Square ranges are the bunny slopes of shooting—especially the ones that don’t let you draw from a holster or rapid fire. “Real” defensive/tactical shooting means shooting while moving, and shooting at things that are moving, and shooting while moving at things that are moving. Judging from the “experimental” video above, the Marines are finally realizing that their live-fire training needs to be more realistic. On the civilian side, more and more trainers are doing the move ‘n shoot thing, though not the moving thing thing. Cops? Sigh. The problem is, of course, money . . .

Square ranges are safer and more profitable than interactive ranges. Everything is contained in a small space. Everybody does the same thing the same way at the same time. Maintenance is [relatively] minimal and predictable. Insurance costs are low. And square ranges are . . . there. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get planning permission for a new gun range in an urban area? I do. It’s not.

There are plenty of signs that a sea change in gun training is on its way. The use of simunitions and increasingly sophisticated simulators is on the rise. Outdoor ranges are finding move ‘n shoot classes easier to sell (especially to the COD crowd). There’s money in it, now. But the urban  zoning things is a bear and square range owners are making so much money they don’t feel the need to reinvent their business.

Still, gun range 2.0 is coming—to the troops, to cops and to you. How long before someone figures out that Westworld (minus the glitch) is both doable and profitable? Not long. Can’t wait.

27 Responses to The Marines Get Real About Target Practice

  1. I saw several Marines with M4s… Is that because they are running tests on an Army range or did the Corps switch to carbines when I was not paying attention? Overall, great plan. They still need to maintain the long distance quals though. Marines pride ourselves on individual marksmanship, that’s the way is should stay.

    • Marines have had M4’s for quite some time. Most officers and SNCO’s in my Marine reserve infantry battalion carried them in Afghanistan in 2011.

      • That’s news to me. When I was in, we still ran full length rifles for everyone other than a few special snowflakes.

        • I was army and my last go around was at Camp Leatherneck and ran missions with the Marines. The vast majority had the M16s with ACOGs while about a sixth of the Marines, usually the squad leaders and M4s. Not that it was special, I guess they thought they needed less weight because they’d be running around more and make it easier to focus on command and control of their team/squads. Any time we need to shoot farther than 5.56 range, we pretty much had larger caliber crew served weapons or air.

    • PFFF!!!

      If I can run around for HOURS* with an M98B, 5 grenades, a pistol, a small UAV, and a radar dish strapped to my back, these wussies can surely deal with a little M4 training in the real world!

      (*hours of battlefield 3)

    • A few years back the corps bought over 80,000 m4’s. They are trying to get them to as many marines as possible, including the infantry. As dumb as that is.

      • How is that dumb?

        If they had slightly older M16s, then cycling through that stock to give M4s all around, they could retrofit the M16s with collapsible stocks and get free-floating handguards going. It’s not totally unrealistic, imo.

        Unless there’s a reason I’m not thinking of? (possible)

        • The marines are primarily running m16a4’s which is the burst m16 with a complete fully railed handguard and flattop failed upper. The marines have Doctorine of using full sized rifles rather than carbines (every marine is a rifleman). That’s where the distaste for the M4 comes from.

  2. You’d think the anti gun crowd would be big supporters of this kind of training so that law abiding gun owners would be best trained, practiced, and prepared in practical firearms handling and use, and competently prepared in the event they ever had to deploy their firearm in self defense.

    In fact, I’m sure they WOULD be if their true intentions weren’t to simply disarm us.

    • There is a little 300 yd range in Petaluma, CA that was recently forced by the county to install a giant bullet proof cowl across the shooting line that forces you to hug the table in order to see the 300 yard targets. This was done at huge expense to the range, and was designed to put it out of business. Of course shooting standing and prone is now prohibited too. All of this because some idiot cop forgot his gun was hot and ND’d into the air.

      Anyway, point being, gun control country will be lucky to keep any ranges at all, much less the cool tactical ones.

      • I know. In many ways it ‘drives me nuts’ being stuck in this state for our employment.

        Chandler looks better and better all the time.

    • Remember that anti-gunners like their little boxes. They like their entire world to be contained within their world-view, and anything outside of that get put in a box and locked away. Out of sight, out of mind. Perfect world.

      However, for people like us (I guess I could use the royal “we” here), we enjoy firearms and training and education, etc., and that doesn’t fit in their world view. That’s why ranges are always just squares. The only range I can go to is outdoors, and it’s (guessing here) 25 miles away, in the mountains. Even *there* you can’t draw from holster or do moving drills, unless you’re on the “private range”. I have yet to pull myself out of my depression and ask how much *that* would be for training…

      I guess the fact of the matter is, anti-gunners don’t care. It isn’t something they want, understand, or a subject of which they care to educate themselves. They can either be steadfastly against it, or flip-flop between for/against so fast it could be considered a new energy form to support the country’s growing needs.

      I put in my vote to add more tactical training ranges (for civ use).

  3. It’s not just money, it’s time. You only have so much time for training. This is more an indication that we really don’t do combined arms anymore. In the past ten years we have rarely used any artillery to speak of, and air support has been minimal. Almost everything we have done was at the level of a squad and platoon operating mostly independently. Since small arms is almost the entire war, it makes sense to emphasize it more.

    No one would deny that improved small arms training is valuable, but in the past the real power has been in combined arms and that takes a lot of training and coordination to do well. I dare say we don’t do it very well anymore. Let’s hope we don’t get a competent enemy anytime soon, because mostly we’ll only be able to send platoons at them — but they’ll be darn good platoons. 🙂

    • My question is how many of those combined arms exercises can be done on sand tables and exercises without troops? I can see this being essential training at the NCO / SNCO / Officer level, but the basic grunt should be far more focused on individual weapons proficiencies.

  4. This type of training has been going on at speciality shooting schools and ranges for some time. If your unit had the requirement and money (SOF) you could get it done.

  5. Nothing new there and example that the US military is not always on the cutting edge. Almost 40 years ago, NATO member country infantry, we qualified up to squad level on an automated course with moving targets up to 500 yards as well as on an automated CQC woodlands course.

  6. Not sure why they don’t just run IPSC/USPSA and 3 gun matches.

    Sure, you have to modify some things to limit the tendency to game things and keep it a little more tactically relevant, but I have a hard time thinking up better training to push your speed, accuracy, target discrimination and acquisition, and weapons handling.

    Imagine if you had an army made up of Daniel Horner’s…

    • Exactly what i was going to write, but you beat me to it.. I think IPSC/USPSA is the best kind of practice. Most people seem to be afraid to swallow their pride and shoot in front of a sqad. Don’t count out IDPA either.

      • I don’t think so. For the same reasons I don’t think IPSC/USPSA (or even IDPA now) is good training for real world DGU scenarios.

        There are all manner of rules in the action shooting sports that don’t exist in a DGU or on a battlefield.

        For example, in a tight urban environment or while clearing a building, you’re going to break the 180 rule. Probably often.

        In a contrary example, in the real civilian world, I’m not going to lob shots into a window frame of a house at a peek-a-boo target. What a wonderful way to earn a lawsuit.

        As for the Marines becoming “more real:” When I used to shoot IPSC in the early 90’s, we had benefit shoots in the Silicon Valley area – a match where the prizes were donated from vendors to the shooters, and the shooters’ entry fees went to charities. After a couple of instances where charities in the area were rejecting our donations because the money was “tainted by guns,” one of our guys (a USN vet) said “Hey, let’s call the USMCR and Toys for Tots! Marines aren’t scared of money from shooters.”

        And in fact, the Marines from Toys for Tots were very happy to take our donations and contributions – of money and toys. Then we invited the Marines to shoot with us. We had NCO’s and enlisted from the USMC/USMCR come out and shoot. None of them had ever shot IPSC before.

        While their times weren’t competitive with the upper-class IPSC guys, looking at the target cards left no doubt that the Marines were taught to shoot very well. They didn’t do “B/C-zone” hits. With 1911’s that did not belong to them, with Glocks, S&W revolvers and semi-autos loaned from IPSC shooters, the Marines did A-zone hits, mostly head shots. Didn’t matter the gun, didn’t matter the target presentation. Anyone who wondered if there was something “wrong with their sights” or their gun didn’t wonder any longer. I loaned out my 1911A1 with a comp and was promptly humiliated by a quiet E-5 from Tennessee who could lay down 1.5″ groups at 25 yards with my gun.

        No misses, no AD’s, muzzles in control the full time, no bungled mag changes, all on loaned guns they had never seen before. Their biggest challenge was running some of the red-dot sights – remember this was the early 90’s. Overall, very impressive.

        What’s more fun than inviting Marines out to a shooting competition? Going with Marines on a shopping spree for toys before Christmas. That was a hoot.

    • With all due respect to Daniel Horner and his abilities, shooting a 3 Gun/USPSA course of fire is not the same as sending and receiving lead diplomacy. While USPSA/IPSC and 3 Gun do teach some additional skills, it’s not the same. The things I learned in the Corps, even though I was an excellent shooter (Infantry, btw), did not equate well to Practical Shooting Sports. I learned an awful lot doing USPSA and 3 Gun, but it’s definitely different than taking fire and returning fire.

      The Marine Corps has learned some things from the action shooting team with members like John Browning and James Gill. How they apply to direct action, will remain to be seen.

  7. In 2007 and 2008,all SNCOs and officers in my infantry battalion had m4s,while everyone else had A4s. By 2009, everyone had M4s. Also, fire and movement ranges were quite common at the time, so not news to me.

  8. Has anybody made a moving target to simulate a running deer or moose? If it was calibrated for pellet rifles at 15 metres (just make the target so small that it looks like a deer/moose at 100 metres while being 15 metres away in reality).

  9. Those are some impressive looking targets but cannot imagine the cost. Its a tough balance between the best training “available” and the best training “affordable”. I’d care to bet that by the time these types of ranges are everywhere soldiers will be replaced with robots!

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