For this one we will be discussing how to achieve a good zero with the M4 Rifle. This is the first rounds that the Paratrooper will be firing with their weapon, and for some, it sets the tone in their minds as to what they will actually achieve on the live-fire range.
For a zero to be effective, we need to have diagnosed many of the shooter’s problems prior to them coming out to the range. This happens during Tables I, II, and III of gate 4 of the IWTS, if you are not sure what that is, reference my post from this Tuesday to give you a better idea of the IWTS and what it is.
The paratrooper needs to have ‘built the muscle’ prior to coming out to the zero range. Just like we do in physical fitness training, if you don’t put in the repetitions, it shows on your PT test. Similarly, with your zero, if you don’t take the time to learn how to properly handle the weapon, you won’t be successful on the range.
Dry-fire exercises, like dime-and-washer drills, are a good start. Paratroopers need to be pulling their weapons out of the arms room for opportunity training at least once a week. After PT, they can go into their company and draw out their weapons and stay in the company HQ, doing dry-fire drills for approximately 30-45 minutes. This is also good, as it builds the shot process in the Paratrooper without the distractions of kit and body armor to interfere with their mindset.
Another way to integrate Dry-fire into the weekly schedule is on your Ruck-March day, Paratroopers should be drawing their weapons out to ruck with. NCO’s should be reinforcing good carry habits in their Paratroopers and have them practice magazine changes while they are moving. Once back to the company area, Team leaders should take approximately 20-30 minutes to build good habits with their paratroopers. That time is vital, as the Paratrooper is already fatigued, and their muscles have lactic acid built up in them. It gives the paratrooper a better idea of how they handle their weapons while carrying weight, as their arms will have a tendency to fall asleep due to the potential of the ruck-sack straps digging in.
Getting these repetitions of dry-fire in before even coming out to the range, is vital to instill confidence in the Paratrooper. Without it, their performance will be lacking, and it will show.
I know some people will say ‘What does dry-fire have to do with zeroing?’ They’ll also say that this dry-fire stuff is crap, and worthless, but know this: Many of the best shooters in the world, both competitive and Military do dry-fire, many on a daily to weekly basis. It lays the foundation for the Paratrooper’s shot process. It teaches them how to self-asses, which is what all shooters need to do in order to be a better shot. As the Paratrooper progresses, they can start to diagnose where particular issues are with their shot process by conducting dry-fire.
Going back to our physical fitness analogy; you’re not going to score a 300 on a PT test if you didn’t put the effort in beforehand. Similarly, Your zero day will be long and painful if you don’t take the time to build the foundation of your shot process prior to coming to the range. That is what dry-fire has to do with zeroing. Next week we will discuss some ideas for how to conduct dry-fire exercises, what we should be looking for when we do it, and how to train our Paratroopers to be adaptive, thinking shooters, rather than just ‘marksmen.’