The experts at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shared with Army Times some of the most common misconceptions they see or are asked about in the Army.
Myth: "Wind has no effect on where my rounds strike because bullets move too fast." (Yes, some soldiers really believe this.)
Reality: Wind, temperature and humidity all have an effect on the strike of the bullet, with wind having the biggest effect of all. As a bullet leaves the barrel, gravity begins to have an instant effect. As the bullet begins to run out of energy and slow down, wind has an even greater effect. In general, the higher the wind speed or the farther out you shoot, you have to compensate for the effects of wind or you will surely miss your target.
Myth: "I always make sure my soldiers train in body armor because that's how they are going to fight."
Reality: Learning the fundamentals requires an undistracted mind and an unstressed body. Body armor interferes with those conditions. Only once a soldier can routinely execute the fundamentals should the level of difficulty increase by integrating individual combat equipment into dry firing and live-fire exercises.
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Myth: "He is shooting all over the place. I told him to watch his breathing."
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Myth: "I always make my soldiers put the tip of their finger on the trigger and the tip of their nose on the charging handle. That is the way I was taught."
Reality: We're all made differently, so the cookie-cutter approach to shooting positions is not the best approach when teaching others. When teaching shooting positions, consider these key points:
• A person has to be reasonably comfortable to make well-aimed shots.
• A soldier's shooting position must allow them to achieve proper sight alignment consistently from shot to shot.
• The position of the firing hand is critical in controlling the rifle, applying proper trigger control, and managing recoil for follow-up shots. The firer's hand should be high on the pistol grip, and their finger should naturally lie on the trigger. The trigger is a lever. It must be moved straight to the rear. Forcing someone to place their finger on the trigger in an unnatural position will lead to poor trigger control habits and misplaced shots downrange.
Myth: "I am an infantryman and will be issued an ACOG or M-68 for my rifle. I don't need to train with or learn how to use iron sights."
Reality: You must still master your iron sights so that if your optic becomes inoperable, you can still successfully engage targets. Nearly all shoulder-fired weapons in the Army's inventory, as well as the weapons of most other countries, come equipped with iron sights.
In addition, knowing how to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship with iron sights will make you much more proficient when using optics.
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Myth: "A 200-meter zero is the best battle sight zero one can have on their rifle because most combat engagements happen inside of 225 meters."
Reality: In most, if not all, cases, the farthest distance a soldier might shoot an M4 carbine with an ACOG is about 550 meters. So a 300-meter zero is the best zero for the complete operating range of the rifle, covering potential engagements from arm's distance all the way out to 550 meters.
The best practice for any zero, regardless of the desired distance, is to obtain an initial zero at 25 meters. You can then fine-tune your zero at the actual desired distance.
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Myth: "I went to the 25-meter range and my rifle is zeroed."
Reality: How do you know? Did you check it at actual distance to see where the bullets were impacting? There is a big difference between a so-called "nearo" and a zero.
If you zero your rifle to Army standard, you are placing five of six shots in a 1.5-inch circle. What you may not realize is that a 1.5-inch circle at 25 meters is equivalent to an 18.5-inch circle at 300 meters.
You should always confirm your zero at actual distance.
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Myth: "I have my rifle zero recorded in my notebook, so I can put it on any rifle that I use."
Reality: It doesn't work like that. When you zero a rifle, you are aligning the sights with the barrel, and the barrel with your eye (by looking through the sights). The zero that works for one rifle isn't going to work on another.
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Myth: "AMU can teach me advanced marksmanship."
Reality: There is no such thing as “advanced” marksmanship. There is only marksmanship that is taught correctly. The fundamentals, when learned and applied correctly, work in all situations.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.