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Headquarters Marine Corps

Marine Corps Warfighting Lab experiment may lead to possible change in target engagement

By Pfc. Eric T. Keenan | Headquarters Marine Corps | September 27, 2013

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Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. The Marines were part of a test group to help determine the most effective marksmanship technique and method for infantrymen to engage moving personnel targets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel/Released)

Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. The Marines were part of a test group to help determine the most effective marksmanship technique and method for infantrymen to engage moving personnel targets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel/Released) (Photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel)


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Marines with Weapons Training Battalion and The Basic School fire at Robotic Moving Targets Sept. 24, 2013, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The Marines worked with the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group to identify the most effective techniques to engage moving targets and to evaluate the robotic target for use in standardized Marine Corps training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel/Released)

Marines with Weapons Training Battalion and The Basic School fire at Robotic Moving Targets Sept. 24, 2013, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The Marines worked with the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group to identify the most effective techniques to engage moving targets and to evaluate the robotic target for use in standardized Marine Corps training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel/Released) (Photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel)


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Cpl. Brandon Harris, a marksmanship coach with Weapons Training Battalion, cleans his M-4 carbine before firing on a moving-targets range at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. Harris, a native of Plymouth, New Hampshire, was part of a test group evaluating the most effective techniques to engage moving targets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel/Released)

Cpl. Brandon Harris, a marksmanship coach with Weapons Training Battalion, cleans his M-4 carbine before firing on a moving-targets range at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. Harris, a native of Plymouth, New Hampshire, was part of a test group evaluating the most effective techniques to engage moving targets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel/Released) (Photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel)


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The CEOs of Marathon set and prepare Robotic Moving Targets for use in the Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. The robots, developed by the Australian company Marathon, present a target the size of an average person, fall over when shot and can simulate average walking and running paces from four to eight miles an hour. The experiment tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Eric T. Keenan)

The CEOs of Marathon set and prepare Robotic Moving Targets for use in the Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. The robots, developed by the Australian company Marathon, present a target the size of an average person, fall over when shot and can simulate average walking and running paces from four to eight miles an hour. The experiment tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Eric T. Keenan) (Photo by Pfc. Eric T. Keenan)


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Sgt. Eduardo L. Benavides, a combat instructor with The Basic School, fires from the prone position at a Robotic Moving Target during the Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. Marines from The Basic School and Weapons Training Battalion tested techniques using semi-automatic, burst, and automatic fire in the standing, kneeling and prone positions. The experiment tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle.

Sgt. Eduardo L. Benavides, a combat instructor with The Basic School, fires from the prone position at a Robotic Moving Target during the Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. Marines from The Basic School and Weapons Training Battalion tested techniques using semi-automatic, burst, and automatic fire in the standing, kneeling and prone positions. The experiment tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle. (Photo by Pfc. Eric T. Keenan)


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Sgt. Phillipi Sanz adjusts the strap to his helmet before shooting for The Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. The experiment tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle.

Sgt. Phillipi Sanz adjusts the strap to his helmet before shooting for The Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 24, 2013. The experiment tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle. (Photo by Pfc. Eric T. Keenan)


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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Field Testing Branch from the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Experiment Division began testing techniques for engaging moving targets during the Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 16.

The experiment, which ends Sept. 27, tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle.

“This experiment is fundamentally about — how do I make an individual Marine more lethal,” Capt. Benjamin Brewster, project officer with the field testing branch at the Warfighting Lab, said.

The experiment is also using and evaluating Robotic Moving Targets. The robots are treaded moving targets developed by an Australian company named Marathon to help train service members in marksmanship.

Marines from The Basic School and Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico, Va., fired the M-4 and M-27 at the robots using three techniques: tracking, ambush and swing through. The Marines tested each technique using semi-automatic, burst and automatic fire in the standing, kneeling and prone positions.

The shooters engaged targets moving perpendicular to them, at both a 75-meter and 150-meter distance, firing thousands of rounds throughout the experiment. The robots simulate an enemy crossing a road.

“Much like hitting a baseball, moving target engagement is a skill that has to be trained, honed and maintained in order for someone to be proficient with it,” Brewster said.

For the ambush technique, the shooter picks a pre-designated point and fires when the target comes into their sight. For tracking, the shooter follows the target in their sight and takes the shot when they feel ready. For the swing through, originally a skeet shoot method, the shooter sights in behind the target, follows its direction of travel, and fires through it.

“We are trying to validate if one of those techniques is more effective than the others,” Brewster said.

The data collectors measured hit ratio by technique, method, shooting position, distance, and by the equipment of each shooter, either wearing full combat gear, or not wearing gear.

In nine years of being an infantry Marine and after five combat deployments, Sgt. Phillipi Sanz, a combat marksmanship trainer with Weapons Training Battalion, said he has only trained on one range that focused on moving targets. If the results of this experiment help to change how Marines train, “There is no where we can go but up.”

Out of 110 rounds fired during the annual rifle qualification, only eight are fired on moving targets. The moving targets currently used are frontal silhouettes about 19 inches wide by 40 inches tall. They are exposed for 10 seconds, and move at a pace of one to two miles an hour.

“The current marksmanship tables in the annual rifle qualification are completely unrealistic to train a Marine to shoot a moving target,” Brewster, an infantry officer with two Afghanistan deployments, said.

The robots present a target the size of an average person. They fall over when shot and can simulate average walking and running paces from four to eight miles an hour.

With the more realistic features of the robots, training on them provides a more difficult but accurate portrayal of a combat scenario, the makers of the robots said.

“You throw in something unpredictable and it totally changes the dynamic,” Alex Brooks, CEO of Marathon, the company responsible for developing the robots, said “Rather than just training moving marksmanship, you’re training judgment, rules of engagement and situational awareness.”
Soldiers from the Asymmetric Warfare Group supported the experiment by helping with data collection and operation of the robots.

Brewster hopes the experiment will lead to alternative training for moving target marksmanship, ultimately making Marines more efficient in combat, leading to lives saved and mission accomplishment.

“As it stands right now, there is no training for a Marine to shoot moving targets that he is realistically going to encounter in combat before he deploys,” Brewster said.


2 Comments


  • Al W 206 days ago
    Good job Binx.
  • larry j robarge 207 days ago
    For me, single shot drift and squeeze has always been most effective. Unless spot shooting through a blind at a known objective.ie.hole

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