The Corps’ new pistol qual program

23 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Brendan Roethel

The Marine Corps will be phasing in a new pistol qualification program that will fully take effect in fiscal year 2015.

Guidelines for the implementation of the new program were released in Marine Administrative Message 168/13 in March. Transition to the new course of fire will take effect Nov. 2014.

The new pistol qualification program marks the first significant change in pistol qualifications since the 1980s, incorporating reduced time limits and a new, human-shaped target. 

The new target is a 20-inch-wide, 40-inch-tall, gray target depicting the image of a man and includes such details as facial features and upper body.

“The new course of fire will be more realistic and combat-oriented than the pistol qualification previously implemented,” said Sgt. Travis Thornhill, a marksmanship instructor for Station Training with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. “The shooter will have to draw their pistol from the holster then shoot at the target in a significantly reduced time limit, giving the Marine a better understanding of how to use the pistol in combat without actually being in combat.”

In one stage of the current pistol qualification program, Marines are given 10 minutes to shoot 15 shots at 25 yards. The new Combat Pistol Program training blocks require personnel to work through stages at seven, 15 and 25 yards, using 40 rounds in a series of five to 12 second increments.

“Marines may be more stressed out with the shortened time constraints and having to draw their pistols from their holster before shooting,” Thornhill said. “Despite those restrictions the target is more forgiving. The size of the 10 point section of the target is much larger in the new target, meaning shooters will most likely see improvements in their scores. The increased size of the target and scoring potential was made to direct Marines toward making more fatal shots.”

Although the course of fire is changing, the scoring system and the marksmanship badges will remain the same.

“Shooting on the new course of fire was more enjoyable and led me to shoot better by increasing my score by nearly 40 points,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ulysses Lloyd, a drill instructor for 2nd Battalion, Golf Company aboard MCRD Parris Island. “The new program led me to make deadlier shots that would ultimately make me even more effective in combat.”

For more information, view MARADMIN 168/13.

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