Ray and the Jungle Carbine

Ray and the Jungle Carbine

One of the most profound turning points in my education as a rifleman occurred with an Enfield Jungle Carbine, under the tutelage of a Marine I’ll call Ray.

Ray is one of my oldest and closest friends. We’d been team mates in high school gymnastics, though of the two of us, he was the only one with a body to prove it. I was always sleight in stature and build. Ray made it his mission in life to protect me from bullies. He also protected me, throughout my adolescence, from sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies; a ruggedly handsome, smooth operator with glowing cat’s eyes, Ray always seemed to be on a direct intercept course with any girl I had designs on.

After high school, Ray joined the USMC Reserves.

I had first shot .22 rifles at Boy Scout Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island. I did well enough to get hooked on shooting sports. When I first shot the US Army qualifying course, I only hit half of the 40 pop ups from 15 or 25 to 350 meters. Later, I tried out for the USAF Academy small-bore rifle team, but after the lengthy (nine session) try-out process with Remington Model 40Xs and Winchester Model 52s, I didn’t make the final cut.

A friend at the Academy had an Enfield No. 5 Jungle Carbine. I borrowed it when we went on leave, promising to clean it thoroughly before I returned it to the USAFA armory (I wound up finding a gal Ray hadn’t yet beguiled, and completely blew off cleaning it–for which I beg the owner’s forbearance).

I had read about the No. 5 Enfield Carbines. Some sources accused them of having a “wandering zero:” inability to stay sighted in.

We took that Jungle Carbine into the Sonoran desert, along with several other guns. My performance with it was hit and miss. I mentioned No. 5 Enfield’s notorious wandering zero, and blamed that.

Ray picked it up, settled into prone, and proceeded to nail a medium distance target with it, several times in a row.

“When ‘arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch, don’t call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch; she’s human as you are–you treat her as sitch, an’ she’ll fight for the young British soldier.”

–Rudyard Kipling, “The Young British Soldier”¬†

Or, as Clint Eastwood said a few years later, in Heartbreak Ridge,

“There’s nothing wrong with that rifle. Keep it tight.”

Ray got me back behind the butt of the Jungle Carbine, and passed on several lessons he’d picked up in Marine Corps boot camp, where rifle marksmanship is still not a lost art.

One problem with chopping down a rifle with a full-power cartridge to make it a carbine, is that the lighter weight makes for greater perceived recoil. It wasn’t an elephant gun, but that carbine kicked more than I was used to. I already knew a little about sight picture and other fundamentals of marksmanship, but somehow what I’d learned on .22s and .223s wan’t translating well to that .303. Most of my problems shooting that Enfield accurately seemed to stem from my anticipation of recoil.

Ray¬†patiently worked me through not any one thing, but several aspects of rifle marksmanship the manuals call the “integrated act of firing.”

From that day on, my rifle marksmanship greatly improved. I wound up representing my base in command-wide rifle competition, and out-scoring all the other rifle shooters in my Security Police Academy class, as well as my small arms instructor (USAF “Combat Arms”) class. I owe that all to Ray, and that Jungle Carbine.

Pop-up range at Kirtland AFB. One target is up, by bushes on right.

Thanks, my friend.

–George H, lead instructor, Heloderm LLC

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