You may have seen it published on a few sites, but it looks like the Army released a newly revised marksmanship training manual. The previous edition, FM 3-22.9, was released in 2008. The newest one appears to have made some welcome changes.
Note: Don’t get wrapped up in the terminology of FM (Field Manual) and TC (Training Circular), they are effectively the same thing.
Firstly, at 236 pages, the new manual is nearly half as long as the old one. This means that someone figured out that efficiency and ease of reference are valuable qualities. The new chapter structure is more intuitive and geared towards the practical employment of the M4/M16 platform. The first few chapters (1-4) are about the weapon system itself, the various accessories, and their usage. The remaining chapters (5-9) are about the employment of the weapon, with each chapter focusing on the elements of good marksmanship. What follows is a quick breakdown of each chapter. I highly recommend checking out and saving the complete document. I plan to revamp sections of my marksmanship skills posts (which remain unfinished) with portions of this publication, as I find it just that useful.
Chapter 1: Overview
Chapter 1 details several fundamental elements that will be built upon in the remainder of the manual. The chapter details safe weapons handling (Cooper’s four rules), as well as common terminology for weapon condition and employment (i.e. weapons hold, weapons tight, and weapons free). The chapter also introduces descriptions and effects of items such as overmatch, engagement range, visibility conditions, and terminal ballistic performance.
Chapter 2: Rifle and Carbine Principles of Operation
Chapter 2 is a fairly detailed description of the M4/M16 platform’s various components and a description of the firing cycle. The diagrams here are actually very useful, much more so than the 2008 edition. Of note, this new manual has a section dedicated to how the weapon cools itsel and how the dissipation of heat will affect the shooter’s sight picture. As you will see below, Chapter 2 of this publication stripped out all of the accessories discussion of the previous edition and turned them into their own chapters and appendices.
Chapter 3: Aiming Devices
Chapter 3 details the various sighting methods available for the M4/M16. In particular, it focuses on Iron Sights, Optics, Thermal Sights, and Lasers/Pointers. There is a very good description of both Minutes of Angle (MOA) and Mils, as well as useful diagrams of the various reticle types commonly found on combat rifles. There is a much better description of the electromagnetic spectrum than the previous manual, as well as how ambient conditions (rain/fog/smoke) will affect the ability of thermal/image intensifiers to function in their respective spectrums.
Regarding optics and sighting devices, the chapter has detailed descriptions and tables for the various iron sights and optical devices. These sections have pro/cons for these sighting system as well as reticle descriptions. With red dot sights, there is a useful diagram for holdover reference.
Chapter 4: Mountable Equipment
Chapter 4 is a quick overview of other mountable equipment such as underbarrel grenade launchers, shotguns, bipods, vertical foregrips, and white lights.
Chapter 5: Employment
Chapter 5, in my opinion, is where the rubber really starts to meet the road. The chapter describes the expectations of each individual rifleman in regards to making hits count. It talks about the shot process and the supporting elements of it: stability, aim, control, and movement- each of which have their own chapter. There is also a section talking about target detection, identification, and prioritization. Included in this latter section is a paragraph concerning identification of friendly forces.
Chapter 6: Stability
Chapter 6 is lengthy, and has many elements to it. It starts with a description of steady hold factors and all the components that make up a good shooting position to include relaxation and natural point of aim. The chapter also describes various weapon carry positions and their associated advantages/disadvantages.
What is really interesting in this chapter is the description of the firing positions. Each has a nice diagram describing the various elements of the position. Of note, the new manual brings back the squatting position, or “rice paddy prone.” The new manual also includes all three sitting variations, as well as both traditional and reverse kneeling positions. The previous edition only included standing, kneeling, and four variations of prone (unsupported, supported, roll-over, reverse roll-over). This, in my view, is one of the most visible indicators that the new manual is more about successful marksmanship in the field and not just about passing the qualification course.
Another interesting tidbit in this chapter is that the details of unsupported prone position note that the rifle magazine can be rested on the ground as a monopod for added stability, and that doing so will not result in malfunctions. This is something that we’ve been hearing from instructors for years, but the Army never caught on. It appears that oversight has been corrected.
Chapter 7: Aim
Chapter 7 begins with listing the elements and actions that the shooter must keep in mind to make a successful shot: weapon orientation, sight alignment, sight picture, point of aim, and desired point of impact. It also discusses the importance of aiming for the center of visible mass (CoVM), which may appear as a head popping up over a wall or be an entire torso.
The remainder of the chapter covers each of the above elements in more detail, to include various sight pictures for each of the different aiming devices listed earlier. It also covers common aiming areas, aiming under adverse conditions, and weapon orientation. There are also many tips on using sights for rangefinding and windage correction. This chapter is actually very useful, and much more thorough than its predecessor.
Chapter 8: Control
The emphasis of Chapter 8 is essentially what the shooter can influence themselves in order to make a successful shot. These include trigger control, breath control, workspace management, rate of fire, follow-through, malfunctions, and even transition to secondary weapons (if present).
Chapter 9: Movement
Chapter 9 is relatively short, and covers walking forward, back, laterally, and turning.
Appendix A: Ammunition
This section is exactly what it sounds like. It details the various components of an ammunition cartridge, as well as different bullet designs. There is a lot of detail about each of the issued 5.56 cartridges, their usage, and how to distinguish between them.
Appendix B: Ballistics
This section is actually a very good discussion of both internal, external, and terminal ballistics. The diagrams and discussions are much more detailed than the previous publication- particularly terminal ballistics and effects on various materials at range.
Appendix C: Complex Engagements
This section builds upon items originally covered in Chapter 7 by giving examples of circumstances that make good hits on target more difficult, and then working through solutions to those problems. Subjects include determining lead on moving targets, windage, angle of attack, adverse weather, and range correction are all covered.
Appendix D: Drills
This section opens with a discussion of mindset, something completely left out of the previous edition. It then goes on to discuss drills designed to enhance a shooters mindset, efficiency, tactics, and flexibility.
Appendix E: Zeroing
This last section is a very thorough explanation of the zeroing process. Additionally, this section talks about coaching of shooters.