Pistol training keeps 26th MEU ready for close encounters

1 Mar 2007 | Cpl. Jeremy Ross

As the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Bataan Strike Group continue to conduct maritime security operations in U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's area of operations, the MEU's elements are working to ensure that personnel who carry the M-9 service pistol are ready to use the close-quarters combat weapon.

Marines from each part of the MEU recently participated in combat pistol ranges on the flight deck and flight elevators here to enhance overall familiarity with the weapon and to introduce troops to firing situations that simulate the unknowns of combat.

Unlike the M-16A2 and A4 service and M-4 carbine rifles that serve as the primary weapon for most Marines, the M-9 is not intended to be a first-line of defense.

Weighing in at just under 41 ounces with a full-magazine of 15 rounds and possessing a maximum effective range of 50 meters, the M-9 is designed to provide officers, staff non-commissioned officers and personnel with special billets a final protective measure should circumstances arise, said Capt. Charles E. Downing, the ground training officer for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced), 26th MEU.

Since the M-9 is a secondary weapon for many of the Marines who carry it, opportunities to fire the pistol are typically not as plentiful as rifle training, making the shipboard ranges all the more important, he added.

The ranges here were organized to challenge the Marines firing with unconventional target scenarios, including shooting on the move and engaging multiple targets, all done while wearing the combat gear the Leathernecks can expect to carry into battle.

Maintaining good pistol skills is an ongoing process that can only be accomplished by practice, said Staff Sgt. John A. Trimble, the force deployment chief for the MEU Command Element.

"[Pistol shooting] is a perishable skill," he explained.  "If a shooter has bad techniques or habits, only constant practice will make them more effective."

Trimble said the training is not a case of practice makes perfect, but closer to "practice makes permanent."

The reliability and simplicity of the M-9 make shooting it an enjoyable experience as well, said Lance Cpl. John W. Boyce, a machine gunner from Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2.

"It's easy to use; it's a very simple weapon," he said of the pistol.  "If you're shooting and missing, you know it's you and not the weapon."

The MEU's elements here plan to continue improving their M-9 marksmanship by conducting additional ranges on ship and wherever the unit moves ashore for training and operations.

The 26th MEU is composed of its Command Element; Battalion Landing Team 2/2; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion-26.

The unit is currently underway on a routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.