Marine Corps Distinguished Shooters Association
The Marine Corps Distinguished Shooters Association is a private site and as such does not reflect the official policy or opinions of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the Services or the United States Marine Corps.
At the outset, it is necessary to differentiate between qualification and competitive marksmanship. The first begins at recruit training and occurs annually thereafter at ranges throughout the Corps. The basic difference is that the individual Marine is firing for a fixed score. When the Marine attains a specified total score he will receive the designation of expert, sharpshooter or marksman in the weapon fired. The competitive shooter is out to defeat the field. Only by recording the highest score on the firing line can he be assured of winning.
Marine Corps competitive marksmanship is broken down into four areas. Initially, in the spring of the year rifle and pistol enthusiasts gather at selected ranges on the East and West Coasts as well as overseas to fire in the Division competition. The successful competitors, usually the top ten percent, then assemble to meet each other at the Marine Corps Match. The service rifle or regulation automatic pistol or both may be fired. At each level – Division Match and Marine Corps Match – the successful marksmen are awarded medals which are credits toward the sought after gold badges of Distinguished Marksman or Distinguished Pistol Shot. There medals, frequently referred to as ‘legs” are required to be classified as Distinguished.
A part of those attending the Marine Corps Match is selected to form the team that will represent the Marine Corps in national competition, the third area of competitive marksmanship. The National Matches are divided into two categories; namely, those events sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and those of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The later is a quasi governmental organization functioning under the cognizance of the Department of Defense. The matches of the CMP, starting with one in 1903 and now totaling five, determine the National Champion. The most important, and oldest, match of the CMP is the National Trophy Rifle Team Match - the Dogs of War trophy. This is the event to which Marine Corps teams annually point.
Marines are afforded an opportunity to earn “legs” toward Distinguished status. The same prevails in the national Trophy Pistol Team Match and the National Trophy Individual Pistol Match - the Gold Cup trophy. The final event of he National Board, one, which resembles more or less a combat problem, is the Infantry Trophy Match, a contest that has been fired periodically since 1935.
The final category of Marine competition lies in the international field. Here, Marines, who succeed in the tryouts, lose their service identity in favor of being a representative of the United States. Since 1902 Marines have participated in international competition as captain, coach, and competitor. Their efforts in the marksmanship field are focused on competition that includes the Olympics, held every fourth year; the Championships of the International Shooting Union, the Championship of the Americas, and the Pan American Matches. No credit toward Distinguished is offered in international competition and the type of shooting is radically different from that fired in Marine Corps and national matches. At these international matches, Marines may earn the International Distinguished Badge, under the rules and regulations of the CMP.
While competition is an important part of Marine Corps marksmanship it is not an end in itself. The ultimate goal of all Marine Corps marksmanship is increasing the combat effectiveness of the individual Marine, for as one former Commandant, General Alexander A. Vandergrift, remarked, it will be “the man with the rifle who goes in and kick the enemy out.” The skill developed under competitive conditions has been an important element in combat marksmanship. Riflemen who have fired at the National Matches have returned to Marine Corps ranges where they coached less skilled Marines. Team shooters in combat have often found an opportunity to put to use their superior rifle skill. The use of highly qualified marksmen as coaches on rifle ranges has been one of the factors that have enabled the Marine Corps to increase progressively its qualification percentages.
To the Marine Competitive Shooter, this sight is respectfully dedicated.