Every Marine is a rifleman. This has been the cardinal motto by which every Marine has been trained. The value of this culture has been demonstrated many times throughout history.
The Marine Corps has two missions: to make Marines and to win battles. This focus on the infantry is matched with the doctrine that every Marine is a rifleman, emphasizing the infantry combat abilities of every Marine. All enlisted Marines, regardless of military specialization, receive training as a rifleman; all officers receive training as infantry platoon commanders. A proven formula since 1775.
Image courtesy of nicolausassociates.com
Marines spend days running through the known-distance course of fire in order to practice their marksmanship skills with live rounds. Half of the platoons will fire at the 200-, 300-, and 500-yard targets, in the standing, sitting, kneeling and prone positions; the other half will mark targets in the pits. The end of this is qualification day, where recruits must qualify with a minimum score in order to earn a marksmanship badge and continue training. Those who fail to qualify are given a second opportunity during Team Week. If they fail again, they are dropped and will repeat Grass Week. The Marines are the only branch of the United States Armed Forces that require the 500-yard-line qualification. A trophy is awarded to the platoon with the highest cumulative scores.
Unlike the other branches, Marine recruits qualify with the same M-16 rifle they’ve been carrying around with them throughout the entire basic-training course. Therefore, one should treat their rifle well every day to make sure that it’s in good shape for qualification day.
The Marine Corps basic training marksmanship course consists of three distinct phases.
Phase 1: Weapons introduction
During this phase, you find out all about the M-16A2 rifle. You’re even required to memorize your particular rifle’s serial number. You spend a considerable amount of time taking your rifle apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together. You’re also required to memorize the four rules of Marine Corps rifle safety:
- Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
- Never point your weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
- Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you intend to fire.
- Keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire.
You will also learn another weapons safety rule when you get out of basic training: Be absolutely sure of your target and what is behind it.
During Marine Corps basic training, you must never refer to your M-16 as a gun. Doing so will result in a massive tirade from your drill instructor. Marine Corps M-16s are always called your weapon or your rifle.
During the first phase, you’ll also receive several hours of classroom instruction on proper marksmanship techniques so that you’ll be able to hit the target when the time comes.
Phase 2: Snap-In/Grass Week
During Snap-In week, you’re primarily in a classroom setting where you learn the four standard Marine Corps firing positions (standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone). This phase of your training isn’t conducted by a drill instructor, but rather by a Marine who holds the MOS (job) of a primary marksmanship instructor (PMI).
The PMI teaches you how to adjust your sights, how to adjust for weather conditions, and how to successfully hit what you’re aiming at. During this phase of training, you actually get to fire a computerized version of your weapon, which will give you a good indication of how you’ll do when you actually visit the firing range.
Phase 3: Firing week
During firing week, you actually get to fire your weapon for the first time. The week begins with practice on the firing range. Half of your platoon will fire the weapon, while the other half sets up targets. Then you swap.
The course of fire includes shooting at targets that are 200, 300, and 500 yards away from the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing positions.
At the end of the week, you get a chance to fire on the actual qualification course. The course is the same as the one you used in practice, but this time, it counts. If you fail to qualify, you won’t proceed in basic training with the rest of your platoon. You’ll be sent back to complete rifle instruction all over again, thereby delaying your graduation date.
In order to qualify, you fire a total of 50 rounds, worth up to five points each (depending on where you hit the target). The maximum possible points you can earn on this course is 250. To pass the course, you must earn at least 190 points, which will qualify you to wear the Marine Corps marksmanship badge. To become a sharpshooter, you must earn at least 210 points. In order to win status as an expert, you must receive a score of at least 220 points.
Video courtesy of Parris Island Films, featured image courtesy of weaponsman.com