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M-16 qualifying just got a little tougher: Masked gunmen will take to the range

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

If you are a pretty good shot with an M-16 the new, more demanding Air Force qualification course won't likely impact you much. If you just squeaked by the last time you qualified, however, count on having to shoot a little straighter and under tougher conditions as of 2005.

The new M-16 course comes on the heels of a more rigid M-9 course implemented late last year. In addition to firing more rounds, part of the M-16 course will be shooting while wearing a gas mask.

"That's the biggest change," said Tech. Sgt. Irwin Sealy, noncommissioned officer in charge of combat arms at the base range.

Sergeant Sealy said he anticipates that some who were marginal shooters in the past may have some difficulty but it will be offset somewhat by the increase in the number of practice and sight-zeroing rounds allowed, which is 30 and 20 respectively.

"Not everyone will be able to qualify on the first try, especially with the gas mask," said Sergeant Sealy. "But that's expected because it is new, and all you have to do is reschedule (a qualification test)."

In the gas mask portion of the test, firing will be from a prone, supported position, said Sergeant Sealy.

In addition to the new challenge of shooting wearing a mask, demands are higher all around, depending on your Air Force qualification grouping, which is determined based on your job classification.

Under the new requirements, 50 of 100 rounds count toward qualifying. For those who are in Group C, the new mark is to score 19 hits, up from 15 in the past. For Group B shooters, 25 hits must be scored, up from 20. Group A shooters must score 32 hits, up from 25. To earn "Expert," shooters have to score 43 hits, up from 35.

Sergeant Sealy said all shooters must bring their mask with them to qualify. If they fail to bring a mask, they will not be allowed to test.

The new M-16 requirements went into effect in 2004 at many bases but were delayed at MacDill to allow time to ensure everyone on base received a gas mask.




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