It’s likely we’ll never know when the adage “Every Marine a Rifleman” was coined or who said it first, but one thing is certain:
The Marine Corps’ definition of “Rifleman” is far from written in stone. Major changes in the Rifle qualification process have been introduced over the past decade, and more loom on the horizon. It’s an issue that all Marines follow closely because all of them earn at least a Marksman rating when qualifying with their service rifles.
Before 2002, the Marine Corps Rifle qualification consisted of two components, or Tables. The first was (and still is) called Fundamental Rifle Marksmanship, referred to as the “KD course” because it consisted known distances for marksman tests at set ranges (200, 300, and 500 yards). The second table, the field-fire test, was designed to test Marines’ rifle skills while performing tasks associated with combat. But the vast majority of Marines never took the field-firing phase very seriously because the score they earned on it was not used in calculating the final rating of Marksman, Sharpshooter, or Expert.
Following a Marksmanship Summit hosted by the Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) in November, 2002, the decision was made to remove the field-firing phase from the annual rifle qualification not only because Marines didn’t consider it very important, but also because it was felt that the training for combat marksmanship and weapons proficiency were most appropriately handled at the unit level.
But something must have happened between over the next couple of years to fundamentally reshape the way TECOM looked at rifle qualification, because after another Marksmanship Summit in November, 2004, it was determined that the field-fire portion would be reinstated as part of the annual rifle qualification process and given more importance in determining qualification.
Beginning in October, 2005, the field-fire test was re-introduced and graded on a pass/fail basis; passing scores had no effect on the Marine’s Table 1 score, but failure required the Marine remediate the field-fire portion of the qualification and limited the Marine’s Table 1 score to 190—the minimum score for the Marksman rating. The score of 190 was also indicative of a new scoring system, replacing the old “all or nothing” method of scoring that required a Marine to score 25 hits in the black portion of a target to qualify.
These changes were further revised and codified in 2007 with the release of Marine Corps Order 3574.2K, which implemented an aggredate scoring system for rating qualifications even further. As of October, 2016, the aggregate score necessary to earn the Marksman rating badge is 250-279. You can read about these changes and upcoming changes to the Marines' Rifle qualification system on our Web pages devoted to the USMC Rifle Sharpshooter Badge
and the USMC Rifle Expert Badge