Magazine article National Defense

Small Arms Trainers Adapt to New Missions

Magazine article National Defense

Small Arms Trainers Adapt to New Missions

Article excerpt

Fast is fine. Accurate is final. Those are the famous last words in marksmanship. In today's multi-mission military environment, soldiers are engaged in everything from peacekeeping to standard warfare. But it is at the lower end of that conflict spectrum where soldiers need to hit what they are aiming at. In deployments, such as Kosovo, Haiti, or Somalia, the risks of wounding or killing an innocent bystander are high. The costs of such a mistake in peacekeeping and peacemaking operations extend beyond the human casualties, risking the overall success of the whole mission. With more of those missions falling within that lower end of the conflict spectrum, the seemingly simple matter of marksmanship takes on a greater importance.

In 1914, W W Greener, one of Britain's foremost authorities on small arms in his time, wrote, in Sharpshooting for War and Defence, "The rifle is a weapon with which battles are won. ... The rifle is king of weapons for the individual soldier. ... There can be no doubt that individual marksmanship is the one quality in the ordinary soldier which needs to be developed, and that to it all others should be made merely subsidiary." At the dawn of the 21st century, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps made a similar claim when he said, "small arms marksmanship is essential to force protection in OOTW [operations other than war]." A closer look reveals the "art" of marksmanship is not so simple- involving fundamental skills as well as judgment.

Fundamental skills include stance, grip, trigger control, breathing, and follow through. Each element in combination helps the individual take aim and hit the target. Where to aim and when to shoot add judgment to the equation. Soldiers, as well as law enforcement officers, need to be skilled in both.

Learning the fundamentals in Greener's time meant training with rifles and real ammunition firing at targets set up at outdoor ranges. This technique had not changed a great deal throughout the 20th century-until the introduction of laser technology and simulators provided a touch of realism without live fire.

Greener said, "The one who knows when to shoot will be the one slow to shoot." At the other end of the 20th century Firearms Training Systems (FATS) Inc. based in Atlanta, and the Canadian Academy of Practical Shooting (CAPS) Inc., of Roxboro, Quebec, designed marksmanship training systems to take the shooter beyond the fundamentals adding the element of judgement Greener referred to decades before.

To Shoot or Not

Built in part to train law enforcement and security officers in the application of all force options, FATS and CAPS training systems represent the high end of the market. Their video systems presenting various "shoot-don't shoot" scenarios provide training in use of force. This can be especially important to law enforcement, which has faced an increasing number of excessive-useof force lawsuits against police officers accused of using the wrong strategy to subdue a suspect. While the military may not be confronted with the same legal pressures, peacekeepers do face similar scenarios in which crowd control can be a major part of their daily operations.

The FATS and CAPS trainers are computer-based systems that provide everything from marksmanship fundamentals to the more complex judgmental training. …

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