The Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy all have badges or ribbons for qualifying as an expert in small arms (rifle and pistol), which can be earned during basic training. The Navy fires shotgun and pistol, and the other branches fire M-16 rifles. The Coast Guard does not fire live weapons at basic training. Regardless of what type of weapon you will be firing at basic training, there are a few simple tips to follow that will help you to qualify as an expert marksman.
- Remember to breathe and breathe normally. There is a tendency to hold your breath when shooting in order to keep your site on target. However, holding your breath actually causes you to shake and skew your aim.
- When squeezing the trigger, slowly pull the trigger back in one continuous motion. Quickly jerking the trigger back will move the weapon enough to miss your target.
- Don’t anticipate the recoil (i.e. the kick). There is a natural tendency to jerk your weapon down slightly in anticipation of the “kick.” This is especially true when firing pistols. The best way to avoid jerking your weapon is to imagine there are no rounds (bullets) in the weapon. You can practice this by actually dry firing (pulling the trigger of an empty weapon), and keeping your hands steady. Before going to the firing range you will spend time getting familiar with your weapon, at which time you will have the opportunity to practice dry fires.
- Squeeze the trigger after you exhale and before you inhale. This is known as the natural respiratory pause. This is the point in your breathing cycle where you’re best able to center the weapon on your target.
This article was written by SrA Nick VanWormer, author of The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook. SrA Van Wormer earned the small arms expert marksman ribbon for both the M16 riffle and M9 pistol at basic training.
Be prepared for basic training and pick up a copy of The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook.