The military shooting range in the Army is ridiculous. You all know what I am referring to. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a range in boot camp, infantry school, or MOB training. It always seems like there is some E7 or officer yelling at everybody no matter who you are, and then their so-called range safeties and instructors (who aren’t even experts) try to teach soldiers how to shoot. Or the constant thought of “range walk, range walk, quickly, quickly.” Are you serious? By the time most of the soldiers get zeroed and get to the qualification shoot, they’re tired, hungry, either wind chilled or sun burned, and half scared out of their minds they are going to do something wrong and a power-hungry instructor is going to kick them off the range.
Let’s Fix It. Let’s Make It Enjoyable.
I have an idea and maybe I am not the only one. The range has flaws and a lot of them. And let’s not forget how important it is; you are training to be efficient with your weapon, so you can defend yourself against an enemy. The first thing should be to fix the zero range—quit giving soldiers an optic zero iron sights; it is a waste of time and a waste of ammunition that could be used for a better purpose.
The first thing should be to switch the order of shooting. In most ranges, I have seen NCOs shoot first and then soldiers. Let’s change this soldiers shooting first. Here is why—the young new soldiers may have only qualified once before, and it was probably an experience they want to forget! Let’s get the soldiers zeroed first then the NCOs and officers. There should be no yelling or constant threats of being kicked off the range.
The next step in zeroing is to take all that crap off! You’re at a range, but you should have some confidence in using the NCOs waiting for more safeties. The zero range is where knowledge and experience are passed on, so teach the fundamentals of shooting. The zero range is where you build confidence and trust, so do it! Let them shoot more than 30 rounds. Really let everybody practice. Don’t you want everybody to either be a sharpshooter or an expert in your unit? The range should be done in 3 days, not this rush out at 0400 when most 1SG think “oh, this is a great time for a 6-mile ruck!”
Don’t leave soldiers out there sitting around all day waiting to shoot. By the time they do, they’re miserable and just want to get it over with. Therefore, on day one, you should zero and practice shoot a minimum of well-focused 100 rounds. Then on day two, work on the qualification round. And don’t do this with a “Ivan” that is covered with grass or doesn’t work right. How can you build confidence if half the targets don’t work? Take the unit to do the 25m paper qualification round. Once again, build confidence and create a “want to be there” environment. A soldier who qualifies as an expert or a sharpshooter is a proud one. At the end of day two, if all of your unit is not at least a sharpshooter or above, you should take everyone that isn’t and let them re qualify. Let anybody who isn’t expert try again. Be sure to have the experts do their thing—teach and train. On to day three—the enjoyable day. What you do here is take that “Ivan” pop-up target and shoot just as you would do for qualification. Everyone will get a score, and the “top shot” at the end of the day gets a nice battalion coin!
No Laughing Matter
The range is no laughing matter. Once again, you’re there to qualify and to practice to defend yourself and your unit. It needs to be a confidence builder for all. The way the ranges are operated today needs to be changed. Some units only go to the range twice a year for their weapons qualification. How can you be proficient at all if all you do is go there and end up wanting to just get it over with? As NCOs and officers, we have to build confidence and trust in our soldiers. Doing so takes time and practice. The soldiers build confidence and trust visually first by seeing what they can really do in a comfortable setting without 100lbs of gear on, sweating in the burning sun all day. I am infantry, so I know you train as you fight. Let’s take a little trip over to Camp McCall and see how the experts do it!