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Army Small Arms Championships tips

Former Ranger Jim Seley gives advice on how to win

Jim Seley is a sharpshooter. Courtesy photo

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"When it comes to shooting, there are right ways to do it and wrong ways," explained veteran sharpshooter and former Army Ranger Jim Seley. "You're not born with the ability, you have to be coached and you have to practice."

Seley, who serves on the board of the Pointe du Hoc Foundation, recently auctioned off sharp shooting lessons at the Foundation's September gala.

His daylong lessons went for $3,800 a piece to two individuals and raised the most money out of all of the auction items.

"I was surprised it raised so much but happy. I don't think they have any shooting experience, but I'm going to go over everything from the basics of a rifle to concealment to actually pulling the trigger," he said. "I am really looking forward to teaching them, probably more excited than they are to get out there."

While not everyone is lucky enough to have an instructor like Seley, many are still practicing and hoping to show off their shots in late January when the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), in conjunction with the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., hosts the 2014 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships.

"Body positioning is crucial, whether you're shooting a handgun or rifle, you need to be able to handle the recoil," he said. "Facing as straight on to the target as possible will help."

At the championship, soldiers will fire M-16 or M-4 service rifles at distances varying from 25 to 500 yards, as well as M-9 pistols between 7 to 35 yards in a variety of courses of fire. There will also be a combined arms match, where competitors employ the rifle and pistol in a number of exciting stages of fire that simulate close-quarters marksmanship.

"Patience and breathing are also very important. You have to be able to control your heart rate, a slower heart rate is better," Seley advised. "And you never want to hold your breath, but instead fire when you're at the natural pause in breathing and you've just exhaled."

"Shooters also need to pay attention to the trigger squeeze - you don't want to anticipate it, the noise or the kick - you want to be surprised and have it be natural," he continued.

During the pistol and rifle matches, there will be an Excellence-in-Competition Match where the competitors can earn points toward their EIC Marksmanship Badges. In addition to individual awards, battalion-level and up teams can compete for team awards and unit recognition.

"Shooting doesn't discriminate. It's an art - which is why I love it," stated Seley, who owns Feed Commodities, LLC in Tacoma. "It is a skill and more fun than golf, in my opinion."

The competition will take place between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 and is open to all soldiers, of all ranks, serving on active-duty or in the Reserves, to include West Point and Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets.

There is no cost to compete in the championship and ammunition is provided to all competitors. USAMU soldiers will conduct small arms firing schools and hands-on training prior to each match. Instructors include Olympians as well as world, national and interservice champions. Soldiers will compete in separate Cadet, Novice, Open and Pro classes based on their previous competition experience.

Registration is limited to 240 individuals; once registration exceeds that number, soldiers will be placed on a stand-by list. To learn more, or to register for the 2014 Small Arms Championship, visit

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