Rotate that leaver

Rotate that leaver

If there’s one image that combines my frustrations about the Army, it’s this one. It’s got it all: safety protocol nannyism, the mandatory misspelling, and a helping of mealy-mouthed Army writing.

First, the whole concept of the clearing barrel needs explanation. It’s a barrel (duh), filled with sand, into which soldiers point their weapons and dispose of extra rounds by accidentally firing them. The idea is that the barrel is a safe place to clear a weapon before entering a building (or, in this case, a tent). The problem: the way the instructions are written all but guarantee negligent discharges.

The key step is #7: “Aim the weapon into clearing container, rotate selector lever to semi and squeeze the trigger.” No. No, no, no no no nononono. Pulling the trigger is not a part of the clearing process (despite what the Army tells you)! It violates one of the four rules of firearms safety (keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire) and even if it didn’t, it’s a redundant step, since you already verified that the weapon is clear. Literally hundreds of millions of civilian shooters don’t clear their weapons this way, for exactly those reasons. But here, in the safety-obsessed world of the Army, we are inexplicably directed to perform an action that literally guarantees a certain number of negligent discharges.

Those chamber rounds are a lot more dangerous

Those chamber rounds are a lot more dangerous

The M9 clearing instructions are almost the same. Two key differences: one, you remove any “chamber rounds.” Obviously, this is an error (they mean “chambered rounds”), but it’s also clumsy wording. The M9 (like any modern firearm) has an extractor and ejector, so unless your pistol is broken, the “chamber round” will be ejected when you lock the slide to the rear. The second difference: no dry firing of the weapon. Why would you dry fire the M16/M4 but not the M9? There is no mechanical or procedural reason for the difference. Maybe somebody smart wrote the M9 clearing procedure. Note that in step 6, you “release the slide forward.” As opposed to what, backwards into your face?

I just...I...I don't know

I just...I...I don't know

As I read the instructions on this clearing barrel and began taking pictures, I found each placard to be more bewildering than the last. The M2 .50 caliber instructions were the most bizarre of all. The numbers apparently refer to a diagram (a diagram that is nowhere present), but it’s step 6 that’s mind-blowing.

Step 6 says, “Place the cartridge extractor down and close the cover. (WARNING: may fall to surface and possibly explode).

What? Place the cartridge extractor down? And what may fall to surface? The cartridge extractor? Is it made of TNT? What’s exploding? My head hurts.

Note also that this weapon has the extra dry firing at the end, which seems especially dangerous considering the complexity and lethality of the M2, where a negligent discharge could send a round traveling a mile or more (instead of into a clearing barrel).

Sometimes my job is about undoing Army training for my soldiers…