The Navy, a Rifle, a Blunder, and Social Media

On April 9th, 2024, the United States Navy posted a photo that might make you question the small arms training of Naval personnel. To their credit, only a small section of sailors are gunfighters, but man, I don’t see how this one made it to the Instagram of the US Navy. The picture portrays a sailor shooting an M4 rifle in a training environment. 

So what’s the problem? Well, as many commenters were quick to point out, the Trijicon VCOG was mounted backward on the rifle. The VCOG is an LPVO and doesn’t quite work when mounted backward. 

Additionally, the optics lens cover is in place, and eagle-eyed viewers might notice the M4’s rail is not properly retained by the delta ring. We can also dig into the chicken wing position and the seemingly bizarre placement of a vertical foregrip and how the sailor is using the vertical grip. 

The sailor shooting the rifle certainly looks a mess, but is it a real problem? 

The Modern Navy 

Admittedly, I think maybe someone should review the photos the Navy posts to ensure they are always looking professional and productive. There is something to be said for a well-trained Public Information Officer. However, as fun as it is to point out the flaws of the sailor and the rifle, we should also point out that small arms aren’t that important in the Navy. 

I have friends who are sailors, and their experience at boot camp didn’t even involve shooting a rifle. It could have changed, but when they went through they were trained on the handgun and shotgun. Rifle shooting wasn’t a concern and isn’t for the big Navy. These guys control nuclear submarines and guns, the projectiles of which are measured in inches rather than millimeters. Don’t forget the jets, torpedoes, and more. 

If I were to put you, a random internet commenter, in charge of firing those weapons, would you look professional in doing so? Or would you be a mess? 

But The Rifle 

Why exactly is that rifle in that configuration? I’d hazard to guess the VCOG was mounted backward to fit into the racks in which these rifles are stored. These racks were likely initially designed for carry-handle M16s/M4s, not for LPVO-equipped rifles. As Marines, we had to remove all sorts of accessories before we turned out rifles so they could fit in the racks. 

Why the delta ring is messed up is beyond me. The sailor firing the rifle has a set of scrambled eggs on his ball cap. This indicates he’s an O-5 or higher. It turns out he’s the ship’s commanding officer.

The Navy never had the best chicken wings.

This might be one of the few times he’s ever handled a rifle in his career. This might have been a fun opportunity for him to do so. Maybe he was just there for the photo op and didn’t realize what was wrong, or he just wanted to throw some lead into the ocean for fun for a quick second. 

If I had to guess, the lower enlisted running the exercise may have been a bit intimidated by the officer. They didn’t make the corrections right away out of fear. He is their commanding officer. Officers and enlisted in the Navy are very separate cultures, at least compared to how officers and enlisted Marines interact. 

Maybe the guys running the ‘range’ hadn’t flipped the optic over just yet. The simple fact of the matter is that using an M4 isn’t his job. He’s not a gunfighter. He does have a very demanding job that likely has him making very important decisions in high-stress environments almost daily. We might not be in some massive open conflict, but being in charge of what’s likely a large number of sailors at sea isn’t easy. 

Unfortunate Timing 

That officer is likely highly skilled at his job, and his job isn’t shooting rifles. Having room for rifle training isn’t on his dance card. Is it an unfortunate photo to be posted to social media? Yes, likely so. But is it a reflection of the readiness of the United States Navy? I don’t think so. Those guys work their tails off in all manner of tasks. So, maybe we can let this one slip. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.