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:
“What I used when I was sniping, I learned when I was competing.”

Chief Warrant Officer Arthur Terry 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:

USMC Rifle Qualification History


History of USMC Rifle Qualification, 1903-2013
by Marine Gunner C.P. WADE, WTBN, Quantico

Source: History of USMC Rifle Qualification, 1903-2013

More comments here:

Hawaii Marines Improve Range and Qualification Scores


The United States Marine Corps Table 1 Qualification Course is derived from the 50 round National Match Course and is a test of fundamental marksmanship, base skills which apply to any situation and regardless of sights used. Anything less than 250 points indicates fundamentals can be improved. Even a perfect 250 can be improved upon as the USMC qual targets are large.

Details are in MARINE CORPS ORDER 3574.2K
Page 66 (B-1)

Click to access MCO%203574.2K.pdf

The Hawaii Marines wisely chose to eliminate variables not congruent with this test. This is a smart move. Table 1 is not a simulation, a dick-measuring contest, or any other stupid thing wannabes (or Marines not good enough to make it to the Pacific Division Matches or elsewhere) pretend it is. It is a test of fundamentals with feedback. Any score less than 250 can be improved. Despite the chest thumping, very few Marines shoot this well.

Dry Practice, Marine Style

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From John Tate

You think “dry fire” practice is new?  Consider this quote about USMC rifle training circa 1950:

“The first week on the range was devoted firing with no ammunition while aiming at large black dots painted on white wooden posts. The second week recruits fired both the .22-caliber and M1 rifles, and worked pulling targets in the rifle range pits.”

Rob Mango: The Flow of Shooting

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Master Sergeant Rob Mango is a long time, national champion-level competition shooter, having shot with the USMC Rifle, USAMU Service Rifle, USAMU International Pistol, US Palma, USA Shooting (pistol), USAMU Service Pistol and all USAR Marksmanship Program teams.

Among his many marksmanship achievements, his most recent is winning the National Trophy Individual at Camp Perry during the 2013 CMP National Trophy Pistol Matches.

Here is what he has to say on “flow” as it pertains to a string of fire.


Death of the Marine Marksman


SSG Ethan Rocke originally published this article in the Okinawa Marine Newspaper. It was later picked up by under their headline news and SSG Rocke was formally recognized by the Marine Corps for his telling editorial.

The United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association awarded SSgt. Ethan Rocke a First Place Commentary for this.

Rocke calls his piece “Death of the Marksman” and writes that the “new rifle qualification scoring system elevates mediocre shooters and drastically lowers Corps’ standards.” In his analysis of the system he argues that the aggregate scoring system “has degraded the distinction of what an expert shooter is by Marine standards… lowering standards is something Marines don’t do.”

…except the Marines actually did lower their rifle qualification standards and continue to use this lowered standard despite published commentary pointing out the folly of it.

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UPDATE: In the interim, Marine Corps leadership has since boasted how the USMC now has about 60% of personnel qualifying “expert” exactly as Sgt. Rocke predicted over a decade ago in his essay when the standard was lowered. That’s what happens when you move the goalposts and reduce the standard low enough to make things easier.

New rifle qualification aggregate scoring system elevates mediocre shooters, lowers Marine Corps standard

by Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke, Okinawa Marine Newspaper

Say goodbye to the Marine Corps marksman. From now on, all Marines will be either sharpshooters or experts.

Those lines may as well be written into the new Marine Corps Combat Marksmanship Program order, which has effectively lowered the Corps’ standard for excellence in rifle marksmanship.

That may just be my humble opinion, but I am predicting, and hoping, that once Corps officials run the numbers and analyze the statistical evidence of how many Marines are earning a classification of sharpshooter or expert now compared to before our rifle qualification standards changed, they will come to the same conclusion.

The problem is that the new aggregate scoring system combines a shooter’s scores from the fundamental marksmanship portion, Table 1, and the combat marksmanship portion, Table 2, and that aggregate score now determines a shooter’s badge classification.

The new system eliminates, on the fundamental marksmanship course, the minimum score a shooter must receive to earn a classification above marksman. Shooters used to have to obtain a minimum score of 210 or 220 (out of a possible 250) on the fundamental course to earn a classification of sharpshooter or expert respectively. Those days are no more.

The aggregate score minimums are now 305-350 for expert, 280-304 for sharpshooter, and 250-279 for marksman.

Under the new system, a Marine can leave the fundamental course a marksman, shooting anywhere from 205 to 209, and still elevate his classification straight past sharpshooter to expert by shooting anywhere from a 96 to the maximum score of 100.

I completed my annual rifle qualification a few weeks ago, and I was highly disappointed by the droves of Marines who were giddy over the fact that they were able to make up for a mediocre performance on Table 1 with a decent performance on Table 2.

Two Marines from my office were on the range with me. Both had never qualified above marksman. Both shot below a 210 on the fundamental course. Both left the range sharpshooters. This type of outcome was rampant across the entire range detail.

One Marine on my detail shot a 193 on Table 1, just three points above the minimum score needed to pass the table, and still walked away from Table 2 with a brand new shiny sharpshooter badge. This amused him, just like it amused all the other Marines who walked away from the range this year with a new notion of what is average, excellent or outstanding when it comes to a Marine’s ability with a rifle. The fact that Marines are literally laughing at this new system speaks volumes about its impact on our standards.

I collected data on 176 shooters who qualified with the new system on Okinawa. Of those 176 shooters, 93 qualified as experts, 53 qualified sharpshooter and seven qualified marksman. Twenty did not qualify, either because they did not meet minimum standards or because they were dropped from their range details for other reasons such as faulty weapons.

I don’t have older data to compare those numbers against, but I’m betting, based on strong anecdotal evidence, that experts were not always in the strong majority, and marksman were not always a virtually nonexistent minority.

The new Marine Corps Combat Marksmanship order articulates the reason behind the implementation of Table 2 into annual qualification training: “Combat ready Marines must be … highly proficient in the use of firearms. Well-trained Marines have the confidence required to deliver accurate fire under the most adverse battle conditions. The rifle is the primary means by which Marines accomplish their mission … The objective of marksmanship training is to develop, sustain, and improve individual combat shooting skills.”

I agree 100 percent with all that and am glad the Corps has implemented Table 2 into annual qualification. It is valuable training.

What I don’t agree with is the way the aggregate scoring system has degraded the distinction of what an expert shooter is by Marine standards.

Under these new standards, the Corps has opened the doors and welcomed everyone to the party: “Chips and dip to the right, sharpshooter and expert badges to the left. Please check any sense of what excellence is at the door.”

If the aggregate system is here to stay, it needs to be revised, and the standard needs to be raised. The Table 1 minimum scores for each classification need to come back at the least. That alone might be enough, but we should also consider the fact that a shooter’s proficiency with a rifle should be measured consistently. We used to require 84 percent hits for sharpshooter and 88 percent hits for expert on Table 1. Maybe we need to require the same minimums on both tables.

Some Marines might shudder at that elevated standard, which would mean a bad day of combat marksmanship shooting could mean the loss of a higher badge classification. What those Marines should shudder at is that right now we have a system that has drastically lowered our standards.

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