Marine Corps Overhauls Marksmanship Standards

The Marine Corps has long preached a mantra that every Marine is a rifleman first—and now they’re changing how those riflemen are trained, to make them more effective in combat.

For starters, the Corps is changing its standards for marksmanship evaluations, and also changed its scoring parameters. Hard as it may be to believe, until this winter, Marines still used a marksmanship evaluation program that dated back to 1907, the era of the bolt-action .30-06 Springfield M1903 rifle.

More than a century later, combat has changed and the firearms used have changed; USMC leadership says the updates to its marksmanship program are intended to help Marines deal with potential coming conflicts.

The big changes start with the evaluation program now considering the speed of the Marine’s shooting, not just their accuracy. The time for their first shot, their reload time and their time for follow-up shots will also be measured.

Another change: Previously, Marines could only rest their rifle on its magazine for zeroing or adjusting rifle sights at known ranges. Now, thanks to improved construction of newer polymer mags preventing jamming, they will be allowed to do it throughout their marksmanship evaluation.

marine corps

USMC leadership says the new changes are about making their troops more deadline in combat. It’s not portrayed as a way of easing requirements to help boost strength levels as recruitment weakens.

As of a 2023 change Marines also now have multiple chances each year to pass their rifle qualification—but if they want to simply pass in the pre-qualification phase, 2024’s updates call for higher standards. Previously, if a Marine shot a score qualifying for Marksman (the lowest score, below Sharpshooter, then Expert), that was considered good enough. Now, Marines can only skip qualification if they shoot an Expert score in pre-qualification. Marine leadership says this is to encourage their servicemen to aim for excellence, instead of coasting by on the bare minimum score.

There are also changes to the pistol qualification program, including a prioritization of lethal hits that wasn’t there before.

Add it all up, and Marine leadership says they are trying to improve their troops’ performance at shooting while moving, shooting at moving targets and shooting at unknown distances.

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