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Army's New Marksmanship Qualification Test Ramps Up Difficulty

1 Apr 2019
Military.com | By Matthew Cox

The Army is about to release its new training strategy for a challenging marksmanship qualification standard that all soldiers will have to use to qualify annually with their M16 rifles and M4 carbines.

The new course will replace current, Cold War-era marksmanship qualification course with one that requires soldiers to engage targets faster and to operate as they would during an enemy engagement.

In the current qualification course, soldiers take many instructions from the range tower, such as when to change magazines and firing positions.

"What has changed specifically is, soldiers will change their magazines on their own ... in the past it was kind of an administrative thing," Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning's Infantry School, told Military.com.

"They change positions on their own. ... We incorporated the use of cover and or external support to drive home that tactical mindset of, don't be in the open when you have available cover around you, and incorporate things around you to stabilize your shot."

The new, four-phase course also adds standing firing positions, Rowland said.

"Phase Number One is a react to contact, meaning they are going to start standing and the first engagement will present itself, and they will engage that from the standing unsupported position," Rowland said. "Then they will drop to the prone supported position."

Soldiers will then to go an unsupported prone position for Phase Two. Phase Three has soldiers engaging targets from the kneeling supported position.

Soldiers will then return to a supported standing position for phase four of the course, Rowland said.

"There will be sandbags out there like always ... and the common thing is going to be a barricade for the kneeling supported and the standing supported positions," Rowland said.

All of the information about the new course of fire will be in the new manual, TC 3-20.40 "Training and Qualification Individual Weapons." It's awaiting final approval at the Infantry Center, so it can be published and sent out to the active Army and National Guard and Reserve components, Rowland said.

Training officials at Benning said that there is no deadline for the Army to begin using the new marksmanship qualification standard. Unit commanders will have a year to provide Benning with feedback on any challenges they have with putting the new standard into operation on their home-station ranges.

The new course of fire will force soldiers to engage multiple targets at a time compared to the current qualification course that has a lot of single-engagement target exposures, Rowland said.

"The updated qualification has quite a few triple-engagement exposures, some quadruple-engagement exposures and a lot of doubles," he said. "This is to reinforce situational awareness, critical thinking and problem solving.

"It also saves time; the old qualification took about 20 minutes; this one takes like four minutes to execute."

As with the current system, the minimum score to pass in the new qualification is 23 hits out of 40. Soldiers must hit 23 to 29 targets for a Marksman rating, 30 to 35 for Sharpshooter and 36 to 40 for Expert, Rowland.

There are new requirements, however, for achieving Sharpshooter and Expert rating.

"In the past, soldiers did not have to engage, let alone hit, a 300-meter target to get an Expert rating," Rowland said. "Now there are five exposures of 300-meter targets, so in order for a soldier to get an Expert rating, they must hit at least one 300-meter target. ... To get Sharpshooter, a soldier must hit at least one target that's 250 meters or beyond."

Army training officials have spent the last two years refining the new course of fire, visiting units around the service to have soldiers run through it.

Soldiers from the Wyoming Army National Guard's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment (Forward) were the first to try out the new test at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center in early March, according to recent Army news release.

The unit qualified using the Army's current qualification standard and then got a chance to try out the new course of fire, without any train-up on the new standard.

Sgt. Sol Griffith, a fire team leader with the Afton-based infantry company, demonstrated the new test for the rest of the unit.

"Now you have three or four targets up at the same time, and you have to transition between them very thoughtfully," Griffith said in the release. "It's not like it was with someone yelling what target is coming up."

Griffin, who normally scores 40 out of 40 on the current standard, hit 22 out of 40 targets while demonstrating the new, course of fire, according to the release.

About half of the soldiers in the unit met the minimum standard of 23 out of 40 hits, and 32 was the highest score on the new course of fire.

Marksmanship officials said the new manual will provide units with what they need to be successful on the updated standard. The training strategy for the new qualification course is broken down into six tables in TC 3-20.40:

Table 1: Preliminary marksmanship instruction and evaluation

Table 2: Pre-live fire simulation training

Table 3: Drills such as magazine changes and going to the prone position

Table 4: Basic grouping and zeroing

Table 5: Practice qualification

Table 6: Qualification

"It's no different from what successful units have been doing for years," Rowland said. "It's just laid out in a manner that units don't have to think about what they need to do to be successful. It's right there in the book ... which is a huge improvement for the past, where standards and training resourcing and what not were largely disjointed or nonexistent."

The new publication also requires units to perform the first three training tables before they go the live-fire tables, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.

"It creates the reps and sets that we need amongst the force when it comes to increasing lethality," she said. "The biggest challenge that we see is change; accepting change. We are doing something different in their minds."
 
Posts: 13861 | Location: Eastern Iowa | Registered: May 21, 2000Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Well it sure couldn't get any easier. They eliminated the 25 meter reduced paper qual which should be a swift kick in the butt for units that were just squeaking by.


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Posts: 6214 | Location: Newyorkistan | Registered: March 28, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I predict a whole lot fewer Expert badges. Then you'll hear the complaints about that, and they'll return to something easier.

The day that the first O5 or O6+ fails to qualify, this will go away. Or, his aide will just report that he hit 40/40.


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Posts: 16315 | Location: Montana | Registered: November 01, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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From really easy to easy.


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I like it.

I was in the Army 91-95 and during that time our ranges were very predictable, very static. You didn't do a thing until instructed to, like the article mentioned.

Then I had a couple chances to go to German Bundeswehr ranges and it was an eye opener. MUCH more realistic and not rote like ours were.

The best one was the live fire with the G-3 rifle in northern Germany, on bluffs overlooking the Baltic Sea. Walking and shooting, running and shooting, getting down and shooting, getting back up to move, then shoot. It was awesome.


 
Posts: 25082 | Location: Pennsylvania | Registered: November 12, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Good change and I bet there will be very few to hit 40/40, especially in the beginning. Also low to no cost, just program in the new course of fire.

As far as the 05/06 comment Roll Eyes, they (we) are mostly issued pistols. I can out-shoot and out PT almost all my soldiers and NCOs anyway, I get that I'm an outlier, but offhand I haven't heard of field grade officers having issues qualifying (unless they are in units/branches where everyone has trouble qualifying!)




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Posts: 4377 | Location: Oregon | Registered: October 02, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Strambo:
As far as the 05/06 comment Roll Eyes, they (we) are mostly issued pistols. I can out-shoot and out PT almost all my soldiers and NCOs anyway, I get that I'm an outlier, but offhand I haven't heard of field grade officers having issues qualifying (unless they are in units/branches where everyone has trouble qualifying!)

I used to be the medic on the range when they "qualified". I was there at least once a month for a few years. I saw it happen more often than not. They couldn't hit a fat lady in the ass with a mop, yet they all wore "Expert" badges. Go figure.


________________________________________________________

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy." Winston Churchill
 
Posts: 16315 | Location: Montana | Registered: November 01, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Not that I'm one to come running to the defense of a bunch of field grade officers, but I've seen it done plenty of times with higher-level NCOs too.

I watched an E9 who sucked so bad that he only qualified by having a soldier in a position on each side "assisting." In basic, some of the Drills had to qualify while we were in the bleachers. One E7 went through four FULL mags to get his 40/40. So yea, it happens with more than just the high O's.



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quote:
Originally posted by Gustofer:
I used to be the medic on the range when they "qualified". I was there at least once a month for a few years. I saw it happen more often than not. They couldn't hit a fat lady in the ass with a mop, yet they all wore "Expert" badges. Go figure.


This is comical on so many different levels because Army officers don't wear weapon qualification badges.


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Posts: 6214 | Location: Newyorkistan | Registered: March 28, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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C'mon now. I think both Enlisted and Field Grade Officers can agree that it's General Officers who truly can't shoot for shit. Big Grin

 
Posts: 22978 | Location: Northwest Arkansas | Registered: January 06, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by SgtGold:
quote:
Originally posted by Gustofer:
I used to be the medic on the range when they "qualified". I was there at least once a month for a few years. I saw it happen more often than not. They couldn't hit a fat lady in the ass with a mop, yet they all wore "Expert" badges. Go figure.


This is comical on so many different levels because Army officers don't wear weapon qualification badges.


Heh, yeah. It ain't our job to shoot, we can't wear marksmanship badges, nowhere in our records is how we qualify reflected and nobody cares.

When I started out in the Ranger Regt. it was the opposite. All Rangers (enlisted) are "experts" and wear the expert marksmanship badge...no matter what the last qual score sheet says. Wink

In defense of anyone in the Army who can't shoot a pistol...in my over 20 years, first being issued an M9 in 1994 and off and on again including 2 combat tours, guess how much pistol marksmanship training I have received?


None... zip, zero. Once, an NCO blathered on for awhile about the physical characteristics of the M9 and considered that training.

I've been tossed on the M9 qual range plenty of times with zero training though. As an instructor myself, I always did what I could to at least give those around me at least a down and dirty grip and dry-fire lesson if I couldn't do more.




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The world's a dangerous place, we can help! http://portlandfirearmtraining.com/
 
Posts: 4377 | Location: Oregon | Registered: October 02, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I guess we had it good in the Navy, most of our sailors never even got to shoot a pistol, much less anything beyond whatever they might have done in Basic training.

Most of our pilots / aircrew weren't gun people and the MAs that gave us the pistol qual spent more time on cop procedures like the 'interview position' and drawing - of course they were familiar with the M9 and we were using the SIG M11, so it was even funnier that they didn't understand the pistol very well.

I'm sure our Gunner helped people qualify at least marksman, otherwise you couldn't deploy. Besides as an aircrew, if you are shooting at people and can't hit anyone, the only person that suffers is you since you'll be alone on the ground.

A couple of us were gun guys and the last deployment was so long we had to qualify underway off one of the carrier elevators. I scored a 'perfect score' even though I am certain I tossed one over the target by aggressively prepping the trigger on a follow up shot, but they couldn't tell because I had sent multiple rounds through the fist sized ragged hole in the middle of the target.

And yeah, officers suck but it's a price worth paying when you get paid 2-3x more money. Wink
 
Posts: 42600 | Registered: July 12, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by SgtGold:
quote:
Originally posted by Gustofer:
I used to be the medic on the range when they "qualified". I was there at least once a month for a few years. I saw it happen more often than not. They couldn't hit a fat lady in the ass with a mop, yet they all wore "Expert" badges. Go figure.


This is comical on so many different levels because Army officers don't wear weapon qualification badges.

You are correct that it was comical...and sad at the same time.

Regarding officers wearing badges, generally you are correct. However, there is/was nothing in 670-1 prohibiting it, and I can assure you that on Ft. Drum, at the time, many did wear them. Drum was an interesting place 30 years ago when it was just starting to spool up. Everyone was trying to find a place for themselves and trying to make themselves look good, and get into a good position, however they could. Fruit salad was one way to do that.

Me? Well, I just kept my head down as best I could. In fact, my first 4-5 months on post I went fishing just about every day as I had no assignment. I didn't answer to anyone. The gal at S-1 told us to just check in once a week or so and that they'd find a place for us eventually. Roll Eyes

And yes, I did spend a lot of time on the range. In fact, I volunteered for that duty. The reason being, when those jokers came out to "qualify", a lot of them would fire one mag and call it good...whether they hit anything or not. That left a whole bunch of unfired ammo that needed to be used up, and we did use it up. We'd set the pop-up targets on "random" and have a blast all afternoon.

Apparently your experience in the Army was far different than mine SgtGold. Good for you.


________________________________________________________

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy." Winston Churchill
 
Posts: 16315 | Location: Montana | Registered: November 01, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Gustofer:


Me? Well, I just kept my head down as best I could. In fact, my first 4-5 months on post I went fishing just about every day as I had no assignment. I didn't answer to anyone. The gal at S-1 told us to just check in once a week or so and that they'd find a place for us eventually. Roll Eyes



wow that's crazy

I got stuck in an S3 shop for about a month waiting for a platoon to open up - 4+ months is bonkers

i was almost going crazy at the the end of a month as a motivated young LT

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I guess we had it good in the Navy, most of our sailors never even got to shoot a pistol, much less anything beyond whatever they might have done in Basic training.


This made me chuckle 57 years later,they did not trust us with small arms.
Hell in boot I got to fire three clips in an M-1 and was qualified,hell the whole company was qualified.We were marched to sandbagged rifles,put behind the rifles with a Marine behind us to I guess make sure we did not go all postal.
Ship board the only small arms were on the Marines in officers country.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by SgtGold:
Army officers don't wear weapon qualification badges.


Some of us did. I wore mine as a reminder that being a soldier was about proficiency with weapons. It was unusual, though, probably because most officers avoided qualifying with any weapon, and if they did, they didn’t qualify as expert. But being unusual in more than one way was probably why I was never appointed as Warrant Officer of the Army.
(Yes, I’m fully aware there was no such thing—which may have been the other reason. Wink )




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Posts: 39825 | Location: 10,150 Feet Above Sea Level in Colorado | Registered: April 04, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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They ought to get away from that 25 yard paper zero. That puts you way high at all the intermediate ranges. 50 yard zero brings you back flat at 200. Ever notice ow many soldiers shoot over the top of the 50 and 100m targets?

+
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Abn556:
They ought to get away from that 25 yard paper zero. That puts you way high at all the intermediate ranges. 50 yard zero brings you back flat at 200. Ever notice ow many soldiers shoot over the top of the 50 and 100m targets?

+


I need to crack the reg again but unless it's changed, the idea is a 25m/300m zero.

Which is probably dumb, since the 300m targets are frequently...um...engaged without result.

ETA, forgot to RTFQ. The revision to the pistol TC was, IIRC, thorough and solid. We'll see what gets put in the newest TC that this article references.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Rob Decker,


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Posts: 5313 | Registered: May 11, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The 25m\300m zero is what the Army specs out in it's regs. If you hold center mass on the 150m and under targets, you shoot high. At 150m a center mass hold gives you a hit at shoulder height. The problem is exacerbated with the M4. To get the same 25m\300m POA\POI you need more mid range elevation because of the shorter barrel and loss of velocity. The result is usually high shots out to 150m, and lots of misses due to lack of training.


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Posts: 6214 | Location: Newyorkistan | Registered: March 28, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The Army doing something dumb with the zero? No way.
 
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