Comparing Small Arms Training: WWII and Today


Zeroing Day


taken from this more comprehensive film:






What machine gun gunnery is supposed to look like.




Who needs sights anyway?

However, this 1971 classic remains my favorite official Army training film of all time.

SHARP was invented after 1971, obviously…

Simulators For Training?

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A primary flaw of simulators like the Weaponeer were/are there aren’t enough of them around in routine use to make an actual difference. The Army’s EST 2000 suffers the same problem. Dry practice remains the best “simulator” based on availability and price, but only if you can get people to actually do it regularly and care enough to pay attention when they do.

Improvements via training require regular, programmed, on-going sessions. Instruction serves as an introduction, and may be adequate for tasks/skills that aren’t time-critical, but this ceases to be training after ideas are introduced.

Even lousy physical fitness programs commonly found in military and police PT use recognize that about 3-6 sessions each week are needed for improvement. Skill development for tasks that must be trained – like shooting – are no different.

The Weaponeer could have accomplished the designer’s intent if trainees used it 3-6 sessions a week for the duration of basic training. Instead, recruits get shuttled through it once so the Drill Sergeant can check a block and that’s it.

Weaponeer: A US Army Rifle Simulator from a Bygone Era

Musketry & Combat Practice Firing

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Note how often that competition was suggested as a good approach to training.

US Army Training Film TF-24
Musketry & Combat Practice Firing

1935 US Army Training Film

The application and control of collective fire of rifle units (Rifle Squads & Rifle Sections) is called “Musketry.”

This film covers rifle firing skills.
– Reel 1 provides an introduction to methods of estimating range to target.
– Reel 2 shows how unit members communicated knowledge of the target in the field.
– Reel 3 instructs squad leaders on the construction and use of ranges for landscape target firing.
– Reel 4 details technical characteristics of rifle fire and its effects.
– Reel 5 demonstrates the application of rifle firing techniques in field exercises.
– Reel 6 features a schematic drawing of the effect of combat fire.

Glock Woos Marine and Army Spec Ops. Is DoD Next?


Glocks were rejected by the DOD prior to being allowed in for testing back in 1985 due to a lack of a “second strike capability” (a capability never actually used in doctrine immediate action procedures…) This paved the way for a SIG v. Beretta test, with Beretta winning on price.

Now, Beretta’s M9A3 has been rejected by the DOD prior to being allowed in for testing and a Glock may replace the M9.

And that’s how “logic” works in the DOD!

Glock Woos Marine and Army Spec Ops. Is DoD Next?

Of course, the final choice won’t really matter…

Double/Single Action Service Pistols


I’ve NEVER liked the double-single design of a semi-auto. (I didn’t like the 3-shot burst design either … as there were/are subtle differences in the trigger on single shot mode.)

So, my question is, after reading this article – what do you think. BS? Poor training? Or a legit issue.

The Armed Forces have been using the double-single Beretta for years. What do you think?

Double-single doesn’t make a pistol easier to shoot and is probably a solution in search of a problem. Modern striker-fired pistols (Glock, S&W M&P, etc.) are probably the best compromise of shootability, mechanical safety, reliability, and price currently and commonly available.

Still, there isn’t anything wrong with DA semi-autos. Issues with the heavy first shot and transition from heavy-light exist but they’re grossly overstated. Certainly nothing proper training won’t fix. I have not yet met a genuinely good handgun shooter incapable of shooting double-single semi-autos well. They may not prefer it, might even shoot measurably better with something else, but a good marksman shoots them well. Shooters that can’t overcome this “problem” probably aren’t good handgun shooters to begin with.

I went from tuned 1911s in practical competition to rack grade M9s for military Service Conditions matches and now mix that with NRA Conventional don’t find the transition difficult. Every platform, even individual samples of the same design, exhibit unique idiosyncrasies that have to be trained/practiced around. Nothing a bit of dry practice won’t fix. Oh, I have plenty of issues in becoming a better marksman. So does nearly every human if they’re honest and knowledgeable. None of that is fixed by blaming the equipment.

I’ve shot the new M9A3 and was favorably impressed. To date, it is the most accurate factory service pistol I’ve ever shot, very ergonomic, and a great update. Given that Beretta is willing to offer these as an update on the existing contract and that they are parts compatible with no New Equipment Training needed, the DoD would be foolish to bother with anything else.

The only troops I’ve met complaining about the M9 were Americans. Every foreign military shooter we’ve had try the M9 liked it. Definitely a “grass is greener on the other side” bias.

US Marine Scout Sniper Documentary

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Here’s a summary: Take what you learn by attempting to win shooting matches and apply that improved skill and knowledge to the field environment.

Carlos Hathcock Interview
“What I used when I was sniping, I learned when I was competing.”

Sadly, they overlooked Chief Warrant Officer Arthur Terry as having originally started the program in Hawaii at the Pu’uloa Range Training Facility near ʻEwa Beach and Pearl Harbor (now Joint Base Harbor-Hickam). Gunner Terry’s sniper program trained Carlos Hathcock.

Gunner Terry served as a sniper in Korea. More accurately, he used his competition shooting experience with an accurized service rifle to engage specific targets. Upon returning to the States, he was assigned to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, running a shooting team and starting a formal sniping program in the 1950s. This began being known as the Scout Sniper program as scouting was required to first find a target and high level shooting skill was required to get hits.

Terry had officially retired after Korea, however, Major General Alan Shapley, then-commanding general of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, “reacquired” him for a single purpose: Developing a sniper program, starting with the shooters from the Marine Rifle and Pistol team in Hawaii. Shapley was preparing for future conflicts after Korea. Terry was given a new service number and “unretired” into a Warrant Officer position with the mission of turning shooters into snipers. Given his sniping experience in Korea, Gunner Terry was directed by FMF brass to start this program. It wasn’t unusual for Shapely or generals from 1st Marine Division dropping in to Terry’s office for updates.

Arnold Vitarbo and John Verhaal were among the skilled competitive shooters on Gunner Terry’s cadre. Jim Land and Carlos Hathcock were some of their first students.

Another interview of a Viet Nam era sniper:

Too Successful Training

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The rookie is “obeying” the commands he so often got at basic; also the TEAM training: when one goes down, all go down.

I remember one recruit in the rifle shoot house that did a nice job of clearing all the rooms and hitting the targets high center mass…one of which was UC with a clean 223 hole through the badge round his neck.

I suspect “training scar” issues like this occur more from novice skill levels rather than learning a “bad” habit. When academy/basic training remains the totality of formal learning a person has, they’re more likely to repeat such things because it’s the only response available in a rather limited playbook, especially when there is little to no history of performing under pressure where the results truly matter to them.

Example. We shot a series of surprise courses at CAFSAC in the shoot houses at Connaught, Ottawa. Despite shooting these after the fixed, square range courses (the sort that allegedly cause “training scars”) not a single competitor displayed any such mistake. None of the range officers reported anyone inadvertently remaining flat footed when they should have been moving, failing to use cover, unloading before finding and engaging targets, etc. It’s almost as if being more skillful and being used to performing at a higher level while under pressure where the results matter helps people perform better while under pressure. And they could perform appropriately according to the given context/situation at hand. Amazing!

From John Tate:
You speak of a “limited playbook.” My phrase is tool box/tool bag. And I fully agree.

Once upon a time, LONG, LONG ago, I played guitar and 5-string banjo. The fingering is vastly different. But one learns to change “playbooks.”

Your square range vs. shoot house example illustrates identical adaptation to the environment.

The one quasi-counterexample I would give is a person reacting to an instantaneous and severe stimulus where either instinct or habit takes over before conscious thought. I liken these to “brake pedal moments.” BUT – as you said, “[B]eing more skillful and being used to performing at a higher level while under pressure where the results matter helps people perform better while under pressure. And they could perform appropriately according to the given context/situation at hand.”

All of which goes back to the “train to die” model of only shooting the standard, flat-foot, stationary target qual course.

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