Marksmanship class teaches gun safety and more

The Small Arms Pistol Shooting School (SAFS) got off to a strong start at the Nationals at Camp Perry. The Small Arms Shooting School took place on July 10.he2023, and is geared toward new and intermediate shooters, provides classroom instruction, and ends with an Excellence in Competition (EIC) Shot to end the day.

Participants met at the Hough Theater to start the SAFS class. SSG Ryan Franks and SSG Walter Johnson of the US Army Marksmanship Unit Service Pistol Team led the drill. The class covered the basics of pistol aiming, discussing arc-of-motion minimization, sight alignment, and trigger control before explaining EIC adjustment and course of fire.

After the classroom portion, the participants received training on the handling of the M9 pistol.

SSG Johnson hopes students will walk away with the “safe application of pistol marksmanship.” Each class participant was issued an M9 pistol and ammunition on the line. This provides an opportunity for anyone to learn, even if they don’t own a gun. Participants new to pistol shooting were led through an actual match with a trainer standing right behind them, providing front-line instruction to introduce them to the sport safely.

The USAMU instructors’ passion for marksmanship was palpable as they explained handgun safety and provided many opportunities for questions and one-on-one instruction throughout the day. Additional USAMU trainers and gunsmiths were on hand to make sure everyone was able to get one-on-one learning time and become familiar with the M9 pistol.

The Small Arms Shooting School concludes with an M9 EIC Match.

SSG Johnson said that he and his team “work very hard to provide information to participants of any level in this class. If you’ve never touched a gun or you’re someone who’s shot this for several years in a row, we want to make sure everyone gets some kind of positive feedback and immediately applies it here on the range.”

For the field portion of the class, there was approximately one trainer for every two participants. There were six threads of fire; three practice strings and three EIC match strings. The first series was 10 simmer shots in 5 minutes. The second series was 2 series of 5 shots in 20 seconds for a total of 10 shots. The last series is 2 rounds of 5 shots in 10 seconds for a total of 10 rounds. The top 10% of shooters who did not already have EIC points were eligible for 4 points of the 30 points required to earn the distinguished pistol badge. A total of 17 competitors scored points with an unofficial cutoff score of 223-3X.

After shooting, students go down the range with their instructor to check their aim and learn.

Jason Kozora, who is taking the SAFS pistol course for the first time, was impressed with the training. “The instruction was fantastic, with no real gun experience, the trainers adjusted my position and put me in zones and helped me identify things I need to work on,” he said. Jason also appreciated the information on how to set up a gun fight. Kozora has rifle experience, noting that the gun setup is “completely different.”

Two participants pose with their instructors.

Much of the instruction focused on the mental part of the shot, and the coaches reminded students to think positively, using positive talk to focus on what they did well and what they can improve, rather than focusing on things negative.

After the classroom portion, participants head to the shooting range for additional shooting training. Here, Colonel Kitchens explains the pistol shooting stance.

Colonel Greg Kitchens, who usually attends the advanced pistol course, was line coach in this year’s SAFS class. The Colonel is retired from the Marine Corps and spent the last five years in the reserves directing the Marine Corps Reserve Marksmanship Unit. Colonel Kitchens wants his students to have fun, learn about safety, and appreciate the fact that this sport is challenging. “It’s hard, there’s no instant gratification, but if you work hard you can do well. I’m glad there are more people coming out,” he stated.

Full M9 EIC Match results can be viewed on the CMP website at Photos can be viewed at

For more information on how to enroll in the upcoming Small Arms Rifle Shooting School, visit: