Marines are well known for a number of things: their strict adherence to uniform regulations, the sea bags worth of ego they carry around with them, and of course, their marksmanship. U.S. Marines train to develop competency with their weapons at greater distances than any other branch requires, as well as emphasizing closer range, higher paced marksmanship in the second table of the rifle qualification course.
But being a good shot on a range doesn’t necessarily translate to combat competency, and as anyone that’s ever thrown a football can attest, connecting with a moving target can be much more difficult than dialing in on a stationary one. While long distance shooting can help a Marine improve upon the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship, the only way to become a more capable war fighter when it comes to engaging moving targets is, of course, to train against targets that move.
Years ago, I recall Marines standing behind a berm, holding up long sticks with target silhouettes at the top. The Marines manning targets would pop their silhouettes up and move them along the berm in a manner that resembled a person walking along a ridge line, providing us with an opportunity to sight in and fire at a target that wasn’t simply nailed to a piece of wood. This method was better than nothing, but with our targets moving within our target lane, in the same direction every time and along a single axis, it really became an exercise in your ability to predict the mechanics of the range for the sake of a score, rather than a real challenge — but it was better than nothing.
Now, the Marines are experimenting with a simple target drone system that could allow them to practice their marksmanship against actively maneuvering targets, at varied distances, paces, and directions. These four-wheeled combat-bots were designed and built by the Georgia Based company, Marathon Targets, and they’ve been credited with some impressive statistics when it comes to improving the combat accuracy of Marine riflemen. Marathon claims the Marines of 2d Marine Division “developed a 104 percent increase in combat accuracy within a 24 hour period,” though the Corps itself has yet to confirm these numbers.