It would appear on the basis of long-term observations that little
importance is attached world-wide to the shooting skills of infantrymen
nowadays, and consequently little emphasis is placed on their training. This
would seem strange, since the rifle is the soldier's most important item of
personal equipment, the main tool of his trade, so that one would think that
skill in its use would be a matter of top priority. The idea behind this
attitude is presumably that automatic fire is overwhelmingly more effective
than precisely aimed rifle fire in traditional face-to-face combat situations.
||For reference, it may be noted that the bullet count per
hit in the Vietnam War was more than double that in the Second World War.
This reflects something of the change in style and tactics that took place
between those two wars, and perhaps also points to a decline in shooting
skills. A further aspect that arises increasingly often in discussions
with those responsible for military shooting training in many countries is
a lack of skill on the part of shooting trainers themselves. They are
themselves products of an urban society and have not practiced shooting in
their youth to the same extent as the recruits of earlier times.
It is also evident, however, that the situations in which soldiers are
expected to use their weapons are increasingly becoming dominated by
small-scale skirmishes in urban centers or on their peripheries. The mounting
of a broad-scale infantry frontline "somewhere out there" in the manner of the
world wars is (fortunately) not a very likely prospect at the present time.
||And this being the case, one would imagine
that, above all, personal skills in the use of a rifle would be at a
premium. It is not simply a matter of technical skill, of course, but also
of the increased self-confidence that mastery of this skill can bring with
it and the overall improvement in combat readiness that this entails. A
soldier who is uncertain in his command of this basic skill is unlikely to
be capable of optimal performance in other aspects of warfare.
Information gleaned from various countries suggests that a large diversity
exists in the numbers of hours spent on shooting practice during basic
shooting, involving the firing of 10 - 400 live cartridges per trainee. If a
soldier has fired a total of 10 live cartridges in the course of his training
without any complementary methods being used, one can predict the outcome
without any far-reaching research into the subject.
When practicing by traditional methods, the skill achieved will be closely
correlated with the number of live rounds fired, and thereby with training
time. Differences may arise, of course, e.g. depending on the skills of the
trainers, but it is resources that ultimately count. It is obvious that the
level of skill achieved will be greater if trainees are firing hundreds of
practice shots than if they settle for a few dozen.
||In practice the optimum relation of quantity to quality is
determined by whether the trainee is able to achieve an acceptable score
in shooting trials. On the other hand, what is an acceptable score will
usually be decided empirically on the grounds of what it is possible to
achieve with the amount of practice provided, so that the argument is a
circular one. Unfortunately it is impossible in matters of shooting to lay
down an absolute score that will guarantee success in a real-life
situation, and there is always a danger that a fixed qualifying score can
develop into a Trojan Horse or lure the soldier into a false sense of
It is possible in the context of shooter training, however, to make sure
that the practice is efficient and covers a wide variety of situations,
provided that one is profoundly aware of the boundary constraints on shooting
practice and is prepared to invest time and energy in new methods.
||As the resources available (trainers, time
and money) are in many respects a compromise, it would be unrealistic to
assume any abrupt increase in them, even if the authorities responsible
were to appreciate the importance of this matter. On the contrary, the
universal trend seems to be towards a cutback in resources. The duration
of national service is being systematically reduced, the numbers of
shooting ranges are being cut down, trainers' personal skills are
declining and economies are being demanded in defense budgets.
If we want to promote good shooting skills, or at least retain existing
levels, the only possibility lies in increasing the efficiency of current
training programs. This implies in effect improvements in terms of training
methods and equipment.
||It is necessary at the outset to define what
elements really belong to the soldier's shooting skills and their
development. This question is easy to answer when we think of the
real-life situation in which he needs these skills, i.e. war. He should be
able to use his rifle efficiently in all possible environmental situations
(remembering that wars are mainly conducted out of doors!), by day and by
night, against stationary or moving targets, when either standing still or
moving himself, and with other gunfire going on around him. The natural
conclusion to be drawn from this is that such conditions and requirements
should be taken into consideration during training.
As with any other skill, that of shooting has to be built up gradually from
first principles. Some useful advice can be extracted from research into the
acquisition of skills.
- In the first place, it should be remembered that a person must be able
to concentrate on one thing at a time when learning a complex skill.
- Secondly, care should be taken that there are enough successful
repetitions to ensure that performance becomes as automatic as possible.
- Thirdly, it should be remembered that as many repetitions are needed to
eliminate something that has been learned wrongly as it originally took to
- It should be borne in mind that provision of the most direct and
immediate feedback possible, preferably in real time, will make learning
- Additionally, it is worthwhile making sure that extraneous interference
factors are eliminated as far as possible when developing individual aspects
of the skill.
- Finally, attention should be paid to motivation for practising, as a
lack of motivation can frustrate even the most sophisticated training
Noptel Oy, which was the first company in the world to market
optoelectronic systems for shooting training and analysis, the ST-1000 and
ST-2000 families of products, is now able to offer a comprehensive military
shooting training system, the Noptel 2000.
The system comprises training management facilities, training methods,
equipment and software. This is a progressive method that also provides
further instruction for training personnel.
The overall Noptel 2000 model for the development of military shooting
skills is presented in Figures 1 and 2. The only aspects left outside the
system are the simulation of war conditions (CTC/TES) and actual war. Even
simulated war is in any case no longer simply a matter of developing shooting
skills as much as testing the level of soldiers' skills under simulated
Figure 1 Noptel 2000, Small Arms Shooting Training Concept
The steps in shooting training allowed for in the Noptel 2000 system are:
1. Basic Shooting (BS)
2. Range Shooting (RS)
3. Action Shooting (AS)
4. Combat Shooting (CS)
The following picture illustrates the phases of the training and the
equipment recommended by Noptel.
Figure 2 Phases of shooting training according to the Noptel 2000 concept
The characteristic features of these phases are (see also Table 1):
1. Basic Shooting, BS
||Trainees learn the principles of handling a rifle and
shooting under in short-range conditions indoors, with no recoil or using
a compressed air recoil system. By the end of this training period the
soldier should appreciate the importance of shooting position, hold, aim
and trigger control and should be capable of achieving suitably consistent
results. The phase relies on the use of optoelectronic training devices
attached to the trainees' own rifles and objective performance analysis
providing immediate audio-visual feedback. Some people have criticized the
lack of real recoil, but in fact the hard recoil is merely a distraction
in basic training and even PROHIBITS some soldiers from learning to shoot.
2. Range Shooting, RS
||In the second phase the soldiers are taken
outside to practice under normal shooting range conditions and to continue
training in varying environments, still with the same training equipment
but at realistic distances. Optoelectronic training systems with or
without recoil are used at this stage. Once their skills have developed
sufficiently, they are allowed to use live ammunition and to shoot a test
round with it. Objective analysis still forms an important part of the
practice regime, and it is possible to return to the Basic Shooting stage
if necessary. By the end of the basic and range training phases the
trainees should have adequate marksmanship shooting skills.
3. Action Shooting, AS
||This is the stage at which the skills acquired on the
previous phases are applied to conditions equivalent to those prevailing
in military action, which implies training in varying situations, with
stationary or moving targets and with the shooter either standing still or
moving. This can again be done with optoelectronics using dry fire,
although it is more common to use blanks or transportable pressure air
system. Again it is possible to return to the previous phases if
necessary. Hit and miss information is provided by means of pop-up
targets. Live ammunition is used mainly for test purposes.
4. Combat Shooting, CS
||At the last stage of training the soldiers are placed in
small-scale combat situations in groups (squads etc). Both defensive and
offensive exercises are executed. The trainees are also allowed to "shoot"
at each other using optoelectronic equipment, mostly in combination with
blanks or using a pressure air recoil system. It is at this stage that
tactics come into the picture for the first time, although the main
emphasis continues to be on shooting performance.
The purpose of this combat shooting is to broaden the range of situations
in which the shooter can perform and to prepare the soldiers for simulated
combat exercises, and naturally also for service under wartime conditions.
By the time he has completed field training phases, the soldier is ready
for actual military duties as far as shooting techniques are concerned.
In summary, it may be stated that the Noptel 2000 shooting training system
employs predominantly optoelectronic training equipment and blanks or
compressed air recoil systems, so that live ammunition is used mostly for
testing purposes and to accustom trainees to combat situations. The following
facts are relevant as far as resources are concerned. Broadly speaking, the
training sessions are divided equally between range and field practice, so
that at least 2/3 of the shots can be fired with a training device, and at
least 1/2 of these can be electronically executed. This means that, overall,
1/3 of all the shots fired in training can be entirely optical shots (dry fire
or with pressure air recoil), 1/3 can be fired with blanks and 1/3 with live
||Thus it would be possible to increase the total number of
shots fired by a half relative to the present situation and still halve
the amount of live ammunition used, achieving considerable savings and
noticeable improvements in the results of training. Similarly the increase
in the total number of shots fired could be accomplished within the same
training timetable as applies at present, as harmless practice situations
do not call for the same degree of organization, costs and time-consuming
delays as do exercises that involve live ammunition. The table on the next
page summarizes the content of the Noptel 2000 concept.
The Noptel 2000 training concept concentrates on the development of
soldiers' shooting skills. This is achieved by advanced measuring techniques,
which makes it possible to analyze the skill of the trainee in detail. Unlike
the many simulators offered at the market, Noptel's products are separate
training aids, which are attached to the soldier's own rifle (or pistol).
Realism of the training is achieved by executing the exercises in real
environments instead of simulating them.
Table 1. Phases and objectives in military shooting training.