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Shooting Tips from the Marine Corps’ Best

Sgt. Patrick Saleh, an instructor and competitor with the Marine Corps Shooting Team, is one of 11 Marines on the Corps' official shooting team. Marines from various military occupational specialties are recruited for the team after performing well in division shooting matches. "It's a great honor being able to represent the Marine Corps in the shooting world," Saleh, from Fort Worth, Texas, said. "Being able to travel around the world advancing other Marine'€™s knowledge on shooting is also very satisfying we try to work with each Marine we see at all the matches and encourage questions." (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

Sgt. Patrick Saleh knew he wanted to be a Marine ever since he was a kid. When he was 17 he joined the delayed entry program and a year later, after graduating high school in Fort Worth, Texas, he joined the Corps. Originally Saleh served as an automotive organizational mechanic, but after performing well in various shooting matches he became a permanent member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team in 2010. That same year, then a corporal, he earned the Gold Lauchheimer Trophy, a trophy given to the Marine with the highest aggregate score with the rifle and pistol at the Marine Corps Shooting Championships. No corporal had earned the Lauchheimer Trophy since 1936. This year he won the Walsh Trophy for his pistol prowess at the Marine Corps Shooting Championships. Every Marine is a rifleman, but few are as accurate as Saleh. Luckily, he’s sharing marksmanship tips here on the Marines Blog. Below are Saleh’s advice for overall marksmanship, as well as a few more specific tips for the next time you’re qualifying with your rifle or pistol.

SOUND OFF
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re in doubt. Talk with Marines that are shooting with you. Discuss the different shooting techniques you each use. It’s always good to have information you already know thrown back at you to remind you of things you might have looked over. Be willing to take in the information — you don’t know everything. We are constantly learning new techniques from other Marines.

YOU CAN’T SHOOT WITHOUT YOUR WEAPON
Maintain your weapons. Ensure they are all functional and take care of them. Look over your weapons at the beginning of the day and the end. Sights come loose, trigger springs fall out, and locking blocks break. No one likes missing a day of training for a broken weapon. Cleaning and maintaining your weapon can prevent these problems.

GOOD DRY FIRE = GOOD LIVE FIRE
Each day you’re only allotted so many rounds on the range, but who says that’s where the training stops. There’s no limit to how many times you can dry fire. It’s the exact same thing as firing live rounds, there’s just no recoil or actual shot. Take it seriously and pretend each dry fire shot you take is an actual shot. This will build good fundamentals and let your body get used to being in the various positions you will be in. But don’t overdo it. Dry firing for extended periods of time can also start creating bad habits like muscling the weapon or snatching the trigger. Know your limits.

ONLY THE NEXT SHOT MATTERS
Have patience. Don’t let bad shots get to your head. What’s done is done. You need to stay focused on the next shot. If you keep that bad shot in your head your mental focus wont be where it needs to be and the following shots are more likely to be bad. Stay positive, don’t complain about how bad your day at the range went. Think about ways to better yourself the next day. Keep a positive mentality and your shots should follow.

Cpl. Neil Sookdeo, a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team and marksmanship instructor, prepares his rifle for marksmanship training at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Calvin A. Lloyd Range Complex, Dec. 8, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

REPEAT YOURSELF (rifle)
Check your positions. Snap-in in each position and check sling tension, hand and foot placement, body alignment, and body support. Take notes of how you have everything set up and do it the same way every time. With shooting, consistency is key. If you don’t have your position the same way every day, your zeroes will change with your position.

BE A NATURAL (rifle)
When you’re on the firing line, get into position with your eyes closed. When you think you’re in position correctly, open your eyes and see where your sights are aimed. If your sights aren’t on your target your natural point of aim is off and you are more than likely going to be muscling the weapon to the target. Make firing easier on yourself and keep adjusting your position until you can open your eyes and your sights fall on your target.

DATA MATTERS (rifle)
Use and analyze data books every day and look at them at the end of each stage of fire. Plot your shots accurately. This will help you see where your group is. Fill out all the information. Being able to always back track and see how weather and light affect your zero in previous days allows you to make better corrections when you encounter those conditions again. Save the data book, don’t junk them when you’re done with the range. Use them again on the next range, none of that data has changed.

Cpl. Neil Sookdeo, a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team and marksmanship instructor, fires his pistol at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Calvin A. Lloyd Range Complex, Dec. 8, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)

DON’T BE A JERK (pistol
Trigger control matters. You might be able to get away with snatching some shots on your rifle, but with the pistol it’s very easy to shoot a miss just by jerking the pistol. Learn your trigger pull. Right before you shoot, take some time to dry fire and practice your trigger squeeze. Watch your sights and see how they react to the hammer falling.

SURPRISE YOURSELF (pistol)
Try not to anticipate your shot. Treat every live shot as if it were a dry fire shot. When you anticipate, you try to fight the recoil or add in extra movement that is going to throw your shots. Let each shot be a surprise and your groups will tighten up. Accept the movement. As long as the sights are aligned and on target, you should be fine. Don’t spend too much time trying to dress up the shot. This is where you’re more likely to throw unexpected shots.

TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE (pistol)
Pay attention to time limits. If you’re shooting slow fire and have ten minutes, take your time and focus on your fundamentals instead of shooting off all your rounds in two minutes and standing around doing nothing for the next eight. When you’re doing drills like a speed reload or quick reaction think about what you’re doing. Don’t let the time get to you, that’s when you begin to fumble your magazines or forget basics like chambering rounds and taking weapons off safe.

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  • Kamile Ko

    These tips are really great, but from my side I would also add few ones, to improve photoshoots even better- Vestuvių
    fotografai šiauliuose , so believe me, it is worth to consider :)

  • thomas

    Thank you
    so much for such a great blog.

  • Corporal Russell Gaskins III

    I had the distinct pleasure of learning from Sgt. Saleh in the Marine Corps shooting competition at Stonebay back in February and March of 2010! Everything he talks about is true. None the less, I came in 7th out of 291 people in the pistol competition and 17th in the rifle competition. Thanks Sgt. Saleh for the extra tips and pointers that you gave me in the time that I learned.

    Corporal Russell H. Gaskins III USMC

  • Jack

    chances are you didn’t shoot that well the second time in the pit, I’ve pulled pits for the UNQS and its a joke, most people don’t qual the second time but are given a pass because no one wants to stay their any longer (ask the coach in the pits).

  • nick

    So I went unq then on re-qual shot a 224, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t pit love because day 1 and 2 I shot well, , 225 on day 2… If I shot that well it would have been my first award expert, instead all the pressure I put on myself made me shoot awful so I got my first award unq instead lol. Anyways my question is if my unit allows can I shoot the range again next week so I don’t have to be stuck with a pizza box or do I have to wait until the start of the new fiscal year?

  • JackP

    So I am trying to search everywhere on how to shoot with iron sights. If I am just out target shooting or hunting long range with iron sights am I supposed to keep both eyes open or can I close the one. I understand that for up close both eyes and for Optics (RDS,Scope) also both eyes but Irons long range? I don’t think I need to use the tape trick because I don’t shoot for hours on end.

  • James

    Memory, memory, memory. I hadn’t touched a firearm in 17 years after getting out of the Marines. When I took a position that required me to carry a firearm. I went to qualify. first 50 rounds shot, I qualified. Moral of the story: Once you are trained, it will go with you every step for the rest of your life. Learn it right the first time and carry on the tradition of being the best marksmen (and women) in the world. Only God looks down on Marines; everyone else has to look up.

  • james

    do you have to point the gun a few feet down and a few feet over to get your target 

  • http://www.usmc81.com Cpl. Beddoe

    Outstanding tip! Semper Fi!

  • http://www.usmc81.com Cpl. Beddoe

    Outstanding tip! Semper Fi!

  • Dawson, Terrence Wm.

    1963 Camp Matthews and everything remains the same to putting good shots down range.

  • Cpl Neil Sookdeo

    It depends what kind of shooting/training you are doing. If you’re out there to target shoot with iron sights, a blinder over your non-aiming eye can help. Ensure its in a neutral color like a fogged white or gray so as to not stress that eye. Often I see and have myself used a piece of cardboard tucked into my cover in this way.

    If you’re working with an optic for long range or even using a fighting gun with an RDS, I encourage you to shoot with both eyes open if possible. This enables you to retain your peripherals and notice movement, wind flags or other indicators as you shoot.

    Again, the mission and purpose of what you are doing drives everything else, to include gear, mindset, and techniques used.

    Hope this helped!

    S/F

    Cpl. Neil Sookdeo
    USMC Rifle Team

  • John Miller

    I’m 14 and i love to shoot but when i sight-in i cant close my left eye. What should i do?

  • Mike C

    Great advice. Especially the part about the natural body alignment, so many people forget that part, and they drive themselves crazy trying to figure out why they had a bad day at the range. To me a bad day at the range is still better than a good day anywhere else.

  • Mike C

    Great advice. Especially the part about the natural body alignment, so many people forget that part, and they drive themselves crazy trying to figure out why they had a bad day at the range. To me a bad day at the range is still better than a good day anywhere else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1486008709 Christopher McCabe

    As a former firearms instuctor at the NYPD, I also told my shooters to learn from their bad shots.  They know what happened when that shot went off.  Also I told them it like a clutch in a car, clutch coming out gas going on together.  Not one then the other.  Sight allignment and trigger control work together.  If they dont know how to drive a clutch, I asked them if they could chew gum and walk.  Its not  chew chew step, its both at the same time.  If they couldnt chew gum and walk… well I cant say what I would say then. 

    Happy Shooting ! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1486008709 Christopher McCabe

    As a former firearms instuctor at the NYPD, I also told my shooters to learn from their bad shots.  They know what happened when that shot went off.  Also I told them it like a clutch in a car, clutch coming out gas going on together.  Not one then the other.  Sight allignment and trigger control work together.  If they dont know how to drive a clutch, I asked them if they could chew gum and walk.  Its not  chew chew step, its both at the same time.  If they couldnt chew gum and walk… well I cant say what I would say then. 

    Happy Shooting ! 

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  • Diegob17

    Great techniques. Semper-fi.

  • topshot

    All important, but not as important as focusing on the clear front site.  If your target isn’t a blur behind your front site post, you’re not going to do well, especially with the pistol.

  • Scarface6021

    slow steady squeeze then bang u never know when the rifle goes off it should surprise you should never look at da target but at the tip once u sight in the target gets blurry. This is when u trurly know one shot, one kill oooorahhh!!!!!

  • Robert Fountain

    @google-738a4e7c9672ddd99fc8904b62a38154:disqus dude I’ve been following yur youtube videos, and have been pumped to go to PLC-OCS for the chance for one day lead marines. semper-fi

  • pedro c. alvarez

    is there 11th marine rifle unit

  • Jimmy Shea

    I went to Division Matches Far East, 2009. The tips given from the Marine Corps Rifle and Pistol team members who were there helped me earn a bronze medal (it was my first time touching a pistol!) These Marines know marksmanship inside out. Keep these notes!

  • George530

    These are very well thought-out plans to follow for improving one’s shooting skills.  Hope other Marines read this article and practice applying Sgt. Saleh’s recommendations.
    Thank You.