Snapping In

When you go to US Marine Corps Boot Camp, after the first few weeks of Phase 1, if you survive, you get sent to Recruit Field Training Duty for Phase 2, or as I call it, THE FUN STUFF. At RFTD, you learn individual movement techniques, basic infantry tactics, and marksmanship.

During the 2 weeks of marksmanship training, the entire first week is done without firing a shot. It’s officially called Grass Week, but Marines have always called it “Snapping In”. Snapping In means practicing getting into the various field firing positions and applying the marksmanship fundamentals. It’s done for days on end before ever firing a shot because you need time to develop muscle memory and to stretch out muscle groups that most people have never used in that way.

As an example, after learning the intricacies of every firing position, you learn how to drop from standing into sitting position, or kneeling, or you learn to transition from prone to kneeling, and then standing (never go directly from prone to standing to fire if you want to live). You learn three different heights of kneeling positions, which are difficult to do at first, as well as at least two sitting positions. All require PRACTICE and STRETCHING.

OK, cool trip down memory lane, but what does that mean for me? I’m glad you asked.

Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

Psalm 144:1

In my book TW-02, Fieldcraft, I discuss all kinds of movement techniques. I point out that you need to practice on them to develop the flexibility and muscle memory to be able to do them when in a high stress environment. This requires you to do “snapping in”, doesn’t it? Start out with no gear and train on a movement technique like the low crawl. I don’t care how many times you’ve done it in your life, if you haven’t done it in the last two months, it’s going to hurt. You need to be “snapping in” on these skills regularly. Add your belt kit, then your backpack or ruck.

I teach my Tang Soo Do students that while commercials are playing during their favorite shows, they should spend the whole commercial break doing side kicks, roundhouse kicks, spinning back kicks, or whatever skill they need more work on. For us, as adults wanting better preparedness skills, we can do the same.

Be honest, when was the last time you laid on your belly, then rolled into a sitting position, shifted to kneeling, and then stood up, all slowly and quietly? If you’re like me, there was likely to be a few grunts and groans, and maybe even a pop or two. However, that’s a skill set that applies to observing and patrolling in a potentially hostile area. You should develop the physical skill.

Low crawling is overlooked. For the life of me, I don’t understand people doing fire and movement drills at training events where they do everything standing. That’s for the movies. I’ll be crawling and rolling below the bullets.

Even more importantly though, the low crawl is a SURVIVAL skill for more than simply combat. Imagine being a hurricane survivor but trapped under rubble. Those hours spent practicing and developing the muscles to move low by alternating elbows and knees could be the difference between life and death. Being skilled at keeping the butt down can keep you from getting trapped. Not only for GI Joe stuff, is it? Being adept at the skill of passing under wire on your back can also get you through a collapsed building. These skills can also help you rescue a trapped family member.

The same “snapping in” idea applies to other skills, too. When was the last time you practiced splinting a broken leg? It drives me crazy to see guys talking about spending hours doing dry firing or tactical reload drills, but then say they have done zero minutes of splinting extremities. No matter what extreme thing you’re preparing for, whether it’s weather, earthquakes, a Chinese invasion, or space aliens, you are least 100 times more likely to fall down and break or sprain something than you are to get into a gunfight, yet almost no training is done on those skills.

Side note: The “I train in cargo shorts” guys are these same people. When training in cargo shorts versus heavy duty outdoor pants, how likely are you to throw yourself down into the prone or a kneeling position? I know, you don’t like that part, but I’m a tough love guy. I want you to live.

Buy these instead:

I get a lot of push back from guys who say, “We’re bugging in, so I don’t need all that movement stuff.” I disagree: If you are tying yourself permanently to a fixed location, you need EVEN MORE skills at Fieldcraft because you’ll need to have OP’s and patrols out to defend that location. You can want to Little House on the Prairie Cosplay all you want, but people behaving badly will get WORSE exponentially, not better. And, with you tied to a fixed location, the odds of encountering them go up the longer you stay there.

The Snapping In concept also applies to testing out your planned gear loads and packs. I recently did a test in a hilly area I had never been in before and learned that I need to do more hill-walking (“snapping in” on hills) to be truly ready. My son and his friends took a backpacking trip and never “snapped in” with their loadouts before jumping on the trail. They regretted it at mile 3, because they were carrying WAY too much weight.

You can conduct “snapping in” on firefighting by using refillable water fire extinguishers or by contacting a fire suppression company about acquiring old, out-of-spec extinguishers. I’ve done this several times when I was conducting firefighting training for clients, and they gave us old units to use for training. If you’ve never used a fire extinguisher, there is a certain skill to it (PASS Point-Aim-Squeeze-Sweep).

You can take the Marine Corps’ Snapping In concept and use it to increase your readiness across the board. It works, US Marines are WELL KNOWN for their shooting ability, and it begins with snapping in.

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Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

7 thoughts on “Snapping In

  1. I really like this article and the suggestion. I’d like to offer one more thought, given your observation about the boys and the backpacking trip. I’m a volunteer FF, and I spend a fair amount of time lifting, rucking, and doing similar HIIT physical activity to be ready for when the tones sound on the pager. I think it keeps me fit as well as helping to push through the ongoing exertion.

    Even with that, from time to time, we run into stuff where afterwards, I’m pretty damn sore. But in my way of “snapping in” outside of those calls, it helps keep me going, and helps keep fatigue and pain from making me a coward.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know how to quantify the amount of truth and factual awesomeness there is in this. I been preaching much of the same for ages, and still get looked at like I have a third ear on my forehead and accused of being an idiot by the KKK (Kool Kid Klub – trademarked by me, lol). It’s so reassuring to know I and a few others, are not alone in the wilderness….


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