Soldiers receive preliminary marksmanship instruction, or PMI.
The Army acronym PMI stands for “preliminary marksmanship instruction,” and is a standard block of instruction for learning and staying adept at firing weapons. Army units must have an effective PMI set up for their soldiers, based on solid strategies of initial training and sustainment training. Regular PMI will keep soldiers proficient with their issued weapons and ready to respond to the needs of the Army.
PMI training begins with learning safely and properly clear the weapon, ensuring that the weapon is free of ammunition. This makes the weapon safe for handling in non-aggressive manners, such as when the weapon needs to be disassembled, cleaned, inspected, transported, or stored.
Cycles of Functioning
The better a soldier knows his weapon, the better he will be with it. PMI includes teaching a soldier the mechanical components of his issued weapon, and helps with an understanding of the firing process. For example, the eight cycles of functioning for the M16-/M4-series weapon are feeding, chambering, locking, firing, unlocking, extracting, ejecting, and cocking.
Modes of Fire
PMI includes teaching a soldier the different modes of fire, especially with his assigned weapon. In the case of the M16-/M4-series weapon, the standard modes of fire are semiautomatic, automatic, and burst modes. Knowing the modes of fire and when they are best used allow the soldier to make full and proper use of his weapon according to the needs of the mission.
During PMI, leaders can assess soldiers’ basic marksmanship skill levels to see where their strengths and deficiencies are. Placing two soldiers of the same skill level together is called peer coaching, and allows them to be trained more efficiently.
The Four Fundamentals
The four fundamentals (steady position, aiming, breath control, and trigger squeeze) is a major portion of PMI, as they are directly related to the act of firing a weapon. These are best taught and practiced before a soldier gets on a live-fire line with a weapon and live ammunition, which makes PMI a vital element.
PMI is also needed to teach and re-familiarize soldiers with the basic firing positions according to their assigned weapon. For example with the M16-/M4-series weapon, there are two basic firing positions: basic prone unsupported, and individual foxhole supported. Knowing fire from and be comfortable in a weapon’s basic firing position will build a greater amount of confidence for the soldier with his weapon.
Training Devices and Exercises
PMI is also the perfect time to conduct other off-the-line training exercises, or when ammunition, time, or money supplies are limited. Dominant eye training, aiming cards, target box and paddle, and the tried & true dime/washer exercise can all be excellent additions to a quality PMI routine.