Courses of Fire

The courses of fire for most military and civilian matches in which USNMT members participate are those that have evolved from matches established by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the late 1800s and by the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (now the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, which administers the Civilian Marksmanship Program, CMP) in the early 1900s, to train large numbers of individuals in the kind of marksmanship needed to be effective on the battlefield, the purpose for which each organization and their respective shooting competitions were established.

Each rifle and pistol match is divided into multiple stages of one of more “strings,” each of which develops and tests the ability of the shooter, against the clock, to achieve a particular shooting position (standing, sitting or kneeling, or prone), achieve a proper sight picture and alignment with the target, control the trigger and breath, and, having adjusted the gunsights to compensate for target distance and ambient conditions (e.g., wind, light, and temperature), fire a prescribed number of rounds at a stationary bullseye target placed at a “known distance” (KD), with scoring according to a decimal system. The exception is the Infantry Team Trophy (rifle) Match, which uses silhouette targets scored on a hit/miss basis. In certain rifle match stages, the shooter is required to execute an ammunition magazine change (or, in the case of the M1 rifle, a change of its en bloc ammunition clip) during the firing sequence.

While no course of fire addresses every skill that an individual might require in combat, traditional KD, across-the-course, courses of fire develop and test the individual’s mastery of the fundamentals of marksmanship and, particularly, combat-related marksmanship. Importantly, they do so in events in which large numbers of individuals may participate, an imperative from the standpoint of training Americans for national defense purposes.

The Navy and Marine Corps continue to use the traditional NRA and CMP courses of fire for regular training, as well as for marksmanship competitions. By contrast, the Army trains regular troops by having them shoot at relatively short distances at “pop-up” targets — an approach that has generated much controversy among skilled marksmen and others concerned about the ability of our soldiers to survive on the battlefield.

NRA High Power Rifle and CMP Service Rifle

Most individual and team matches use the 50-shot NRA National Match Course (NMC), 80-shot NRA Regional Match Course (RMC), or CMP Service Rifle equivalent. These events are referred to as “across the course” matches, because they are shot at a variety of distances from the target. Each match, with the exception of the CMP’s three-stage President’s Match, has four stages.

Standing, 200 yds., slow-fire (10 shots in 10 minutes)
Sitting or kneeling, 200 yds., rapid-fire (10 shots in 60 seconds)
Prone, 300 yds., rapid-fire (10 shots in 70 seconds)
Prone, slow-fire, (20 shots in 20 minutes)

For the NRA RMC, the first three stages are doubled. For the CMP President’s Match, the sitting stage is omitted and the 600 yard stage is only 10 shots.

In keeping with the national defense origin and purpose of these events, all civilian and military competitors must use Service Rifles in CMP EIC Matches, and until recently all military competitors have been required to use Service Rifles in the NRA High Power Championship. In other NRA High Power matches, thousands of which are conducted annually throughout the country, military and civilian shooters may compete in either the Service Rifle or NRA Match Rifle categories. (See also NRA Conventional Pistol/Bullseye Pistol information.)

CMP Infantry Trophy TeamCMP National Trophy Infantry Team Match (NTIT)

Also known as the “rattle battle,” because of the high rate of fire and the number of shooters firing simultaneously, this event is fired prone, rapid fire, at 600 and 500 yards, sitting at 300 yards, and standing at 200 yards, with the Service Rifle. Teams are of six shooters plus a Captain and a Coach. While other matches are fired on decimal-score bullseye targets, the ITT is fired upon silhouette targets.

NRA High Power Long Range

Long RangeLong Range events are fired prone, slow-fire (20 rounds in 20 minutes). Most Long Range events are fired at 600 and/or 1,000 yards, with shooters competing in either the Service Rifle category or the “any rifle/any sight” category, with special-purpose, telescopically-sighted .300 Winchester Magnum bolt-action rifles built by Armorers at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division.

The Palma Match, an NRA National Championships event, is shot at 800, 900, and 1,000 yards, with 15 rounds at each stage. Shooters compete in one of three categories: Service Rifle, NRA Match Rifle, or Palma Rifle. In international Palma matches, only Palma Rifles and ammunition loaded with 155-gr. projectiles are used.

NRA Bullseye Pistol

NRA Bullseye Pistol National Match Course events are shot with Service Pistol and have three standing-position stages: Slow Fire: 50 yards, 10 shots in 10 minutes; Timed Fire: 25 yards, two five-shot strings, each in 20 seconds; and Rapid Fire: 25 yards, two five-shot strings, each in 10 seconds. The National Pistol Championship includes a 270-shot aggregate of 90 shots each with .45 caliber Sesrvice Pistol, any centerfire pistol, and .22 rimfire pistol.

Other Target Shooting Disciplines

There is an almost unlimited variety of rifle and pistol target shooting disciplines today. Some of the more popular are listed below, in alphabetical order:

Fifty-Caliber Long Range — Shooters use target rifles chambered for the legendary .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun cartridge in 1,000-yard matches. The Fifty-Caliber Shooters Assn. has approximately 1,900 members and is growing steadily. It provides a service to military and law enforcement with research and instruction.

International Defensive Pistol — Shooters use regular-grade (not match-grade) pistols firing full-charge service ammunition in simulated “real world” self-defense scenarios. Contact the International Defensive Pistol Assn. for more details.

International Practical Shooting — Shooters must accurately fire a handgun of 9mm NATO caliber or larger against the clock, at relatively close range, at multiple targets, moving targets, and targets that react when hit, while negotating obstacles and other challenges. Contact the International Practical Shooting Confederation for more details.

Interservice Small Arms Competition — The first annual ISSAC was held in 2000. Conducted by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, the ISSAC includes a large number of challenging combat-related rifle and pistol courses of fire. Check our ISSAC page for more information.

NRA Action Pistol — There are 16 Action Pistol events, combining speed and accuracy while shooting at multiple targets. Similar to IPSC and IDPA matches. The minimum power pistol used is 9mm NATO. All events require a competitor to start with a holstered pistol and, on command, draw and fire at one more targets.

NRA Bullseye Pistol — Also known as Conventional Pistol, these events test the ability of the shooter to fire very accurately with .45 caliber, any centerfire, and .22 rimfire pistols in slow-, timed-, and rapid-fire stages, with the pistol held in one hand.

NRA SilhouetteSilhouette matches are conducted for high power rifle, smallbore rifle, pistol, and black powder firearms. These events challenge the shooter to fire with precision at various distances, with firearms typically used for hunting.

NRA Smallbore Rifle — “Smallbore” refers to firearms chambered to fire .22 rimfire ammunition. Smallbore rifle competition is held over distances of 50 feet, 50 yards/meters, and/or 100 yards. Match competition can be as quick as 30 shots (10 shots prone, standing, kneeling) in a league or as long as 40 shots at the National Championships. Competition is conducted in as many as four positions – prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing.