Reality Check

People with Guns are not going to be conducting engagements of near peer threats from flat known distances ranges with built up backstops or a firing platform on a range. People will be forced to come up with firing solutions fighting up, down, laterally, diagonally, and in reverse. They will have to work through malfunctions, communicate through reports, seek cover, and avoid patterns of predictability. Fighting within 1000 meters is dynamically complex and needs to be trained as such, but in a progressive way using experiential learning. Do not cheat yourself or your People by accepting generalized rote answers with no context. Train them using the knowledge gained from 18 years of continuous modern combat.


The Shot Process is a decision-making structure designed to counter task saturation and allows a person with limited experience a path to function in a gun fight. It provides a person with limited cognitive load to use less effort through a stair stepped and balanced approach. By creating a process, we are presenting information that is relative and mimics an engagement. Combined with repetition this balanced process builds a permanent store of knowledge. This store of knowledge allows us to focus on new information presented in our environment and quickly disregard what does not matter more efficiently.  

That may seem like a lot, so lets simplify it. Your shot process is what you consider when presented with situations that require a gun. Thinking under stress is hard for most of us, if not all of us. Creating a process that mimics test conditions (an engagement) increases our ability to be successful. To do that we must think about it, write it down, practice it, refine it, and memorize it. It is the only way to ensure that when bullets start flying our people can function and stand a better chance of being effective. 

Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction (PMI) through Drills

Table I

Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction (PMI) in my opinion is how good or bad habits start. PMI is the foundation of a good process, and where a team gets on the same sheet of music. I treat every PMI as if I never heard the information. I do this because information is communicated in a lot of different ways, by having an open mind I always learn something new. I am continuously impressed with people’s ability to present information in different ways. One good method I have taken is to give a pre-test the day before and tailor my instruction to the needs of the cadre of class. Another method is to standardize the information in full and have small group discussions. The options are endless, but two things are constant if you instruct; know your material and rehearse to be successful. PMI is usually the first-time people see an example of a shot process or have it explained from the book. PMI is a good time to think and write out an example shot process. 

Table II

Pre-Live Fire Simulations (PLFS) are crucial to Shot Process development and usually skipped by most organizations for various reasons such as-

  • Time is always a factor, and time management alone can be an article. I will leave that 30-million-dollar market space to more qualified people. I will say this about leaders that do not protect the time they are given to train, “When you assume risk in marksmanship, you are gambling that it won’t cost a person their life. Be prepared to own that.”
  • Lack of trained personnel is a failure to use the 8-step training model and to plan. If you dig deeper what it shows is a serious gap in the expertise that is being promoted in your outfit. If that is the case, leaders must address it, or they assume that risk as well.
  • Guidance is a double-edge sword in today’s training world. On one side of it we do not want to be micromanagers, our people will hate us. On the other we want to make sure that it is done correctly and with care. Everyone must find that balance and it all depends on people and personalities regretfully. Usually it is all ego and we are all guilty of having healthy self-worth.
  • Ignorance is by far the biggest contributing factor to the issues with not using PLFS for shot process development. PLFS do not require an Engagement Skill Trainer 2000 (EST 2000) or Squad Advanced Marksmanship- Trainer (SAM-T) suite to be conducted, but it helps a lot. There are other ways to develop your shot process and conduct PLFS. Mantis X, Canebrake Consulting Dry Fire Targets, the L3 AN/PEM-1 LBS-300 series bore lasers with pulse settings to name a few. The issue with ignorance is a lack of seeking knowledge, and just requiring an answer or appeal to authority. It is far easier to blame google or someone in charge than to be prepared with the right information. Sometimes we may not have a choice of the system we must use, but that does not excuse us from knowing why that is our system.

The whole objective of PLFS is to practice the shot process you wrote down and refine it. If you follow a quality program you will offset your weapon manually (you can do this in the EST II/SAM-T) at a reduced distance, and zero at actual distance. You will practice your holds, and qualifying or certifying (organization dependent). The one thing that someone cannot do for you is develop your shot process.

Use Drills to Refine your Shot Process

Table III

Drills can be divided into two categories: individual drills, and collective drills. Individual drills consist of positions, manipulations, and individual movement. Collective drills consist of movement (formations and travel), communication (Prowords, hand/arm signals, and reports) and “Battle Drills” (react to contact, Attack, etc.). Through these drills an individual can further refine their process. With Practice the ability to chunk portions together without thinking will increase. 

There must be a standard of performance. That standard needs to be determined by the requirement of the mission. If you are a leader and you don’t know anything about standards use these simple rules:

1. Identify what you are measuring. (time, steps, accuracy?)

2. Analyze what the maximum performance is and what the minimal performance. (you need to get data to show it.)

3. Record, report, and refine. 

Individual Drills:

  • Drill A: Weapon Check- This drill should establish a sequence that covers checking the weapon from Muzzle to Buttstock. From enablers to witness paint marks a sequence needs to be established. I highly recommend using the technical manual. Following the preventive maintenance, checks and services (PMCS) procedures each time you pull your weapon from the Arms room and recording rounds once the day is done on a maintenance form or notebook. By placing this in your process you have a method that is aligned with the manufacture and is readily available to reference.   
  • Drill B: Sling Check- one point, two-point, three-point slings…. who cares? I am sure any orator can make a case for each one. The fact of the matter is you should have one, and it should not interfere with your equipment or movement. I recommend that it is adjustable and not too thick to get hung up. If you have excess material, buy a cheap bicycle innertube or find an abandoned bike and salvage one. It is inexpensive and you can cut the size you need. This should be part of your process because a sling can provide you with some support, muscle relaxation and recoil management when used appropriately.
  • Drill C: Equipment Check- not to be confused with a weapons check. This is to check your mission essential equipment. This sequence is a drill to check your “layered offense” (Howe) and ensure you have what you need to do your job. Batteries, Operational Schedules, Graphic Overlays, Baseball Cards, medical equipment, secondary weapon, demolitions, and ammunition placement. What is your process for ensuring everything is set, accounted for and readily available?
  • Drill D: Load- the ability to load your weapon system the same cannot be underestimated. Loading a gun safely, working through all the weapon safety statuses, positions and conditions is invaluable and will save valuable time and effort.
  • Drill E: Carry– three out of five of these carries can be demonstrated relatively easy, but can a fast and accurate shot be taken from these carries? How do you incorporate this into your process? The first part of building a position is mounting the gun, using the carries as a baseline will help a person figure out what best suits their process.
  • Drill F/G: Fight Down/ Up– we must practice getting down quick and down shifting positions to avoid patterns and get angles. Our process should keep us moving from places of cover or concealment (cover stops bullets, concealment does not) and ensure we have situational awareness of those to our left and right.
  • Drill H: Go-To-Prone– movement patterns need to be trained and agility is needed to react quickly should the need arise. This drill should be practiced both the stationary and moving, in kit and without kit with a partner.
  • Drill I: Reload–  IMO the only difference between retaining and not retaining a magazine is when you do it. Practice first principles, first. If your gun is low or out of ammunition, focus on putting more bullets in the gun. Trying to juggle two things in your hand can be practiced, but is that efficient? Do we want to practice reloading without cover to make sure we can keep our eyes on our sector? Or should we get behind cover, and deal with our situation? We must think about our environment to develop the context in which reloading makes sense and is efficient.  
  • Drill J: Clear Malfunction– this is a drill where knowing the cycle of operation will set you apart and being simple minded can make you a genius. TC 3-22.9 has a flow chart that is broken down that anyone can practice. If the weapon goes click, it completed its cycle and you go through a modified loading sequence (ensure the magazine is secure, pull the charging handle to the rear and release it (don’t ride it forward), place the weapon on safe, and assess your sector.) If the weapon does not go click or you have a trigger with no movement, it has not completed its cycle and a modified unloading and reloading should be attempted but look first. Looking at the issue (feeling at night) can ensure a bad situation does not get worse. Most malfunctions are preventable simply by taking care of the ammunition source (magazines).  
  • Drill K: Unload/ Show Clear- unloading your weapon is as important as loading your weapon. Creating a process will make this a habit and keep you and everyone safe. I have seen more accidents occur on the way back from an Objective when individuals discipline slacked than preparing for an objective or on an objective.

Collective Drills*:

  • React to Direct Fire Contact- you must have a plan for what to do when you get shot at. It will happen, it is better to have a plan that is practiced. It must be simple, allow for 360 degrees security and balance fire power on all sides.
  • Conduct a Platoon Assault- To take ground you need to assault and provide supporting fires. This is an opportunity to refine the shot process in an operational setting around other people and in challenging conditions.
  • React to Ambush (Near)- being prepared for the worst-case scenario is not something to leave to chance. Having the ability to act in unison in a team with little to no decision-making saves lives and takes the initiative away from the enemy.
  • Enter and Clear a Room- speed is a byproduct of moving as fast as one can effectively observe and shoot both through the entry point and onward to a point of domination for the room. This must be done collectively and rehearsed routinely. Force on Force and situational training exercise should be used to develop Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures against Opposing Forces.
  • React to Indirect Fire- at any point during insertion, infiltration, actions on the objective, and exfiltration the enemy has a vote and accidents could happens. React to Indirect fire must be planned. At the least rally points on each phase, Medical Evacuation plan, Communications Plan, Chain of Command, and designated areas of recovery corridor (DARC) (Mission Dependent) should be planned and rehearsed.  

                        *More drills can be added as necessary.

Dry Fire Circuits

Dry fire circuits are can be done anywhere and at any event in the IWTS. This provides an opportunity for sets and reps that are needed to create consistency. By using circuits a team can customize drills that reinforce the tasks for the event. These drills can also be set up to isolate specific problem areas and create focus. Below is an example of a drill circuit using drills described in TC 3-22.9 Rifle and Carbine that focuses on the functional elements of the shot process (Stability, Aiming, Movement, and Control). 


Tables I-III are purpose built to ensure that individual shot processes are developed to temper and expand during Basic Zero, Practice Qualification, and Qualification. The tables provide a baseline that is structured to maximize time, use resources efficiently, and build a person capable of adapting and creating an unfair advantage.

David Maciel

4 thoughts on “How to train using tables I-III of the IWTS to maximize results”

  1. Excellent!

    In addition to the improvement to small arms skill by improved doctrine, this is also a superior way to teach how to pay attention to detail, which properly demands what details are worth paying attention to. The Shot Process, Individual Drills, Dry Fire Circuits, and Collective Drills listed here are the actual progenitor of Baron Friedrich Willhelm von Steuben and his famed directives.

    The instructions in von Steuben’s “Blue Book” describe a then-practical approach to individual and collective movement based on the tactics of the day. Effective drill emphasizes individual precision of movement and a manual of arms based on useful skill. The modern equivalent is found in this article and Appendix D (Drills) in all current small arms Training Circulars, starting with TC 3-23.9. Drill should also emphasize group teamwork and moving in tandem. The Collective Drills listed above as well as the the formations listed in Chapter 2 of ATP 3-21.8 (Infantry Platoon and Squad) and the drills in Chapter 8 in TC 3-21.76 (Ranger Handbook) are examples.

    Modern, effective drill is NOT found in TC 3-21.5 and that manual should be discarded as the useless fluff that it is.

    1. John, that is a great point. I am sure there are some great folks in position to address that fluff. I will point it out in my next article.

  2. Dave, could you explain the use of those Canebrake Consulting dry fire targets? Or, maybe Mike could give some details?

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