One of the tasks I enjoyed as an infantryman in the US Army was teaching Basic Rifle Marksmanship. Almost every warrior in the military learns how to shoot at some point. Typically, this takes place during basic training. After that basic training for marksmanship, most warriors shoot infrequently throughout the rest of their career. For combat arms warriors, however, shooting is essential to the profession. These warriors know, you will certainly die on the battlefield if you cannot hit what you’re aiming at!
Every Infantry Sergeant spends a great deal of time and energy teaching subordinates to shoot with their assigned weapon. Teaching marksmanship is the calling card of an infantry leader. Some warriors show up with great fundamentals and marksmanship; others show up with absolutely no experience. So, it’s the job of an infantryman to take a person with no experience behind a weapon and make them “deadly accurate” with their weapon. Here are a few of the basics in order to become effective with a rifle.
Missed the target by a mile
Great marksmanship entails four elements: sight picture, sight alignment, trigger control, and learning how to control your breathing. However, you can’t work on any of these four elements of great marksmanship if you don’t have an idea where the bullet is going. Therefore, the real beginning in rifle marksmanship is getting somebody to hit a paper target. The old adage in the Army is, “You can’t sight the weapon if you can’t hit paper.” In order to sight the weapon properly, you’re going to have to be able to at least put bullets on the paper.
Typically, the guys who show up to the military with a little bit of marksmanship background can hit the paper target with their first shot. The problem is, their second shot may be wildly different from the first. The third and the fourth are all over the paper. This makes it incredibly challenging to help someone get a good sight on the weapon. Without being able to put the same bullets in the same place every time, it’s really hard to figure out how to sight a weapon. Missing the target by a mile the first time you shoot is hard to fix, but it’s harder to fix the bad habits some warriors have previously inherited.
I often said I would rather have somebody consistently off of the paper than all over the paper the first time they start shooting- at least they’re consistent! It’s typically the warrior who’s never picked up a rifle before in their life who has trouble hitting the paper the first time. Here’s what’s fascinating: I’ve found that the warriors with absolutely no experience behind a weapon often become great marksmen much sooner than the guys who showed up with a lot of time shooting. The guys who had a lot of experience shooting often learned some bad habits along the way. These guys who showed up with a lot of bad habits had to be taught not only what to do right; they also had to be taught what they were already doing wrong. In other words, it’s always easier to start with a blank slate.
Aiming for consistency
Consistency is key in rifle marksmanship. Once you’ve got the marksman on the paper and consistently hitting in the same area of the target, now you can start to move the sights towards the center of the bull’s-eye. Once a marksman has learned the four fundamental elements of marksmanship, they should be able to consistently hit in the same spot every time. When a rifleman gets to this point, it’s easy… Just adjust the sights to the center of the target.
You can make a better shot if you are highly aware of what you’re doing wrong. It’s almost impossible to make a better shot with the next round if you don’t know why you missed with the last round.
Getting a second shot
This blog today is really not about targets or bullets. It’s not even about shooting. It’s actually about life with Jesus. You see, all of us have missed the mark when it comes to life. The term sin in the Bible literally translated means “to miss the mark, to fail to hit the target”. What does God expect from a marksman in order to get into heaven? Perfection!
In order to earn your way into heaven, you could never miss a shot in your life. This is the standard that God expects all people to live up to. He expects us to be holy to the exact same degree that he is holy (Matthew 5:20). If you ever pull a shot, you’re no longer worthy of heaven. That’s why the Bible can say with absolute certainty that all of us have missed the target… All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23)! Spiritually speaking, either you’re hitting the center of the bull’s-eye or you’re off the paper completely. There’s no middle ground.
If God gave one chance at a perfect life, all of us would have to admit we missed with that first shot. None of us lived a perfect life. That leaves us all in need of a second shot at life. God, by his amazing grace, gives all of us who missed with the first shot a second shot at life. Here’s how the Bible describes this in Jeremiah 18:7-8. Anyone who messed up with the first shot, and God was ready to punish them to the full extent of his law, can find mercy. That mercy is found if someone sincerely turns from sin and surrenders to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
How about you? Did you blow it with the first shot? Are you in need of a second shot at life? If so, here’s a prayer to help you beg God for a second shot in life: Dear God, I am a sinner, I have made a mess of my life. Right now, I’m asking you for a second shot at life. I trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus as full payment for my sins. I surrender my soul to him today for the first time. Amen. If you prayed that prayer, and you meant it, would you let us know?