Night fire usually occurs under three general conditions.
Unassisted Firing Exercise. The firer must detect and engage targets without artificial illumination or night vision devices. Potential target areas are scanned. When a target is detected, the firer should engage it using a modified quick-fire position. His head is positioned high so that he is aligning the weapon on the target and looking just over the iron sights. His cheek should remain in contact with the stock.
The firer should take a few seconds to improve weapon/target alignment by pointing slightly low to compensate for the usual tendency to fire high. Both eyes are open to the maximum advantage of any available light, and the focus is downrange. Off-center vision is used to keep the target in sight. Tracer ammunition may provide feedback on the line of trajectory and facilitate any adjustments in weapon/target alignment.
Repeated dry-fire training, target detection, and proper aiming practice are the most efficient means to ensure the soldier can successfully engage short-range targets (50 meters or closer) unassisted during MILES exercises, and then live-fire training.
Artificial Illumination. Targets as distant as 175 meters can be engaged successfully with some type of artificial illumination. Illumination may be from hand flares, mortar or artillery fire, or bright incandescent lights such as searchlights.
When artificial illumination is used, the eyes lose most of their night adaption, and off-center vision is no longer useful. Aiming is accomplished as it is during the day. Artificial illumination allows the firer to use the iron sights as he does during the day. (M16A2 users should keep the large rear sight aperture flipped up during darkness.)
Engaging targets under artificial illumination allows for better target detection and long-range accuracy than the unassisted technique. When the light is gone, time must be spent in regaining night vision and adaptation. Only when the light level drops enough so that the target cannot be seen through the iron sights should the firer resume short-range scanning, looking just over the sights.
Soldiers have sometimes been taught to close their eyes during artificial illumination to preserve their night vision. This technique is effective but also renders the soldier (or entire unit) blind for the duration of the illumination. Keeping one eye closed to preserve its night vision results in a drastically altered sense of perception when both eyes are opened, following the illumination burnout. Tactical considerations should be the deciding factor as to which technique to use. Repeated dry-fire training and target detection practice are the keys to successful engagement of targets out to 150 meters or more during live fire under artificial illumination.
Night Vision Devices. Rifle-mounted night vision devices are the most effective night fire aids. By using these devices, the firer can observe the area, detect and engage any suitable targets, and direct the fire of soldiers who are firing unassisted.
NVDs can be used to engage targets out to 300 meters. Repeated training, dry-fire practice, and correct zeroing are vital to the proper employment of NVDs during live-fire training.
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