Rubber mats! (courtesy marinecorpstimes.com)

OK, it’s actually Marines Use Rubber Mats to Improve Marksmanship. What a difference a consonant makes – in terms of click bait. Anyway . . . “Marines in Hawaii are using rubberized shooting mats on the rifle range, a comfort upgrade officials credit with dramatically reducing failures during annual marksmanship qualifications,” marinecorpstimes,com reports. Wait. What? Shouldn’t the quals have some relation to real-world conditions? Isn’t qualifying marksmanship on rubber mats a bit like scoring at a whorehouse? Sure seems that way. In fact . . .

The new mats were installed in January at the Puuloa Range’s 200-, 300- and 500-yard firing lines. Early results suggest there could be about a 90 percent reduction in the number of Marines who fail their first qualification.

“They were so comfortable especially in the prone,” said Cpl. Brittney Vella, a combat correspondent assigned to the base’s Headquarters Battalion. “If you had rocks on your elbows it was difficult to have a stable base, so the mats helped us be stable and you felt like you connected with the ground a lot better.”

Rocks on your elbows? Cpl. Vella, I’m gonna give you three seconds–exactly three f’ing seconds–to wipe that stupid-looking grin off your face, or I will gouge out your eyeballs and skull-fcuk you! One! Two! Three! But seriously. Really? Here’s the justification:

At first glance, the extra comfort may seem at odds with the service’s steady march toward growing the amount of combat marksmanship training Marines receive. Officials want troops to train as they fight — and on the battlefield, it’s likely Marines will be forced to shoot from uncomfortable or awkward positions while on the move.

In fact, proficiency in combat marksmanship must be built upon several fundamentals, including sight alignment, sight picture and trigger control. Those skills can be hard to master when the shooter is distracted because he or she is uncomfortable.

“A Marine who has a solid foundation of the fundamentals first will better be able to apply those skills in adverse conditions,” said 1st Lt. Matt Rojo, a spokesman for Weapons Training Battalion in Quantico, Virginia, where the service’s foremost weapons experts continually study the science of marksmanship.

NOW how much would you pay? Don’t answer because . . .

Officials have not conducted a financial analysis to determine if the shooting mats used in Hawaii, which cost $200,000 to install, have reduced overall range costs. But the need for fewer re-qualifications will reduce the amount of ammunition and range time Marines need, both of which are expensive.

I’m not convinced this fits the Marine Corps ethos. You?

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79 Responses to Marines Use Rubbers To Improve Marksmanship

  1. The mats also dampen the effect of the heart beat on aim. When I was getting introduced to target shooting in Europe, the shooters wore heavy, padded leather jackets because they did the same thing.

    • I always figured that’s why the females did so well on the rifle range – chest padding. No, seriously.

      Also 18 year old females are a lot better coordinated than 18 year old males.

      • 18 year old females are a lot better coordinated than 18 year old males as a result of out-maneuvering lots and lots of 18 year old males…

        🙂

        • That is sort of inconvenient, isn’t it? Up to that point, the argument was going well.

        • Just from my very small, very specific experience in the U.S. Army for ten years, I will generalize that females have a tendency not to shoot rifles as well as their male counterparts. I base this on general scoring and the need for additional instructions. However, I do find female Soldiers do just as well if not better on their scores with the 249 or 240B in the supported or prone position.

    • Cheat.
      Never participate in a fair fight. Use every advantage to the devastation of your enemy. Make the other poor bastard die for their country.

      If you want a true assessment of skills, let our military qualify in the same manner they are expected to fight. On the move, in a MOPP suit with a gas mask, with a 80 pound ruck sack, in a stack kicking in a door, in 3 to 5 second rushes, near side/far side ambushes, mag changes, direct vehicle deployments, identifying targets before they shoot, weak side/strong side, team scoring (because real world), firearm transitions, while applying S.P.O.R.T.S., with people shooting back or any other likely tasks that must be performed while using your weapon. Put something at stake for not qualifying high enough. Loss of rank, privileges, terrible duty assignments, etc.

      For those of you who point out that’s not how it used to be done. There’s better equipment, training, tactics, vehicles, intelligence, support, materials, etc. Should they go back to training the same way they did in WWII, WWI, the Civil War, Revolutionary War? Preposterous. If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, complain in this thread more.

      I don’t know about you, but I want my armed forces chronically training for war. Leadership, esprit de corps, endurance, survival, sidearms, rifles, grenades, knife, rocks, hand to hand, every other weapon, tactics for the most brutal and effective means of achieving military goals and the like. War professionals.

      Shooting a static target at known ranges and you’re worried about a mat?

      • I guess we can only learn from who has the newest and bestest idea. Don’t learn from the past, howdy said it’s outdated.
        I say mats are not proven in combat. Why? Hmmm, I am trying to remember marines laying mats down at Iwo or soldiers soldiers sitting on mats at the bulge. Not real world ever. Except maybe at Texas permanent “hunting” lodges.

      • “If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.” – David Hackworth

      • Except, rifle ranges aren’t about testing any of those things. You go to a rifle range specifically to eliminate all that other external stuff, so you can focus on shooting and improve things specific to shooting. It’s simply one way of isolating one part of your skill set, so it can be appropriately critiqued and improved.

  2. What’s next — air conditioning the range? Killing the sand fleas? BAMs in combat?

    This is not your granddaddy’s USMC.

    • Yea, I think they should have to shoot in a 20′ deep pool, with 4′ swells, while they tread water. I mean, if you really want to make it hard.

      If you can shoot well in good conditions, you can be taught to shoot in bad conditions.

    • Yah, : (
      Somewhere there’s a Gunnery Sergeant rolling over in his grave. A rubber mat is only for you to throw up on after he PT’s the dog crap out of you, so you don’t puke on “his range.”

  3. To teach marksmanship you need to eliminate as many non-shooter related variables as possible to isolate the interface between the shooter and the gun. A less than stable ground/shooter connection is an un-needed variable. Once basic marksmanship is mastered then a introduction to real world variables (unstable or modified shooting positions, etc) can be accomplished.

    • Once basic marksmanship is mastered then a introduction to real world variables (unstable or modified shooting positions, etc) can be accomplished.

      Marines have been learning the “hard way” since 1775. Maybe — and I’m just spitballing here — maybe they actually knew what they were doing for the last couple of hundred years.

    • Rubber mats on the rifle range. My Marine Corps is dead.

      I was a Range NCO/ReQual coach for the M14, M16 and 1911A1. I set range records at Parris Island (lasted two days), KBay and Cherry Point. I matched the range record at LeJeune.

      In 1971 the Corps’ shooting champion Distinguished Marksman gave a demo to the DI school at Parris Island. At the rifle range he suspended a Cpl upside down from a tree, tied by his ankles. The range to the pits was 800yds. With an ’03 Springfield, the Cpl (once we stopped him from swinging) shot three consecutive bulls eyes. Each shot swung him like a pendulum. This was a demonstration that sight alignment, sight picture, breathing and trigger control are all that’s needed to bake 50 perfect cookies under any conditions, regardless how adverse or ridiculous.

      Please give these mats to the girl scouts. Dig depressions at each firing point and fill them with stagnant muddy water. Maybe plant a little rice in there, too. These are Marines, for crying out loud. We expect them to perform under a lot worse.

      The Corps has certainly changed a great deal in my lifetime. I undrstnd Marines don’t get KD range qual in bootcamp anymore, and this might be their first exposure to the actual skill of bullseye shooting, but hey………we did it so right for so long, let’s not fix what ain’t broke.

    • You beat me to it.

      I used to hunt with a guy who would ride standing up in the back of a pickup bouncing along a dirt road, shooting at a milk jug half full of water jerking and bouncing at the end of a rope. He was good, very good. But before every hunting season he could be found drilling in comfort, going back over the basics without distractions.

    • Which I agree in general. However, it seems like they are using it for Qualifications, which should be well after you master the fundamentals.

  4. When i was in Basic at Ft. Dix, we fired our Garands off of beds of broken glass and stinging nettles. And that was only because they had run out of hot coals.

  5. Im thinking 200 years of prior service individual would see it as pointless, but then what would I know, I had boots i actually had to polish.

    Can I get a participation trophy?

  6. I’m sure the fact that the Drills teach you the order the targets will pop-up and at what ranges is having more of an affect on passing than comfort does.

    I had to qualify from a foxhole, knee-deep in freezing water. Hypothermia really screws with your sight picture and breath-control.

    • @ BDub
      There were not a few times in the desert, when I remembered fondly that kind of training.
      While I still appreciate the old ways, I understand the reasoning behind stuff like this.

  7. I could definitely see this being useful for training, where learning to do things the correct way is paramount, and removing anything that distracts from that could be beneficial, but not for qualification. Wouldn’t that be like a teacher saying, “I’ve had too many students fail my tests, so I’m just going to reveal to you that every fifth answer is ‘C’ so we can get the numbers up”?

  8. I bet the guys with the infantry MOS’s are getting plenty of shooting time with rocks on elbows and in other uncomfortable places. letting the other guys be comfortable just allows them to focus on the fundamentals in lieu of the additional range time some other guys get. you either shoot more, or you use the time you have to shoot better. yes, i know, every marine a rifleman, but i’d rather have a platoon of rubber mat marines at my back than just about anyone else.

  9. As a former Marine I can only assume this is a bunch of non combat seeing pogs with more money than sense

  10. For basic marksmanship, it makes sense. Tired, sore students don’t learn as well.
    They also probably have them wear hearing protection and don’t lob grenades at them while they’re learning how to shoot. Because they’re learning how to shoot, not how to shoot in combat.

  11. It seems that a nice compromise may be to teach them to shoot with elbow and knee pads, since those seem to be fairly commonly worn in battlefield conditions. Providers most of the advantages of the rubber pads, but keeps the whole process more akin to what they could experience in the battlefield. Then, when they go on to their MOS training, those that hate the pads can learn to shoot without them, but those that don’t need much more than basic qual can just learn to wear the pads while they do their other stuff.

  12. WTF – I swear when I went through ARMY basic (yes, Army) they were out the night before sharpening the fucking rocks.

  13. I almost thought this was an Onion article. They could wear knee and elbow pads. It’s cheaper and easier than installing an item that wears and is expensive to replace. I still shoot expert and my elbows and knees don’t hurt from laying in rocks and I’m double the age of the new soldiers.

    Also, practice with similar weapons of your own. I have an M4gery that is nearly exactly like my issued weapon. Planned military marksmanship training is inadequate at building anything but basic skills. If you want to be good at something you need to get out to the range on your own.

  14. I scored my best re-qual there back in the late ’80’s.

    I don’t think mouse pads were even invented yet.

  15. At first I thought this range upgrade was crap.

    But the explanation given is legitimate. I’ve taught a lot of people to shoot.
    I’ve volunteered as an IIT at Appleseed events. Getting people to focus on the fundamentals is critical.
    And you can’t do it when you are uncomfortable. This is a legitimate improvement to training IFF, AND ITS A BIG IFFF. After fundamentals are taught, learned, and proven, shooters then progress to shooting at unknown distances from improvised positions.

    If those skills are never taught. Then this could be a strep backwards.

    • ” Getting people to focus on the fundamentals is critical.
      And you can’t do it when you are uncomfortable.”

      On consideration, that’s a very valid point.

      Air conditioning is taking it too far, but I could see shed-roof covers over the firing line. You won’t learn faster if all you’re thinking about is how flipping hot it is…

  16. The funny thing is that I’m actually stationed at kbay and shoot on that range….not gonna lie, I’m looking forward to shooting there again. But seriously, I’ve shot expert there three times already, its really not that hard. You can move the rocks away if you want to…hell we can even use iso mats on the range. So the foam is completely useless. Here we are still using m16’s while the army is already last their m4 and moving into the m4+ -.- I guess comfy foam is more important than a better fighting rifle

  17. Well… We saw this start to go downhill when boots started shooting for badges with ACOGs on their rifles. I demand that all Expert badges issued with ACOGs and Rubber Matts should have little asterisks welded to them. If you can’t shoot at noon in July on the Island with sand fleas gnawing on your face… You can’t shoot.

    • Yep. It blew my mind when a couple years after EAS a kid on boot leave told me they qualified with ACOGs. Made me want to shit on somebody.

  18. I think it depends on the range. If the terrain is grassy, like Quantico, then no mats are needed. If the range is volcanic, then I think a rubber mat would be very welcome.

  19. and we admit to using clickbait.

    Should we start a group?

    “Hello, my domain is “thetruthaboutguns” and I…am addicted clicks. At first it didn’t seem like a big deal- throw in a pic that’s not related to the story. Such a little thing- and BOOM. A bunch of fresh clicks. A few new regulars. It was…intoxicating. Became a regular thing. Use a video from someone else with a few paragraphs of interpretation and analysis. I was still doing good work, wasn’t I? And a few extra clicks helped me deliver better content. And even for the reposts, I still added content. Then things just started spiralling out of control. The ‘added content’ became sparser and sparser. The clicks became fickle. ‘not enough new content’, ‘you insulted my pet peeve’ So a few more reposts. A few extra qualifiers on every statement. Inevitably sacrificing quality for quantity.

    But now here I am. Finally ready to admit. I use clickbait because I…am an addict.”

  20. “Listen up maggot! If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a rubber mat they would…What?! Aww, f#ck it!”

  21. I am a Marine of 7 years with one combat deployment and I don’t think a non-Marine should be commenting on the Marine Corps ethos. This is for table one qualification, which is the more traditional known distance range qualification than real world field shooting positions, ala NRA/Camp Perry style shooting. Its only half of the actual qualification. Table two is the combat marksmanship portion of the qualification, which does not include the use of a loop sling or any of that nonsense. I think its fine and it would be easier to maintain than what we currently have. Most of the ranges I have shot on have divots worn in them at each shooting position.

  22. Up until say, 40 years ago, America had a thriving gun culture. Guys who went into the military, more than likely, already had experience with firearms and firing positions.

    This day and age, there are probably a lot of guys who only know firearms through tv and think that’s how things work in the real world.

    Mass Marksmanship training has to train to the lowest common denominator.

    • 40+ years ago I qualified in boot for my first time. Me and a lot of others were country boys from that gun culture.

      Best shot in the outfit was a guy from NYC that had never fired a gun in his life. Asked him how he outshot us “expereinced” shooters and hunters. His reply. He listened to the instructer. Every word and suggestion.

      Use gun culture guys brought a lifetime of bad habits and a know it all attitude that he did not have.

      • Just imagine how good Alvin York would have been if he hadn’t come from one of those hilbilly gun cultures. Or maybe Chris Kyle . . .

        • York and Kyle would have been good no matter where they came from. They had something oft talked about but rarely see. Brass balls.

          I don’t claim to be either or have either. I’m just relating what I’ve experienced and seen.

  23. I don’t know if this has been said already, but here is my humble opinion.
    Marine corps marksmanship at the 200,300, and 500 yard ranges is a joke Anyways. Those ranges and those mats are used primarily by the non combative MOS’s of the marine corps, who really only require the basic of basics in weapons knowledge, to the point where 20 year veterans are still putting their rounds in a magazine backwards. now I know “every marine is a riflemen” but marines were also riflemen when they were using muskets with just enough training to get their drunk asses off of the boat I’m 1775. The marines who are combat focused, train extensively beyond these 500 yard ranges, in rigorous conditions, where comfort is a wet wipe at the end of The day. marines in MOS’s that are not combat related have far too much training in their own jobs to focus time on combat training, because they see so little of it. When they do see it, having the courage to just get into combat is going to be a huge task? Let alone focusing on shooting fundamentals from an uncomfortable position… ps, a Mai Tai bar would have been fucking awesome

  24. Speaking as a former Mustang Marine. The only reason Marines fail qualifying, is they refuse to accept instruction and instructors fail to teach.

  25. I suppose this might be okay for the newbies, but Johnathan Weeks who was the WWII British Paratrooper and author of Infantry Weapons paints a far different picture of running 400 yards, falling in a cold mud puddle, having smoke fly around you, having a lunatic shoot near you, and try to maintain some level of marksmanship.

  26. geezus. shooting prone, laying on a soft rubber pad, wearing a soft cap. useless for the actual “work environment”.

    how about wearing the same gear when shooting that you will wear in the field (helmet, LBE, flak vest [oh, sorry, “individual body armor”], protective mask attached to your LBE belt and strapped on your thigh, and a metric shit-ton of loaded magazines, grenades, claymores, and other shiite) and shooting from the actual positions you will likely use.

  27. Army training versus USMC…

    Initial Training: In the Army spent a ridiculous amount of time on a rifle range wearing kevlar, LBE, and various other pieces of junk….I could never understand why the Army made it so uncomfortable when first trying to teach people how to shoot- and compare that to the results the USMC get.

    +10000 to the USMC….You don’t have to train to be miserable. It comes naturally.

    Later on: Everyone wears full battle rattle.

    Women Shooters: 1st Time female shooters absolutely do better than men- they really do listen to the instructors.

    • huh. that’s not my recollection in the Army. We started BRM with helmets and LBE, not exactly a huge load. And shooting with a helmet is different and distracting at first, so it it pretty important to train as you fight.

  28. Wait, you think the military is actually trying to train soldiers for war? Good one. It’s just another branch of the PC social justice brigade where you can “Be all that you can be, so long as leftists approve.”

  29. I suppose I could using these mats for initial training. After all, I use plain old paper plates as targets when instructing brand new student. It gives students something to aim at, without the pressure of trying to hit some specific numerical target. It removes some stress, of which there is abundant supply in many students of all ages, and allows focus on fundamentals.

    That’s all well and good in training. For qualification, though, as for a CHL, the standards are specific and the target is scored.

    Not that that’s very representative of a real world DGU, either, but the basic difference between training and qualification stands. No short cuts or cheat sheets on the final exams.

  30. So all the ‘experts’ in marksmanship training commenting about how weak the Marine Corps has become couldn’t even perform a basic google search of how much training a Marine gets prior to a deployment. Basic marksmanship training is just that, the fundamentals. When you warriors first shot a handgun, did you do it upside down in the winter walking uphill both ways, with one hand tied behind your back and someone kicking you in the ribs while farting in your general direction? Or were you, more likely, on a square range shooting shot after slow-ass shot at a paper target to learn the basics? Then maybe you took a more advanced class and started applying the fundamentals you learned to new and varying circumstances? What a concept! So why can’t the Marine Corps do that with marksmanship training, as they have been doing since they were issued rifles, without the knee-jerk reactions of ‘weak,’ ‘sissy’ and ‘not in my military?’ Every Marine instructor will tell you that the KD course of fire for qual is not like combat. It’s to instill fundamentals and provide a basic qualification. If a recruit cannot qualify, he will not become a Marine, same on the officer side. After grasping the basics, all Marines get more advanced training at Marine Combat Training, and with the Combat Marksmanship Program at their units. Infantry Marines get even more training. Prior to a deployment, if a unit is going to be vehicle based, guess what they do? You guessed it, they train getting into and out of vehicles with guns – oh my! – and then they shoot them at targets, with real live ammo too! Sometimes, if they do all their homework and come home on time, they are allowed to shoot from a moving vehicle! For reals! So, next time you read an article about the alleged wussification of military training, do a little bit of research before you put on your Patton hat and tell us all how you would do it, had you served. Thanks!

    • when i first started training to shoot a handgun, it was “Matrix style”, shooting SMGs cross-handed at two targets at a time and shooting one handed upside down doing a cartwheel.

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