Ash Hess: Army Marksmanship and MMTC


SFC Ash Hess (ret.) was one of the primary authors of the Army’s new Training Circulars. He was asked to speak before a recent graduating class at Marksmanship Master Trainer Course. Here’s a link to his original post and the transcript. Bold highlights were added to emphasize important points.

Speech for the Marksmanship Master Trainer Course

I want to start off by saying that I am honored and humbled to be here. When SFC Chain asked me to speak I checked to make sure he was messaging the right guy because honestly I never expected to receive that message. I immediately, upon that confirmation, jumped at the chance to speak to the graduates of the Master Marksmanship Trainer Course 03-18.

You see, the people in this room, guests, cadre and most importantly the graduates are the future of Army Marksmanship. One would be pretty naïve to assume that anyone could stand here and say that we don’t have issues in that realm. Five weeks ago, you may or may not have agreed that we are a couple of minutes of angle off across the Army.

During the course, you have learned better ways to shoot and train, things you never heard of, and things you learned in basic training and lost over the years. You slaughtered some sacred cows and destroyed perpetual myths centered on our service rifle. You are now part of a relatively small group of people in the Army that have attended an Army level class on marksmanship.

Until MMTC unveiled, the last formal, Army level marksmanship training was basic training. Think about the thousands of leaders and soldiers that have done nothing more than execute what their Drill Sergeants taught them over their careers with no chance of learning more.

If you were lucky, you had the privilege of attending one of the many Division Schools like I ran when I attended MMTC in 2015. While these schools were awesome training, they lacked one important element that MMTC does not. Army-wide recognition. We trained people and when they left the Division, that knowledge was often met with “that’s great, but here is how we do it. ”

When you walk out those doors you are not facing that challenge of trying to sell your skills. You have the backing of the Infantry School. You also have something else that is near and dear to my heart. That would be TC 3-22.9. By now you have been in that book and if you wondered who the good idea fairy was, well, that’s me.

That book was written under this simple guidance “write the book you needed while you were instructing” The course I ran for 10th Mountain graduated 1600 students under my watch. 1600 people learned and executed great things and went back to their units only to be hamstrung by an old book. My team and stakeholders from across the Army, active and reserve, set out to make a book that supported not only everything we have learned in the war but something that would support good marksmanship techniques and most importantly, teaching techniques.

We not only vetted the book within the Army, but we brought in several professional instructors from across the industry. Many of them have been teaching every weekend for 10+ years as their primary income. These pros helped us streamline the message and cleared up wording to make it teach more effectively. Believe that these guys are on your side and want nothing more than effective American Soldiers. Many times, business comes second and they gave the Army things that people would pay a lot of money to learn.

In our research, we found some things. Our weapons aren’t bad for what we are asking them to do. All of you fired issued weapons from five meters out to 600 meters. The ammunition is good enough for what we are asking it to do. You guys know this as you got hits. If the weapons and ammo aren’t the problem, what is?

Is it the caliber of Solider? If that were it, it wouldn’t cover 40 years of marginal performance

Is it the number of rounds we fire? Could be in some cases but if SFC Chain and the cadre had simply said, “here is 100,000 rounds; blast away” without any teaching would you guys have seen the improvement you made the past few weeks?

We decided that is was WHAT we were saying and how we were saying it. We relooked what we were providing to leaders and instructors to teach. Here at Fort Benning, you can’t present anything that isn’t in a book. No matter what we wanted to teach, the book was the book. I think we made big strides on fixing that.

So that leads to what you guys learned here in MMTC. For those in the room, you were successful. Some were not. The difference is the message that the cadre challenged and graded you on delivering. You had to group to higher standards than normal, get more precise zeros and get hits beyond what many of you were used to. You also had to teach back things that improved your own performance. You not only learned how to shoot better but learned how to make others shoot better, which is the big picture.

This is how we are improving Army Marksmanship. No more will you leave a school and not be able to use the information provided there because a leader asks one simple question, “What does the book say?” The knowledge passed on to you from the cadre cannot be undermined nor argued with by those who have always done it one way. When you go back to your units and later your next unit, that knowledge will still be relevant.

I close with a challenge. I challenge you, the MMTC graduates to transfer all the knowledge gained here to four people. You may get more than that but if you can get four people to the same level you are the result will be astounding. You and your subordinates need to get the message out to 1 million people as they fire 400 million rounds next year. You now know how to get all the rounds you and your Soldiers are allocated and the best ways to use them. Those rounds will be fired, we hope, but the question remains are they good rounds or are they fired the same way we always have done it.

I thank you for all you are doing and you have my support in your continued efforts.


Rifle Reliability: Then and Now

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Ultimately the trials were won by the Garand, with the G30M placing third in total malfunctions and broken parts. This had involved 37 different tests and more than 12,000 rounds through each rifle. The Garand had 1,480 total malfunctions and 49 parts broken, replaced, or repaired. The Johnson had 1,547 and 72 respectively, and the G30M 2,864 and 97 (roughly double the number of problems as the Garand).

USMC Rifle Test 1940

Rifle Stoppages Failures
# % # %
Garand 1480 12.3% 49 0.4%
Johnson 1547 12.9% 74 0.6%
Winchester 2864 23.9% 97 0.8%

This table shows (assuming 12,000 rounds as the denominator, which is close enough because our purpose here is comparison) that as reliable as those rifles were for their day, they were pretty buggy by today’s standards. Looking at the percentages really makes the data pop.

Assuming a “malfunction” equals a stoppage, we’ll label those percentage of stoppages and we’ll label the parts breakages as “failures.”

This was good reliability in the 1940s!

Compare this to the “unreliable” M4. In the worst M4 test ever, the notorious and outlying 2007 extreme dust test (here and here), ten M4s fired 6,000 rounds per rifle with 1.4% stoppages.

And this number was over 4x the number of failures in an earlier iteration of the same test, a result the Army Research Lab has never replicated or explained insofar as we know. Now we can’t compare the 1940 and 2007 tests directly, however, the data indicates the M4 is nearly ten times more reliable than the M1. Even if you don’t like these numbers, an apples-to-apples test would show the M4 as significantly more reliable.


The Developmental Model

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The Developmental Model presented here is the work of 1SG Joe Garcia, a successful shooter and coach with the National Guard.


Combat Readiness

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Members of the U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program discuss their combat experiences and how competition shooting helps with military training and readiness.

SSG Bonjour

MAJ Garcia

SSG Porter

SSG Rosene

MAJ Rosnick

MAJ Sleem

SSG Fuentes

SGM Gerner

SGT Hall

SSG Hartley

Drill Sergeant Willis

CPT Freeman

SSG Kizanis

SSG Volmer


Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

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[G]iving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.

What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?

Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?

For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.

Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.

For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.

Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.

If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.

As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.

Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from our battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?

Full article:


Inches, Minutes, Clicks- Zero That Blaster


Ash Hess has a solid write up on using the Army’s new zero target. What’s interesting is that this really describes how the zero process used to be taught before it was deemed too “confusing.”

>> I use the new Army Zero target since it was designed for this exact thing vs the old school one that was designed by an idiot.

FC 23-11 (Unit Rifle Marksmanship Training Guide) was published in the early 1980s for the M16A1 era and it claims the reason for the silhouette-shaped aim point was to replace the “confusing” Canadian Bull zero target and have troops zero on the same shape/relative size target they’d see during qualification.

They also eliminated explanation of “confusing” minutes and mils and went with 1 square=1 click as well as “confusing” descriptions of basic ballistics. Just use the “L” sight on your M16A1 when zeroing at 25 meters and flip it back when done. The zero target even has pictures with arrows to show which way to click the sights to adjust them.

Brilliant! Until the M16A2 was adopted, followed by the M4 and then optics, lasers, and other sighting accessories that became common issue… Try to explain the how and why of the Small Arms Integration Book to someone that doesn’t understand Inches-Minutes/Mils-Clicks and basic ballistics.

It’s worth noting the FC 23-11 is a well-written manual published by knowledgable shooters that did a great job explaining the decision process for the zero and qualification procedures the U.S. Army has been using since the early 1980s. The real failure was that this basic, initial program of instruction and qualification was intended to be only a basic, initial program. Soldiers were supposed to eventually shoot field courses (the Alt-C target was originally intended for other exercises to prepare for this), at full distance, on KD ranges, and learn higher level shooting. All of that is explained in FC 23-11. The simplistic nature of the initial course was to be added upon during a Soldier’s career.

As with any potentially-useful program, when left to be handled by under-skilled personnel with no background or interest in the subject at hand (drill sergeants and other NCOs) along with leadershit with no background or interest in it, the program stopped at the simple, introductory level and began to retrograde. KD courses and full-distance course were eliminated due to logistics, followed by even the scaled exercises at 25 meter. The entire affair eventually dumbed down to the lowest-common-denomitor, minimalist affair common to every Soldier that has served since Reagan’s first term. 25 meter zero followed by “pop up” targets (or just the 25 meter Alternate “C”) course is the least effort approach that technically satifies minimal requirements.

Sadly, because most Soldiers are illiterate this is the totality of their understanding.


Canadian Sniper Record Shot: An Analysis


I’m sure you heard about a Canadian sniper that reportedly set a new world record by taking down an ISIS target from a distance of about 2.2 miles. The exact distance of the shot was 11,316 feet (3,772 yards), taken by a special forces sniper from Canada’s Joint Task Force 2. In an official Forces Canadiennes statement, “The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 metres [2.2 miles].”

One suggested motivator for this:

Here’s a commentary about this. Please comment with your thoughts below.

Jason Brown

A dozen shots at a dozen ISIS combatants 2 miles away and you’re bound to hit one. The vital zone is smaller than the zone where a quarter of the shots under controlled conditions would land. These guys are never alone. If he could reliably hit one with one shot, one kill certainty, then why weren’t there multiple kills? The reason is that this was a lucky shot.

Ten inch vital zone at 3,540m is 0.25MOA. That rifle shoots 0.5MOA BEFORE you throw in the Coriolis effect, which will move the point of impact between 7 to 10 inches depending on the actual time of flight of the bullet, but can’t be can’t be determined any better than that due to variability in muzzle velocity from shot to shot. That time of flight is also going to be affected by the inconsistent air density along the 4km arc of flight. This will also affect the amount of spin drift. Mathematically, this is like hitting a bullseye that’s smaller than the point of the dart. Do the math. Learn about long range shooting. Spend some time on the thousand yard range with guys that hold world records. Or better yet, answer that question – If this was a reliable one shot kill, why was there only one kill when the ISIS combat doctrine presents multiple targets…

This was walked into a crowd just like Craig Harrison’s shots, no doubt about it. World record 1,000yd benchrest is 0.3MOA where Coriolis is negligible with handloads that have a standard deviation of only a few feet per second and heavy support on concrete bases that weigh a ton. Obviously, a tactical rifle is not going to match that, and at over triple the distance, that group will open up due to variables that cannot be calculated such as uneven air density which no ballistic computer will predict. Hitting that first shot, cold bore is statistically like rolling six-sized dice and getting a 6.33, or measuring 0.0004″ with digital calipers that read to the nearest 0.001″, or measuring your speed to 1/10th MPH with a speedometer that has an accuracy of plus or minus 1MPH. If the error ellipse is larger than the target, the hit probably is less than 1.


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