Concerning marksmanship badges…

In the Corps we have a thing about being good with a rifle. This stems all the way back to World War I.  Germans first encountered  the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments at what they thought were distances well outside accurate rifle ranges. Marine accuracy was such that German soldiers mistakenly believed they had engaged a battalion of snipers. The lethality of Marine marksmanship led General Pershing to remark: ” The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.”

Rifle and pistol badges can mean quite a bit to young Marines. To be “unq” or “unqualified” with the rifle is the most egregious of crimes and can cause a Marine unbelievable shame and ridicule. The marksman badge or “pizza box” is the lowest of qualifications but at least the bearer can hit paper with a weapon. In all fairness, there are those who cannot hit the target with a bayonet let alone live ammo. Nonetheless, Marksmen are looked down upon for their lack of ability. Next are the Sharpshooters, whose skill is such that they can at least say they aren’t Marksmen. Finally are the heroes who are qualified to sport Expert badges. They righteously look down upon the rest for their inability to manipulate a rifle accurately. The only thing better than an Expert is a multiple award Expert and, of course, being a double expert in both rifle and pistol.

There is such a thing as a Distinguished Marksmanship badge. These are reserved for Marines who have too much time on their hands and get to lounge around rifle range competitions shooting instead of deploying. Distinguished Marksmen tend to respond to such accusations with: “Jealous much?” Very.  

 I recall being justifiably proud of my Expert rifle badges. It took me a couple of years to figure it out. One day while on the range in Okinawa I thought to myself: “Well maybe I’ll try out some of those marksmanship basics they taught me in boot camp.” Lo and behold, I qualified a high expert by the end of the week. Go figure.
Seeing a picture of my dad during his tenure as a Marine I noticed his Sharpshooter badges. With all the disdain I reserved for lesser marksmen I asked: “Dad what’s up with those weak Sharpshooter badges?”

My father, a combat veteran with two tours of Korea and three in Vietnam, replied: “Yeah? How many have you killed with yours?”

Dad always did have the ability to take the swagger out of my step.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. 1. Your Dad is exactly right.
    2. You get sucked into the admin game if something more worthwhile isn’t going on.
    3. High expert (above 235 rifle and I can’t remember what pistol) and above 285 on the PFT had to be noted on fitreps.
    4. Don’t know if that is still true.
    5. In combination with #2, good NCO’s and my PMI background, my company requalled expert at close to 70% expert.
    6. Being infantry, took a week of afternoons snapping in, prior to range week.
    7. Lots of beady eyed attention to round placement and whether the crack in the paper crossed the line went on in the butts.
    8. Accusations of M16 pencil (f. M1 pencil) could lead to fisticuffs, as could denial of what someone thought was their just due.
    9. In a time when the attitude of my young Marines was pretty-much anti-establishment, this was good stuff.
    10. All this works much better today: we were still slogging through the post-Vietnam malaise.
    11. Tell young troops (and even some who are not so young) about what went on back in the bad old days and you can tell they think you are lying.
    12. Standards are much higher and far more strictly observed -whether it be leadership or ‘dining facility.’
    13. BTW, qualling with the M-1, shooting off hand instead of standing, etc, was much more difficult. A sharp shooter badge, back in those days, wasn’t a distant second place showing.
    Think those qualling expert actually received a couple extra dollars a month.
    V/R JWest

  2. Heh.

    I thought the official USMC name for the marksman’s badge was “The Toilet Seat” with the official USMC name for toilet in place of toilet. (keeping it family friendly, sir).

    – Grimmy

  3. bahaha!

    Nothing makes me happier than starting a story for the kid with “….well, back in the OLD Corps”.

    He laughs along with us and then sneaks in… “So, they didn’t have the crucible back during the Cold War, did they. 😉

  4. A. S.M.
    But to be able to fire in combat, you have to have a few things going for you. First, you have to be able to put rounds on target. Second, you have to be able to do it under stress.
    Funny thing is, my dad retired from the USAF…and HE taught me how to shoot (Rifles, not pistols). He was an EXPERT with all the long guns he had to use in Nam…the M1 carbine and the M16 (not A1).
    When I got to basic, I was able to qual Expert the first go.
    When I got to West Berlin, I was put on the line to help others shoot better. When I became a copper, I became a range master.
    Shooting with accuracy and distance takes training and skill.

  5. JWest, indeed, PFT/CFT and rifle/pistol scores, whether high or low are on the fitrep. As well as MCMAP belt and swim qual. I’m fairly certain I was selected to 1stSgt on the basis I tend to have scores in these (except swim).

    Robert, more than likely. Now days they shoot the ranges with ACOGs and bipods and such. Those fundamentals you taught allowed them to excel when the technology was rolled out.

    Grimy, ah, times may have changed then. In my day it was referred to as a pizza box.

    Meadow, the response to that is: “No, we were already tough when we joined back then.”

    CI Roller, you can not imagine how shocked I was to learn my marksman ship coaches actually knew what they were doing.

  6. Army Basic training, draft era, was in a company that set a new low while in a battalion that set a new low for standards. The cadre were catching hell. Know what flows downhill? What saved my unruly and undisciplined self was being the best shot in that battalion training cycle. Bless those people in NRA Junior Riflemen for their years of teaching me while putting up with me.

  7. @Well Seasoned Fool
    1. Was a draftee myself.
    2. Things were so low, at that point, nobody was catching hell -we just slouched along.
    3. Shot all my rounds in basic from a foxhole position. Learned to aim at the base of the popup target. Ricochets or dirt from a low impact would take the popups down. (Actually, habitually aiming low is a good thing, in a real fight)
    4. In AIT, the company SFC instructed the trainee leadership that there would be “no Bolos” on his range. That range featured multiple popups between 250 and 400m -and you were supposed to use the selector lever and auto fire engaging multiple targets. You got four 20 rd magazines to engage 50 targets.
    5. Needless to say, used single shot only and always finished with unfired rounds.
    6. Didn’t matter -on qual day, trainee leadership ran the range and got expert without firing a round.
    7. Didn’t really learn to shoot until marksmanship training in USMC Boot Camp.
    8. In the Army of my day, no one cared how good a shot you were. Showing up for formation voluntarily made you eligible for promotion and a target of derision from your peers. The worst insult you could throw at someone was to call them a “Lifer.”
    9. Years later, was shocked when someone pointed out that I had morphed into a Lifer.
    V/R JWest

  8. @ Anonymous II. Facing draft, went RA. Basic was M-1. AIT was M-14. Early -14 were nothing to stake your life on. Never shot one of the plastic things. Shot Expert with both. We had access to a range with plentiful ammo on Saturday afternoons or Sundays. Good times. One NCO was DMB Campt Perry Champ type and a great coach. No snipers in my day, at least in the Engineers. No loss, I’m easily confused by camouflage.

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