Figure Rapid semiautomatic fire training program

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a. Effectiveness of Rapid Fire. When a soldier uses rapid semiautomatic fire properly, he sacrifices some accuracy to deliver a greater volume of effective fire to hit more targets. It is surprising how devastatingly accurate rapid fire can be. At ranges beyond 25 meters, rapid semiautomatic fire is superior to automatic fire in all measures (shots per target, trigger pulls per hit, and even time to hit). The decrease in accuracy when firing faster is reduced with proper training and repeated practice.

b. Control of Rapid Semiautomatic Fire. With proper training, the soldier can properly select the appropriate mode of fire; semiautomatic fire, rapid semiautomatic fire, or automatic/burst. Leaders must assure proper fire discipline at all times. Even in training, unaimed fire must never be tolerated, especially unaimed automatic fire.

c. Modifications for Rapid Fire. Increases in speed and volume should be sought only after the soldier has demonstrated expertise and accuracy during slow semiautomatic fire. The rapid application of the four fundamentals will result in a well-aimed shot every one or two seconds. This technique of fire allows a unit to place the most effective volume of fire in a target area while conserving ammunition. It is the most accurate means of delivering suppressive fire. Trainers must consider the impact of the increased rate of fire on the soldier's ability to properly apply the fundamentals of marksmanship and other combat firing skills. These fundamentals and skills include:

(1) Marksmanship Fundamentals. The four fundamentals are used when firing in the rapid semiautomatic mode. The following differences apply:

(a) Steady Position. Good support improves accuracy and reduces recovery time between shots. A somewhat tighter grip on the hand guard assists in recovery time and in rapidly shifting or distributing fire to subsequent targets. When possible, the rifle should pivot at the point where the non-firing hand meets the support. The soldier should avoid changing the position of the non-firing hand on the support, because it is awkward and time consuming when rapidly firing a series of shots.

(b) Aiming. Sighting and stock weld do not change during rapid semiautomatic fire. The firer's head remains on the stock for every shot, his firing eye is aligned with the rear aperture, and his focus is on the front sight post. In slow fire, the soldier seeks a stable sight picture. In the fast moving situations requiring rapid semiautomatic fire, the soldier must accept target movement, and unsteady sight picture, and keep firing into the target area until the target is down or there is no chance of a hit. Every shot must be aimed.

(c) Breath Control. Breath control must be modified because the soldier does not have time to take a complete breath between shots. He must hold his breath at some point in the firing process and take shallow breaths between shots.

(c) Trigger Squeeze. To maintain the desired rate of fire, the soldier has only a short period to squeeze the trigger (one well-aimed shot every one or two seconds). The firer must cause the rifle to fire in a period of about one-half of a second or less and still not anticipate the precise instant of firing. It is important that initial trigger pressure be applied as soon as a target is identified and while the front sight post is being brought to the desired point of aim. When the front sight post reaches the point of aim, final pressure must be applied to cause the rifle to fire almost at once. This added pressure, or final trigger squeeze, must be applied without disturbing the lay of the rifle. Repeated dry-fire training, using the Weaponeer device, and live-fire practice ensure the soldier can squeeze the trigger and maintain a rapid rate of fire consistently and accurately.

NOTE: The soldier can increase the firing rate by firing, then releasing just enough pressure on the trigger to reset the sear, then immediately fire the next shot. This technique eliminates some of the time used in fully releasing the pressure on the trigger. It allows the firer to rapidly deliver subsequent rounds. Training and practice sessions are required for soldiers to become proficient in the technique of rapid trigger squeeze.

(2) Immediate Action. To maintain an increased rate of suppressive fire, immediate action must be applied quickly. The firer must identify the problem and correct the stoppage immediately. Repeated dry-fire practice, using blanks or dummy rounds, followed by live-fire training and evaluation ensures that soldiers can rapidly apply immediate action while other soldiers initiate fire.

d. Rapid-Fire Training. Soldiers should be well trained in all aspects of slow semiautomatic firing before attempting any rapid-fire training. Those who display a lack of knowledge of the fundamental skills of marksmanship should not advance to rapid semiautomatic training until these skills are learned and mastered. Initial training should focus on the modifications to the fundamentals and other basic combat skills necessary during rapid semiautomatic firing.

(1) Dry-Fire Exercises. Repeated dry-fire exercises are the most efficient means available to ensure soldiers can apply modifications to the fundamentals. Multiple dry-fire exercises are needed, emphasizing a rapid shift in position and point of aim, followed by breath control and fast trigger squeeze. Blanks or dummy rounds may be used to train rapid magazine changes and the application of immediate action. The soldier should display knowledge and skill during these dry-fire exercises before attempting live fire.

(2) Live-Fire Exercises. There are two types of live-fire exercises.

(a) Individual. Emphasis is on each soldier maintaining a heavy volume of accurate fire. Weapon downtime (during immediate action and rapid magazine changes) is kept to a minimum. Firing should begin at shorter ranges, progressing to longer ranges as soldiers display increased proficiency. Exposure or engagement times are shortened and the number of rounds increased to simulate the need for a heavy volume of fire. Downrange feedback is necessary to determine accuracy of fire.

(b) Collective. Rapid semiautomatic fire should be the primary means of delivering fire during a collective live-fire exercise (LFX). It is the most accurate technique of placing a large volume of fire on poorly defined targets or target areas. Emphasis should be on staggered rapid magazine changes, maintaining a continuous volume of fire, and conserving ammunition.


Automatic or burst fire delivers the maximum amount of rounds to a target area. It should be trained only after the soldier has demonstrated expertise during slow and rapid semiautomatic fire. Automatic or burst fire involves the rapid application of the four fundamentals while delivering from one to three rounds per second into a designated area. This technique of fire allows a unit to place the most fire in a target area (when conserving ammunition is not a consideration). It is a specialized technique of delivering suppressive fire and may not apply to most combat engagements. The M16A1/A3 and M4A1 rifle has a full automatic setting. (The M16A2/A4 and M4 use a three-round burst capability.) Soldiers must be taught the advantages and disadvantages of automatic firing so they know when it should be used. Without this knowledge in a life-threatening situation the soldier will tend to switch to the automatic or burst mode, which can be effective in some situations. It is vital for the unit to train and practice the appropriate use of automatic or burst fire. (Figure 7-11 shows the current training program for automatic or burst fire.)

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