Figure Suppressive fire training program

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a. Nature of the Target. Many soldiers have difficulty delivering effective suppressive fire when they cannot see a definite target. They must fire at likely locations or in a general area where the enemy is known to exist. Even though definite targets cannot be seen, most suppressive fire should be well aimed. Figure 7-13 shows a landscape target suitable for suppressive fire training. When this type of target is used, trainers must develop a firing program to include areas of engagement and designated target areas be credited as sustained effective suppressive fire. At 25 meters, this target provides the firer an area to suppress without definite targets to engage.

M16a1 Rifle
Figure 7-13. Landscape target.

b. Point of Aim. Suppressive fire should be well-aimed, sustained, semiautomatic fire. Although lacking a definite target, the soldier must be taught to control and accurately deliver fire within the limits of the suppressed area. The sights are used as when engaging a point-type target with the front sight post placed so each shot impacts within the desired area (window, firing portal, tree line).

c. Rate of Fire. During most phases of live fire (grouping, zeroing, qualifying), shots are delivered using the slow semiautomatic rate of fire (one round every 3 to 10 seconds). During training, this allows a slow and precise application of the fundamentals. Successful suppressive fire requires that a faster but sustained rate of fire be used. Firing full automatic or bursts (13 rounds per second) for a few seconds may sometimes be necessary to gain initial fire superiority. Rapid semiautomatic fire (one round every one or two seconds) allows the firer to sustain a large volume of accurate fire while conserving ammunition. The tactical situation dictates the most useful rate of fire, but the following must be considered:

(1) Applying Fundamentals. As the stress of combat increases, some soldiers may fail to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship. This factor contributes to soldiers firing less accurately and without obtaining the intended results. While some modifications are appropriate, the basic fundamentals should be applied and emphasized regardless of the rate of fire or combat stress. Strategies to enhance marksmanship skills during combat stress include shooting prone as opposed to standing, and providing a high carbohydrate and or moderate sodium diet. Factors that contribute to combat stress are:

(a) Environmental. Environmental stressors have been shown to degrade marksmanship accuracy up to 20 percent. Such stressors include heat and altitude.

(b) Operational. Operational stressors have been shown to degrade marksmanship accuracy from 17 percent to 136 percent. Such stressors include MOPP gear; tasks that require carrying rucksacks, litter patients, and other equipment on the body; and sleep deprivation.

(2) Making Rapid Magazine Changes. One of the keys to sustained suppressive fire is reloading the rifle rapidly. Rapid magazine changes must be correctly taught and practiced during dry-fire and live-fire exercises until the soldier becomes proficient. Small-unit training exercises must be conducted so soldiers who are providing suppressive fire practice magazine changes that are staggered. Firing is, therefore, controlled and coordinated so that a continuous volume of accurate suppressive fire is delivered to the target area.

(3) Conserving Ammunition. Automatic or burst fire should be used sparingly and only to gain initial fire superiority. Depending on the tactical situation, the rate of fire should be adjusted so that a minimum number of rounds are expended. Accurate fire conserves ammunition, while preventing the enemy from placing effective fire on friendly positions.


The two main techniques of directing fire with a rifle are to aim using the sights and to use weapon alignment, instinct, bullet strike, or tracers to direct the fire. The preferred technique is to use the sights, but sometimes quick reflex action is required. Quick fire is a technique used to deliver fast, effective fire on surprise personnel targets at close ranges (25 meters or less). Quick-fire procedures have also been referred to as instinctive firing or quick kill. (Figure 7-14 shows the current training program for quick fire.)

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