The M16A2 Qualification Course

The “old” range

One hallmark of the Marine Corps is that every Marine is a rifleman, no matter their ultimate Military Occupational Specialty, (MOS). Down through our history we have set ourselves apart by our shooting prowess, and to keep those skills sharp Marines must qualify annually at the Known Distance course of fire, or KD course as we call it.

This course of fire is straight forward. No surprises, no real pressure. Just a nice time in the open air doing what Marines have trained to do since our inception; placing well aimed rounds into a target.

For the boot, this course of fire may seem hurried, and stressful, however that is more of a reflection of the the need for the range personnel to get on libbo by 1600, then to actually complete the range quickly.

Roughly estimating, it takes about 1 hour per relay to complete the KD range. That includes all the movement between yard lines, prep time, and rotating between relays. The number of relays is dependant upon the size of the unit(s) firing and the number of shooting position available on the range.
The rifle range is conducted over a period of two weeks. The first week is snapping in, or practicing your positions, techniques, and getting instruction on the fundamentals of marksmanship, positions, the run of the range and other tidbits from the more experienced Marines and instructors. The second week is strictly shooting, on which you qualified for score on the last day.

Marine Corps Shooting Badges

Expert Expert

Marksman Marksman

Sharpshooter Sharpshooter


This is a decent system, however it eats up a ton of time that Commanders and Marines could have been using for something else, like their MOS specific job. So, the Marine Corps has developed a one week rifle range. It has compressed the time for snapping in and qualifying into one week, making a lot of Marines very happy. Either way though, one week or two, Marines are provided an annual opportunity to get the weapon back into their hands. I will not expand on the “new” range here, but I wanted the readers to know that it is being introduced throughout the Corps.

Below is the run of the “old” KD range. It is broken down into five stages, on three different yard lines.

USMC Known Distance Course of Fire

Distance  Time Rounds Type of Fire   Position
200 Yards 20 Min 5   Slow Fire Sitting
5   Slow Fire Kneeling
5   Slow Fire Standing

Notes: During this stage of fire, the Marines are only allowed to load 5 rounds at a time before making a complete safe weapon and changing positions. The total time is 20 minutes for all 15 rounds.

A sling is allowed for all positions except for standing. During the standing position the shooter may either have a tight parade sling, or take it off the weapon.

Distance  Time Rounds Type of Fire   Position
200 Yards 70 Sec  5/5 Rapid  Standing to kneeling

Notes: 5/5= a tactical reload. The Marine is only allowed to load 5 rounds in each magazine. Therefore, the Marine has to reload for the second magazine. Makes for some interesting groups if your not careful to get that natural point of aim back.

A rapid fire means just that; Firing rapidly. (You only have 70 second to get them all out!)

Distance  Time Rounds Type of Fire   Position
300 yards 5 Min 5 Slow Kneeling
Distance  Time Rounds Type of Fire   Position
300 Yards 70 Sec 5/5  Rapid Standing to kneeling

The position change from standing to kneeling is one of the better parts of the range. It really tests the Marines ability to adjust their firing position quickly, just like they might in combat. Drop to the ground and fire.

Distance  Time Rounds Type of Fire   Position
500 Yards 10 Min 10 Slow Prone

This yard line is often referred to as “gravy points” because the you really get to take your time here.


One thing to remember about the range is that half of the Marines that went to the range are in the “butts” pulling targets down, marking them, scoring shot values, and disking the score for the line to see and waiting for another shot. This can make for one long day, especially when the heat is baking you for several hours, or its raining, and then you have to head back up to the line to shoot your string of fire for qualification.

Range Scoring

The scoring for the range runs like this:

Expert: 40 -65

Sharpshooter: 35-39

Marksman: 25-34

Opportunities for Improvement

Looking at rifle marksmanship in general, it is important to instill and test the Marine’s ability to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship. I have already outlined my suggestions for an improved range in another article. Please refer to Marines Need A New M16 Qualification Course of Fire for more detail on the subject.

Related Articles:

The M16A2-Basic Issue of the Marine Corps

Marines Need A New M16 Qualification Course of Fire

Works Cited

Marine Corps Reference Publication (MCRP) 3-01A, Rifle Marksmanship.29 March 2001