Over the years, the Marine Corps have changed standards that meet a growing need to help with future mission critical tasks. One such task is the Weapons (Rifle) Qualifications Course. These have continued to evolve over the past decade and the current standards are the following:
At Parris Island, young Marines will pick up a rifle and learn to be a rifleman. Some will be taking a lifetime of hunting and shooting guns into the test and many will pick up their first weapon ever. Here, the Marine Corps recruits are tested on their marksmanship and can earn one of three levels of expertise:
- “Marksmen” is the lowest score obtained, with a scoring range of 250-279
- “Sharpshooter” is obtained with a combined score falling between 280-304
- “Expert” is obtained with a combined score falling between 305-350
Military technology and training must seek new and unique avenues of approach in their teachings as the face of modern warfare continues to evolve
The Marine Corps will follow this ideal by introducing two changes to the rifle qualification Marines are required to complete annually, making the program tougher, longer and more rewarding.
The Marine Corps is still working to create an even broader and more diverse marksmanship program.
“The new course is taking the basic combat shooting skills and now offering the type of target engagements Marines would most likely use in a combat situation such as a long range ambush.
The scenario of the shooting skills starts with a Marine on foot patrol:
Instead of Marines staying stationary while shooting, they are required to start at the standing position and quickly get into the kneeling or prone position need to find cover from incoming rounds and start acquiring targets as they appear.
Moving forward to engage the enemy: Marines begin qualifying at the 500-yard line then advance towards the 100-yard line.
Testing situational awareness: New targets show both friendly and enemy forces and Marines must maintain awareness of the targets to determine when to shoot forcing them to make combat decisions.
This half of the marksmanship program focuses more on teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat-related environment, which Carrillo, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, said helps in real life scenarios.
“There are several situations this will come in handy,” said Carrillo. “When I was in Afghanistan there were several times we would get ambushed or we would respond to fires across the valley and a lot of those times the enemy wasn’t close. We had to move closer to the enemy and maneuver against them.”
The modification to table two allows Marines to experience the different types of ranges they may see in combat.
“The good thing about table two is it presents Marines with different ranges,” said Carrillo. “You have the long ranges, which I experienced in Afghanistan; and you have the short ranges, which I experienced in Iraq.”
The first change is the scoring system, which has been completely revamped. Rather than go by the current “hit or miss” approach, which awards Marines one point for hitting the black of the target and zero for missing, the Corps has adopted the same point system that Marine Corps entry-level recruits go by.
Tougher Grading Scale
The new course of fire, which will take up the last two days of firing, tests the accuracy and dexterity of Marines by having them fire short, controlled bursts in time limits ranging from three to eight seconds.
The most intimidating part of the new course of fire may be the requirements for passing.
“If a Marine shoots a high expert on Wednesday but fails the basic combat shooting portion of the qualification on Friday, then that Marine is not qualified,” said Garcia.
Once the Marine passes the basic combat shooting portion, he or she will only qualify as a marksman rather than an expert, said Garcia.
There are four tables that are used in the new marksmanship program.
Table one is fundamental marksmanship, which has Marines practicing using iron sights on the known-distance range.
Table two includes three hours of classroom training, followed by practical application drills.
Table three includes two to three days of classroom and live-fire training in close combat shooting.
All basic Marines will be required to pass tables one through three in order to qualify.
Table four, which is the advanced course, will be a requirement for all infantry Marines.
The table has the Marines firing more than 500 rounds and requires more classroom training.
Obviously over a decade of continuous combat action has led to a smarter and combat experienced Marine Corps. Gone are the days of shooting at the range and not break a sweat or having to think about anything but hitting a black dot with a bullet. Now, the four tables address all types of combat situations and prepare the Marine better for his or her first deployment into combat zones.
“I really like the new changes to the rifle qualification because it places Marines in a more realistic situation and it’s much more combat oriented,” said Staff Sgt. James D. Groves, the Camp Horno range staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
“Fundamental marksmanship training will be more challenging because we have increased the standards and we are giving Marines one less day to qualify,” said Garcia.
The new changes for rifle qualification aim to provide Marines with the necessary skills to combat enemy threats in every situation.