TC 3-22.9 dated May 2016, states that aiming is “the continuous process of orienting the weapon correctly, aligning the sights aligning on the target, and the application of the appropriate lead and elevation during a target engagement.” In order to achieve this, regardless of what you are using, the Paratrooper needs to keep the following five things in mind: Weapon Orientation, Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Point of Aim (POA), and Desired Point of Impact (POI). We will discuss each of these in further detail.
Weapon orientation is the paratrooper pointing their weapon in the direction of a threat. This means both in horizontal and vertical weapons orientation. horizontal weapons orientation is aligning with the sector of fire, vertical weapons orientation usually is applied in urban or mountainous terrain where there are multiple elevation changes to threats.
Sight alignment is the relationship between the aiming device and the firer’s eye. What process used to achieve sight alignment, depends on the type of aiming device used by the paratrooper. If iron sights are used, it is the relationship between the paratrooper’s eye, the rear sight aperture, and the front sight post. If the aiming device is an optic, the paratrooper will achieve the appropriate eye relief (distance from the eye to the optic) so that a full field of view is achieved and there is minimal scope shadow. Thermals are a little different, it is the relationship between the Paratrooper’s eye, the eyepiece on the thermal, and the reticle. For Night Vision Devices (NVD’s), sight alignment is achieved with the Paratrooper looking through a properly focused NVD, and placing the laser aiming point on the threat.
For all of these things, the Paratrooper needs to keep in mind that the most important place to be focused is not on the target, but on the aiming point. The Iron Sight/Reticle/Laser is where the projectile is going to be going, so that is where our Paratroopers need to be focused to ensure shot placement is where they intended.
So now that we have established what good sight alignment is, what is different about sight picture? Simply put, it is taking the aligned sights we have set up in the previous paragraph, and placing them in a point of aim on a threat target. There are two sight pictures that the Paratrooper needs to be concerned with during the shot process; they are the Pre-shot sight picture and the Post-shot Sight Picture. Pre-shot is important, because it contains whatever elevation and windage calls the Paratrooper made to hold on the target for the engagement. Post-shot Sight Picture is important, because the Paratrooper needs to know where to adjust to if followup shots are required to neutralize the threat.
Point of Aim is the point of reference on the threat target that is used to achieve desired results on the threat by calculating holds based off of its location (usually center of visible mass). Keep in mind, the Point of aim does not include any holds or leads required to engage the threat target.
Desired Point of Impact is where the Paratrooper wants their rounds to strike the target (Usually center of Visible Mass). At any ranges different from the zeroed distance, the Paratrooper’s Point of Aim and Desired Point of Impact will not align, and a hold-off will need to be determined by the paratrooper to achieve the Desired Point of Impact hit.
There are many different types of errors that a Paratrooper can have happen while aiming. some of the most common aiming errors are Non-Dominant eye use, accepting an incorrect zero, light conditions, battlefield obscurants, incorrect sight alignment/picture, and improper range determination. I will discuss the four biggest errors that will most commonly be faced by the Paratrooper.
Non-Dominant Eye use happens when the Paratrooper aims with their non-dominant eye. For example, I am right handed, but left-eye dominant. I have had to learn how to fire with my left hand so as to compensate for the eye dominance issue.
Accepting an incorrect zero is the next biggest issue. Paratroopers who accept being an inch off of their intended point of aim at 25 meters, means that they will be 18 inches off their point of aim at 300 meters. To put this in perspective, if a paratrooper accepts that the center of their pattern is an inch to the right of their point of aim at 25 meters, will be 8.5 inches to the right of the E-type target at 300 meters. This is strictly accepting the zero being off, not including additional human errors of a bad shot process.
Incorrect Sight Alignment happens when the Paratrooper focuses on the target instead of the Front Sight Post/Reticle/Laser. Incorrect Sight Picture occurs when the Paratrooper does not account correctly for variables in determining their hold (e.g. more wind than they estimated).
Incorrect Range Estimation is the final error encountered by the Paratrooper. This can be an issue if the Paratrooper estimates the range to a target at 250 meters, but it is actually 150, if they accept a less-than-optimal sight picture and it is in the chest area of the threat target when the trigger breaks, the round can potentially go over the shoulder of the threat.
We will continue this discussion with Complex Engagements, Immediate and Deliberate Hold Deterimination, Target Conditions, Wind, and Complex Conditions.