Feature   Lethality

Marines Keep Weapons On Target

Oct. 2, 2018 | BY Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Lebron

Sixty Marines. That’s it. Just 60. Sixty out of the 200,000 Marines currently serving in the military are qualified as precision weapons repairmen. As the Marine Corps’ gunsmiths, these specialized craftsmen can bring a weapon from the pages of a blueprint all the way to the range.

A Marine sits at a work table and oils a lathe.
Lathe Labor
Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jose Herrera oils a lathe while making a custom rifle barrel at the Precision Weapons Section at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., Sept. 4, 2018. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Photo By: EJ Hersom
VIRIN: 180904-D-DB155-002

At Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Marines attached to Weapons Battalion’s precision weapons section are responsible for research and development, building, testing and maintenance of weapon systems for warfighters.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ricky Vega says his experience as an infantryman, marksman, and weapons producer gives him a better understanding of how weapons are used and their capabilities, which allows him to train his Marines better.

Marines training to be precision weapons repairmen must learn the intricate precision it takes for the job. In the machine shop, they learn to read blueprints and they fabricate their own hand tools. One of the first steps to master this type of attention to detail is taking a piece of aluminum and creating a 1x1-inch cube.

A person's hands work on the butt of a pistol.
Pistol Assembly
An armorer assembles a pistol at the Precision Weapons Section at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., Sept. 4, 2018. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Photo By: EJ Hersom
VIRIN: 180904-D-DB155-011

There is an incredible amount of math and science involved in this job. A chemical process called bluing gets its name from the blue-black finish on the steel when the process is complete. Bluing protects tools and weapons from corrosion.

Turning a blank metal rod into a usable rifle barrel is an extremely precise machining operation. The barrel is tapered and then threaded on both ends. When done correctly, this process contributes to the rifle’s accuracy.

A Marine lies in the grass and aims a weapon.
Sniper Scenery
Staff Sgt. Randy Robles aims a sniper rifle at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., Sept. 4, 2018. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Photo By: EJ Hersom
VIRIN: 180904-D-DB155-009

Every single weapon built or rebuilt here is tested before it leaves the building. For sniper rifles, the testing system uses acoustics to measure the rifle’s accuracy. Multiple sensors are arranged in specific patterns and measure the supersonic shockwave that a bullet makes when it passes each sensor. The data is processed and displayed on a computer monitor back in the test facility.

View of a decorative bullet.
Bullet Beauty
A decorative bullet hangs from a workstation at the Precision Weapons Section at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., Sept. 4, 2018. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
Photo By: EJ Hersom
VIRIN: 180904-D-DB155-012

Vega says, “The system provides instant feedback for quality assurance testing of weapons and ammunition, as well as [research and development] testing.”