Saturday, August 10, 2013

Govt. terrorism case shows in stories of the gun

How Hasan learned to shoot with deadly accuracy
John Choats, NRA pistol instructor at Stan's Gun Range

Ft. Hood – The first thing Maj. Abu Nidal Malik Hasan did when he arrived at his new duty station was to rent an apartment. Then he went shopping for a gun, according to testimony in his general court martial for mass murder.

He wanted only the best, a handgun capable of rapid fire with dead-on accuracy under combat conditions.

Guns Galore is a cinderblock emporium of firearms with long, dark aisles lined with two-high racks of rifles of all types, glass display cases stuffed with pistols and revolvers of all description, and ammunition, reloading supplies – everything it takes.

When he made his first visit, Hasan told sales clerks what he wanted – the best – a handgun with a high capacity for rounds and deadly accuracy, something that could pierce body armor, easy to aim.

He spent a couple of hours talking to a local enthusiast on active duty in the Army. When he left, he was sold on the Herstal FN 5.7 x 28 mm, an ultra-fast, flat-shooting round with little bullet drop in its trajectories, a standard magazine capacity of 20 rounds, easily expanded to 30.
5.7 x 28 mm FN Herstal round, not much larger than .22 cal.

According to the sales clerk who closed the deal with him, it's “the most technologically advanced pistol of its type available today.”

He was back the next day to buy one, according to Frederick Brannan, the man who sold it to him, along with a green laser sight, $350 to $400 the copy. He bought enough ammunition - $24 per 50-round box - to get acquainted with the weapon.

His next stop, according to Maj. Larry Dommend, an assistant prosecutor, was Stan's Gun Range, located a half-hour's drive south of Killeen on Hwy 183 near Florence, Texas.

On direct examination, John Choats said that when he first arrived at the target range, his shots were “all over the target.” He bought a day pass and decided to return for a concealed carry handgun license class.

He passed and received a certificate from the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Mr. Choats, his instructor.

From there, his dedication to becoming the best shot he could be took off. He paid $200 for a year's pass and began to learn combat shooting techniques, Mr. Choats said.
He bought additional magazines and extensions that would raise their capacity to 30 rounds, said Mr. Brannan. In fact, he had quite a budget for ammunition. “Most people don't have two to three hundred dollars to spend on an afternoon's shooting session,” he said. “Apparently, he had the money.”

Hasan made a purchase of at least that amount, “Pretty much every week,” said Mr. Brannan. “Typically on Fridays.”

Asked why he had so many magazines, Mr. Brannan said Hasan once told him he preferred to spend his time at the range shooting, not reloading. At night, he recalled, Hasan said he would watch television and load magazines to prepare for the next day's practice session.

Hasan's practice regimen was rigorous. Shooting skills required to obtain a concealed carry license are minimal. The kind of skills needed to win a gunfight with a professional soldier or police officer are something very different.

John Choats started him on the 25-yard-line to hone his ability to draw and train the weapon on center mass, or head shots, at silhouette targets.

And, then, they moved back to the 100-yard line on a rifle range, where Hasan practiced combat reloading techniques of dropping an empty and smoothly putting another loaded magazine into the weapon.

“I told him it was a matter of individual learning. I suggested he practice at night, in the dark, without looking at the weapon, to the point where he could do it without any fumbling,” Mr. Choats said.

Practice makes perfect, and Hasan learned particulars and common sense techniques that made him extremely good at his chosen vocation.

When a police officer cut him down in the final moments of the drama for which he had practiced so long and diligently, police found the cargo pockets of his Army Combat Uniform fatigues stuffed with paper towels he used to keep the magazines from clanking together as he walked.

With the twin laser sights, a red and green combination that allowed him to merely point a dot at wherever he wished the bullet to strike, he was soon able to shoot at man-sized silhouette targets with deadly accuracy - “mostly center mass and head shots,” said Mr. Choats – in rapid fire.

FBI evidence technicians found enough empty magazines in the wake of the deadly path of Hasan's attack to account for more than 80 expended cartridge casings for his brand of armor-piercing ammo in 5.7 x 28 mm. The brand, SS 192, is designed to pierce body armor of the type soldiers and police officers wear in combat assignments. The ATF had ordered the manufacturer to cease making that grade of cartridge and bullet combination. Licensed dealers were to be allowed to sell off their existing stocks of the special ammunition.

Today, that brand is unavailable.

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