Mad minute

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A British sergeant instructor with the Royal Scots Fusiliers trains a recruit on how to fire the SMLE Mk III Lee–Enfield in prone position, 31 August 1942.
The Lee–Enfield bolt action rifle is known for its smooth operation and often associated with the "mad minute".

The Mad Minute is best known as a bolt-rifle speed shooting event, which was derived from a pre-World War I rapid-fire exercise used by British Army riflemen, using the Lee–Enfield service rifle. The exercise (Practice number 22, Rapid Fire, ‘The Musketry Regulations, Part I, 1909) required the rifleman to fire 15 rounds at a “Second Class Figure” target at 300 yards. The practice was described as ; “Lying. Rifle to be loaded and 4 rounds in the magazine before the target appears. Loading to be from the pouch or bandolier by 5 rounds afterwards. One minute allowed”.

The practise was only one exercise from the annual classification shoot which was used to grade a soldier as a marksman, first-class or second-class shot, depending on the scores he had achieved.

The “Second Class Figure Target” was 4 feet square, with 24” (inner) and 36” (magpie) circles. The aiming mark was a 12” x 12” silhouette figure that represented the outline of the head of a man aiming a rifle from a trench. Points were scored by a hit anywhere on the target. Although a 12” target is often mentioned in connection with the Mad Minute practise, this seems to have been an error originating in Ian Hogg’s book, ‘The Encyclopedia of Weaponry’. No other source mentions a 12" target.

It was not uncommon during the First and Second World War for riflemen to greatly exceed this score, and many of the best riflemen could average 30 plus shots. During the Battle of Mons, there were numerous German accounts of coming up against what they believed was machine gun fire when in fact it was squads of riflemen firing at this rate.[1]

World record[edit]

The first Mad Minute record was set by Sergeant Major Jesse Wallingford in 1908, scoring 36 hits on a 48 inch target at 300 yards.[2] Allegedly another world record of 38 hits, all within the 24 inch target at 300 yards, is said to have been set in 1914 by Sergeant Instructor Alfred Snoxall,[3] but there is little documentation and it is unsure whether it was actually accomplished or British propaganda.

Many experienced riflemen regard both "records" as propaganda and myth. Online videos have been created to recreate the sound of Sergeant Snoxall's "record" to give people an idea of just how rapidly a rifle must be operated and fire to achieve that rate of fire. It quickly becomes apparent that such a rate of fire is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. The story of the "record" has also recently "evolved" as more people have questioned the possibility of shooting.

A Mad Minute event was held in Soknedal, Norway, on May 30, 2015, featuring some of the best stang shooters in the country.[4] The competition is called the "Mad Minute Challenge"[1], and was shot at a round 40 cm diameter target at 200 meters (6.9 moa / 2 mils), making the target smaller than original. The winner, Thomas Høgåsseter, scored 36 hits. The average score, of 11 shooters, was 29.

The performances of professional or skilled amateur shooters firing modified rifles at a target 1/3 closer in dedicated competition proves nothing about the veracity of the original claims. Both shooters that set the alleged "records" would either have been using relatively new rifles with stiff actions and little wear to achieve that kind of accuracy or worn-out rifles with loose actions to achieve that kind of speed, in which case accuracy would have suffered.

Despite claims to the contrary, Enfield rifles have never been regarded as particularly accurate by skilled shooters. Surplus rifles in good shooting condition typically produce groups of 4 to 6 inches at 100 yards, even when loaded with high-quality commercial ammunition. The group size of such rifles and ammunition at 300 yards would accordingly grow to 12 to 18 inches at the minimum. A very slight sighting error would easily throw bullets off the target. Experienced shooters know that it is basically impossible to simultaneously achieve both absolute speed and absolute accuracy. Standard U.S. military doctrine as far as "rapid fire" has always placed the emphasis on accuracy before speed, and the objective is to fire at the highest rate possible while maintaining accuracy.

Some of the features of the Enfield rifle itself make a high degree of accuracy difficult to achieve. The rear bolt locking lugs allow more bolt flex than front lugs and will decrease the consistency of the headspacing of the rifle, in addition to flexing more while firing. The full stock of the rifle will also negatively affect accuracy because of the tendency for the wood to contact the steel barrel and cause distortion. Particularly as the barrel gets hot. Military ammunition loaded with cordite powder (actually sticks of powder similar to spaghetti and inconsistent in firing) at the time was marginal for accuracy and even later military ammunition loaded with ball powder would not deliver consistent "match" accuracy.

Target sizes[edit]

The tables below are based on the original Mad Minute target sizes (12 or 18 in diameter target at 300 yards), and show the same relative target sizes for different ranges. Keep in mind that wind drift also will become a factor at longer ranges. Genereally wind drift will barely be noticeable at 100 m, while already at 200 m and especially at 300 m the wind will start to become a significant factor, depending amongst other on caliber, wind speed and direction.[citation needed]

Relative size 100 yd (91 m) 200 yd (183 m) 300 yd (270 m)
3.82 MOA (1.11 mil) 4 in (10 cm) 8 in (20.3 cm) 12 in (30.5 cm)
5.73 MOA (1.67 mil) 6 in (15.3 cm) 12 in (30.5 cm) 18 in (45.7 cm)
Relative size 100 m 200 m 300 m
1.11 mil (3.82 MOA) 11.1 cm 22.2 cm 33.3 cm
1.67 mil (5.73 MOA) 16.67 cm 33.34 cm 50 cm

Other uses[edit]

Early use[edit]

Firing line using muskets.

The term was originally used as a description of the time it took to reload a musket during combat in the 18th and 19th century. Enemy formations would be lined up standing shoulder to shoulder, facing each other in ranges from fifty to several hundred meters with relatively inaccurate and slow-loading muskets. After firing a shot each soldier would race to reload his musket as fast as possible, while the enemy was doing the same. Due to the muskets limited accuracy the description was especially relevant at close ranges.

Vietnam War[edit]

In the Vietnam War, the "mad minute" was used to describe a drill involving intense automatic weapons fire, intended to flush out infiltrators or ambushes.[5]

Military use today[edit]

"Mad minute" has remained as an expression in military terminology to describe any short period of intense weapons fire.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Lomas (2012). Mons 1914: The BEF's Tactical Triumph. Osprey Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 1782004440. 
  2. ^ Historical Firearms - The Mad Minute
  3. ^ Ian V. Hogg, The Encyclopedia of Weaponry, Sterling Publishing, New York 2006.
  4. ^ Soknedal Skytterlag - Norgescup stang og felthurtig 2015
  5. ^ V24N3 - Battlefield Innovation
  6. ^

External links[edit]