The Death of Marksmanship

2x magnification scopes called RCO's are now not only standard issue to all Marines with their M-16's, but have shifted from optional to MANDATORY on the shooting range for rifle qualification!!! Give me a break. 500 yards really is not that far (ok, granted, it's the farthest distance that any branch fires for qualification... by like 200 yards... but still). The scope is completely unnecessary. I can fire the 500 yard line STANDING with only the iron sights. Ok, granted again, I'm one of the best shots in my entire battallion, or in any other battallion I've ever served in. If not THE best. But my point stands.


The argument is the age-old "we train how we fight" mantra, meaning that we must do everything in training exactly the way we'll do it in combat, to build muscle memory and familiarity. Ok, fine. But there are plenty of other live-fire shooting exercises we go through that are geared to simulate combat environments. Timed drills, movement to target, failure to stop. Exercises that demand you be in full combat gear, at the kinds of close-quarters distances you can expect to fight in in urban terrain, firing at human-shaped targets with kill-zones highlighted and deliberately targeted. Drills where the targets are moving, or where you're moving while firing, or both.


The RCO's make this too easy. If they're going to mandate the RCO's be used in QUALIFICATION, the one annual shooting range for which awards are divvied out in recognition of marksmanship and proficiency, then the scoring system should be changed accordingly. If you're going to give us scopes that artificially enhance our marksmanship, then it should be comparably more difficult to achieve the higher marksmanship awards. It cheapens the Expert award if you make it so easy that 4 out of 5 Marines can achieve it.


You might say I'm just bitching because I was very proud to be a 7th award Rifle Expert (meaning I've achieved an Expert level score, the highest attainable, for 7 consecutive years) and now with these scopes practically anyone can achieve the same feat. And you'd be damned right. This is bullshit. They're cheapening something that I had hitherto been particularly proud of.


But I digress. The bar for expert has always been, compared to my ability with a rifle, pitifully low. It would take an act of God for me to score below it. On my WORST days, I still shoot in what others would consider the "high expert" range. In reality, my average scores are typically within less than 5% from perfect. I've always kind of made my own scoring system in my head, a much more demanding one, a higher standard against which I measured myself and strove to improve.


Even today, I fired a movement-to-target drill called CMP. A very easy course, 50 shots fired within 25 yards or less from the target using various "kill-drills" such as a hammered pair (double tap to the chest) or a failure-to-stop (employed when other kill-drills fail, two shots to the chest and one to the head, guaranteed lethal against all but the most coked-up enemies). All shots landing within the kill-zones count as 1 point, all shots landing outside the killzone count as zero, for a possible max score of 50. Might sound kinda strict, but remember, I said 25 yards or closer. You're practically on top of the target the whole time. By the time the drills are over you've closed all the way to FIVE METERS AWAY, so close that you actually have to aim two to three inches higher than the place you want to shoot, because the sights on the rifle are two to three inches above the muzzle!!


Anyway, by all rights I should have gotten a perfect score. But I didn't. I scored 48. I got lazy on the two shots fired while closing from the 25 to the 15. The shots while moving are the only ones on this course that are remotely challenging, but even those are so easy that I got overconfident and ignored some of the marksmanship principles. I immediately cursed myself and got serious. The rest of the course went smoothly... nothing but killshots. It's the thousandth time I've fired a course like this,


But what was driving me nuts was the damned RCO. We were 25 yards away for crying out loud, why the HELL were we all using SCOPES?!?


I am Kaustic, and I miss my iron sights.

Uploaded 01/29/2009
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