Soon after the launch of the Iraq War, the Marine Corps began to place more and more emphasis on what it calls “combat marksmanship” in the crafting of its Annual Rifle Training and qualification programs. Frank McRae, former head of the U.S. Army Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance Target Analysis and Exploitation Techniques Course (SFARTAETC) at Fort Liberty (Fort Bragg up until June 2023), defines Combat Marksmanship as “the ability to place lethal precision fire on a threat target in all environments under the stress of combat in order to reduce a threat to a point that it is no longer viable.”

It’s a concept that’s just as valid for pistols as it is for rifles, and the increasing occurrence of close-quarters combat situations (a consequence of the urban settings where the Marines were frequently operating in Iraq) spurred on initiatives to revamp the Marine Corps’ Annual Pistol Training to reflect the need for improved combat marksmanship skills. In 2013, the Corps announced its new Combat Pistol Program. with almost universal approval of the new focus on real-life situations and tactics.

One of the changes that might seem insignificant to the causal observer: a change in target imagery. Previously, Marines were firing their service pistols at a vaguely torso-shaped target with a bulls-eye and concentric scoring rings located in the sternum area. Moving away from the notion of a bulls-eyes used in competition shooting and instead focusing on target areas that serve the Combat Marksmanship doctrine, the MPMS-1 Target was created. Featuring a silhouette of an assailant with a drawn pistol at hip level, the target is divided into A, B, C, and D areas, with A being the most lethal. The MPMS-1 Target is ideally suited for use in honing two critical shooting tactics—Controlled Pairs and Failure to Stop—that make up the Combat Pistol Program. You can read more about these techniques on our Web page devoted to the USMC Marine Pistol Sharpshooter badge.

To earn the Pistol Marksman badge, Marines must earn a score of 264 on Table 1 of the Combat Pistol Program Training Block 4/5.
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