With the introduction of its Combat Pistol Program in 2013, Marines hoping to qualify at the Marksman level or higher with their service pistols would have to become proficient at three specific techniques or tactics: Controlled Pairs, Failure to Stop, and Speed Reloading.

Also called a “double-tap,” a Controlled Pair is two shots fired in rapid succession from a handgun, with the shooter sighting the target before each shot. Some sources say it was originally conceived of by British policemen Eric Sykes and William Fairbairn as a method of ensuring that an assailant was incapacitated, but they seem to be mainly anecdotal. The tactic is more closely associated with former Marine Jeff Cooper, considered the foremost expert on modern handgun techniques and tactics.

Cooper was also the source of the Failure to Stop Drill, also referred to as the “Mozambique Drill” because of the story of the tactic’s origins. According to Cooper, one of his students had run face-to-face into a terrorist armed with an AK-47—and two pistol shots to the wishbone area had failed to slow the rifle-wielding adversary down. Dismayed, Cooper’s student aimed for the head, and while his shot was not exactly on target, it severed his adversary’s spinal cord and ended the fight. Cooper incorporated this tactic—two stops to the midsection, then a third to the head—into his classes from that point forward, and the Marine Corps wisely added it to the list of skills to be mastered in its Combat Pistol Program.

Speed Reloading involves just what it says: reloading a pistol in a very short amount of time. All the handguns authorized as service pistols are semi-automatics with magazines that can be ejected easily while holding the weapon in one hand, so the biggest challenge is re-sighting the target after quickly locating the new magazine and inserting it.

To earn the Pistol Sharpshooter badge, Marines must perform these techniques while drawing their weapons from their service holsters, racking up at least 324 point while firing 40 rounds at ranges of seven, fifteen, and twenty-five yards.
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