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Firing range has new requirements for M-9 and M-16 qualification

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer
Photo by Nick Stubbs

Staff Sergeants Steve Mullaney, Christopher Oshana and Jose Seda Reyes, left to right, take aim at the firing line at the base range. The new M-9 course makes it tougher to qualify and stricter M-16 rules will take effect Jan. 1, 2005.

Just like golf, Airmen get a Mulligan or two when it comes time to qualify on the M-9 and M-16. So, while a few off target won't mean failure, new, more stringent requirements mean "par" on the firing line just got a little tougher to achieve.

Under new Air Force regulations, more rounds must be fired and more have to be on target.

Additionally, firing while wearing a gas mask is a new requirement, and together these changes add up to qualifying becoming more difficult. The payoff will be better shooters, said Tech. Sgt. Irwin Sealy, noncommissioned officer in charge at the firing range.

MacDill Airmen won't have to meet all of the new requirements until January 1, since a base waiver was granted until enough gas masks are obtained to ensure everyone has one for the portion of the M-16 test, which must be completed with the mask on.

The new M-9 class is running now, which means those previously firing 60 rounds now are firing 90. In addition, the rounds fired during the qualification round from 36 to 45 and qualification scores have been upped from 28 to 35 hits. A three-shot failure drill in which two shots must be made to the 10-inch circle (chest area) and one to the six-inch circle (head) is another change in the mandatory requirements.

In addition, qualifying for expert is harder. Of 41 shots, 25 must be in the 10-inch circle and six must fall in the six-inch circle. Previously 30 of 36 shots had to strike the 10-inch circle to score "expert." There is no gas mask requirement for the pistol firing portion.

Until January when enough masks are expected to be on base to support everyone, the M-16 course will remain the same, said Sergeant Sealy.

"It wasn't practical for us now due to the mask situation, so we have the waiver," he said. "That means through Dec. 31 the old course will be used."

After Jan. 1, Airmen will fire 100 instead of 80 rounds and new scoring will apply. Those in Group A must qualify twice a year and have to put 32 rounds on target instead of 25. Group B must qualify every 15 months and have to score 25 on target as opposed to 20 previously. Group C must qualify every 30 months and must score 19 hits, up from 15 in the past.

The Security Forces Tactical Rifle qualification will remain the same, which is to say the new guidelines will be used. MacDill was a pilot site for the new, more rigorous standards starting two years ago. Those changes included night fire, gas mask shooting, firing with flack vests and helmet, weak-hand firing and other changes designed to simulate more realistic conditions using the M-4.




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