What Does a Marksman Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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A marksman fires weapons with high accuracy at long range targets as part of a team of soldiers or police officers. In addition to working in law enforcement capacities, marksmen also participate in historical reenactment, exhibition shooting, and sports with a marksmanship component. The biathlon, for example, often includes demonstrations with a gun. People can train for this work through the military or law enforcement agencies, or with the assistance of coaches and hobbyist clubs.

This work requires the ability to aim a weapon reliably under a range of conditions. Members of the military and law enforcement qualify for this position by performing above average on an exam. They can also receive sharpshooter and expert qualifications for higher scores.

With military and law enforcement teams, the marksman provides assistance to help a team achieve an objective, which can include scanning an area for likely threats and taking shots if authorized to do so. As the team moves, the marksman needs to move with them to avoid being cut off, while also offering covering fire. A marksman in the military often operates behind cover and must be able to work around plants, buildings, vehicles, and other obstacles. These obstructions can make a shot more challenging, though they also provide protection to the marksman and the rest of the team. Marksmen also need to be able to repeat shots quickly, and handle issues like jammed magazines and other components.


Historical reenactors participate in events where people would have used guns, such as American Civil War reenactments, and apply marksmanship skills to their work. They fire blank weapons for safety, although they may use live rounds during demonstrations when they are not firing at other people. In athletics, several events involve a marksmanship component. People with skills in this area may compete in events or act as coaches for athletes who need to prepare for events.

It is possible to use a variety of weapons as a marksman. For reasons of standardization, official qualifications are usually based on the use of the same weapon, as this eliminates the potential for inequality. Events typically place limits on the kinds of weapons people can use, either for reasons of historical accuracy or sportsmanship, while military marksmen typically work with weapons issued by the government. Some may also carry personal weapons, particularly sidearms, and may separately qualify with these weapons to demonstrate their proficiency with them.


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