On Thursday, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island issued a press release identifying Marine Recruit Austin Farrell as the deadliest recruit ever to pass through the Corps' infamously difficult rifle qualification course. Farrell grew up building and shooting rifles with his father, and when it came time to qualify on his M16A4 service rifle, the young recruit managed a near-perfect score of 248 out of a maximum possible 250 points on Table One.
"I grew up with a rifle in my hand; from the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad, he was the one that introduced me to shooting, and when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did," said Farrell.
The Marine Corps is renown for its approach to training each and every Marine to serve as a rifleman prior to going on to attend follow-on schools for one's intended occupational specialty. As a result, Table One of the Marine Corps' Rifle Qualification Course is widely recognized as the most difficult basic rifle course anywhere in the America's Armed Forces.
All Marines, regardless of ultimate occupation, must master engaging targets from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards. In recent years, the Corps has shifted to utilizing RCOs, or Rifle Combat Optics, which aid in accuracy, but still require a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.
While no other military branch expects all of its members to be deadly at such long distances, for Farrell, 500 yards wasn't all that far at all. While new to the Corps, this young shooter is no stranger to long-distance shooting.
"I would go out to a family friend's range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile, it's a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range."
Recruit Austin Ferrell with Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion fires his M16A4 Service Rifle during the Table One course of fire on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island S.C. July 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
As all recruits come to learn, being a good shooter isn't just about nailing the physical aspects of stabilizing yourself, acquiring good sight picture, and practicing trigger control along with your breathing. Being a good shooter is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one. As Farrell points out, being accurate at a distance is about getting your head in the right the place. Of course, getting relaxed and staying relaxed is one thing… doing it during Recruit Training is another.
"Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot… after I shot a 248 everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points," Farell laughed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shane Manson)
The young recruit is expected to graduate from Recruit Training on September 4, 2020 and while it's safe to say most parents are proud to see their sons and daughters earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Farrell's father George is already celebrating his son's success.
"I'm so proud of him, no matter what I'm proud of him but this is above what I expected," said George. "I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work."