Army Rolling Out New Marksmanship Qualification Test

| August 26, 2019

One Station Unit Training (OSUT) Soldiers conduct zero for their M4 carbines. (Markeith Horace)

When the Army rolled out its new physical fitness test, it was just getting started. The physical fitness test, covering situps, push-ups, and a 2-mile run is making way for a new physical fitness test that tests muscle groups used in the battlefield.

Enter battle focused weapons qualification.

The current qualification process starts as a series of classroom and hands-on instruction. It builds up through marksmanship simulators and works towards a qualification at the firing range. After the weapons are zeroed, Soldiers either engage pop-up targets or different sized silhouettes on a single sheet.

This qualification involves firing from the supported prone, unsupported prone, and kneeling. The new test is different. This test involves not just hitting the target, but doing things at the qualification range that are expected to be done on the battlefield.

Instead of having things structured, like having magazines with rounds waiting for the soldier at the firing range, this would run “like the real world”. Soldiers must fire from behind cover and fire from different positions that include standing. Nighttime and chemical warfare environment shooting are a part of this package.

Granted, many of these exercises have existed as qualifications in the past. In many units, this falls under the “Advanced Rifle Marksmanship” umbrella. As with basic rifle marksmanship, these advanced exercises came with their own scorecards. But, it appears that the Army is moving towards incorporating battle focused shooting during the basic qualification.

From the Army website:

The Dot-40 mandates a series of drills and tests that check whether Soldiers can rapidly load and reload as they’d have to under fire, work the bolt of their weapon, switch firing positions quickly — standing, kneeling, lying prone, firing from behind a barrier — while at the same time exercising “critical thinking” — making battlefield snap judgments as to which targets to shoot at in which order — and hitting them. All are elemental to being deemed actually proficient in Soldier marksmanship, officials said.

And it adds other new requirements: that Soldiers fire their weapons effectively in night combat scenarios and in conditions that simulate chemical attack.

A more detailed article could be read here. Thanks to Jeff LPH 3 1963-1966 for bringing this story to us.

Category: Army, Army News, Big Army

Comments (25)

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  1. Mustang Major says:

    Realism is all the much better. Wonder if simulation of being shot at can be worked into the qualification.

    • Poetrooper says:

      You just nailed the major problem with all combat marksmanship training, Major. My own experience in combat was that nothing quite so affected my own shooting skills as the adrenaline pumping presence of incoming rounds. I always qualified expert with multiple weapons at range training, but in firefights, not even close.

      I doubt that’s changed much in fifty years.

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        You can fire rounds near/past a trainee, simulating hostile fire noise.

        You can use MILES, Simmunitions, Paintball, or other marking systems to role-play “force on force”.

        It is very much harder to simulate “those SOBs are really trying to kill me!”.

        And -that- is the problem. There is nothing quite like hostile fire, not -quite- effective, to get the juices flowing.

  2. AW1Ed says:

    SEALs with regulation haircuts, and now Big Army is training the troops as they will fight? Seems the adults are finally in charge of the military. About time.

  3. Graybeard says:

    My AB-qualified son always was…. underimpressed… with his shooting quals in Basic and later. (I’ve not asked about his feelings about his AB-unit shooting tests/exercises.)

    On the other hand his 82nd-AB vet uncle just took 2nd in an NRA prone rifle competition, and that kind of family tradition is more what my son judged himself by.

    Regardless, glad to see the Army taking these steps.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Pop required me to fire weapons in awkward positions, held incorrectly, even rolling around on the ground.

      Yes, you can engage at CQB distances, with rifle or pistol, while prone and rolling repeatedly.

      Not all firearms cycle reliably upside down or when shaken violently.

    • timactual says:

      I was never impressed with Army “marksmanship” training, either. Zero and qualify in basic, then one day per year at the range to re-qualify. Even when I got to Vietnam it was one day of familiarization with the M-16( which I had never seen before), zero and a couple of magazines, and no training at all for the rest of my tour.


      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        Concur. That was dumb.

        I spent much time on dime drills.

        As I found out, the CO won’t let you draw your weapon for the weekend so you can go get range time on your own time and money at the on-base club. (Yes, I did ask.)

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    What was old is new again. This is exactly as we trained in ’71, including the simulated being fired back at. (with live rounds on a coupla occasions) My Senior Drill Instructor was down right queer for fire and move drills. And not with just the M16. We had to play with the ’60, .45, 203 and a Thumper. Not only pulling loaded mags from gear storage, but also load mags from loose rounds. “And do it faster Private, if you don’t kill them sumbitches they gonna kill yo redneck ass.” SFC S had pulled 3 tours in country before I was blessed to be in his platoon for Basic. And no “alibis” either (FIRST time I heard of this); he would scream out weapon malfunction and you’d have to field strip and clean your weapon to move forward. Good Times. I actually did better on those type courses than I did shooting at static targets on the range. I think he pulled some strings to do some of this. There were times when other platoons would be on a road march and we would be burning powder. Much respect for that Soldier.

  5. reddevil says:

    This is simply the individual qualification standard, and it is the next logical step from the pop-up ranges, which were themselves very innovative. If you haven’t done so, read ‘On Killing’ Essentially, we switched to pop up targets with varying up times to condition Soldier to shoot reflexively.

    For decades, Army combat units have conducted very realistic maneuver live fire training starting at the buddy team level and going up through the Brigade level. Infantry Soldiers train on reflexive shooting, shooting from various positions, and stress shooting

    An infantry Soldier would have to maneuver (sometimes several klicks) over varied terrain to an objective area then assault with live ammunition (while the rest of the battalion did the same) while the company, battalion, and brigade commanders employed live mortars, artillery, and gunships (and Close Air Support if we could get it) on the objective. Same in the defense. We did live fire artillery off the drop zone, and did live fire Air Assaults into the impact area with the door gunners firing over our heads. When I was in the 82nd we lit burn barrels on the drop zone to simulate the effects of pre-assault fires to teach the guys that they had to maneuver their parachute to avoid them.

    Very tricky and dangerous stuff. During my time at the brigade level and below there was a serious injury or death just about every year- guys getting shot, short artillery or mortar rounds, and even guys running into rotor blades.

    Targetry was as sophisticated as we could make it. We used lifelike dummy targets mounted using a balloon in the chest cavity to the target would only go down if you got a good shot. We also used targets on zip lines, rail and track systems, etc, as well as the good old fashioned pop up targets. Now they are using dummies on remote controlled all-terrain segues. We never pulled a CPT Sobel and had pig guts in the trench lines, but we got as close to real as we could make it.

    The NTC was probably the ultimate exercise of this. Imagine an entire brigade, with infantrymen, tanks, Bradleys, mortars, artillery, Apaches, and even CAS firing on an objective while maneuvering. Awesome to behold.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:


      I did so love those six weeks of summer.

      One: “It’s a hundred and twenty-five in the shade.”


      All: “WHAT SHADE?!?!”

  6. PFM says:

    I remember a while ago the Army had a problem with weapons because the average soldier treated them like they were radioactive due to the peacetime CONUS range
    mentality when they had a loaded weapon. They were absolutely uncomfortable with loaded weapons. Good to see they are beginning to address marksmanship after almost 20 years…

    • timactual says:

      People should be at least a little uncomfortable with loaded weapons. Unloaded ones too. You get too comfortable with them and somebody gets hurt. Even blank ammunition.

      Or you try to get on an airplane with a weapon in your carry on bag.

      • 26Limabeans says:

        “People should be at least a little uncomfortable with loaded weapons”

        Then why have them fire from a raised comfy
        platform as in the photo? Damn things look
        like they take a queen size mattress.

        We qualified from a foxhole and laying on
        the ground. Do they ship the raised platforms
        to the fight along with the troops?

  7. Stacy0311 says:

    Having qualified in both the Marine Corps and the Army, I would say the BIG difference is that the Army just hand waves basic marksmanship skills. Sight alignment, site picture, trigger control are just something they expect you to understand and use.

    Sure grass week sucked, and 4 days of shooting before qualifying sucked but it made us better shots.

    And before anyone says KD range qualification doesn’t equal combat shooting, you have to have the basic fundamentals before you can do advance high speed stuff.

    • M. Bibliophile says:

      THIS! I’ve done both Marine Corps and Army as well, and my opinion the Army does reaction ranges well but trains poorly on marksmanship. The Marine Corps, on the other hand, beat basic rifle marksmanship into everyone first but ignored reaction courses for anyone who wasn’t combat arms (field fire does NOT count. All we did was shoot the ammo cans on the ready benches…)

      The best marksmanship of the twentieth century was recorded by the British and American troops of the First World War, and they got to be that good with hours of KD ranges. They suck, but it works. Once that’s in place, then you can move on to reaction ranges. Both are important components in proper soldier training, I’m simply of the opinion that the Army needs to devote more than a few hours per year to honest-to-God marksmanship. So long as the Army continues to put the cart before the horse, general marksmanship won’t improve beyond a certain level and will lag behind the Marine Corps.

      • 11B-Mailclerk says:

        I suspect the over-focus on MOUT and CQB has been part of the problem. If all your shooting is in close, sloppy works. Arguably, fast and “just enough” beats slow precision when you can smell the other guy and see your own muzzle flash in his eyes.

        Now move out to open fields or that “valley of death” ? Oops. Different game.

      • Roh-Dog says:

        This. KD should be the baseline for building confidence by good dope and actually get GOOD hits on target. KD has to be one of the cheapest ranges to run (Leaders probably don’t like the time factor but imho you ain’t getting paid to be quick!)
        The pop-up range is/was good for implementation the theory of shooting, everything else is fluff.
        The Army should be building Riflemen/shootists then make them weapons platforms later.
        But what do I know?

      • MI Ranger says:

        M. Bibliophile yes I totally agree, but it takes a lot of ammo!
        My Ranger Battalion spent a few weeks at the Marine’s KD ranges when I was there, then we would head over to Benning for their moving target ranges, and more advanced ranges, and finally it was back to good old Savannah for the shoot house…man I loved when the shotgun was with the other team and I had to use my SAW to open the door!
        All of this was of course after we spent some time at the local range and could not leave until our zero target holes could be covered with a dime. Later when I got stuck on staff I learned how much ammo we had for the year. When I went out to rest of the Army and tired to set up some similar training for my unit, I got laughed at by the Support Platoon Leader that managed our ammo: “You want how much ammo?… We don’t get that much for the battalion in four years, let alone a company!”

        • M. Bibliophile says:

          Sadly, I am very familiar with that complaint, as is every good officer and NCO going back at least to the Napoleonic Wars. British gunnery beat French gunnery because they did lots of live fire practice. Same with infantry marksmanship and firing drills. Running and jumping and obstacles are all well and good, but the purpose of an infantryman is to shoot people: if we don’t pay for training to do just that, we won’t be able to do it as well as we’d like when it’s real.

    • timactual says:

      Who needs marksmanship when you have FULL AUTO!? The Army theory is, I guess, that if you throw enough rounds in the general vicinity of the enemy a sufficient number will hit the target to enable the good guys (us, of course) to win. Not true, of course. All you are going to do is cover the enemy with branches and leaves from the treetops where all your rounds go, making him that much harder to see.

      • timactual says:

        The actual practice seems to be that the Infantry exists only to acquire targets for the real weapons; artillery and air. Make contact, hold your position, form a perimeter and call in arty/air. Surrounded on three sides? S’okay, just hold your position and call in the real weapons. Running low on ammo because all you have been taught is “spray and pray”, and it doesn’t seem to be working? Just be patient, help is on the way. And you might want to double down on the “pray” part.

  8. SgtBob says:

    An Army study after WW2 determined a major reason for not-good combat marksmanship: Germans and Japanese did not look like the KD targets on which infantry soldiers had been trained. Also, in combat shooting a shooter will put two or five times the number of bullets downrange as in weapons qualification.

    • M. Bibliophile says:

      Yes, that’s why you need both: KD to cement the idea and confidence that you can indeed hit that dot on the hilltop and reaction courses so that you don’t hesitate to take down the other guy before he can get you. It’s not an either/or proposition; we have that now and it doesn’t do the job we want it to.

      Reaction courses are good at solving the problem of not everyone shooting, but they don’t do nearly as much for making sure that those who are shooting can reliably hit the target.

  9. Herbert J Messkit says:

    I remember a one time range at Ft Polk in 1988 called Tunnel C. It was all done on a 25 meter range. At a target sheet with about 10 silhouettes representing different ranges
    Standing 2 mags
    Kneeling supported
    Prone supported
    I don’t remember the others, but it totaled 42 reds and 13 was qualifiing