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Preparing for Air Force Basic Training

The M-16 Rifle Qualification Range

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Preparing for Air Force Basic Training

A recruit at AFBMT qualifies with the M-16 rifle on the firing range.

Official USAF Photo
Okay, okay, we can't really teach you how to shoot an M-16 rifle through an on-line course or article. You'll have to wait until you get to basic training for some "hands on" experience.

Everyone in Air Force Basic Training fires the M-16 rifle on a standardized Air Force firing course. By "standardized," it means it qualifies as a regular Air Force qualification. That means (if you shoot good enough), you can qualify as an "expert," and be awarded the Air Force Small Arms Expert Ribbon.

In basic training, the M-16 is the only weapon you will be firing. (ADDED NOTE: Effective November 2008, recruits in Air Force Basic Training now also fire the M-9 pistol.

For about 80 percent of you, the M-16 (and now the M-9) will be the only weapon you will ever fire during your entire Air Force career. Certain career fields (such as Security Forces, Pararescue, Combat Controller), need to qualify on other weapons, as well, such as the M-4 Carbine, or even the M-249 "Machine Gun." These folks will initially qualify with these weapons during technical training, and periodically throughout their career.

How often you must qualify with the M-16, (and/or the M-9) after basic training, depends primarily on your job, your unit of assignment, and/or your deployment availability status. For most of you, you'll shoot the M-16 once per year. Those assigned to specific types of deployment duties (such as classified courrier duty), will also periodically re-qualify with the M-9 pistol).

The Air Force Small Arms Training Program is governed by Air Force Manual 36-2227, Volume 2, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Training Programs. The M-16 training procedures are contained in Chapter One of this publication.

As we said above, there is no way we can teach you how to handle and fire the M-16 Rifle over the Internet. In fact, during AFBMT," you'll spend about six hours in the class room, learning how to do this before you even get to fire one round. What we can do is briefly describe the range procedures, so that everything will be just a little more familiar to you when you get your chance to attend this training.

The M-16 Rifle

The M-16 rifle is a magazine-fed (box type magazine, 30 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition), gas-operated, air cooled shoulder weapon. It is capable of being fired either semi-automatically or automatic 3-round bursts. It has a maximum effective range of 550 meters. The barrel is surrounded by a heat-resistant, polycarbonate material that serves as a hand and forearm guard. The butt stock is also made of a durable polycarbonate material of high impact strength. The weapon weights 8.5 pounds unloaded; loaded, it weighs 8.79 pounds. Accessories that can be used with the weapon include the bipod, bayonet, M204 40mm grenade launcher, and night vision devices.

The Air Force Qualification Course

During the actual firing, you will fire a total of 80 rounds at a man-sized target (upper body only) at ranges from 75 meters to 300 meters (remember a "meter" is just a tad longer than a yard -- 1 meter = 1.094 yards). The range at Lackland is a "short" range, so you will actually be firing from only 25 yards away, however, the target sizes are "shrunk" to represent the proper sizes at the specified distances (75 meters, 175 meters, and 300 meters).

Here's how the shot groups break down:

Phase I -- Battle Sight Grouping and Zero. During this phase you are "sighting in" the rifle. After each shot group, you (and the instructor) will examine the target. The instructor will give you advice (breathing properly, jerking the trigger) to correct anything that you are doing wrong. Additionally, the instructor will tell you how to adjust your sights, to correct your grouping.

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