Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Book Review

Through The Crosshairs, by Andy Dougan

Found this at the library, and decided to give it a try. It's about snipers and their craft. And it does have some good bits and pieces of history. Unfortunately, it suffers from two faults: first, the guy obviously read a lot of references, but never actually learned enough about the subject to tell good info from crap; and second, he occasionally lets political bias into his writing.

The major problem is not being able to sift crap from good information. Best way to cover this is to give some quotes from the book.

On the problem of the musket ball: "Additionally the soft lead ball itself had a tendancy to deform as it traveled through the air, meaning that it lost power and accuracy in flight... Sometimes musket balls ended up as no more than flattened lumps of metal that scarcely broke the skin of their intended targets."(page 85)

On German snipers in WWI: "...using rifles with muzzle velocities of around 3,000 feet per second - more than twice the speed of the deadly Mauser of twenty years earlier."(page 165). I never knew a 7mm Mauser only had a MV of 1500fps.

Referring to the 8mm Mauser: "The bullets had hard metal jackets and were larger than the Minie' ball - about three-tenths of an inch in diameter, or .30 caliber"(page 153). Considering the Minie' ball was, in the arms he speaks of, .57 or .58 caliber, I think he needs a ruler.

And one of the really good ones. Most of you have heard of the Snipers Triangle; his definition of how it's used is priceless: "The sniper wants to place himself on high ground or in a sufficiently elevated position to be shooting down on his target. If he misses the clean head shot then the bullet should still travel through the head, down through the neck, along the long axis of the body, through the heart and out of the back. This vastly increases the chances of hitting a major organ such as the heart or liver or severing an artery."(page 252-253)

And so on. I think he must have taken some things he read or heard of and come up with his own ideas on how things work; that last bit, for instance. Either that or he swallowed the hook, line and sinker when someone threw him a line of BS.

The political bias doesn't show that often, but the time that pissed me off was a reference to a mission of Sgt. Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam. He'd been sent out to kill a Frenchman who was helping the North, among other ways by torturing American prisoners for information. Hathcock made the shot, and this jerk's opinion is "Whatever the Frenchman's crimes - and they may have included the torturing of captives - Hathcock's mission was an act of sniping as terrorism."(page 252). It takes a real friggin' idiot to pop out with this.

Overall, I'd have to say give it a pass. There are lots better books out there on the subject.

Note: I will give him this, he reminded me of something. At the Battle of Saratoga, Daniel Morgan gave the order for a British general trying to rally his men to be shot. The official words are "That gallant officer is General Fraser", he said. "I admire him, but it is necessary that he should die. Do your duty." Considering what is known of Morgan, he more likely said "You see that bastard on the gray horse? Kill him." In any case, Timothy Murphy climbed a tree for a better line of sight and did the job nicely.

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