Shooting from an elevated position with a high powered rifle is an art. Working with Ethan the last couple days here at MGR has showed me exactly how little I know about long distance shooting. Happily, I can report that he has educated me quite a bit, and I am now a far more technically precise shooter with the Savage.
There are so many variables that go into shooting long distances. Wind at the barrel, wind halfway there, wind at the target… Then there’s the heat of the barrel itself, because a cold barrel fires differently than a hot barrel. Let’s not forget estimating the range accurately, the relative elevation of the target to you, as well as little things like the actual rotation of the earth. Because if you didn’t know Mr. Journal, when you fire a bullet a really long distance, the earth is still rotating during the bullet’s flight, and when the bullet gets to where you wanted it to go, they might have moved.
Crazy shit huh?
I don’t pretend to be a sniper. That’s Ethan’s job, and he motherfucking good at it. Watching him on the roof and balcony working his rifle the past few days has been a real eye opener. I’m a good shot. Shit, I’m a great natural shot, but he is a professional with natural skill to boot, and training out the fucking ass. He can get the dope on a shot in seconds, adjust, fire accurately, and move to the next target without even thinking. He can easily kill someone from a thousand meters away if he wanted to. Easily.
I am so frigging glad he is on my side.
We arrived very early at MGR yesterday driving a humvee. We managed to fit the small cabin stove into the back hatch, as well as the chimney pipes. It felt a little strange going anywhere in a single vehicle group, but the roads were pretty safe, and with the camera feeds we can actually see a LOT of the trip before we even make it now. I’d say maybe 40% of the way is visible on cameras.
We arrived and found the area around the tower largely empty of undead which was a pleasant surprise. We fully expected a prolonged pain in the ass engagement to clear, but there was two or three and we were able to smash their heads in safely. I put the last one down myself, which was a nice confidence booster. The folks at MGR helped us get the stove inside and up the stairs to the top floor where it sits waiting for Martin and Blake. The two of them are coming tomorrow morning to install the stove somewhere, and when they are done, we’ll road trip back to Bastion with them. Incidentally, it is cold as a bastard in this building at night. Well hell, it’s cold during the day too. There just isn’t enough heat to keep all the spaces they’re using warm. They need this stove, and at least one more. Of course that raises the issue of stocking them with frigging wood too… Sigh.
That statement about going home with Martin and Blake should tell you we are largely done here with the thinning of the undead herd. Ethan and I immediately got to work yesterday on the shooting once we went over emergency planning with the folks here. Essentially we were going to start firing on distant undead, and as they approached, continue to engage them until we’d shot everything wandering our way.
I brought the Savage and a hundred rounds of .30-06 as well as my M4A1 and a full combat load. Ethan brought his issued M24 and about a hundred rounds for that, as well as his own M4A1 and a full combat load. The rest of the crew here had their guns and such, so if things were to get out of hand we’d be able to hold our own for some time until the QRF from Bastion arrived. It felt good to be so prepared for a fight.
It was cold as fuck yesterday. Blustery winds made much worse being on the top of a five story building did not help our situation at all. Not only were our fingers and toes miserable, but gauging the wind while it was moving was a bitch. My face was freezing off as well. Luckily as the day went on the wind calmed down, and we only wasted maybe fifteen rounds on windage issues. I’ll go on record and say at least ten of those misses were mine. Ethan’s a far better shot, as I’ve already said.
Ethan saw my first rounds go downrange to no effect. I was shooting at about 500 meters or so, and with the wind it just wasn’t happening. He stopped firing, and started spotting for me until I got back into the swing of things. The info on a shot is called dope. The wind, the range, the elevation, all that. It’s called dope. I never really used the phrase but working with a guy that graduated sniper school he said it a lot, and now it’s in my head like the lyrics to some catchy pop song. Anyway, he kept feeding me the dope and within three or four rounds I was firing accurately, and blowing skulls up at the range I was aiming for. The whole time Ethan kept an incredibly detailed log of every shot he took, and most of mine as well. He noted ranges based on physical details, swirls of wind, cloud cover, target descriptions, you name it. So much information is in his little green notebook.
I’ll go on record and say that shooting like this was a very cathartic event. I’ve been scared and worried I wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger when I had to, and being in such a safe place, shooting at such distant targets really helped me settle back in. It was like a video game, and with someone else right there, it was awesome support. He’s a funny guy Ethan. Originally from Colorado.
We talked about his family (1 sister, older), and how he enlisted to get out of the small town he was in. He always wanted to work in or around planes, and when he enlisted, the recruiter asked him if he wanted to be a hero.
Well fuck right? What red blooded 18 year old says no to that? Basic training completed, he rolled straight into the Pararescue qualification course. He said it was hard, but worth it. He planned on returning to Denver most likely after his next enlistment to work at a hospital. With his medical training, he’s basically a physician’s assistant, with a huge edge in trauma medicine.
Broken eggs and spilled milk now though. He said at some point he’d like to try and make it back to his hometown to see if his family is still alive, but we both knew that was a bit of a pipe dream. The fuel required for that trip would be epic, and let’s not even go into how dangerous it would be to drive that frigging far. I can’t even imagine trying to navigate the drive from here to say, DC, or Chicago, let alone fucking Denver.
So he has questions unanswered, as we all do. I hope he and the rest of the guys aren’t tormented by their questions like I am by mine.
Anyway, sitting up there on the roof and then later the balconies with him was nice. I hadn’t gotten a lot of time with Ethan, and I definitely hadn’t properly thanked the man for helping remove the bullet from my neck. He and Roger did the surgery, and if it weren’t for them, more than likely I’d be dead or at the very least still in a coma.
Ethan said it was “no bother brother,” and that I should, “do what Michelle and Kevin think you’re here for.”
Yeah, no pressure there. Those two think I’m the savior of the world. I’m barely keeping my own shit in check and I’m supposed to be the guy that fixes the whole world. It makes me uncomfortable when people say these things. I don’t even like thinking about it, and when it’s brought to my attention that others know that I’m supposedly this super important person, and that so much rides on me, it puts this giant magnifying glass over my head. I feel super critical about myself already, I don’t need the scrutiny of others too.
Bitch bitch bitch right.
I’m just another turd circling the drain, waiting for the cosmic toe to push me down.
I digress. Our shooting started fairly slow, taking down the small gathering of walkers off in the distance. Within ten minutes of our first shots, more walkers were coming in from all directions, on all surface streets. I’d say we had two or three coming towards us consistently for about four hours before it turned into a trickle. We stayed set up on the south facing of the building for an hour, then switched to the east, and so on until we’d taken out pretty much everything we saw.
I’d forgotten what a high caliber round does to the head of a person. Explosive is a good word. There’s just tattered head bits, and pick or grey flesh spatters left when the round impacts. The bodies keep moving forward for a small moment too, like they don’t quite realize their head is gone. Then the body goes down like a sack of bricks, completely dead. It’s horrifying, and satisfying at the same time.
Of course a few of the zombies had gotten to the base of the tower, and we had to take them out with our M4s. Luckily leaning over a balcony edge with the Aimpoint sight made head shots remarkably easy. We’re fortunate zombies don’t move much, and when they do, it’s painfully slow and easy to adjust to.
Ethan’s log at the end of the day today said we’d put down 76 walkers. That’s good stuff. Not as many as I’d hoped, but that’s still a really large number of dead off the streets. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the bodies. Most of them are far enough away from the building that they aren’t a health concern, and with the cold weather here, the bodies should freeze and hopefully rot by spring. I suppose the humane thing would be to bring them back to campus to burn. I’ll think on it.
Oh. Yeah. I almost forgot the biggest thing of them all. Last night as well as tonight just as the sun started to set, Ethan and I both noticed tiny pillars of smoke curling up into the sky in the distance. Maybe three or four miles out, possibly less. I counted four fires in four different, distinct locations, and Ethan the same.
It seems unlikely that there would be four random small fires in four random places all popping up at about the exact same time. If it were house fires, they’d be raging infernos, enveloping entire structures. These were small fires, barely putting smoke in the sky. If it weren’t for our good eyes, we might have even missed them.
I wonder if they’re the friendly kind. I’m starting to think getting my confidence back is a real priority. I might need to be on point in short order, and I can’t risk making a mistake that will cost anyone their life.