The Four Pillars of Individual Proficiency, Part Three – Forward Observer Shop

The Four Pillars of Individual Proficiency, Part Three

While USASOC has traditionally used a 25 meter distance as the standard for delineating close-quarters marksmanship, as so many current trainers with special operations backgrounds, I firmly believe this needs to be stretched out to the 0-100 meter range. If you can reliably put a round into the head-box of an IPSC silhouette at 50 meters in less than one second, you’ll generally find that doing it in the same time, or faster, at 10-25 meters is cake, and even on a mover, it’s possible at the closer ranges. The reality is that the partisan force survives combat with a larger force by running away to fight another day, or—when that is not possible, for whatever reason—by getting inside the envelope of indirect-fire weapons. The fight, when it is otherwise unavoidable, will be up-close and personal. And while proximity can negate skill, vastly superior skill can still overcome that.

Ultimately, regardless of the best of our intentions, the fight will be what the fight will be. Do you think a bad guy could NEVER get inside your preferred range envelope, because of your early warning devices or your plans to establish observation posts for perimeter security? I’ve got some AMAZING beach-front condos for sale, about five minutes from downtown Tuscon. I’ll sell them cheap too!

Your mastery of the up-close and personal gunfight, inside of 100 meters, will offer you the best chance of survival and success when the fight decides it will be what you don’t want it to be.

Don’t allow your hubris to be your nemesis. As Americans, we all want to believe we can shoot the testicles off a gnat at 600 meters, but I’ve seen a lot of “expert riflemen,” who cannot reliably and consistently hit a stationary silhouette at 200 meters. I’ve seen more than a few who couldn’t hit it at 100 meters, despite having the “Rifleman” badge from their Appleseed shoot. Set standards, and then achieve those standards.

Marksmanship programs, like any well-planned and executed training, should follow the crawl-walk-run method of teaching and learning. We don’t try to teach a kid to read before they know their ABC’s, and we don’t have kindergarten kids reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It’s important for people to understand that fights don’t happen on square ranges, and they need to learn to impart their marksmanship and gun-handling skills in field environments. At the same time though, dumping the basic, square-range work, just to “keep it real,” is equally retarded. Build your fundamental gun-handling, and the ability to hit the target, and then add in the modifiers that make it more difficult and realistic.

On the same note, marksmanship is the foundation of gun-handling. That having been said, too often overlooked is the importance of other aspects of gun-handling, from speed and tactical reloads, to clearing malfunctions and other stoppages. All other things being equal, these skills will make the difference in a fight. Hitting a target, even at 500 meters, is really pretty simple. It’s a matter of lining the sights up properly, and firing the shot, without moving the sights off the correct alignment, until after the bullet has left the muzzle. Any moron can be taught, given adequate coaching and patience. Being able to shoot well does not make you a special snowflake. Being able to keep your gun in a fight is what will make the difference in a fight.

Too often though, even with the emphasis on speed reloads and tactical reloads, too many trainers keep it easy, in my experience. You need to practice speed reloads and tactical reloads, but not JUST from the standing position. It’s great that you can hit a 2.4 second speed reload. How long does it take you to do it in the prone? Is that going to be fast enough?

Finally, we need to add time as a factor into our training for marksmanship and weapons-handling. There are—as some have pointed out—not likely to be any shot timers on a battlefield…except the most important shot timer of all. That is the other guy, who I promise you, WILL be trying to shoot you faster than you can shoot him. Only the use of a shot timer in your training will empirically tell you whether you are actually fast and getting faster, or not.

Using a timer does not give you leave to shoot faster, unless you are still getting hits. A fast miss is no more effective than a slow miss. The idea is to push yourself to shoot faster…accurately.
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John Mosby is a former U.S. Army Special Operations soldier. He lives somewhere in the mountains.


  1. “As Americans, we all want to believe we can shoot the testicles off a gnat at 600 meters, but I’ve seen a lot of “expert riflemen,” who cannot reliably and consistently hit a stationary silhouette at 200 meters. I’ve seen more than a few who couldn’t hit it at 100 meters, despite having the “Rifleman” badge from their Appleseed shoot. Set standards, and then achieve those standards.”

    Saw similar when working for outfitter in NW Montana,usually from the guys from the eastern states-the flatlanders as we called ’em. We would set up paper plates on a 4×8 sheet of plywood that was nailed to 4×4″ posts at 300 yds,each hunter was told to put a 3 round group into his or her designated paper plate.
    very,very few could even hit the plate,not even the guys with the $3,000.00 Zeiss scopes.

    Why spend up to $5,000.00 on a backcountry elk hunt,if you can’t hit the vital organs of an animal the size of a horse at 300 yards? Or the $3,000.00 for the scope?

    Practice,practice,practice-after you have learned the various techniques is the only thing that works.
    I agree with the if you can hit the target at 50 meters in a second or less,hitting same inside of 25 meters is going to be cake.

    It’s the same with any weapon-handgun,rifle,bow and arrow-if you practice the longer shots-the closer range shots become second nature.

    I know that getting training from a qualified trainer is absolutely the best option/best way to learn, but…
    Other than what you’ve said here,
    do you recommend any books for those who can not afford training,or can not travel to a course,that deal with reloading under stress,or clearing malfunctions? Or maybe a series of videos?
    Common sense says practice with all your gear on,with and without ruck,with and without assault pack,in cold weather clothing,in t-shirt,in all kinds of weather-what I mean is other than that-what do you recommend for those who for whatever reason can not attend a class at this time?

    1. When I taught my kids how to shoot (NRA instructor), I used the NRA-Winchester programs to let them walk before they ran. It did a great job setting goals to build fundamentals, both strong hand and weak hand, with shrinking time windows to get the shots off. A little competition between the two added to the fun of learning. I loaded their mags so they never knew when a dummy round was inserted. They had to clear the malfunction quickly and safely, but still qualify that string of fire. Once proficient, they were no longer allowed to reload standing up. They had to seek cover (edge of the range stall) or at a minimum, take a knee. It’s awesome to see my “kids” being able to deploy a firearm every bit as good as I can.

      When they got old enough that I felt they could use a good dose of tactical training, I pulled out my old MOUT manual from the Gulf War 1 era (it’s probably online as a PDF somewhere). It did a good job explaining muzzle awareness in tight spaces and included room-clearing exercises complete with diagrams. Tap-rack-bang was almost over-emphasized, so it was good for them to hear it… a lot. Practicing with squirt guns (no airsoft back then) was a regular event and even some impromptu hot summer fun! I would sometimes yell out “jam” and they had to seek cover/kneel and do an immediate action drill. Pretty funny to see all 3 of us drop to a knee or dive behind a corner at the same time.

      While I haven’t watched them, a good friend and fellow former Marine recommended the Magpul dynamic pistol and tactical carbine DVD’s. He said they were a worthwhile purchase. I only wished he lived closer so I could borrow them and give a solid review.

      Hope that helps!

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