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Marine Corps marksmanship symposium will discuss new targets, magazine policies

Mar. 5, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Combat Pistol Program MWM 20130709
Marksmanship trainers take aim last year aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Top shooters will discuss marksmanship with Marine leaders at an April symposium. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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The Corps’ most prolific shooters will meet with top Marine leaders to discuss the service’s current state of marksmanship, where it’s headed and what needs to be improved.

The Combat Marksmanship Symposium for fiscal year 2014 will be held at Camp Upshur aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., from April 7 to 10. The symposium is held annually to provide a forum to discuss issues related to marksmanship and provide recommended solutions to current challenges, according to Marine administrative message 091/14.

The symposium brings together leaders from Training and Education Command, Marine Corps Combat Development Command and Headquarters Marine Corps to get feedback from the fleet. Marksmanship experts with Weapons Training Battalion will host the event.

The Combat Marksmanship Symposium will consist of an executive steering committee made up of 15 members. They come from various communities across the Marine Corps, including those responsible for entry-level training at the recruit depots and schools of infantry, those who implement the programs at the Marine expeditionary forces, regional commands, and headquarters elements that support and advise.

Six working groups will address specific topics including weapons, range facilities, combat rifle marksmanship, combat pistol marksmanship, competition in arms program, and simulation and distance learning.

Notable points of discussion by this year’s working groups will include magazines and targets, according to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian P. Wade, a gunner at Weapons Training Battalion. Following the symposium, the service will likely dump its standard steel magazines with black followers — which were first adopted in the 1980s — and replace them with more reliable next-generation steel magazines with green and tan followers. Like the Army, the Corps will direct Marines to turn in the older magazines for updated versions, Wade said.

“We will probably have more discussion on polymer magazines, too. We are not ready to go anywhere with them, but there is a demand in the fleet for advanced polymer magazines. This is where we get to talk about that and explore future requirements,” he said.

Targets, fundamentally unchanged for a century, will get a look to see if they are appropriate for training with the Marine Corps’ Rifle Combat Optic, Wade said.

“We are trying to find the right balance between bull’s-eye traditional, competitive-style marksmanship and preparing a Marine for combat,” he said.

Many of the service’s current targets were developed near the turn of the century when Marines were still using the .30-06 M1903 Springfield rifle. Wade said the service still firmly believes in bull’s-eye marksmanship, but new targets may emphasize scoring that reflects human physiology. In other words, a hit in center mass of a humanoid shape would be scored different from a hit in the arm.

Leaders made a major move following last year’s symposium when they banned polymer rifle magazines, preferred by many combat troops for their durability. Now only standard-issue 5.56mm metal magazines are approved. They also put plans into place to test the human-shaped target now used during pistol training. Similar targets could be developed for rifle marksmanship.

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