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U.S. soldier to shoot laser pistol in Olympic pentathlon

by Mike Hoffman on July 27, 2012

It’s Friday and we here at Defense Tech have a case of Olympic fever with the Opening Ceremonies scheduled for this evening in London. In the spirit of the games we felt a Olympic themed post was necessary. But whats there to write about in regards to military tech unless you go down the depressing road of the anti-aircraft systems posted around London for security.

Well, we know for sure that Defense Tech readers appreciate guns and can’t read enough about lasers. So, when we heard the pentathlon traded traditional air pistols for laser pistols, it grabbed our attention. When we found out Army Spc. Dennis Bowsher would be competing, we were hooked.

First, the lasers. The modern pentathlon is made up of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, 200 meter freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 kilometer cross-country run. The Union International de Pentathlon Moderne is the association that governs the sport. Its officials made the controversial decision to move to laser pistols in 2011 because it made the sport safer, allowing athletes to compete in more venues, and reducing the environmental footprint by getting rid of the pellets.

Officials with USA Shooting criticized the ruling saying it was turning the sport into an “arcade game.” Plenty of others questioned how big of a footprint a tiny lead pellet could create, but the decision has been made and they are going forward with the lasers.

From a sport standpoint, pentathletes questioned what would happen if the lasers malfunctioned. How could a judge tell if the gun was broken or the pentathlete was just a bad shot?

BAE Systems worked with the United Kingdom pentathlon team to make sure their laser pistols will be accurate for the Olympics. The defense contractor built a mobile laser pistol evaluation device  called “ULTeMo.” Pentathletes can test their pistols before a competition to ensure they are accurate.

“This test process removes one of the enduring concerns for athletes: that some unseen technical problem may affect their shooting. It means that Britain’s pentathletes are able to enter competitions with full confidence in their equipment,” Jan Bartu, Pentathlon GB’s performance director, told the Engineer, a British magazine.

For the red-blooded Americans out there wondering about the U.S. pentathlon team, Bowsher of Dallas, Texas, will compete for the U.S. men on Aug. 11. Margaux Isaksen of Fayetteville, Ark., and Suzanne Stettinius of Parkton, Md., will compete on Aug. 12 for the women.

Bowsher is a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. In the Beijing Olympics, Air Force reservist Maj. Eli Bremer competed and placed 23rd. Bowsher won a bronze medal in last year’s Pan American Games, but he’s a long shot to win a medal in this year’s Olympics. He’s currently ranked 74th in the world.

“There is a lot of pride. A big thing for me whenever I compete internationally, I’m representing all of the United States, but more importantly, I’m representing everyone who wears this uniform,” Bowsher said in an Army statement.

(Editor’s note: USA! USA! USA!)

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