Marine Corps Toughens Rifle Qualification

Marine Rifle Qualification
A Marine aims in during the new course of fire on Edson Range aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. The new course provides an increased emphasis on combat marksmanship. Official USMC Photo

by Lance Cpl. Alec Kleinsmith

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CA -- Military technology and training must seek new and unique avenues of approach in their teachings as the face of modern warfare continues to evolve

Beginning Oct. 1, 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.

Though the program is an improvement, it’s only temporary.

The Marine Corps is still working to create an even broader and more diverse marksmanship program.

“The new course is an interim program, but the Marine Corps is headed in the right direction, and the basic combat shooting skills offers the type of target engagements Marines would most likely use in a hostile environment,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Leonard S. Garcia, the officer-in-charge for the marksmanship training branch.

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.

Instead of the current maximum of 65 points, the new scoring system allows for a maximum score of 250.

To qualify as marksman, Marines will need to score between a 190 to 209, a 210 to 219 for sharpshooter and an expert needs 220 or more.

In addition to the new scoring system, Marines will be required to complete an alternate course of fire that more closely resembles a combat-oriented environment.

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.

While the new course doesn’t supply Marines with a completely accurate combat situation, it is a vast improvement from the standard rifle qualification, which allows Marines the luxury to take their time and execute proper firing fundamentals in a relatively stress-free environment.

One of the other aspects of the new program may not be a welcome addition to some Marines.

Marines who shoot expert for two consecutive years don’t have to go back to the range, but with the new changes that exemption will be more difficult to attain.

For instance, if a Marine shoots a low expert score of 220, the Marine’s commander has more authority to order the Marine out to the range again.

The new additions seem to be garnering positive attention from many Marines, including range officials.

“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.

Once implemented, the new changes for rifle qualification will aim to provide Marines with the necessary skills to combat enemy threats in every clime and place.