Machine Gun Marksmanship

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8 MG_marksmanship

Marksmanship with machine guns uses the same concepts of Shot Process and Functional Elements as all small arms.

Stability

We’ll start with Stability. Stabilizing the machine gun or automatic rifle to provide a consistent base to fire from and maintain through the shot process until the recoil pulse has ceased.

A firm grasp, solid cheek-to-stock weld, natural point of aim on target, at shooter-gun angle that is straight and inline to the target, all set into a position that naturally returns back to target after each recoil pulse are the key concepts. Binding against the tripod, or bipod legs, or mount, or other support needs to be firm but holding too hard can worsen the results.

A good check series is, first, check natural point of aim by closing the eyes after aligning on a target and then rechecking alignment after opening the eyes. Make position adjustments until the sights want to remain on target.

Second, repeat this procedure but inhale and exhale while keeping the eyes closed. Finally, have an experienced or peer coach push and release the front sight housing several times with closed eyes to simulate recoil pulse. In all cases, the sights will remain aligned on target after rechecking if the position is aligned and the hold is good.

Aim

Aim is the continuous process of orienting the weapon correctly, aligning the sights, aligning on the target, and the appropriate lead and elevation (hold) during a target engagement.

Sight alignment works the same as all other small arms. For example, focus on the front sight with irons. Sight picture is best described as center base, or just above a 6 o’clock hold. No, this is not because of wrong claims that machine guns rise during a burst. If a burst of shots string continuously upward then Stability is very poor as the position and hold have been compromised. Anyone claiming a machine gun climbs in recoil during a burst doesn’t understand how to control a machine gun and should remain quiet about such matters. A well-controlled cone of fire should be roughly circular and the highest shot in the burst likely isn’t the last one fired.

When watching a good gunner, the machine gun moves rearward due to the recoil impulse, rocking against the bipod’s (or other) point of support and the gunner’s position naturally allows the weapon to return back to the position’s start point prior to the next round in the burst being fired. There is no indication of continuing muzzle climb from shot-to-shot in the burst because the gun is returning back each time, rather like an artillery piece recuperating after discharge. A cone of fire on a target that shows stringing up due to climbing indicates a Stability and Control problem from a poor position and poor shooting.

The real reason for using a center base aim is to better place the beaten zone for maximum target effect. Unlike training ranges which normally used two dimensional targets, targets in the real world have depth. Shooting a cone of fire with a proper center base hold centers the beaten zone on top of the target area. Shots lower in the cone of fire strike in front of the target area. This makes it easier for the assistant gunner to locate and adjust from a fired burst, it places low shots directly in front of the target’s view and better convinces them to be suppressed, plus any low shots are more likely to ricochet up into the target area. In a properly-center beaten zone, high shots will tend to be caught by target itself. This adds up to a more effective placement of all shots in a burst.

Control

Control entails all the conscious actions of the Soldier before, during, and after the shot
process that the Soldier specifically is in control of. The first of which is trigger control. This includes whether, when, and how to engage. It incorporates the Soldier as a function of safety, as well as the ultimate responsibility of firing the weapon.

With fully-automatic weapons, control as includes modulating the number of shots in a burst, be it three rounds for an automatic rifle, seven for a machine gun, or any other number. This should never compromise stability or aim. Unskilled personnel throwing their finger off the trigger to abruptly end the burst, the so-called “thousand degree trigger”, may disrupt their shot process and scatter rounds away from the target area.

The final, ultimate goal with machine gun marksmanship is to produce a centered circular cone of fire of the correct number of rounds wanted. This should be no bigger than four mils. The paster used at 10 meters (1,000 cm) is 4 centimeters wide, which is 4 mils at that distance. The cone of fire must be centered just above the point of aim and no bigger than that. Any failure to accomplish this indicates a failure to apply a proper shot process and functional elements with the machine gun or automatic rifle. Good gunners can have that cone of fire approach two mils in diameter.

Machine Gun Qualification

OBJECTIVES: The objective of machine gun marksmanship training is to produce gunners who can fire an accurate initial burst, adjust fire, and develop speed.

FIRE AN ACCURATE INITIAL BURST: Obtaining an accurate initial burst of fire on the target requires good marksmanship and is essential to gunnery. The crew (either gunner or assistant gunner) estimates the range to the target, sets the sights, and applies marksmanship skills to achieve an accurate initial burst of fire.

No, you don’t “just walk it in”. Machine guns demand as much attention to zero as any weapon you intend to hit targets with. Failure to use the sights and get a solid zero confirmed at distance means that every nearly engagement starts with a miss, wasting ammunition and time, and giving the gun’s position away before having strikes to register the gun and adjust fire from. It also means that any data on the bottom half of a range card is useless because T&E data is dependent on confirming the lay of the machine gun is correct, which you can’t do if the zero is so far off that you’re unable to regularly hit known distance targets with the first burst. This is doubly true with a Soldier so low skilled and unknowledgeable about machine guns that he foolishly believes that machine guns don’t need to be zeroed.

ADJUST FIRE: The assistant gunner observes the location of the beaten zone from the initial burst, giving the gunner a correction as needed. Corrections must be a bold stated with the direction and specific amount of adjustment given in mils. The gunner puts this correction on the Traverse and Elevation mechanism and fires another burst. Repeat as needed. The assistant gunner must be proficient in observing the strike of rounds and giving positive corrections. In a training environment, the A-gunner must give a definite adjustment in mils and the gunner must follow. This helps both learn how much adjustment effects changes at distance. Optics and binoculars with a mil reticle help this greatly. The assistant gunner’s proficiency helps the gunner re-lay the machine gun back on target.

DEVELOP SPEED: Speed is essential to good marksmanship also. Practicing dry-fire and live-fire exercises increases the gunner’s speed. Novice gunners fumble their T&E and often have to move in the wrong direction to remember what the controls do while proficient gunners can spin and move the control their gun smoothly where it needs to go. This work can and should be done away from the range. Aiming and T&E exercises can be done with any mark on a wall. Set at a known distance, such as 10 meters, makes it easy to scale aiming marks into mil-sized increments. Remember, one mil is one thousandth the distance to the target. 10 meters is 1,000 centimeters, so one mil is one centimeter at that distance.

APPLY GUNNERY: The 10 meter and Transition qualification courses test basic machine gun proficiency concerning marksmanship. The 10 meter target uses a series of pasters representing target areas NOT individual targets or silhouettes. These target areas are a simple way to learn engaging an area beyond a single, fixed target, demanding the gunner traverse and/or search across an area, thus moving the grazing fires or beaten zones across a frontage.

The pasters are NOT individual targets. The individual and groups of pasters represent a target area that the cone of fire should fit inside of. Merely hitting the paster is NOT the only goal. At 10 meters, a 4 cm paster is 4 mils wide. An E-type silhouette target 19 inches wide is 4 mils wide at 121.7 meters. Do the math. A mil is one thousandth of the radius of a circle. 19 inches divided by four is 4.75. 4.75 inches is a thousandth of 4,750 inches. 4,750 inches is 121.79 meters.

Merely hitting a silhouette at 122 meters from a bipod or tripod position is not a challenge. Keeping all (or most) of the rounds from a single burst is.

Training Circular 3-22.249 and 3-22.240 specifically states this. With the machine gun qualifications, the manual directs that the gunner using the traverse and search technique, engages pasters, either B5 and B6 or B7 and B8, firing a 5- to 7-round burst at each.” For the automatic rifle qualification the instructions are specifically to fire a three-round burst for each paster. Not to fire as many short bursts as you like in any order until you’ve finally expended all ammo but to start on one end of the target area and systematically place a single, accurately-fired burst at each paster representing a section of the entire target area, and then traverse and/or search to the adjoining target area as represented by the next paster, and fire a single burst there, repeating until done.

That means for pasters 5 and 6, which has five pasters in it, the gunner or automatic rifleman should fire exactly five bursts and for 7 and 8 with eight pasters there should be exactly eight bursts. No more and no less.

The gunner or automatic rifleman should be stopped after firing the pre-determined number of bursts EVEN IF TIME AND AMMUNITION REMAIN. If there is ammunition left after firing five or eight bursts, the shooter should NOT shoot it because it means they didn’t fire the correct number of rounds per burst, meaning they failed to perform the task correctly. Specifically, they screwed up the trigger control portion of the Control functional element. Likewise, they should be stopped after the time limit expires, even if ammunition remains. In both cases, put salt and pepper on those rounds, pal, because you just ate them. Failing to cease fire after firing the correct number of bursts or after time expires is supposed to result in a penalty to the score. I realize many units don’t enforce this because most Soldiers don’t bother read and understand this standard. Doing it correctly is more difficult but that is how these courses are intended. Again, each paster is the same width as an E-type silhouette less than 122 meters away. Merely hitting it is not the challenge.

Likewise, each target engagement during the transition course is limited to two bursts. If the target is not hit after two bursts, it is lost and should not be engaged for another burst EVEN IF AMMUNITION AND TIME REMAIN. These courses are far too easy with too much time and extra allowed ammunition to merely keep shooting and make a third attempt. Many units fail to enforce this standard due to ignorance and low skills. A gunner or automatic rifleman failing to fire a full burst and hit gets a second burst the make a hit. If the target fails to fall on the second burst, that target should be scored a miss because the crew failed to fire an accurate initial burst and adjust fire as needed. Using more than two total bursts, regardless of how few rounds are fired, is a failure. The purpose is to create crews that can engage targets and make correct adjustments with confidence, not to make multiple guesses, sling out a bunch of random shots, and hope they eventually get lucky. Read the Training Circulars to verify this.

Doing it right is harder but will create better gunners.

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Improving Rifle Qualification: Part 2, Validate

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7 validate

Demonstration: Modified Barricade Validation

Demonstration: Army RETS Validation

Once our zero range is more efficient (see Part 1), the shooter needs to test and validate their skills. A validation exercise is a timed and scored exercise. Only when passed does the Soldier finally attempt qualification.
Ignoring the fact that Army doctrine does in fact require this (even if most personnel are oblivious to it), a common complaint against shooting additional exercises beyond zeroing is that it “wastes” time and ammunition. Consider the foolishness of this. A validation exercise can be conducted in a minute or so and takes only a few rounds. If this check is failed it indicates problems such that the Soldier will likely fail qualification so we can fix things first. It’s a “waste” to spend a 4-6 rounds to check that everything is a “go”, but somehow, it’s acceptable to spend 40 rounds in a full, formal qualification attempt to then find out problems. We never seem to have enough time and ammo to train and test skills but there’s somehow always enough to give a failing Soldier another 40 rounds to try another attempt to qualify.
When used with on a more efficient 25-meter range discussed in Part 1, each shooter can conduct this quick test on their point regardless of what the rest of the line is doing, calling for an available range safety or instructor to time and confirm the attempt. Rather than assume a good zero and shooting skills, we conduct a simple, timed exercise. If there is a problem, we have the means to work on it.

Old Qual 25 Meter
The old RETS (Remote Engagement Target System) qualification course with its three separate tables of fire will likely be used for the near future as the new Modified Barricade qualification is brought on. Here’s a validation test for it.
When a shooter declares himself zeroed and ready, find four closely-batched E-type zero targets (scaled 300 meter or 250 meter targets) on the backer. Starting aimed in prone supported (or shooter’s choice), click a stop watch and allow 18 seconds to engage each target once. It’s a pass if the shooter gets three out of four hits. Look at DA 3595-R (Record Fire Scorecard) and the time limits there. Double targets run 6-12 seconds per exposure, leaving 4.5 seconds per target on average. 4.5 x 4 = 18 seconds. Also six seconds is a typical amount allowed for a 300 meter exposure. Given that the test starts aimed in and ready to shoot, the shooter only needs to transition to shoot three more targets. By using four close targets, it doesn’t matter which order they’re shot in as the shooter will have to transition up, down, left, and right to engage them all. This validation only takes four rounds and just over a quarter minute to run on zero targets on the 25-meter range.

New Qual 25 Meter
The new Barricade Modified uses the same targets and roughly the same exposure times as the previous qualification, however, the four phases are shot in one continuous table with only pre-planned and timed pauses in between. The shooting isn’t actually any harder but Soldiers that find this qualification more difficult is because they failed to prepare to move between phases efficiently. This validation tests for this.
When a shooter declares himself zeroed and ready, find a fresh zero target, five rounds, three magazines, and complete issue web gear/FLC. Fill a magazine with two rounds each, another with one round, and stow them in magazine pouches. Go to condition Red, making ready with two more rounds in the third magazine. Have a peer coach give a “Go” command and start a timer/stopwatch.
Starting from standing at low ready, go to prone and engage the target with two rounds, reload without command while moving into the kneeling position and engage with two more rounds from the second magazine, reload without command while moving into the standing position and engage with the last magazine of one round.
The peer coach observes the target as this is being done. The prone shots should be in the 8 MoA ring (about the same width as a silhouette at 250 meters) or better. The kneeling shots should be in the 12 MoA ring (about the same width as a silhouette at 150 meters) and the standing shot should be in at least the 20 MoA (five inch) circle surrounding the black bullseye. All of this needs to be accomplished in 35 seconds or less.
Here’s the time breakdown. Go-To-Prone should take about two seconds. Moving from prone-to-kneeling is allowed eight seconds and five for kneeling-to-standing for qualification. Eight seconds for two prone shots (same time as the 200-300 meter exposure), eight seconds for two kneeling shots (same time as the 150-250 exposure), and four seconds for one shot standing.
Each shooter can conduct this quick test on their point regardless of what the rest of the line is doing, calling for an available range safety or instructor to time and confirm the attempt. Rather than assume a good zero and shooting skills, we conduct a simple, timed exercise based on the shooting and timing requirements of the qualification course. The shooter is conducting a Go-To-Prone (Drill H) and Fight-Up (Drill G) based on the Training Circular and in the same manner used during qualification. Time limits and accuracy standards are also very similar to the qualification. This validation only takes five rounds and a half minute to run on a single zero target on the 25-meter range.

Old Qual RETS
The 25-meter validation exercises test the shooter’s ability to hit targets and move through a course of fire requiring similar accuracy and time limits as the qualification. The only down side is they can’t test the ability to hit targets at full distance. It would be best to use KD range or a LOMAH (Location Of Mises And Hits) system but these likely won’t be available. Instead, we’ll validate on the RETS targets prior to shooting the qualification.

With the old qualification, simply leave the 300, 200, and 100-meter targets up on bob mode. That is, put these targets up and set to drop when hit without any time limit. For a quick validation, have each shooter engage these targets with a maximum of five rounds. If all three targets aren’t hit at least once with five rounds, the validation is failed. If the shooter passed the 25-meter validation, a failure here is likely due to an improper zero that didn’t take a needed offset into account.

New Qual RETS
As the name implies, the new Barricade Modified qualification demands that Soldiers engage using a barricade for support. It also requires moving through the four phases in one, continuous table of fire. Exposure times are about the same as the previous qualification, so the only real change is moving through positions efficiently and using a kneeling supported and standing supported position. This validation tests for this.

The range is set by leaving the 300, 200, and 100-meter targets up on bob mode. Fill three magazines with two rounds each. Starting from standing at low ready, go to prone (supported or unsupported, your choice) and engage the 300-meter target with two rounds, reload without command while moving into the kneeling position and engage the 200-meter target with two rounds from the second magazine, reload without command while moving into the standing position and engage the 100 two rounds. Total time limit is 40 seconds, using the same time break down as given above. Each target must be hit at least once within this time limit to be considered a go. Also note, that a Soldier’s basic load includes seven magazines, the same number as three mags of two for the validation plus four more magazines of ten for the qualification.

Given we lack full distance confirmation, these RETS validation tests provide a quick check that the Solider is zeroed and shooting well enough to likely pass a full test. It’s faster and cheaper than wasting 40 rounds on a full qualification attempt to find that out.

Army Reserve Postal Matches
A Postal Match is an organized marksmanship event in which participants shoot during routine unit qualification and are results submitted to an organizing body to tabulate and compare to others. Per Army Regulation 140-1, Chapter 7 (Marksmanship Training and Competitive Program), section 7-2 a. (11), the Chief, Army Reserve will conduct the World-wide Chief, Army Reserve Postal Matches. Army Reserve Marksman is the official US Army Reserve resource supporting marksmanship force wide. All Army Reserve units are encouraged to participate.
The Army Reserve Postal Match is conducted every fiscal year. All Reserve units and Soldiers are eligible. To be counted in the current fiscal year event, scores are due by September 30. When submitting results be certain to include Public Affairs information so we can promote your unit and this event to USARC.

Postal Matches are also a great validation exercise. The USAR Marksmanship Program has two.

USAR EIC Postal Match

The first Postal Match is based on the current Excellence In Competition Match 321 used in Service Conditions matches. Based off courses of fire used at All Army and AFSAM (Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting), the entire match is shot at 25 meters on scaled targets and can be held during grouping and zeroing exercises during routine unit qualification. This is a good choice for Soldiers interested in attending these competitions.

Place all targets 25 meters from the shooter. A PDF of these targets are available at ArmyReserveMarksman.info/postal-match. Any standard 8.5×11 size paper will work, however, heavier, matte paper about 67 pounds in an off white or light, dull yellow color is more like commercial target stock and superior to standard 20 or 24-pound copier or printer paper.

After posting targets shooters will be granted a three-minute preparation period. Allow enough time between each stage of fire to refill magazines as needed. For Stage 1 – 400 is shot from the prone supported position at condition Red (charged magazine in place, chamber loaded, safety on “SAFE”) with nine rounds loaded.
At the command to fire engage each target with three rounds each. Targets may be engaged in any order. A sandbag may be used and/or the magazine may touch the ground and/or sandbag for support. A loop or tactical sling may be used and it can be adjusted and fit during the preparation period before the command to fire is given. Time limit: 60 seconds. All shots fired after the “Cease Fire” command is given are penalized five points each. Maximum score possible: 45 points

Stage 2 – 300. Start position is standing position at low ready (muzzle pointed down at a 45-degree angle) in condition Red (charged magazine in place, chamber loaded, safety on “SAFE”) with three rounds loaded. An additional six-round magazine will be secured in a magazine pouch on the shooter’s equipment (not on the ground.)
At the command to fire, assume a prone position and engage each target with three rounds each, reloading as necessary without command. The magazine may touch and/or rest on the ground. A sandbag or other support may not be used. A sling may be used, however it can NOT be looped on or around the arm before the command to fire is given. Time limit: 50 seconds. All shots fired after the “Cease Fire” command is given are penalized five points each. Maximum score possible: 45 points.

Stage 3 – 200. Start position is standing position at low ready (muzzle pointed down at a 45-degree angle) in condition Red (charged magazine in place, chamber loaded, safety on “SAFE”) with three rounds loaded. An additional six-round magazine will be secured in a magazine pouch on the shooter’s equipment (not on the ground.)
At the command to fire assume a kneeling unsupported position and engage each target with three rounds each, reloading as necessary without command. External support may not be used. A sling may be used, however it can NOT be looped on or around the arm before the command to fire is given. Time limit: 50 seconds. All shots fired after the “Cease Fire” command is given are penalized five points each. Maximum score possible: 45 points.

Stage 4 – 100. Start position is standing position at low ready (muzzle pointed down at a 45-degree angle) in condition Red (charged magazine in place, chamber loaded, safety on “SAFE”) with three rounds loaded. An additional three-round magazine will be secured in a magazine pouch on the shooter’s equipment (not on the ground.)
At the command to fire assume a kneeling unsupported position and engage each target with three rounds each, reloading as necessary without command. External support may not be used. A sling may be used, however it can NOT be looped on or around the arm before the command to fire is given. Time limit: 30 seconds. All shots fired after the “Cease Fire” command is given are penalized five points each. Maximum score possible: 30 points.

USAR Modified Barricade Postal Match
The second postal match is based off the Modified Barricade qualification. The entire match is shot at 25 meters on scaled targets and can be held during grouping and zeroing exercises during routine unit qualification.
Place all targets 25 meters from the shooter. See last pages of this document. After posting targets shooters will be granted a three-minute preparation period. Allow enough time between each stage of fire to refill magazines as needed.

Stage 1. Start position: Standing position at low ready (muzzle pointed down at a 45-degree angle) in condition Red (charged magazine in place, chamber loaded, safety on “SAFE”) with three rounds loaded. A three-round magazine and a two-round magazine will be secured in magazine pouches on the shooter’s equipment (not on the ground.)

At the command to fire, assume a prone unsupported position and engage each 300-meter target with one round each, reload without command with the three-round magazine while moving into the barricade supported kneeling position and engage each 200-meter target with one round each, reload without command with the two-round magazine while moving into the barricade supported standing position and engage each 100-meter target with one round each.
Time limit: 50 seconds.
All shots fired after the “Cease Fire” command is given are penalized five points each.

Stage 2 and 3: Repeat Stage 1. Allow enough time in between each stage to fill magazines and prepare accordingly. Maximum score possible: 120 points (24 total rounds fired)

The time limit breakdown is 2+8+5 seconds to go-to-prone, then to kneeling, then to standing respectively. Five seconds are allowed for each 300-meter target and four seconds for each 200 and 100-meter target. This is a comparable, if faster, time standard to the qualification. The scoring rings award five points for hitting the Primary (switch) area, four points for hitting the Secondary (timer) area, and two points for the rest of the silhouette. This is the same suggested hit areas presented in the Training Circular and makes this course more challenging.
Course books and targets can be downloaded at https://armyreservemarksman.info/postal-match/

The primary win with conducting validation is insuring Soldiers have practiced and proven their ability to shoot well enough to at least qualify. A validation test will catch those still struggling and allow for remedial training and help as needed. This will ultimately save time, ammunition, and make for a better trained force.

2018 USAR Midwestern: Wrap Up

Thanks to CSM Ted L. Copeland, Command Sergeant Major of the Army Reserve, for attending the 2018 USAR Midwestern Small Arms Championships. And thank you to all the Soldiers that competed and supported this event.

Event info and results:
https://armyreservemarksman.info/2018-usar-midwestern/

Photo Album

group

The 2018 USAR Midwestern Small Arms Championships was designed to enhance combat marksmanship skills, recognize individual and team achievement, and to develop marksmanship trainers. Service Conditions matches enable Warriors to concentrate solely on marksmanship training under competitive conditions.

Individual Rifle

Rifle Match 1
3rd Place: SFC Mohamad Affandy
2nd Place: SFC John Furgiuele
1st Place: SFC Cheryl Morris

Rifle Match 2
3rd Place: SFC Timothy Mcdonald
2nd Place: CW3 Joseph Hayes
1st Place: SFC John Furgiuele

Rifle Match 321
3rd Place: CW3 Joseph Hayes
2nd Place: SSG Timothy Miller
1st Place: SFC John Furgiuele

Rifle Individual Championship Match
3rd Place: SFC Mohamad Affandy
2nd Place: CW3 Joseph Hayes
1st Place: SFC John Furgiuele


Individual Pistol

Pistol Match 1
3rd Place: CW4 Jerry Mannes
2nd Place: SSG Robert Thompson
1st Place: MAJ Tyler Waterhouse

Pistol Match 2
3rd Place: PFC Maxwell Schumer
2nd Place: SSG Robert Thompson
1st Place: MAJ Tyler Waterhouse

Pistol Match 221:
3rd Place: SSG Christopher Waite
2nd Place: MAJ Tyler Waterhouse
1st Place: SFC Bradford Griffith

Pistol Individual Championship
3rd Place: SSG Christopher Waite
2nd Place: SSG Robert Thompson
1st Place: MAJ Tyler Waterhouse

Other Individual Awards
Top Career Counselor
2nd place: SFC Cheryl Morris
1st place: SFC John Furgiuele

Top Drill Sergeant
2nd place SFC Craig Butler
1st place SFC Timothy Mcdonald

Combined Arms Individual Champion
Aggregate score of all the matches fired with the rifle and the pistol.
3rd Place: SFC Cheryl Morris
2nd Place: SFC John Furgiuele
1st Place: MAJ Tyler Waterhouse

Team Matches

Pistol Team Champion
Aggregate score of all Shooting Team Members for the individual pistol matches and the Team Pistol Match. All Team members stand and be recognized.

3rd place team
2-338 TSBN
SSG Waite (Team Captain)
SSG Wasson
SSG Gangler
SGT Richardson

2nd Place Team
2nd BN Knights
SFC Frazier (Team Captain)
SFC Henning
SFC Vardalis
SFC Rodriquez, Samuel

1st place team
Slayer
MAJ Rodriquez (Team Captain)
MAJ Waterhouse
CW3 Hayes
MSG Phoenix

Rifle Team Champion
Aggregate score of all Shooting Team Members for the individual rifle matches and the Rifle Team match.

3rd place team
Wolverines 1
MSG Dickey
SFC Tennant (Team Captain)
SFC McDonald
SFC David

2nd Place Team
643rd Bravo
SFC Affandy
SSG Turull
SPC Cayten
SPC Ellis

1st place team
Slayer
MAJ Rodriquez (Team Captain)
MAJ Waterhouse
CW3 Hayes
MSG Phoenix

Overall Team Champions
Aggregate score of all Shooting Team Members for all matches fired.

3rd place team
2nd BN Knights
SFC Frazier (Team Captain)
SFC Henning
SFC Vardalis
SFC Rodriquez

2nd Place Team:
643rd Bravo
SFC Affandy
SSG Turull
SPC Cayten
SPC Ellis

1st place team
Slayer
MAJ Rodriquez, Daniel (Team Captain)
MAJ Waterhouse
CW3 Hayes
MSG Phoenix

Improving Rifle Qualification: Part 1 Zero

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6 improve zero range

The US Army has utilized the current version of Trainfire since the early 1980s. Even with changes in the new Training Circulars released FY16-17, the basic ideas remain the same. The concept is to teach a Soldier to reliably place hits somewhere on a silhouette a few hundred meters away. The current program concept is sound but the execution is often lacking.

First, let’s look at the prescribed training and qualification program. Soldiers begin with a grouping exercise at 25 meters. Shot location doesn’t matter at first as we’re testing marksmanship ability. The standard was two consecutive groups inside four centimeters (6 Minutes of Angle), the scaled width of a full-size silhouette 300 meters away. The current suggested standard is a single five-round group of 4 MoA in the new bullseye-type zero target. Up to 27 rounds were supposed to be available, allowing for remedial training and practice as needed.

With this accomplished, the Soldier zeroes by adjusting sights to move groups to center, firing groups to confirm and readjust as needed. On the old zero target, a four-centimeter circle subscribed in the silhouette indicates center and at least five rounds out of six from two consecutive groups must land there to be deemed acceptably zeroed. The current zero target has a 4 MoA/2.7cm circle surrounded by a 6 MoA/4cm circle with a one-inch white diamond to indicate center. Eighteen additional rounds were supposed to be available for this.

After success here the Soldier heads to a RETS (Remote Engagement Target System) to shoot “pop up” targets from 50 to 300 meters away that appear singly or in pairs on a time limit. A hit anywhere is supposed to knock it down and earns a point. With 40 total targets exposed the Soldier needs to hit at least 23 to qualify. The current qualification (Modified Barricade) course uses the same range by adds a barricad to shoot around and over in prone, kneeling, and supported standing positions with a timed delay in between each shooting phase.

This is a logical progression but it falls apart in practice. Too often, Soldiers view the preliminary training at 25 meters as something to get through quickly. The 25 meter range is often terribly inefficient. Problem is, the scaled range is the only place Soldiers get any feedback on their shooting. RETS targets are very reliable when properly maintained but may not always be perfectly so. Of course, most times a “bad target” is blamed for misses when a poor zero or bad shooting is the likely cause. Sometimes, a shooter with good slow fire group shooting ability and a solid zero has lackluster qual results due to an initial inability to work at speed; more so now that the entire current Modified Barricade qualification is shot as continuous phases. Even if RETS targets were guaranteed 100% every time we still can’t see where a miss went, much less why, and it costs 40 rounds to realize problems.

It is rare to find units willing to allocate the full amount of ammo authorized on the 25 meter range. Most understand the notion of getting shots inside the circle but undervalue the benefit from confirming a zero or shooting groups in general. This is the only place a Soldier can practice during live fire but grouping and zero is deemed complete when the designated rounds have been expended. If the first target is shredded to ineligibility range personnel will stubbornly refuse a new one. They’ll also refuse an additional three rounds to confirm zero. Even if offered a fresh target and additional ammo Soldiers often refuse it, possibly because they fear what they’ll learn.

Inexperienced personnel running the tower play an annoying game I call “Army Simon Says” except they overuse the phrase “at this time” instead. Even more absurd than the ridiculous amount of lock step commands under the false guise of safety is the incredible amount of time this wastes. Shooters are rushed through their 3-5 shots, instructors (if there even are any) have no time to converse with someone struggling and the line drags in Hokey Pokey fashion down and up range. An experienced coach may want an extra minute to explain something with the target in front of a struggling shooter but this holds the line up for everyone else. No wonder troops want to stumble off to the qual range with a “nearo” and get the ordeal over.

Qualification is a validation, not training. It would be folly to administer a standardized physical fitness test every day in an attempt to improve scores instead of intelligent, progressive overload and is is equally silly to repeat a qualification without remedial training. Increases in skill are only realized when shooters are in a learning environment offering feedback.

How can we improve these procedures to implement better training? The common “solution” is a call for more trigger time. Simply shooting more without having a plan combined with feedback of the effort accomplishes little. Experienced riflemen typically call for training on Known Distance ranges with target carriers and pits as a solution. While an excellent idea, solving the feedback problem and allowing shooting at full distance, the Army has let many of their KD ranges to dilapidate and most units simply don’t know how to conduct such a range.

The emphasis needs to be put back on training, teaching, testing and re-testing fundamentals. Sadly, the Army realized this but has spent the last three decades forgetting lessons already learned. The current program was implemented by 1982 as detailed in FC 23-11, Unit Rifle Marksmanship Training Guide. Trainfire improvements fixed failures known in the Vietnam era. Grouping exercises are to be conducted until the Soldier is proven to shoot well with remedial training offered as needed. Then we zero, which is a separate exercise with an additional ammo allocation. Following this we’re supposed to conduct a validation exercise with a timed and scored exercise. Only when passed is the Soldier finally sent to the RETS range to attempt qualification. In the last thirty years, the Army has eliminated (or ignored) the KD range and all established field firing/validation phases. Soldiers typically are quickly shuffled through an abbreviated group and zero exercise and sent off to the RETS range for qual as quickly as possible. We are devolved back to a failed program from the 1970s.

Fixing Qualification
New Zero Target

In the center is a 4 MOA diamond and dashed circle, surrounded by a 6 MOA (4cm) dashed circle, same size as old zero target. This is surrounded by 8, 12, MOA rings inside a 16 MOA bull (4 inch black circle, which scales the same as B-6 NRA bull at 50 yards.) Around this are 20, 24, 28, 32 MOA circles (5, 6, 7, 8 inches, respectively.) The entire target has 1 MOA grid squares. Soldiers are expected to learn MOA/mils and use as appropriate.

Notice the grid is in an even adjustment of one minute when placed 25 meters downrange, not for any particular sight’s adjustment. No cartoons or pictures show which way to turn the sight for a desired adjustment. The Army’s current doctrine for zeroing procedure demands Soldier understanding of their issue equipment. The Technical Manuals list appropriate offsets as needed. Of course, because the laws of physics haven’t changed, the data in the Small Arms Integration Book is still a valid resource. That will take research on your part.

Fixing Qualification
Efficient Zero Procedure

The failed Army approach is to clear the line for a cease fire after each fired group, with shooters allowed to go down range to check their target. This wastes huge amounts of time. Even the fastest attempts has the line cold for five minutes at a time and most ranges it’s over ten minutes. Shutting down the range for 5-15 minutes after each 60-90 second shooting period is a waste of time. Worse, coaches only have a brief window to work with shooters as nobody can handle weapons during the long, frequent cease fire breaks.

The fix: Break the unit down into buddy teams and put two shooters on each available firing point. Keep the total relays as small as the range will allow. Staple up as many zero targets as will fit on the backers. The more the better. Number them so they can be readily identified. Explain to all shooters that both they and their partner must successfully group, zero, and pass a scored validation exercise before going to the RETS for qualification. This motivates good peer coaching.

The range is conducted in 10-20 minute block times. The line is cleared and personnel go down range only to replace used targets as needed, preferably no more than four times an hour. Shot groups as normal, with peer coaches watching their shooters. Check the target as needed with optics. At 25 meters even cheap compact binoculars can see strikes. A quarter-inch bullet hole is one minute of angle at this distance and can often be seen with naked vision. Using an optic to do the walking instead of stopping the line every 3-5 rounds makes this range efficient. Peer teams can talk as needed or ask for an experienced coach without disrupting anyone else. Practice and dry fire, or letting the peer coach and shooter switch can be done without stopping the line.

When a target has too many holes to discern group location (after every three or four groups or so) the shooter switches to a clean one. Purchased in bulk, paper targets are pennies each. One round of ball ammunition is around $0.27. Trying to conserve targets is false economy!

When the shooter is confident their zero is good, it should be confirmed on a fresh target with no bullet holes. Zero should be also be confirmed with slow and sustained fire groups from unsupported prone, kneeling, and any other useful position based on time and ammunition availability.

This approach improves training while ultimately saving time and ammunition.

Helmut Hein

Helmut’s funeral:

Helmut J. Hein, soldier and friend, left us on 23 March. With his passing, soldiers lost a passionate small arms combat readiness advocate. Funeral information is:
Visitation:
Friday 6 April, from 5:00 to 7:30 PM with Rosary at 7 PM at:
Northside Chapel Funeral Directors & Crematory
12050 Crabapple Road, Roswell, GA,
Funeral Mass:
Saturday 7 April at 10:30 AM at:
St Michael’s Church715 Hardscrabble Rd, Roswell, GA.
Burial will be in the cemetery on the church property after the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Helmut’s name to either La Salette Academyhttp://www.lasalette.net/donate
or St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary
http://stas.org/en/donations
Funeral & Visitation directions & detail are found at:

Obituary for Mr. Helmut J. Hein

Helmut J. Hein, age 65, passed away on 23 March 2018. Helmut was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, the son and brother of immigrants from Germany.

Helmut enlisted in the Army in 1973 and served in Special Forces as a light weapons sergeant in 10th, 7th, and 12th Groups, ultimately attaining the rank of First Sergeant. At the time of his death, Helmut was vice president of Chapter 59, Special Forces Association.

After leaving active duty, Helmut served as a police officer in Cherry Valley, Illinois. He eventually left the police department to work for the Department of the Army in the field of small arms training. Helmut was a tireless advocate for military marksmanship and a staunch supporter of the Army Reserve competitive shooting program. Combining these passions, he made significant and innovative improvements to the Army Reserve Small Arms Training Program.

Helmut was received into the Catholic Church in 1996 and became fully involved in the activities at St. Michael’s in Roswell, Georgia, serving as the chapel coordinator.

Helmut was preceded in death by his father Leo and is survived by his mother Lydia, older brother Walt, wife Linda, sons Collin and John, daughter-in-law Pam, and grandchildren Michael, Ryan, and Katie.

From Mike Campbell:

Helmut J. Hein, soldier and friend, left us on 23 March, due to an auto accident. With his passing, soldiers lost a passionate small arms combat readiness advocate.

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Dry Practice and Drills

#USArmyReserve #WednesdayWisdom @USArmyReserve #WeaponsMastery #WalkthroughWednesday

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5 dry practice and drills

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Vietnam won their first-ever gold medal in ten-meter air pistol with Hoang Xuan Vihn’s victory. He was at a severe disadvantage compared to most of the other competitors because he was very limited in the amount of ammunition available to him prior to the Olympics.

Hoang incorporated a regimen of dry-fire, practicing thousands of repetitions of his shot process, and practiced honest self-assessment of what he was doing. These things are what allowed him to compete at the highest level and win. Dry fire drills work for an Olympic-level competitive shooter. They are more than good enough to work for Soldiers.

Dry fire drills are built around the following Principles: Mindset, Efficiency, Individual Tactics, and Flexibility.

Mindset is the Soldier’s ability to perform the functional tasks of operating the weapon under stress. Mindset is what will make or break your focus on your environment. Efficiency in reference to these drills is being able to use the minimal amount of time and resources to achieve the desired outcome. In other words, producing repeatable results in minimum time. Individual Tactics are done to maximize chances of survival and victory. Examples include choice of cover and standoff from the threat. Flexibility is realizing multiple techniques can be used to achieve the same goal.

The Drills

A dry practice plan is covered in current Army Training Circulars for small arms training. Appendix Delta covers these dry-fire drills.

Having covered principles, what drills should we use? While skilled shooters already have and regularly use useful dry practice drills (that’s how they became skilled) most Soldiers do not. Appendix D of all current small arms Training Circulars lists eleven recommended drills to get started. The A through K Drills are common to all small arms, modified as appropriate for each particular weapon and its intended role and application.

Drills Alpha through Charlie are the basic functional tasks that it takes to operate a weapon. These reinforce that the Soldier is the weapon’s safety.

Drill A the Weapon Check, an accountability check and visual inspection that it’s clear, conducting a functions check, location of the rail, data and zero dope, magazines, and noting all serial numbers. The weapon check is a visual inspection of the weapon by the Soldier, verifying at a minimum that the weapon is clear, serial numbers (weapon and devices) and attachments, Functions Check, and serviceability. This is initiated when first receiving the weapon from the arms room, storage facility, or stacked/grounded location.

Drill B is place weapon in action. With rifles and automatic rifles, this is Sling/Unsling, pistols is Draw/Holster, and crew-served machine guns it is the crew drill of mounting and emplacement. This tests the ability to change the location of the weapon on demand.

Drill C is an equipment check, a pre-combat check that the system is ready for action. This Pre-Combat Check ensures the aiming devices, equipment, and accessories are prepared. This includes any batteries are installed, that everything is secured correctly, that equipment does not interfere with tactical movement, and the basic load of magazines are stowed properly.

This builds in some redundancy from Drill A to ensure everything is ready to go. Note, this requires organizing and repurposing the issue Pogie Bait pouches and MRE holsters, otherwise known as “magazine pouches.” This provides a place to carry those spring-loaded bullet boxes, otherwise known as “magazines.”

Drills D and E are the basic functional tasks for handling the weapon in a combat environment.

Drill D is an ‘administrative’ load, done after Drill C as the weapon is placed into Amber or Red status.

Drill E is the Carry 5/3 which goes through five methods of carry three times. Five carry methods include Hang, Safe hang, Collapsed low ready, Low ready, High ready or Ready up). Moving through these as appropriate for your weapon at least three times show proficiency at basic handling skills.

A leader will announce the appropriate carry term to initiate the drill. Each carry method should be executed in a random order a minimum of three times.

The next drills cover moving into and out of useful positions.

Drill F is Fight Down, moving effectively and efficiently downward into lower firing postures. Starting from the standing position, on command the shooter moves into the next lower position as announced. This typically goes from Standing, Kneeling or Squatting, Sitting, then Prone in order. Variations of each position as appropriate to the weapon and conditions are encouraged.

Start standing. “Kneeling” (move and settle). “Sitting” (move and settle). “Prone” (move and settle.)

Drill G is Fight Up and is the same idea but done moving into higher positions.

Drill H is Go-To-Prone, which is ability to drop from a standing or crouching position to prone. This should also be done from a walk and a forward sprint. Standard time is below two seconds. This is time to drop, not to fire a hit if done with live ammunition or simulator.

The focus needs to be on natural point of aim and wobble zone so the position can be shot from accurately. These drills should not be done for time initially, as the Soldier needs to be able to self-assess their positions. Begin by announcing each position and allowing plenty of time to assume it. As shooters improve, increase the tempo of the drill to assume positions faster. This can be incorporated while walking and rushing. Add variations to the call and use irregular intervals.

Drill I is Reload. Executed from load-bearing equipment, working on quickly and reliably reloading from various positions, such as standing, kneeling, and prone. Soldiers must be encouraged to adjust ammunition pouches to facilitate this. There will be variations between personnel. Uniformity should not be considered, only performance. For machine guns, this also includes a barrel change as appropriate.

The first step is to organize the ammunition pouches and magazines so they can be reached from various positions as done in Drill C. To conduct a reload, sweep from center to the next ammunition pouch.

If a reload is needed and there’s no magazine in the pouch, then sweep until the next available magazine in your load-bearing equipment is found. It’s important to set this up so the reload is efficient. Uniformity among Soldiers should not be considered, only performance.

Drill J is Clear Malfunction. The best approach is doing whatever is required to make the weapon functional. This requires understanding the cycle of function and knowing what to do with it. Overly-simple approaches that previously attempted to avoid learning this have been found to be ineffective. Any reference to a game played with a ball is wrong because no single response can address every possible malfunction type.

The problem with an overly-simple, stepped mechanical fix is that no single procedure or approach can fix every possible cause. The better solution is to understand the cycle of function and then do the simplest, fastest thing possible.

The most common malfunction is a failure to fire and the most common symptom is a tell-tale click when a bang is expected. The fastest means to reduce this problem is the best approach here. Let’s say our shooter here has a failure to fire. He attempts to shoot by applying smooth trigger pressure straight to the rear and gets a click. To reduce this stoppage, the fastest thing is likely to ensure the magazine is seated and run the bolt.

Another form of immediate action is to transition to a secondary weapon.

If immediate action fails and no secondary is available, remedial action is likely best served by clearing the weapon to find the problem. Perform an Unload/Show Clear. This also happens to be Drill K.

Drill K is Unload/Show Clear. This is another ‘administrative’ drill, but important. The Soldier needs the instilled habit of making their weapon safe and clear, both to an instructor and for their own situational awareness.

These drills only work if they’re done regularly. It’s recommended that active duty and mobilized personnel should be doing these at least once a week. That won’t be enough for a high level of skill but it will create solid familiarity. Done dry or with a simulator, they cost nothing and can be done right outside of the arms room, or at home with personally-owned firearms. As with the APFT, a 300 is not possible without on-going work. The same goes for weapons mastery.

Improving Marksmanship Programs

Words of wisdom from John Tate

  1. Get competition instilled at the unit level – then post level, etc. I put this first – because it is the most important factor. Getting leadership interested in crucial. Get awards and/or commendations for commanding officers of small units when their people shoot well. If the brass appears to care about something, their minions will too.
  2. Instill competition. Just like PT should be, consider every qual session to be competitive. Post scored and give some sort of prize/praise to the top shooters. Castigate those at the bottom.
  3. Promote self-training. Use on-duty time to show proper techniques (especially dry fire techniques), and have troops practice on their own time. Don’t soldiers work on PT on their own time? Also, don’t you still own boots 24/7? In my day (1960s, 1/2 a century ago) not only boots, but regulars were yours 24/7.
  4. Publish the comparative costs of shooting against other activities that require consumables … like jet fuel for aircraft, guided missiles, projectiles for armor and artillery. I think you can make the case that small arms ammo is cheap. And, if you can copy some of the laser simulation systems, you don’t even need ammo, no worry about lead poison, and no worry about negligent discharges.
  5. Consider a practice from WWI through the VietNam era: Use .22 LR and airguns.
  6. Use reduced size ranges & targets. For rifle, long ranges are hard to use. They take up lots of space and preparation/mainatenance. They require target pullers. They require time just walking back and forth from line to pits. Consider reduced range work. Putting bullets in the same hole at 1,000 inches equates to holding the 10-ring at 600 yds.

Hang Tough – Keep the Faith – Watch your 6.