What is there to really say about firing? A lot more than you think. You figure it’s importance has to be pretty significant considering they spend an entire week of training teaching the proper method and in return give the recruits another entire week of actually shooting.
I must say I am unsure if the cliché practice makes perfect applies here. Some people may never really get the hang of the fundamentals involved. Let’s begin with positions.
Recruits will shoot in the sitting position at the 200-yard line slow fire (five rounds in five minutes), 200-yard line rapid fire (10 rounds in 60 seconds) and 300-yard lines.
Sitting sounds easy enough. So easy, one probably wouldn’t guess that there are three different sitting positions.
1. Crossed leg – the basic “Indian style. ” While sitting crossed leg, the elbows should sit in the bend of your knees between your calves and your thighs.
2. Open leg – Legs uncrossed and open. Elbows rest in the bend of you knees between your calves and your thighs.
3. Crossed ankle – same as open leg, except your ankles are crossed.
Guess what? Three for one on the kneeling too! However, kneeling will only be used at the 200-yard line slow fire.
1. High – One foot forward, other leg is bent and toe of the other boot will rest on the ground. Then recruit will sit on heel of foot.
2. Medium – One foot forward, they will sit on the other foot with the heel facing the sky and bootlace to the ground.
3. Low – One foot forward, and sitting on your ankle. This position is consider the most stable of the kneeling, but can be painful for some.
1. Just one here. Most people find this to be the most difficult position, for others, it comes naturally. Hand placement and trigger control can be the key to making the 5 rounds slow fire in standing a success.
Lying down can be tricky too and finding the right one may not be as easy as taking a nap. Prone is used at the 300-yard line rapid fire and 500-yard line slow fire.
1. Straight leg – Elbows on the deck (ground) legs out and open, toes pointing in opposite direction of each other.
2. Cocked leg – Elbows on the deck, both legs behind the shooter. One leg will be closer to the body, but not overlapping the other (in the shape of a 4).
Just a wrap up on positions – Some of them are really uncomfortable. Grass Week helps with the stretching of muscles that will help make these positions more bearable.
The 7 common factors of shooting positions
1. Forward hand relaxed and elbow under weapon: self explanatory
2. Butt of weapon high in the pocket of the shoulder: This will help with recoil of the weapon
3. High firm pistol grip – assists with trigger control and may prevent jerking the weapon.
4. Placement of the rear elbow
5. Stock weld and eye relief – Placement of the face and eye in reference to the sights.
6. Breath Control – each round should be shot in the natural pause of taking a breath.
7. Controlled muscular tension – “Muscling the weapon” or simply using your muscles to fix the shot by holding the weapon in a position unnaturally will cause shot groups to be inconsistent.
Qualification types and scoring
Scoring: Here is a rough idea, on a circle target the middle and black circle is worth 5 points, a cirle around that is 4 the circle around it is worth 3 anything else outside of those perimeters that hits the target is worth 2 points.
The dog target and silhouette target apply the same concept, but different shape and larger area of black impact.
Qualification (without the addition of Table 2):
Marksman – good score (190-210 points)
Sharpshooter – better (211-219 points)
Expert – best (220-250 points)
The importance of a data book
The data book is a useful tool. I think it is much like having a range coach in your cargo pocket. It lists everything a recruit needs to know about safety rules, serviceability checks, function checks, weapon conditions, corrective actions for misfires and importantly, how to make a wind call.
BUT, the real significance of the data book depends on what is written in it. Throughout the week, the recruits will plot down their shots as they see them appear on the target. If the book is filled out properly, a recruit should be able to move their shot groups in the black (middle of the target, counts as 5 points) by making adjustments, making a wind call (the effect wind has on the impact of the round) or noticing what fundamental they are messing up. If this is done thoroughly and properly, the book could save them for failing the range.
Example: all week a recruit was shooting great and was on track to qualify as expert. On qualification day, the pits messed up his score sheet and he nearly failed. After the coaches reviewed his data book and compared it with the qualification sheet on the line, he was given expert title.
Unload, Show Clear
It would probably take you a good two weeks to learn how to shoot properly (if you were a recruit, maybe more if you aren’t), so obviously I can’t cover everything in one entry that pertains to shooting. However, I can say I know your recruits are glad the pressure is off and they can finally move on to other exciting aspects of training. The best way for you to think of the way they felt the night before qual is auditioning for a part in the school play or the night before midterms.
So why is there such a high emphasis on the rifle range? Because every Marine is a rifleman.
Things you should check out on your own:
How to prepare a loop sling and what it’s for and the weapon safety rules
In the Pits
The pits is at the end of the range safely placed behind a berm. The recruits down at the pits are simply marking targets or making targets. I think it could be considered a bit of a break because there is not much thinking or pressure involved. They stand by staring at the dirt to see when a round strikes, pull down the target mark it and run it back high in the sky.
The Saturday following range qualification, the recruits went on a 13k hike. Not every recruit will have the opportunity to hike on the beach, so I found this to be a very rewarding experience.
I noticed many recruits struggled to keep up, but the teamwork they displayed was incomparable to any I have seen in a long time. Seeing how bad they wanted it was clearly expressed on their faces. Giving up wasn’t an option and they knew it.
The burn they felt in their thighs probably had nothing on the pain they felt in their backs. The recruits probably never would have guessed the little amount of weight they carried on their shoulders could do so much to slow them down. Their wet boots made their feet drag in the sand. Some ended up running just to stay in fair distance. The cold weather and freezing water didn’t even change the heat that over 500 recruits produced. Deep down inside, each and every one of them wanted to quit. But they knew that taking the extra step was just another step closer to earning the title United States Marine. And for that, the extra step was worth it.
Recruits took a class on proper cover and concealment after the hike. It certainly puts a whole new meaning to face painting. Did you know there is a proper way to do it? Check it out for yourself and if you are feeling risky, put some on, take a picture and send it to your recruit!
Field week is a busy one and letters may not be abundant, but they will return to the depot on Sunday. Rifle Qualification will be over by Friday and I will have the results for you soon!
[Editors Note: Opinions expressed are not to be considered an official expression of the DoD, DoN, or the USMC.]