Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Remembering Bill Jordan and Carlos Hathcock

Today is the birthday of two great shooters. Bill Jordan and Carlos Hathcock. Both were US Marines and both were experts in their fields.
Bill Jordan was born in 1911 in Louisiana, he served for over 30 years with the U.S. Border Patrol, while also serving as a US Marine during World War II and the Korean War. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve as a Colonel.
Jordan is credited with developing the 'Jordan' or 'Border Patrol' style of holster. The Jordan rig is rigid and unmoving, always holding the gun butt in precisely the same relationship to the gun hand. The revolver’s trigger guard is completely exposed, and the gun is held away from the back portion of the holster by a plug of leather, allowing the trigger finger to enter the guard as the draw is commenced. He also collaborated with Walter Roper in the design of wooden grips intended for heavy-caliber double action revolvers, which are now made by Herrett's Stocks as the "Jordan Trooper". Jordan always favored a double action revolver for law enforcement duties. He was largely responsible for convincing Smith and Wesson to adapt its medium K-frame series revolver to accommodate the .357 Magnum cartridge, resulting in the S&W Model 19 and 66 "Combat Magnum".
After retiring from the Border Patrol, Jordan served as a Southwestern Field Representative for the NRA. He wrote numerous articles on all aspects of firearms, as well as books such as No Second Place Winner, Mostly Huntin' and Tales of the Rio Grande.
Using a double action revolver, Bill Jordan was recorded drawing, firing and hitting his target in .27 of a second.
Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock II is believed to have attained the highest number of recorded kills in the history of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Known to his fellow soldiers as “Gunny,” Hathcock had ninety-three confirmed kills as a sniper during the Vietnam War. Others have had more confirmed kills, but his actual total is estimated to be more than 300. He was also instrumental in establishing the Marine Corps Scout/Sniper School at Quantico, Virginia, and helped plan its syllabus.
Carlos Hathcock was born on May 20, 1942, in North Little Rock, Arkansas, the only child of Carlos and Agnes Hathcock. He was fond of firearms from an early age, playing with a non-operating war relic Mauser that his father had purchased in Europe and given to him when he was three, and later using a J. C. Higgins .22-caliber, single-shot rifle to hunt for food for his family when he was ten. His father was a railroad worker in North Little Rock and then became a welder in Memphis, Tennessee. After his parents separated, Hathcock was raised by his grandmother in Geyer Springs, Arkansas. He dropped out of high school when he was fifteen and worked for a Little Rock concrete constructor until 1959.
Hathcock enlisted in the USMC in Little Rock on May 20, 1959, his seventeenth birthday, with his mother’s written permission. While at boot camp in San Diego, he qualified at the expert level in marksmanship. In 1962, after being transferred to USMC Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, he set the record on the “A” course by shooting 248 out of a possible 250, a record that remained until the course was retired. In 1965, Hathcock reached the number of points necessary to be designated a Marine Corps Distinguished Sniper, and on August 26, 1965, he won the highly coveted 1,000-Yard National High-Power Rifle Championship, known as the Wimbledon Cup.
Hathcock’s most respected work as a sniper was done during his two tours of service in the Vietnam War. He set the record (since broken) for the longest documented sniper kill—a confirmed kill at 2,500 yards (1.42 miles) with a .50-caliber Browning rifle. He was also in a five-day engagement that devastated an entire company of Viet Cong soldiers. One of the most disciplined kills he made was accomplished by crawling 1,500 yards across an open field over the course of three sleepless days to take one successful shot at a Viet Cong general. (Skeptics have commented that no Viet Cong general is known to have died of gunshot wounds during the years Hathcock was in Vietnam.)
Perhaps Hathcock’s most legendary kill was when he shot an enemy sniper who was hunting him in order to claim the several-thousand-dollar bounty that the Viet Cong had placed on “White Feather,” a nickname that Hathcock had earned because he wore a small white feather in his cap. The kill was made without ever seeing his enemy; he saw a glint of light in the jungle foliage and gambled on taking the shot. The kill was confirmed, and the enemy’s sniper rifle was found next to the body with the scope hollowed out by the bullet that had traveled its length and entered into the enemy sniper’s eye. This shooting is widely imitated in movies, including The Sniper (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Hathcock’s second tour in Vietnam abruptly ended on September 16, 1969, when he was riding an assault vehicle that struck a 500-pound mine near the South Vietnamese village of Que-Son. Despite being covered with flaming gasoline that burned him almost beyond recognition, he returned to the vehicle and rescued seven marines. He refused a recommendation for a Medal of Honor for this heroic act but was awarded a belated Silver Star in 1996. After recovering from the burns, he served for another ten years, training USMC snipers until his forced medical retirement in 1979; he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1975.
After battling multiple sclerosis for over twenty-five years, Hathcock died on February 22, 1999. He is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia.
A 1986 biography of Hathcock titled Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson has sold over a half million copies. The USMC award for most outstanding marksman bears the name Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, as does the USMC library in Washington DC.
I feel it’s important to remember great shooters and especially veterans. These men made history.
Semper Paratus
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