AMO Applicant, Taking MSC Small Arms, No Firearms Experience

Greetings fellow mariners! I am a pretty green third mate and AMO applicant taking small arms and SRF (and a bunch of other MSC classes) at the Star Center starting in just over a week. I have pretty much ZERO experience with firearms, so I was wondering if anyone who’s taken this can tell me what to expect from these courses, and what my odds of qualifying are given my lack of experience. I don’t care about being an expert marksman or anything, just looking to pass. Thank you all so much!

You’ll pass, it may not be pretty, but you’ll pass. Just make sure the instructor knows your experience level from day one and you’ll be fine. The course starts off with very basic info and goes from there. (Or used to)


Never took it at star center but did at MITAGS about a decade ago. There was a full spectrum of experience levels present for my class from competition marksman to never held a firearm. I was in the middle. We had 4 days out of the five to get comfortable before the range time. If you have an interest in learning a new skill like I had in sharpening one I had a little experience with, you will do fine. Just remember to keep your muzzle pointed down range at all time and always treat the weapon as if it is loaded. Most people’s issues with firearms stem from never having attended a class like you are about to.


Maybe it’s just me but whenever I’m a bit apprehensive about doing something new I like to read up about it first. Here are a couple solid books to choose from that will point you in the right direction:

I’m sure a few of the rifle affectionados On this forum can suggest a few other great books.


I was in your situation and took small arms at AMO with zero firearms experience. I don’t know what it’s like now, but back then, they didn’t care. There was no special help, there was no extra practice rounds (or for that matter any practice rounds whatsoever). The class was 3 days, 1.5 in class, 1.5 at the range. First time firing a gun in my life was during the first segment of the M9 qualification. Somehow I passed the pistol and shotgun, no hope for the rifle. I don’t blame the instructors - I blame AMO for being so fucking cheap as to not allow any practice whatsoever. (But MSC doesn’t pay for that!)

Took it again a year later at the MSC school in North Carolina, where you got to shoot everything twice, so at least you had a chance to get comfortable with each weapon.

As @jbtam99 says, it won’t be pretty but you’ll pass. As for @john’s advice, I don’t know if the book is going to help you hit the target, but maybe.

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Nope, won’t help you hit the target or pass but still worth reading.

It all depends on your intention. If you just want the certificate then stop worrying now. If you want to actually want take away somebusefull knowledge and skill with the time and money your spending traveling to a Florida to attend school then you have to augment the lesson with a bit of reading on the plane ride down there. Otherwise the 3 days will be a near complete waste of time besides what little value checking the box gives you.

Stop worrying. The only firearm MSC mates carry is the Beretta 9mm sidearm,.

For the M9: search on youtube how to find your dominmant eye. It takes less than 10 seconds to do, If you’re right-handed (like me) and are left eye dominant (like I am) shoot the M9 and shotgun left handed (like I did for 5 years). If you’re right-eye dom the next paragraph doesn’t apply.

The only hassle shooting the M9 left-handed is you have to reach over the stock with your trigger hand to load the first round after changing magazines. You’ll see what i mean, it’s no big deal. And you’ll have an easier time loading the shotgun as a rightie shooting left handed.

eta: Breath control is very important when shooting. Look up how to breathe in the instruction book they give you and do it just that way.


In other words, MSC small arms “training” is just more time and money wasting bullshit for another worthless Certificate.

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Thanks for the advice, captain. I hope you’re right. I’m okay with passing ugly.

Thanks for the tips, captain. I hope my class has a similar range of abilities.

Ugh. Good to know the union’s looking out for me haha! I hope things have changed a bit. The course description did have in bold that there will be no practice rounds fired, but they’ve changed it to a FOUR day course now so hopefully that makes it more bearable. Thanks for the insight, captain!

Good thing the union is paying for it and not me :wink:

Thanks for the tips!

Indeed! And a yearly one at that! Which is more like 8 months because the cert is no good the day it expires, and you have to have it to be onboard (usually).

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9 mil vs AK47 and RPGs? Not sure if MSC understands how well the Somalian Pirate is armed

One more tip - when you get to fire the rifle, don’t let any knuckle dragging gun enthusiast instructor tell you that you can’t pad your shoulder. They kept telling all of us that the reason we are getting these big bruises was because we were holding it wrong, and you gotta jam it up against your chest muscles. Well, not to pull this card but women don’t have the same chest muscles or “padding” as men do, and one little tiny new third mate literally broke her collar bone while firing that thing (this was at the MSC school in New Jersey). Get some maxi pads or something, that is perfectly legal and tell em all to shut up about it or teach you the correct way to shoulder that thing so you don’t have to deal with pain every time you shoot it.

I think we’ll be in the same class, beginning on the 15th. I’ve been an AMO member for years and have taken it down there numerous times. It is a 4-day course now, and Advanced Watchstanding is the 5th day (also a yearly requirement). Broward County Sheriff’s run the class and they’re tough. No practice shots. They also tend to yell a lot.
I’ll PM you with more info.

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Unless they are training you on the AR15 - then you are golden! That is a FUN gun to shoot with no hassle no drama no pain!!!

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No pain? A full magazine on full auto hurt more than shooting a Barrett .50!

Not for me for some reason. Different guns for different folks I guess. And I had the maxi pads on my right shoulder too. Made all the difference in the world.