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Four Fundamentals of Marksmanship

The soldier must
understand and apply the four key fundamentals before he
approaches the firing line. He must establish a steady
position allowing observation of the target. He must aim
the rifle at the target by aligning the sight system,
and fire the rifle without disturbing this alignment by
improper breathing or during trigger squeeze. These
skills are known collectively as the four fundamentals.
Applying these four fundamentals rapidly and
consistently is the integrated act of firing.

  1. Steady Position. When the soldier
    approaches the firing line, he should assume a
    comfortable, steady firing position. The time and
    supervision each soldier has on the firing line are
    limited. He must learn how to establish a steady
    position during integrated act of dry-fire training.
    The firer is the best judge of the quality of his
    position. If he can hold the front sight post steady
    through the fall of the hammer, he has a good
    position. The steady position elements are as follows.

    1. Nonfiring Handgrip. The rifle hand guard
      rests on the heel of the hand in the V formed by the
      thumb and fingers. The grip of the non-firing hand
      is light.
    2. Rifle Butt Position. The butt of the
      rifle is placed in the pocket of the firing
      shoulder. This reduces the effect of recoil and
      helps ensure a steady position.
    3. Firing Handgrip. The firing hand grasps
      the pistol grip so it fits the V formed by the thumb
      and forefinger. The forefinger is placed on the
      trigger so the lay of the rifle is not disturbed
      when the trigger is squeezed. A slight rearward
      pressure is exerted by the remaining three fingers
      to ensure that the butt of the stock remains in the
      pocket of the shoulder, minimizing the effect of
    4. Firing Elbow Placement. The firing elbow
      is important in providing balance. Its exact
      location depends on the firing/fighting position
      used. Placement should allow shoulders to remain
    5. Nonfiring Elbow. The non-firing elbow is
      positioned firmly under the rifle to allow a
      comfortable and stable position. When the soldier
      engages a wide sector of fire, moving targets, and
      targets at various elevations, his non-firing elbow
      should remain free from support.
    6. Cheek-to-Stock Weld. The stock weld
      should provide a natural line of sight through the
      center of the rear sight aperture to the front sight
      post and on to the target. The firer’s
      neck should be relaxed, allowing his cheek to fall
      naturally onto the stock. Through dry-fire training,
      the soldier practices this position until he assumes
      the same cheek-to-stock weld each time he assumes a
      given position, which provides consistency in
      aiming. Proper eye relief is obtained when a soldier
      establishes a good cheek-to-stock weld. A small
      change in eye relief normally occurs each time that
      the firer assumes a different firing position. The
      soldier should begin by trying to touch the charging
      handle with his nose when assuming a firing
      position. This will aid the soldier in maintaining
      the same cheek-to-stock weld hold each time the
      weapon is aimed. The soldier should be mindful of
      how the nose touches the charging handle and should
      be consistent when doing so. This should be
      critiqued and reinforced during dry-fire training.


       (Click to view larger image)
    7. Support. When artificial support
      (sandbags, logs, stumps) is available, it should be
      used to steady the position and support the rifle.
      If it is not available, then the bones, not the
      muscles, in the firer’s upper body must support the
    8. Muscle Relaxation. If support is used
      properly, the soldier should be able to relax most
      of his muscles. Using artificial support or bones in
      the upper body as support allows him to relax and
      settle into position. Using muscles to support the
      rifle can cause it to move due to muscle fatigue.
    9. Natural Point of Aim. When the soldier
      first assumes his firing position, he orients his
      rifle in the general direction of his target. Then
      he adjusts his body to bring the rifle and sights
      exactly in line with the desired aiming point. When
      using proper support and consistent cheek to stock
      weld the soldier should have his rifle and sights
      aligned naturally on the target. When correct
      body-rifle-target alignment is achieved, the front
      sight post must be held on target, using muscular
      support and effort. As the rifle fires, muscles tend
      to relax, causing the front sight to move away from
      the target toward the natural point of aim.
      Adjusting this point to the desired point of aim
      eliminates this movement. When multiple target
      exposures are expected (or a sector of fire must be
      covered), the soldier adjusts his natural point of
      aim to the center of the expected target exposure
      area (or center of sector).
  2. Aiming. Having mastered the task of
    holding the rifle steady, the soldier must align the
    rifle with the target in exactly the same way for each
    firing. The firer is the final judge as to where his
    eye is focused. The instructor or trainer emphasizes
    this point by having the firer focus on the target and
    then focus back on the front sight post. He checks the
    position of the firing eye to ensure it is in line
    with the rear sight aperture.

    1. Rifle Sight Alignment. Alignment of the
      rifle with the target is critical. It involves
      placing the tip of the front sight post in the
      center of the rear sight aperture. Any alignment
      error between the front and rear sights repeats
      itself for every 1/2 meter the bullet travels. For
      example, at the 25-meter line, any error in rifle
      alignment is multiplied 50 times. If the bullet is
      misaligned by 1/10 inch, it causes a target at 300
      meters to be missed by 5 feet.

      Correct Sight Alignment
      (Click to view larger image)
    2. Focus of the Eye. A proper firing
      position places the eye directly in line with the
      center of the rear sight aperture. When the eye is
      focused on the front sight post, the natural ability
      of the eye to center objects in a circle and to seek
      the point of greatest light (center of the aperture)
      aid in providing correct sight alignment. For the
      average soldier firing at

      combat-type targets, the natural ability of the eye
      can accurately align the sights. Therefore, the
      firer can place the tip of the front sight post on
      the aiming point, but the eye must be focused on the
      tip of the front sight post. This causes the target
      to appear blurry, while the front sight post is seen
      clearly. Two reasons for focusing on the front sight
      post are:

      1. Only a minor aiming error should occur since
        the error reflects only as much as the soldier
        fails to determine the target center. A greater
        aiming error can result if the front sight post is
        blurry due to focusing on the target or other
      2. Focusing on the tip of the front sight post
        aids the firer in maintaining proper sight
    3. Sight Picture. Once the soldier can
      correctly align his sights, he can obtain a sight
      picture. A correct sight picture has the target,
      front sight post, and rear sight aligned. The sight
      picture includes two basic elements: sight alignment
      and placement of the aiming point.

      1. Placement of the aiming point varies,
        depending on the engagement range. For example,
        the figure below
        shows a silhouette at 300
        meters where the aiming point is the center of
        mass, and the sights are aligned for a correct
        sight picture.


          Correct Sight Picture
        (Click to view larger image)

      2. A technique to obtain a good sight picture is
        the side aiming technique. It involves positioning
        the front sight post to the side of the target in
        line with the vertical center of mass, keeping the
        sights aligned. The front sight post is moved
        horizontally until the target is directly centered
        on the front sight post.


          Side Aiming Technique
         (Click to view larger image)

    4. Front Sight. The front sight post is
      vital to proper firing and should be replaced when
      damaged. The post should be blackened anytime it is
      shiny since precise focusing on the tip of the front
      sight post cannot be done otherwise.
    5. Aiming Practice. Aiming practice is
      conducted before firing live rounds. During day
      firing, the soldier should practice sight alignment
      and placement of the aiming point. Using training
      aids such as the M15A1 aiming card can do this.
  3. Breath Control. As the firer’s
    skills improve and as timed or multiple targets are
    presented, he must learn to control his breath at any
    part of the breathing cycle. Two types of breath
    control techniques are practiced during dry fire. The
    coach/trainer ensures that the firer uses two
    breathing techniques and understands them by
    instructing him to exaggerate his breathing. The firer
    must be aware of the rifle’s movement (while sighted
    on a target) as a result of breathing.

    1. The first technique is used during zeroing (and
      when time is available to fire a shot). There is a
      moment of natural respiratory pause while breathing
      when most of the air has been exhaled from the lungs
      and before inhaling. Breathing should stop after
      most of the air has been exhaled during the normal
      breathing cycle. The shot must be fired before the
      soldier feels any discomfort.


      Breath Control for Engaging
      Single Targets

                  (Click to
      view larger image)

    2. The second breath control technique is employed
      during rapid fire (short-exposure targets). Using
      this technique, the soldier stops his breath when he
      is about to squeeze the trigger.

      Breath Control while
      Engagement of Short-Exposure Targets

      (Click to view larger image)
  4. Trigger Squeeze. A novice firer can
    learn to place the rifle in a steady position and to
    correctly aim at the target if he follows the basic
    principles. If the trigger is not properly squeezed,
    the rifle will be misaligned with the target at the
    moment of firing.

    1. Rifle Movement. Trigger squeeze is
      important for two reasons: First, any sudden
      movement of the finger on the trigger can disturb
      the lay of the rifle and cause the shot to miss the
      target. Second, the precise instant of firing should
      be a surprise to the soldier. The soldier’s natural
      reflex to compensate for the noise and slight punch
      in the shoulder can cause him to miss the target if
      he knows the exact instant the rifle will fire. The
      soldier usually tenses his shoulders when expecting
      the rifle to fire. It is difficult to detect since
      he does not realize he is flinching. When the hammer
      drops on a dummy round and does not fire, the
      soldier’s natural reflexes demonstrate that he is
      improperly squeezing the trigger.
    2. Trigger Finger. The trigger finger (index
      finger on the firing hand) is placed on the trigger
      between the first joint and the tip of the finger
      (not the extreme end) and adjusted depending on hand
      size, grip, and so on. The trigger finger must
      squeeze the trigger to the rear so the hammer falls
      without disturbing the lay of the rifle. When a live
      round is fired, it is difficult to see what effect
      trigger pull had on the lay of the rifle. It is
      important to experiment with many finger positions
      during dry-fire training to ensure the hammer is
      falling with little disturbance to the aiming

      1. As the firer’s skills increase with practice,
        he needs less time spent on trigger squeeze.
        Novice firers can take five seconds to perform an
        adequate trigger squeeze, but, as skills improve,
        he can squeeze the trigger in a second or less.
        The proper trigger squeeze should start with
        slight pressure on the trigger during the initial
        aiming process. The firer applies more pressure
        after the front sight post is steady on the target
        and he is holding his breath.
      2. The coach/trainer observes the trigger
        squeeze, emphasizes the correct procedure, and
        checks the firer’s applied pressure. He places his
        finger on the trigger and has the firer squeeze
        the trigger by applying pressure to the
        coach/trainer’s finger. The coach/trainer ensures
        that the firer squeezes straight to the rear on
        the trigger avoiding a left or right twisting
        movement. The coach/trainer observes that the
        firer follows through and holds the
        trigger to the rear for approximately one second
        after the round has been fired. A steady position
        reduces disturbance of the rifle during trigger
      3. Wobble area is the movement of the front sight
        around the aiming point when the rifle is in the
        steadiest position. From an unsupported position,
        the firer experiences a greater wobble area than
        from a supported position. If the front sight
        strays from the target during the firing process,
        pressure on the trigger should be held constant
        and resumed as soon as sighting is corrected. The
        position must provide for the smallest possible
        wobble area. From a supported position, there
        should be minimal wobble area and little reason to
        detect movement. If movement of the rifle causes
        the front sight to leave the target, more practice
        is needed. The firer should never try to quickly
        squeeze the trigger while the sight is on the
        target. The best firing performance results when
        the trigger is squeezed continuously, and the
        rifle is fired without disturbing its lay.