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.
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.
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.
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.