Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune took to Bravo range at Stone Bay to test fire what is possibly the most drastic change to the annual rifle qualification in nearly a century.
The new shooting qualification, projected to be implemented across the Corps by 2021, is shorter, more realistic and geared toward increasing the combat effectiveness of Marines during operations.
“It’s a more combat style and combat situation shooting,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Brown, Weapons Training Battalion Gunner, Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune. “There was an assessment done, and we realized that the current method of rifle training and rifle qualification was not adequate to meet what the needs were on the battlefield for lethality from the Marine.”
During the new course of fire, shooters will wear combat gear to include Kevlar helmet and flak, while shooting their assigned weapon, whether it be M4, M16 or the M27. The new course of fire starts at the 500 yard line and shooters work their way forward to the 15 yard line, shooting at the same target the entire course of fire. Marines will no longer shoot at “Able” or “Dog” targets, only an exposed enemy target. Marines will also be authorized to use a supported prone position, utilizing their gear to support the rifle during the course of fire.
“There have been quite a few significant amount of changes; the sitting position is no longer used in the rifle qualification course of fire,” said Brown. “The prohibition of artificial supported positions has been removed and the shooter can use artificial support throughout, they can use barricades, bipods, magazines, or even a backpack.”
“…There was an assessment done, and we realized that the current method of rifle training and rifle qualification was not adequate to meet what the needs were on the battlefield for lethality from the Marine.” Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Brown, a Weapons Training Battalion Gunner
The increased realistic training includes moving targets, box shooting, and night shooting. Standing, kneeling and prone positions remain, but there is no more sitting position.
While there are many changes to the ARQ, the badges will remain the same. However, the scores for each of the badges are still being determined, and there will no longer be a 1 to 5 point system. Instead, each shot will be scored as a “destroy,” “neutralize,” “suppress” or “miss,” with “destroy” being the only shot counting for points.
On Day One, Marines will first conduct a Battle Sight Zero to calibrate their weapons and adjust their optics for accurate shot placement. Directly following the BZO, shooters will conduct the course of fire backwards, starting from the closest range and moving back to the 500-yard line. On Day Two, shooters will start at the 500 and work their way forward, this will be the same with Day Three as qualification.
According to Brown, these changes have made the ARQ more challenging. “I think they have made the range harder,” said Brown. “We have seen the effect that the environment, with the heat and the length of time they are exposed in the elements, has had on the Marines.”
During firing, Marines will no longer mark the target after each shot, instead the shooter will fire all rounds in the time allotted. The longest time is 45 seconds at the 500 yard line for 5 shots and the shortest time is 3 seconds to perform a headshot from the 25 yard line.
Brown expects with the drastic changes to ARQ, there will be a significant impact with the amount of Marines qualifying as expert marksmen. In the past year, 65 percent of Marines who conducted the current ARQ fired expert.