Basic Rifle Marksmanship

BRM was nothing but a full week of laying on your stomach, staring down the barrel of a weapon. On the firing range, the Drill Sergeants carried loaded M16s, just in case any of the soldiers got any crazy ideas.

There are certain little things about going to the range that you never forget. Like, after you fire, you stand in line to be "rodded" off the range. You pull your bolt to the rear, and lock it. The range safety, usually an officer, has a long rod they insert in the barrel that ensures the barrel and chamber are empty. You walk up to them, lock your bolt to the rear, turn your head sideways and scream, "No brass, no ammo, weapon on safe!" Also, the weapon must always be pointed "downrange", meaning towards the targets. Sometimes soldiers get caught up, and forget. They are soon politely reminded.

During BCT , or OSUT , this is the bread and butter of your basic soldiering skills. During World War II, all a soldier did was Individual Movement Tactics and Basic Rifle Marksmanship, and took all of about 3 weeks.

  • There are 4 basic principles of Rifle Marksmanship:
    • Steady Position
    • Sight Picture
    • Breathing
    • Trigger Squeeze

Note: This training applies to M4 Carbine and M16 rifles.

Steady Position

- Steady position is both your positioning of your weapon, but also your body. The most comfortable and accurate firing position is the prone. You lay on your stomach, your weapon shouldered logically, with you non-firing hand about half-way down the handgrips. Your firing hand applies firm and steady pressure on the pistol grip. Ideally, by military doctrine, you should lay on your stomach, non-firing side leg cocked out to the side, curving your back. This position takes pressure off of your stomach, allowing a steadier position. The body is supported by the hips and elbows.

Sight Picture

- (Weapon must be zeroed, which is a completely different class.) First, make sure your rear sight aperture is on the smaller, day fire, aperture. Weld your "check to stock", placing your nose tip right on the end of the charging handle. This way, you will always have the same sight picture. The tip of the front sight post should be centered in the circle created by the rear aperture.Note - A sight picture is only good for about a minute or two. After that your eyes become fatigued. When not actually firing, both eyes should be open to allow the eyes to relax.


- Notice that when you breathe, at the bottom of your breathing cycle there is a natural pause. As soon as you pick up your sight picture and aim at your target, squeeze the trigger right when you hit this natural pause. Your diaphragm is deflated, and your body is steady. I prefer to pause at half-breath.

Trigger Squeeze

- Now, the military tells you to place firm, even pressure on the trigger. Army training emphasizes that you not anticipate the weapon firing. That way, your body doesn't tense up. The round firing should be a surprise. My best advice is to do a few dime drills. Lay in the prone, and have someone balance a dime on your barrel. Practice squeezing the trigger without making the dime fall off. After thousands of practices, eventually a smooth, even trigger squeeze should come naturally. I generally do not have to worry about this, except when zeroing.

  • Other Issues

    • Fatigue - Your muscles become weak, and therefore your positioning is compromised. Your eye muscles become tired from trying to focus through the sights too much. Heavy breathing can compromise your accuracy.
    • Distraction - While distraction is part of anything, especially combat, the soldier or firer must be focused on his techniques. Being distracted will allow the body to take over functions naturally, which may not allow for precise firing.
    • Jamming - see Performing Combat S.P.O.R.T.S.. Your weapon malfunctions, due to a misfeed, obstruction, or mechanic failure.
    • Zeroing - Your weapon must be zeroed. Zeroing uses your windage and elevation knobs, in addition to moving your sights. You fire your rounds, making sure the round went exactly where you wanted it to, then adjust your sights and knobs accordingly. With this, the more important thing to remember is you MUST use the same sight picture every time. That means everything you did the last time, you must do exactly the same every time. The military have targets that simplify zeroing your weapon.