Mastering the Basics

Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey calls on U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to “know what right looks like” and hold themselves and each other accountable, and focus on the fundamentals of Fieldcraft.


Machine Gun Training

EVERY 0331 that goes through AMGC does high angle fire. Slow news day?

– Joe R Heft

A variety of gunnery skills are taught during USMC Advanced Machine Gunner Course but most Army personnel remain oblivious to gunnery with machine guns and are rarely competent with them beyond loading and minimal marksmanship on easy and well-defined point targets.

In fact, most Army personnel have been conducting machine gun qualification incorrectly and failing to achieve published standards. Consider this from the new small arms training manual:

TC 3-20.40

Table IV-B requires gunners to practice trigger control and requires the firer to fire one five to seven round burst at each specified point target or series of targets in the area target sequences. Gunners are authorized to fire only one five to seven round burst at each paster. [Emphasis added]

The authors explicitly spell this out due to recognizing most Army personnel have failed to perform at this standard but it is NOT a new/different standard. This is not a change to doctrine or a new qualification, this is the way the qual was always supposed to be run. Simple arithmetic of the number of rounds issued during qualification, the number of rounds per burst to be fired, and the number of target areas engaged confirms this. The explicit instruction was forced in due to a large number of Army personnel that don’t math good.

Lack of skill with this equipment is, unfortunately, common.

Operation Cold Steel has been less than stellar…

Such “expertise” is rampant:

army handgun pew

Marines practice rarely trained machine gun tactic that could take out Russian vehicles

The Marine Corps is in Bulgaria practicing high-angle fire with a 40 mm grenade launching machine gun known as the Mk-19… The tactic could be beneficial in striking down infantry troops behind walls or protection, or taking out advancing Russian armor and light-skinned vehicles.

With seamless communications and competent forward observers, high-angle Mk-19 fire could also be used to rapidly and easily walk rounds onto an enemy target, according to several machine gunners.

It’s a skill set learned at the Marine Corps’ six-week Advanced Machine Gunner Course.


M249: AR vs. LMG

The M249 is supposed to be used in either an Automatic Rifle and Light Machine Gun role. What differentiates either? For years, both qualifications were conducted in a very similar manner and many personnel failed to appreciate any difference.

An Automatic Rifle is individually issued, carried, and used while maneuvering as a part of a team. A Light (or Medium or Heavy) Machine Gun is a crew-served weapon that supports maneuvering elements in offense and defense. The same M249 can be pressed into either role but the usage differs depending on which.

I’ve found many personnel are confused by this difference and merely conduct whichever qualification is easiest.

A Proposed Fix

The following is merely an idea from one person (me) that has no official basis or status. I suggested this to personnel writing current Army small arms doctrine and they will have final say what becomes official.

Given that personnel don’t seem interested in reading and learning the difference, I’d say we should make the AR and LMG quals more distinct. The current AR qual mostly looks like a watered-down version of the LMG/MMG qual.

Grouping and Zeroing: Use the new 25-meter rifle/carbine zero target at 10 meters. Given that target’s 6 MOA “legacy” dashed circle is 4cm – same width as the 10 meter MG paster – and the 4 MOA circle and diamond is about 2.5 cm. The grid at 25 meters is 1 MOA squares, making it 2.5 MOA/0.75 mils at 10 meters. Zero standard becomes to shoot a centered three round burst inside the 4cm circle on that target from prone bipod supported.

Eliminate the 10 meter MG target and course and use the 10-meter range as a preliminary group/zero exercise, like the rifle/carbine.

Qualification: The Automatic Rifle qualification should be similar to the new four-table Modified Record Fire (Barricade) course. Phase 1 and 2 becomes Bipod Supported. Phase 3 and 4 uses a barricade and are fired kneeling and standing supported, respectively. Current Automatic Rifle transition ranges (100-400 meters) can be used as-is with the addition of a barricade and emphasizing longer shots bipod prone and closer distances from kneeling and standing, like the rifle/carbine.

Like the rifle Modified Record Fire (Barricade) course, this makes the qual similar to Drill G (Fight Up).

The Modified Record Fire (Barricade) course requires a reload while changing positions during the timed lull between tables, which (obviously) should be required to be done with magazines in the FLC/LBE/etc. I’d suggest having at least one reload for the AR course in the same manner, reloading with an ammo can, soft assault pack, etc. in a manner as how ammunition would normally be carried on person.

As a side note, we should also have the pistol qualifications require all tables start holstered and reloads done from gear on the clock. LMG/MMG qualifications should have a timed reload and a barrel change portion between tables for the same reasons.

If this sort of thing was built into qualification requirements, leadership might start to care more about it.



Master Sgt. Russell Moore, combat heavy engineer, 416th Theater Engineer Command of Darien, Illinois, NCOIC USARCMP Service Conditions/Combat Team conducts a safety briefing before the Combat Pistol Excellence in Competition event at the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 10, 2018. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya) (Released) (Photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya)

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Volmer, Fox Company, 3rd Battalion, 415th Infantry Regiment, 95th Training Division of Boise, Idaho and USARCMP member demonstrates weapon handling during a safety briefing before the Combat Pistol Excellence in Competition event at the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 10, 2018. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya) (Released) (Photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya)

Noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers competing in this year’s U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition will not only have the opportunity to be the Best Warrior, but also to accrue points to earn a rare distinction in the Excellence in Competition Program.

Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan implemented the EIC program in 1884 to cultivate the Army’s tactical proficiency and lethality of force.

“It was started to improve marksmanship training techniques, improve weapon and ammunition capabilities, raise proficiency of service rifle and service pistol throughout the Army, provide an opportunity to excel through competition, and establish a basis for quality marksmanship instructions. And that’s pretty much the way it is now,” explained Roscoe Castle, EIC custodian at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Civilians and service members alike are eligible to compete, though the two populations earn separate badges. Soldiers can only earn the Distinguished Marksmanship Badge by competing in Excellence in Competition matches for rifle or pistol. Competitors must accumulate 30 points throughout three competition tiers to earn a Distinguished Badge. Soldiers earn their first 10 points in Tier 1 to receive the Bronze EIC Badge. The top 10 percent of Best Warrior competitors at the combat pistol EIC event will earn this badge.

Soldiers must earn their next 10 points in Tier 2 to receive the Silver EIC Badge, and Soldiers who earn the final 10 in Tier 3, totaling 30 points, receive the Distinguished Badge. Soldiers can also compete in intercontinental events for an international badge. To date, the Army has only awarded badges to 1,856 pistol shooters and 3,389 rifle shooters. Only 438 marksman have earned both honors, and there are just 16 awardees in the history of the competition who have all three.

“It’s a permanent-wear badge issued by the Department of Army with a set of orders that permanently replaces your marksmanship badge, in this case, for pistol,” said Master Sgt. Russell Moore, a combat-heavy engineer for the 416th Theater Engineer Command based in Darien, Illinois, and noncommissioned officer in charge of the Best Warrior pistol match.

“You don’t see them (EIC badges) very much. Everyone says, ‘You can’t be wearing that foreign device.’” Moore explained to the competitors. As one of the few Soldiers who has earned distinguished badges in both categories, Moore told the competitors to respond, “Hey, sergeant major. It’s one of the oldest devices in the United States Army.”

This year’s Army Reserve BWC will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. But even if Reserve competitors don’t advance to the Army-wide competition, they still have the special opportunity to receive the EIC Bronze Badge and the points toward earning the rare Distinguished Marksmanship Badge.

Safety Of Use Message: M16/M4


  1. A small number (881 out of 259,000) of M16/M4 weapons have been found to potentially have an unintended discharge while manipulating the selector.
  2. An additional step in the updated Function Check will readily determine if your M16/M4 is affected.
  3. If your M16/M4 passes the additional steps to the Function Check to inspect for this problem, there is absolutely no need to change Immediate Action procedures.
  4. The previous Immediate Action procedure (“SPORTS”) has been since replaced with an improved procedure described in TC 3-22.9. TACOM and the published Technical Manuals have not yet updated to the new standard.

SOUM #18-004 alerted the field of an unintended discharge on an M4A1 PIP’ed (Product Improvement Program) weapons that occurred when the operator pulled the trigger with the selector switch between the SEMI and AUTO detents (outside of detent). The weapon did not fire when the operator pulled the trigger and instead fired when the selector was moved further. As a result of this incident, an on-going investigation determined that there is the potential for all carbines and rifles noted above, to behave in this way.

First, this potential mechanical problem is uncommon. The Army has converted 259,000 M4s to M4A1s in the past three years with the M4 carbine product improvement program. Out of 259,000, 881 have been found to exhibit this problem.

Second, TACOM’s updated Function Check will easily determine if your M16/M4 is one of those of the small number affected.

Updated Function Check
User Actions: Until a resolution is found, units are required to perform the following additional function check on all M16 and M4 series rifles and carbines. If the unit reported failure data IAW SOUM 18-004, then reporting action for those weapons has been satisfied.

1. Ensure weapon is clear by observing the chamber, the bolt face, and magazine well. The weapon should always be pointed in a safe direction. Do NOT perform this check with live ammunition.

2. Perform standard function check IAW WP0007.

3. Move the selector lever to the SEMI position then move the selector to a position between SEMI and AUTO (BURST for non M4A1’s) and squeeze the trigger. The hammer should drop when trigger is squeezed. If the hammer drops, repeat by slightly repositioning selector between SEMI and AUTO (or BURST). If the hammer does not drop when the trigger is squeezed, this is a failure. Record this information and continue to the next step.

4. If hammer does not drop, move the selector in either direction. If the hammer drops without squeezing the trigger, this is a failure. Record this information.

5. Gather information recorded from the additional function check and submit to TACOM Equipment Specialists.


The SOUM goes on the describe a suggested “update” to the now out-of-date Immediate Action procedure that has since been replaced in TC 3-22.9.

First problem, an Immediate Action amendment is completely unnecessary if the Function Check is passed. Confirming correct mechanical function is an administrative action conducted during Drill A – Weapon Check, not something to do while engaging targets.

Second problem, SPORTS was replaced as an overly-convoluted and less effective approach than what the new Immediate Action procedure in TC 3-22.9 directs. Taking a tangled “immediate” six-step procedure and adding yet-another step defies the entire point of immediate action.

Third problem, this low percentage mechanical problem only occurs while manipulating the selector. Immediate Action is only necessary after attempting to engage target(s), meaning the weapon was already set to discharge (obviously) and there is no need to manipulate the selector while performing it.

TC 3-22.9, page 8-10

Do not attempt to place the weapon on SAFE (unless otherwise noted). Most stoppages will not allow the weapon to be placed on safe because the sear has been released or the weapon is out of battery. Attempting to place the weapon on SAFE will waste time and potentially damage the weapon.


389th En Bn Postal Match

Members of the 389th Engineer Battalion from HHC, FSC, and the 411th Engineer Company conducted the EIC Postal Match for members of their units during the conduct of their qualification.

Congratulations to Jesse Campbell for winning the overall and high optic division and thanks to CPT Pierson (CO and Range Officer for the event) and 1SG Losen for hosting this for their Soldiers.

All Soldiers in the Army Reserve are eligible and encouraged to host and participate in these events.

Machine Gun Gunnery Theory

#USArmyReserve #WednesdayWisdom @USArmyReserve #WeaponsMastery #WalkthroughWednesday

Download an illustrated copy of this article:
9 MG theory

Effective machine gun use requires understanding machine gun gunnery theory. This understanding is what makes a machine gun an effective crew-served weapon capable of suppressing and controlling large target areas. Failing to understand and apply these concepts reduces a machine gun to a large and clumsy belt-fed rifle limited to engaging single point targets.

Characteristics Of Fire

A gunner’s knowledge of the machine gun is not complete until they learn about the action and effect of the projectiles.

The Line of Sight is an imaginary line drawn from the firer’s eyes through the sights to the point of aim. The Burst of Fire is a number of successive rounds fired from the same hold and aim point, such as the same Traverse and Elevation mechanism setting, when the trigger is held to the rear. The number of rounds in a burst varies depending on the type of fire employed.

The trajectory is the curved path of the projectile in flight from the muzzle to impact. As the range to the target increases, so does the curve of trajectory.

Maximum ordinate is the highest point above the LOS the trajectory reaches between the muzzle of the weapon and base of target. It always occurs about two-thirds of the distance from weapon to target and increases with range.

The cone of fire is the pattern formed by the different trajectories of individual rounds in a burst as they travel downrange. Fired at a two-dimensional paper target the cone of fire should appear like a group and be roughly circular in shape. Various factors effects this but the gunner’s Stability and Control have the biggest influence.

The beaten zone is the elliptical pattern formed when the rounds within the cone of fire strike the
ground or target area. The size and shape of the beaten zone changes based on the distance and slope of the target area but is normally oval or cigar shaped with the long axis along the gun-target line. At closer range the beaten zone is longer and narrower and becomes shorter and wider as distance increases. On rising ground, the beaten zone becomes shorter and ground that slopes away causes the beaten zone to become longer.

Gunners and automatic riflemen can take maximum effect of this by aiming at the center base of a target area as most rounds will either be direct hits or fall a bit short, increasing chances of on-target ricochets, better enabling spotting the strike of the rounds to adjust fire from, and increasing suppressive effect on the target area. The effective zone encompasses about 85% of the fired shots.

The danger space is along the gun-target line from muzzle to target where the trajectory does not rise above 1.8 meters above the ground, or the average height of a human adult.

These characteristics help describe various classes of fire.

Classification of Fire: Ground

With respect to the ground, the two classes are grazing and plunging fire.

Grazing fire occurs when the center of the cone of fire does not rise more than one meter above the ground. Continuous grazing fire effectively creates a fence that is nearly impassable. The gunner does not have to aim at a particular target along the line when grazing fire is used because anything trying to pass that line when a burst is fired is almost certain to be hit. This is ideal for final protective fires along a final protective line in the defense and can be used offensively as well anywhere the terrain is level or sloping uniformly along a line from the gunner’s position. Dead space is any bit of ground that interrupts this continuous line, such as a small depression, and must be covered by a weapon from a different position or one capable of indirect fire, such as a grenade launcher. Over uniformly sloping terrain, 5.56 and 7.62mm machine guns can attain a maximum of 600 meters of grazing fire and heavy machine guns can push this to 700 meters. Grenade machine guns with a sharply arcing trajectory cannot use grazing fire.

Plunging Fires
Plunging fire occurs when there is little or no danger space from the muzzle to the beaten
zone, thus the weapon’s effect is limited to placement of the beaten zone as grazing along the length of the gun-target line is not possible. Plunging fires happen when firing at long range beyond the grazing fire maximum effective range, when firing high to low ground or low to high ground, or firing across uneven terrain which breaks up the danger space needed to maintain grazing fire at points along the trajectory. All fires from grenade machine guns is always plunging fire.

Classification of Fire: Target

Fires with respect to the target include enfilade, frontal, flanking, and oblique fires. Leaders and gunners should always strive to position gun teams so that the long axis of fires, grazing and beaten zones falls along the long axis of the target and target areas.

Enfilade Fire
Enfilade fire occurs when the long axis of the beaten zone coincides or nearly coincides with the long axis of the target. Derived from the French meaning “to thread” enfilading fires takes maximum benefit of the effects of grazing and beaten zone.

Frontal Fire
Frontal fire occurs when engaging a force facing toward the gun position. It is enfilading fire when the target area is advancing forward in a column formation.

Flanking Fire
Flanking fire is delivered directly against the side of the target area and becomes enfilading fire when employed against a line formation.

Oblique Fire
Oblique fire occurs when the long axis of fires is an angle other than a right angle to the front of the target.

Proper positioning of gun teams requires determining likely avenues of approach and setting up so as to place the long axis of fire along the long axis of the target area.

It’s worth noting that routine qualification fails to take this into account as the ideal place to put crews on a transition range would be to fire across the side of the range as that would enfilade fires across all the targets in all of the lanes. Obviously, this will won’t fit in the existing Surface Danger Zone and Range Control will be very angry with you, however, understanding this will help taking the machine gun marksmanship skills tested in qualification into real world application.

Classification of Fire: Machine Gun

Classes of fire with respect to the weapon include fixed, traversing, searching, traversing and
searching, swinging traverse, and free gun fires.

Fixed Fire
Fixed fire is possible when the point target or target area can be effectively engaged within the width and size of the centered beaten zone or grazing fires with little or no manipulation required.

Traversing Fire
Most target areas will likely be bigger than the gun’s beaten zone or grazing fire coverage and adjustment is necessary. Traversing disperses fires in width by successive changes left or right but not in elevation. When engaging a wide target area, the gunner selects multiple aim points or makes subsequent traverse adjustments after successfully landing an initial burst and making T&E adjustments from there in even increments to ensure even, continuous coverage along the target area. Given that a cone of fire should be 2-4 mils in size, an adjustment of 4 mils from burst to burst creates overlapping coverage.

Searching Fire
Searching distributes fires in-depth by successive changes in elevation. Gunners employ searching fire against a deep target or a target having depth and minimal width, requiring changes in only the elevation of the gun. The amount of elevation change depends upon the range and slope of the ground.

Traversing and Searching Fire combines elements of both traverse and search to distribute fires both in width and depth.

These concepts are important for gunnery but aren’t really tested during routine qualification. The transition course is limited to fixed targets only and the 10-meter target has a bold outline for each paster so as to aim at each one individually.

While not included as a standard qualification, targets can be used to emphasize these points. For example, a target series the has one aim point reference for five target areas that are invisible to the gunner. A one-mil black square is at the bottom, left, top, or right side of a given target area. After aiming in a firing an initial accurate burst, the gunner has to trust T&E adjustments to engage the remaining target areas. Machine guns really shine when they apply accurate, controlled fires over a target area. Firing over terrain with grazing or enfilading fires may not give a convenient aim point to hold on. Gunners need to understand how to apply fires to get the desired effect.