would be remiss not to understand the concepts presented here, especially law enforcement. The reason for this is that any officer that must explain his or her actions should know five times as much as the person he or she is explaining it to.

 Most of you who understand this type of situation will know exactly what that last statement means.

 Dean Michaelis is not Tom Clancy. You will be kept awake, however.The material is presented in a clear and concise form. It is easily read, and easily understood.Feel free to disagree with some of the information; it will be a sign of intelligence to have this book spark some debate. I have some disagreement with the information on night vision. Not the information, per se, but the applicability of it. For the sake of his text, it is right on. 

It is my recommendation to read this book. Try out the math, don't fear it. To address my original skepticism: I know more now, it was worth the read. I now have an excellent reference book that will end up being one of the most used books in my inventory for shooting as well as training. It adds a new depth to what students at Sniper's Paradise learn during classes they take with us.

 Chapter six is worth twice the price of the book. I said earlier that even a novice has something to give. That is a true statement, but this is not novice material. When you put these concepts to work, make sure you are safe about it. Know your range, and know your backstop. You will get information that ranges from tracking, to making a 1900-meter shot (provided the conditions allow this distance) You will certainly have a better understanding of environmental and weather conditions and how they will relate to trajectory. One other interesting note, you will be able to distinguish between fact, fantasy, and plain old luck. That skill is very useful when listening to stories about shots that involve extreme distance.