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All About the Basics: Tips from the Pros

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – The phrase, “every Marine a rifleman,” can be attributed to the level of skill a Marine possesses with a rifle.

Not everyone is born a rifleman, but with proper training, a Marine marksmanship instructor can transform someone who has never fired a weapon into an expert shooter.

A big part in performance is practicing the fundamentals of marksmanship and the various firing positions, says Staff Sgt. Bradley J. Kretzing, a small arms weapons instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

Shooting incorporates everything the Marine learns while in class and practices before qualifying, he added.

Members of the Marine Corps Shooting Team apply the fundamentals taught to them, in the purest form during recruit training almost everyday.

Marksmanship is all about sharing knowledge, says Gunnery Sgt. James Otto, a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team. The current marksmanship doctrine is based off of the experience of the Corps’ finest marksmen’s lessons in competition, where the fundamentals are practiced in pure form.

“The best way to improve your score on the rifle range is quite simple, just stick to the basics and have confidence in yourself and your weapon, Otto says.” “The main thing Marines foul up when shooting is not focusing on the front sight and overall just not applying all of the fundamentals of marksmanship,” said Otto. “Another thing is lack of time spent with the weapon, which affects confidence, and some Marines don’t take snapping-in seriously.”

Coaches and weapons instructors are qualified and teach the Marines everything they can about marksmanship. When on the range, it is
always best to apply the basics, have confidence, and remember that the coach is there for a reason, to make everyone a qualified rifleman.

Marksmanship tips from the Marine Corps Shooting Team:

  • Maintain proper sight alignment and sight picture
  • Focus on the front sight post
  • Maintain proper stockweld and eye relief
  • Know your battle sight zero and make proper adjustments
  • Know your natural point of aim and maintain it
  • Apply proper trigger pull – slow, steady squeeze
  • Control your breathing
  • Do not anticipate the shot
  • Take advantage of snap-in time
  • Make a mental checklist for snap-in, so it becomes second nature
  • One miss isn’t the end of the world
  • If you think you need help with anything, talk to your coach
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    16 Responses

    1. dan bergendorf says:

      I’ve been watching all these gun shows on tv and just for the heck of it i went on the computer to see if there might be some pics of the rifle range mcrd 1969, and i came across this site with tips and how marines would go about qualifiying. at the range. Some guys mentioned staying at the range for the week or two,can’t guite remember how long but the way we did it  was, what we called cattle trucks took us up the coast a few miles everyday. the reason I remember this was the guys that had never seen the ocean before stared out the small openings and could’nt believe all that water and those funny looking birds, seagulls. Any way heres how I qualified, one of eight that shoot expert with the m-14. Again this was alot of years back but I think it was 100 yds 300 yds  and five hundred yds.maybe 400 can’t recall, anyway 100 standing I started just a little above the bullseye and came down nice and slow,but not to slow, and when I was dead center i squeezed. Same thing for the 300 and five hundred. the way i figured it, espeacilly 500 yds and a five to ten mph breeze there’ just was’nt enough time to lay there and think about it , start on top of the bullseye come on down and let it fly, and after the first shoot all i wanted to see was that white marker. And for shooting expert when we got back to MCRD eight of us got a coke and a phone call home Dan Bergendorf  2064 Dec.1968 to Dec 1971 mos 2752 redeye. shoulder fired dual stage heat seeking missile, first year and a half was in hell, twenty nine palms.Once a marine always a marine semper fi bros

    2. Follow through is for the amateurs who didn’t really SQUEEZE…

    3. Galen says:

      You forgot F…Follow Through…and one of the most important

    4. Sgt Pettit says:

      It’s dry-fire practice.

    5. Fightingotter says:

      what is snap-in?

    6. t.s says:

      it all sounds interesting i cant wate till i go

    7. JACK SMITH says:


    8. Former Cpl. W. Egan says:

      Thank god for my PMI at Edson Range at Camp Pendleton in 1970 when I was at MCRD San Diego. Made me qualify as an Expert. Qualified with an M-14 and later with an M-16

    9. Paul SlocomB says:

      As a former Marine when I look back on my time in the Corps I remember how much fun it was shooting on the range.
      When I returned to MCRD Parris Island in 76-80 I got to know a lot of the coaches who realy taught me how to relax & enjoy shooting .When I went on to my next duty station I was able to pass this on to other Marines as well
      Between shooting a possable ( 10 bullseyes out of 10 ) on the 2&3 hundred yard lines or maxing the 500 yd !
      I even got to fire from the 600 yd
      .Even working down range pulling and marking targets was fun !
      The list of tips works with any thing you shoot
      I still enjoy shooting but now instead of an M14 or 16 all use is a B.B rifle not long range but hitting a egg at 75 yrds is still a ball (Think range safty becouse a BB will go for allmost 500yrds before hitting the ground ) Last mth I got a scope & now I’m shooting at smaller targets the next steep is to move the targets down range to at lest 100yrds
      The other”PHRASE” that goes with “Every Marine is a rifleman” is “Once a Marine allways a Marine”

      Simper fi

    10. Don Johnson says:

      I qualified with a 248 out of 250 possible using an M-14 at Paris Island. I snapped in until my arms felt like they were falling off. I trained my front blade @ 6:00 and let my breath out slowly as I squeezed my trigger with my FINGER TIP. The weapon would go off without me knowing when…..just a perfect sight picture and concentration. One trick that I learned…bite the tip of my trigger finger making it numb. That way you did not feel the trigger pull…just concentrate on sight picture and breathing slowly. That and drawing the sling as tight as I could with tight spot weld……I would drop the target every time.
      Semper Fi…
      Cpl Don Johnson

    11. Steve Scott says:

      Great article….they are the PROS! The Marine Corps teaches marksmanship like no-one else every has, does or will do.

    12. dana says:

      Greatest knowledge from great Experts
      Well done article…practice practice practice …

    13. Dick Forrester says:

      Still have my expert badge from 1954 using the M-1…….The hardest part was “snapping in”.

    14. Stuart Newberry says:



    15. Zachery Schuh says:

      I have heard many things, but how do you become eligible to become a scout sniper? I am very skilled with my Remington 700 and I would like to use my abilities to one day protect this country.

    16. Matt says:

      Good article. KISS. I believe in the fundamentals and proper breathing techniques. I’d love to go through marine sniper school but I’m too old. I’ll stick to the local ranges to stay sharp and focused.