What happens if you fail your army weapons qualification?

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When you give in to a local recruiter and sign up to join the US Army, you first have to endure the gauntlet of basic training – 10 weeks of hell before a nice little graduation ceremony.

Individual Weapons Qualification is one of many areas an aspiring soldier must pass to join the ranks of the Senior Branch. But what if you just can’t reach your goal?

“Qualifying on their individual weapon is a graduation requirement for basic combat training,” Lt. Col. Randy Ready, spokesman for the Initial Military Training Center, told the Military Times. “Trainees receive 92 hours of basic marksmanship instruction over a three-week period before having multiple attempts to qualify.”

“Basic rifle marksmanship during basic combat training is rigorous but achievable,” Ready said.

At a minimum, recruits must shoot 23 of 43 targets to qualify on the M4 or M16 rifle and graduate from basic training. Those who shoot in a range of 23 to 29 are labeled as “Marksman”. Anyone who hits 30-35 targets is referred to as a “Sharpshooter”, and hitting 36-40 targets will earn a recruit the title of “Expert”.

If a trainee does not turn 23, they receive additional coaching and training before being allowed to retake the test multiple times.

“Students who fail their first qualifying attempt receive additional training and coaching from their drill sergeants prior to subsequent attempts,” Ready said. “Soldiers who fail to qualify on their individual weapon but who have demonstrated motivation to achieve task standards are considered for reassignment to another basic combat training company or battalion.”

Fortunately, very few fail repeatedly after recycling, which can lead to separation.

According to data provided by Ready, in fiscal year 2019, 16 soldiers were separated for a missed base rifle shot. In 2020, the number has dropped to just four.

“In rare cases, if a trainee fails to qualify after multiple attempts after retraining, an entry-level separation action is initiated and the soldier is processed for release,” Ready noted. “Entry-Level Separation (ELS) is an Army release that occurs within 180 days of joining. It is not characterized by any other type of release, as it is used in circumstances where individuals have failed to meet basic service requirements.

Observation Post is the Military Times’ one-stop-shop for everything off-duty. Stories may reflect the author’s observations.

Sarah Sicard is an editor at the Military Times. Previously, she served as digital editor of the Military Times and editor-in-chief of the Army Times. Other work can be found in National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose and Defense News.

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