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Proposed US Army Rifle Qualification Course of Fire and Standard Changes

Circle Dog Productions has released this unofficial look at the proposed changes to the Army rifle qualification. It is a challenging course of fire. Don’t be caught unaware. This may take effect as early as this summer.

26 Responses to “Proposed US Army Rifle Qualification Course of Fire and Standard Changes”

  1. J says:

    Looks like some of the targets and format from the 1980s we were shooting for M16A1 rifle qualification at timed targets, except for the multiple timed targets at ranges greater than 100 meters and different positions. It looks pretty similar. We did all of rifle qualifications from the fox hole thou. I did not see any moving targets that we later had towards the mid to late 1980’s at 50m range that was used on the electronic range for M16A2 rifle qualification at Ft. Benning, GA. It will be interesting.

  2. Mike Lewis says:

    There have been no movers in the US Army record qual since the 1949 course of fire. That was done away with in the 50s. This course of fire is a big improvement over those of at least the last 50 years. Hopefully the trend of better training and capabilities through skill development will continue.

    • SpankDaddyCool says:

      The moving target range we shot on Benning in 97 was excellent.

  3. Kirk says:

    I keep hoping they’ll quit doing these things on ranges that have set targets for each distance, but that’s probably a lost cause.

    You get into what the real issue is, in terms of “Why can’t PFC Smith hit the enemy with his fires…?”, and what you’re going to find is that his marksmanship skills aren’t necessarily the longest pole in the tent–Instead, it’s spotting the enemy. When we take these guys out on qual ranges where every single target presentation has a berm in front of it, and that berm is marked up like it’s a superhighway leading to where the damn target is going to pop up…? Oh, yeah… That’s an ideal way to train and test PFC Smith’s ability to engage the enemy effectively. News flash for the brass: The guys we’re fighting? They don’t have berms in front of them, and those berms don’t have a beaten trail leading to where they’re gonna pop up at.

    I completely grasp that we’re limited by what we can afford for training, but could we at least have target lanes with a couple of different targets at each range, and a randomization process in the target lifter program?

    Fixing this issue is something we should have done a long damn time ago; the other aspect is that we badly need to start including actual movement and random target selection in a lane-style qualification. The unfortunate fact is that most units and commanders are going to train to the minimum standard, and when that minimum doesn’t reflect the reality of combat for the shooter…? Yeah; that’s why PFC Smith can’t hit shit when his convoy gets ambushed. He’s looking for that berm, and the trail of churned-up soil leading to where the enemy is going to show himself, even if that’s only subconscious.

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      You’re confusing a marksmanship test with engaging the enemy effectively. This test doesn’t measure near hits which can also be called suppression. It doesn’t measure rate of fire, another component of suppression and suppression is part of engaging the enemy effectively.

      While I wholeheartedly agree with your desire this is where unit leadership comes to play. Combat arms units should shoot more than just qualification. They should conduct numerous live fire exercises and GRADE them. That’s the appropriate venue to work on ID’ing realistic targets.

      The marksmanship test is a vehicle for the Army to assess how well its units, ALL of its units are trained, 800k+ soldiers. It’s also an opportunity to provide individual feedback.

      We can be our worst enemy sometimes by adding to the requirement. As it stands this looks like one of the most if not THE most challenging basic marksmanship qualifying course of any service.

      • Kirk says:

        Will, the problem is this: You only get the results that the lowest common denominator (literally…) shoots for. If the qual range and STRAC standards don’t accurately reflect what PFC Smith is going to have to do in combat, then that inherent dishonesty is going to be reflected in the results. Sure, the commanders out there should do better, but with all the competing requirements we have…?

        This is actually how things like the 507th Maintenance Company crept up on us. The standards used to evaluate the soldiers and leadership of that company did not accurately reflect what those soldiers and leaders would have to do in combat, and they trained themselves to meet the low standards which were enforced. Hell, a lot of those poor bastards didn’t even know what they didn’t know–And, that was due to the piss-poor training standards and budget triage that the Army did with those guys. We never, ever sent Corps-level slice elements with the divisions to the NTC, and that had two effects: One, the slice units like 507th never actually saw for themselves how poorly trained they were, and, probably more important–The divisions they’d be attached to never saw with their own eyes the state of training those slice elements actually possessed. And, as such… They never realized they needed to do a better job of wrapping their arms around those elements, thinking that they were just as well-trained as any of the Division-level support outfits.

        If your marksmanship standards don’t reflect the reality of what a soldier needs to do in combat, then the result is going to be the same set of problems–PFC Smith and 2LT Jones are going to think their skills are just fine, right up until they’re out in the real world trying to defend their FOB and make the sudden unpleasant realization that enemy combatants aren’t like the pop-up targets at home station.

        You want troops that are effective in combat, then your training needs to reflect the reality of what they need to do for you in order to be effective. For line infantry outfits, separating marksmanship out from other combat skills like observing and identifying the enemy may make sense–They’ll get the “observe” part somewhere else. The guys for whom the qual range is the only real “combat-style” training they get in a given year…? Different story, and one I think needs to be addressed by making the qual standards a bit more realistic. I mean, seriously–when you can clearly see about where every pop-up is going to come up, how much of a test of combat skills is that?

        • Will Rodriguez says:

          Again, I don’t disagree but the fix for the problems you discuss is not at the marksmanship qualification range.

          The 507th’s problems FAR exceeded marksmanship. The CO had the wrong route marked on his map and was the lead vehicle. The unit failed to respond to slow moving vehicles observing them even when one of the vehicles had a medium machine gun mounted in the bed. Numerous personal weapons and event the .50 cal malfunctioned symptomatic of poor weapons maintenance. Individual soldiers engaged the enemy, some with great accuracy and effectiveness but from buddy team to squad there was little to no collective unit expertise demonstrated.

          None of these issues but maybe maintenance as party of PMI are addressed on an individual marksmanship range. Target ID was also not the center of gravity for failure in this example.

          Again, while I absolutely concur that standards should be higher and more expected/trained, I don’t believe that happens on the qualification we expect every soldier to execute. Target ID isn’t what’s being tested/measured on the qual range just like roadmarching isn’t being tested on the PT test.

          Marksmanship was not the issue for the 507th’s failure.

  4. Will Rodriguez says:

    Well done. Hope this becomes the standard.

    As is this looks like one of the most if not THE most challenging basic marksmanship qualifying course of any service.

  5. Duncan says:

    Standardized testing doesn’t train anybody on anything. When the hell is the military going to learn that? Do you expect a kid to learn proper math and English by simply taking the SAT’s? Heck no. A test should be taken at the culmination, the end, of a vast and effective training program covering all facets of the topic. Its not training, its the test of what training was supposed to achieve. Its a metric for commanders to have a basic understanding of where their unit is at with their marksmanship program. The problem is most of the Army the only time they ever shoot is to take a test, which is why they stink at shooting.

    Drop the emphasis on altering tests while expecting a rise in qualifications, it wont happen, its the epitome of stupid. Empower the units again with leaders who take marksmanship seriously, quality trainers (to include going civilian contractors if that is the only roue to success), give the units the time, resources, ammo budgets, and funding for proper realistic training, and for God’s sake, stop micromanaging them.

    • Trent says:

      This is the biggest nugget on knowledge on the interwebs right now.
      Duncan, nailing it.

      • Ash Hess says:

        Soon there will be a new training path that this qualification will validate. TC 3-20.4 will be publishing soon that lays out the small arms portion of the Integrated Weapons Training Strategy.
        All Soldiers will be required to pass a test at the end of PMI(table 1) spend 6 hours in the simulator(Table 2) Dryfire (3) Zero(4) Practice(5) and finally Qual (table 6)
        This video is focused on Table 6.
        This means commanders and leaders will have to do the training or pencil whip it. We made this qual hard enought that if you dont do the training, you will fail.

        • Duncan says:

          Well, that at least sounds positive.

          But what are your thoughts on the old adage of “Don’t train to pass a test”?

          As an example, it was common with the APFT, units create a PT program designed largely for their units to score well on it, instead of focusing on overall physical fitness, agility, relating to job performance. An example would be infantry units preparing for Afghanistan deployment skimp on weighted conditioning hikes to focus too much, or nearly entirely on long distance running in sneakers. Why? Simple, because the commanders fear what happens if their companies suddenly get poorer grades on the run portion of a standardized test that is only supposed to judge the overall fitness level. To put this in perspective, an APFT is not needed to be in shape, they didn’t even really exist until after WW2, the US fought two massive world wars, involving over ten million Soldiers, and did it without any standardized Army wide physical fitness test. When the test was developed, it didn’t make the Army better conditioned, it just made it easier to quantify a unit’s abilities in a short report, which isn’t really a good way of judging combat performance.

          If the Army’s marksmanship program is still tied to scoring well in a single standardized test, which isn’t really all that realistic to begin with, largely for the benefit of commanders to get good grading on their evaluations which state x amount of their companies qualified or shot expert, how is that improving the Army’s combat abilities in a meaningful way translating to success in terms of face shooting bad guys in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, heavens, North Korea?

          All leaders in the military should educate themselves in the sociological debate over standardized testing, especially as it relates in our K-12 educational system, which gives far reaching insight into this problem.

          • Ash Hess says:

            There is no way to get away from it. All we can do is make sure they train on the things they do need when it comes time to stake bodies. Thats the failure point currently.
            As to most of your concerns that is a Leadership failure not a marksmanship failure. In fact, you can attribute most of the Army’s failure directly to leadership focus and understanding. I didn’t work on that area just marksmanship.

            This is a start not an end

            • Duncan says:

              I applaud your efforts to fix the problem from the point you can control, but the problem wasn’t that they were being trained improperly, using wrong or outdated technique. Its that they weren’t being trained at all.

              Go look at what is happening with the American school system. Is a harder standardized test how to fix inner kids who can’t pass the easier one? Hell no. The problem is systemic, it cannot be fixed by those who design the tests, because the problem has nothing to do with the test, it has to do with all the problems that happen before they are tested.

              At best the promoters of this new qual are hoping that the harder test will make units train harder. Bravo, good intentions, but its a band aid for a sucking chest wound. Its not addressing the real problem, which is units weren’t even allowed to train hard enough to succeed even with the easier marksmanship standardized test.

              If anyone truly wants to solve this problem, get to the root of it, they’d have to be at the upper levels of the Army and have the control and desire to reform it. To ask themselves tough questions. In the first place, why can’t US Army units, to include non-combat arms, and non-active duty, qualify to standard on the older and easier standardized test?

              If the test was flawed and that was why the scores were terrible, then fixing the test makes sense. But that isn’t the case. The test is easy, and yet every year the Army as a whole is doing worse trying to pass it, let alone shoot expert. Because the problem is deeper then a test.

              It was because the commander’s either don’t give a crap (an systemic institutional problem that can’t be addressed without a major reshuffling) or because even if they do they can’t do anything about it because they don’t have the time, resources to train and practice. Because they are spent doing other things, or because they lack resources (ammo budgets, opportunities to visit properly set up ranges to practice), and because they lack a knowledgeable officer and NCO corps or a force on proper technique, a real instructor corps, etc). None of that gets solved by rewriting manuals or changing the test. It gets changed by an institutional reform of the whole organization, top to bottom.

              There is no marksmanship problem, it is and always had been nothing more than a leadership problem.

              • Ash Hess says:

                We are not hoping they are training harder.
                Like I said there are now things they have to do, or sell their integrity for.
                You are correct in that it is a leadership failure. So we had to do things to force them to either train or sell out. The test is then hard enough to identify who sold out.
                but the book and test had to change so that literally by the doctrine nobody knows shit about Army marksmanship. All the leaders have to open the book at least once or look like idiots in front of their Soldiers who have.
                Since I am out now, i am campaigning to get the books in front of all the young Soldiers so that happens very soon.
                Will it change anything, probably not, but it will be happening.
                So we are getting to the leaders and the Soldiers and maybe, juuuuust maybe, some good comes from it.

                • Duncan says:

                  Is it possible to get civilian contractors, even retired mil, to run the marksmanship program? Rangers, Group, CAG, they all hire civilians to train them. Can’t Big Army do that too?

                  • Ash Hess says:

                    Not a chance.
                    The Marksmanship Master Training Course is the first in a long line of answers to the issues.

                    We looked at that sort of thing and even Regiment runs their own program.

                    Having met many of the other CIV trainers out there i wouldnt wish that on any Soldier. And they guys I would recommend don’t have that kind of time

  6. Mark M says:

    Is the magazine intended to be off the ground in prone unsupported or can soldiers use it as a monopod?

  7. Matt says:

    What happens if anyone experiences a malfunction? They won’t have enough rounds to complete the test…

    • Kirk says:

      Uhmmm… That’s pretty much the way it has always worked… You get 40 rounds, and 40 target exposures. Malfunctions and mis-feeds are on you, and if you can’t clear them or the weapon is damaged/broken, you may get another chance at qual, supposing there’s enough ammo.

      The ammo allocations were so tight back in the late ’90s that a lot of us senior guys wound up not qualifying on anything besides paper–The junior leaders and troops needed the ammo more, to get their promotion points. There was one 3-year stretch there where I didn’t fire a government-issue weapon with live ammo at all, and all of my shooting was done on my spare time, on my dime, and with my own weapon/ammo… There just wasn’t enough to spare in our allocations. Hell, for one year, if PFC Smith didn’t zero with nine rounds, the poor bastard wasn’t going to be able to even do qualification, that’s how tight it was. Being able to glom onto the SOCOM ammo budget, and bum ammo off of Group was about the only way we were able to get a bunch of our guys qualified…

      • Duncan says:

        Whomever trying to reform marksmanship needs to read things like this.

      • Ash Hess says:

        Ammo allocation is laid out very plainly. FORSCOM IG did an inspection a few years ago working on the break down of how at Division level and higher every Solider has 300 rounds a year yet a Soldier at the platoon level gets 49. I dont know ow that landed but its being worked.

        And i was the guy reforming Army marksmanship until December when I retired

        • Duncan says:

          300 rounds a year? I think Civil War soldiers got about that amount. LOL

          • Ash Hess says:

            Thats just for qualification.

            This year there are 405 million rounds to use for the force. Annually we use about 50% of that.


    • Ash Hess says:

      for a legitimate malfuction that requires the armorer, then alibis will be granted