There are two kinds of marksmanship badges: marksmanship qualification badges and marksmanship competition badges. Both can be earned through military completion of courses and competitions, or through civilian competitions, law enforcement qualification programs and organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Currently, the Army and Marines are the only two branches of the military which issue a marksman badge. There are several categories of achievement in these qualification categories, and they are a source of pride and honor for those who are skilled and talented in the art and science of shooting.
The marksman badge is required by both the Army and Marines in order to graduate from basic training. Recruits train for several weeks by shooting at multiple stationary and pop-up targets from a variety of positions and angles, all while using their environment to cover their position.
It is essential to achieve proficiency in marksmanship to graduate from Army boot camp. You must be able to position yourself, point and shoot at a target when you are a soldier, and so the marksman weapons qualifications badge shows you have achieved this feat.
The award is given in three levels for enlisted service members: Marksman, Sharpshooter and Expert. The award is further broken down into proficiency of the weapon you are using. The standard test is performed with the service-issue M-4 Carbine. It can also be earned in other weapons categories, including the pistol, machine gun, field artillery, missile and mortar weapons.
It takes two to three weeks of training before you take your marksmanship qualification test. New changes made to the test in 2019 incorporate a new way of engaging targets that more closely mimics actual wartime movements. The new test takes about four minutes to complete. The test requires you to aim and shoot multiple engaged targets (both stationary and pop-up) from four firing positions: Kneeling Supported, Unsupported Prone, Supported Prone, and Unsupported Standing.
In the test, you will pass and earn a marksman badge if you hit at least 23 out of 40 targets on the course.
If you hit between 30-35 targets, one of which must be a 250-meter target, you will be awarded the Sharpshooter badge. Expert badges are awarded if you hit at least 36 of the 40 targets, one of which must be a 300-meter target.
The marksman badge is not a permanently earned badge. You must re-test and qualify for your marksman qualification badge every 12 months, and you must wear the badge you have earned during your most recent test.
Much like the Army, the Marine Corps requires recruits to graduate from basic training with a marksmanship qualification badge using their service-issue M-16 rifle which they carry and train with throughout the duration of boot camp. Those qualifying to become officers and going into certain specialties will also need to pass a qualification test using their Glock 19M.
There are three levels of achievement for the marksman badge: Marksman, Sharpshooter and Expert.
The Rifle Test
Like the Army, the Marine Corps is also revamping their marksmanship qualification test to reflect the evolving real-life battle engagement scenarios soldiers may face in combat. The test takes place over two days and involves four tables of drills which the Marines must pass to qualify. Recruits must qualify consistently over the course of more than one day, so if they fail one table, they must retake the test later on in their training.
Tables One through Three require Marines to perform range training with iron sights, classroom training and live-fire close combat engagement shooting. Table Four requires Marines to pass Advanced Combat Rifle Marksmanship standards. All of the table levels require Marines to complete several stages of engagement, with drill types including pivot, forward movement, box drills, hammer pairs, head shots, etc. During training and execution of these tables, Marines will fire over 500 rounds of ammunition and have several hours’ worth of classroom training.
The test not only requires recruits to engage with different targets, but they also must distinguish whether those targets are friendly or hostile before firing. Marines must begin in a standing position and drop to a kneeling or prone position, or forward movement when they engage their targets. Marines will cycle through four positions: Prone, Standing, Kneeling and Sitting positions.
Marines are scored on a specific point scoring system, according to where the target is hit, with a minimum score of 250 and a maximum score of 350. Recruits begin engaging targets at 500 yards and move forward to 100 yards. Marines who score between 250 and 279 earn the Marksman badge. Marines who score between 280 and 304 earn the Sharpshooter badge. Finally, Marines who receive between 305 and 350 achieve the Expert badge.