Marine Corps Overhauls Marksmanship Standards

Zac K
by Zac K
Current USMC marksmanship standards are based off the era of the bolt-action Springfield M1903 rifle, despite multiple generations of semi-auto and full-auto weaponry. [USMC]

The Marine Corps has long preached a mantra that every Marine is a rifleman first—and now they’re changing how those riflemen are trained, to make them more effective in combat.


For starters, the Corps is changing its standards for marksmanship evaluations and also changing its scoring parameters. Hard as it may be to believe, until this winter, Marines still used a marksmanship evaluation program that dated back to 1907, the era of the bolt-action .30-06 Springfield M1903 rifle.

More than a century later, combat has changed and the firearms used have changed; USMC leadership says the updates to its marksmanship program are intended to help Marines deal with potential coming conflicts.

The big changes start with the evaluation program now considering the speed of the Marine’s shooting, not just their accuracy. The time for their first shot, their reload time and their time for follow-up shots will also be measured.

Another change: Previously, Marines could only rest their rifle on its magazine for zeroing or adjusting rifle sights at known ranges. Now, thanks to the improved construction of newer polymer mags preventing jamming, they will be allowed to do it throughout their marksmanship evaluation.

USMC leadership says the new changes are about making their troops more deadline in combat. It's not portrayed as a way of easing requirements to help boost strength levels as recruitment weakens.

As of a 2023 change Marines also now have multiple chances each year to pass their rifle qualification—but if they want to simply pass in the pre-qualification phase, 2024’s updates call for higher standards. Previously, if a Marine shot a score qualifying for Marksman (the lowest score, below Sharpshooter, then Expert), that was considered good enough. Now, Marines can only skip qualification if they shoot an Expert score in pre-qualification. Marine leadership says this is to encourage their servicemen to aim for excellence, instead of coasting by on the bare minimum score.

There are also changes to the pistol qualification program, including a prioritization of lethal hits that wasn’t there before.

Add it all up, and Marine leadership says they are trying to improve their troops’ performance at shooting while moving, shooting at moving targets and shooting at unknown distances.

Zac K
Zac K

Professional hoser with fudd-ish leanings.

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  • John Logan John Logan on Apr 27, 2024

    The ALL USAR Service Rifle, Combat Rifle teams brought the U.S. Army up to speed in 1994. Unfortunately they did away with my annual marksmanship requirements for all personnel and the requirement that all officers wear at least 1 marksmanship badge.

  • Paul L Paul L on Apr 27, 2024

    Something sorely lacking in military small arms training is shooting at moving targets. I can certainly understand not including it in qualification or evaluation because of the difficulty of implementation and inconsistency in setups, but training for it is needed.

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    • Mr. Kill Mr. Kill on May 01, 2024

      @Paul L The previous USMC qual did have some moving targets, at close range. The other shooter would be down in the target pits with a human silhouette on popsicle stick, and walk across over like 10 seconds.