Chapter 6

Engagement Techniques

Engagement techniques are those actions taken by the gunner to place effective fire on the target. The gunner must be able to place effective fire on moving, stationary, point, and area targets. This chapter discusses various machine gun engagement and range card techniques to aid the crew in acquiring the target during limited visibility conditions and orient replacement personnel or units.

Machine Gun Engagement Techniques

The crew’s goal is to hit a target and destroy it as fast as possible. Proper engagement techniques will allow the crew to place enough fire on the target to destroy it. Machine gun techniques are generally the same for the M2 HB, M60/M240B, and MK 19 machine guns.


The method of engagement chosen (searching, traversing, or z-pattern) depends on the terrain, target presentation, type of target, and tactical situation. To be effective, fire must be distributed over an entire target. Improper distribution results in gaps between beaten zones and allows some of the enemy to escape or use guns without effective opposition.


The searching method of engagement is used to engage targets arrayed in depth. The gunner moves the beaten area through the target area by increases and decreases in range. The searching method is used to engage area targets moving toward or away from the firer.


The traversing method of engagement is used to engage area targets along their front or length. The gunner moves the beaten area across the length of the target. The traversing method is also used to engage area targets moving across the sector of fire (see Figure 6-1).

Figure 6-1. Traversing Method of Engagement.


The z-pattern method of engagement is preferred for dismounted troops. Use both the searching and traversing engagement techniques to cover large or dispersed area targets (see Figure 6-2).

Figure 6-2. Z-Pattern Method of Engagement.


Adjustments may be made before or after firing. Machine gun fire is adjusted by observing the strike of the round, observing the flight of tracers, re-laying frequently, or by a combination of these. The use of tracer ammunition provides a means of adjusting fire. At night, it aids in illuminating the objective area and has a demoralizing effect on the enemy. Observation and adjustment of fire is the most important and is continuous throughout the action. The gunner is trained to observe and adjust fire without command and to check the lay of the gun frequently.


The BOT method is the fastest method of adjustment. The gunner moves the strike of the round to the target by adjusting the sight picture (see Figure 6-3). BOT is primarily used with the MK 19 machine gun. To use the BOT method, the gunner fires his sensing rounds or burst, observes the strike of the round while maintaining his initial point of aim, makes the adjustments to his point of aim necessary to move the strike of the round to the target, and then fires a killing burst. The gunner continues to adjust and fire killing bursts until the target is destroyed or the commander announces "CEASE FIRE."

Figure 6-3. Burst-on-Target (BOT) Method of Adjustment.


The TOT method is the easiest method of adjustment for the machine gun crew. The gunner walks the strike of the round onto the target, then fires a killing burst (see Figure 6-4). TOT is extremely effective against stationary targets. To use the TOT method, the gunner fires an initial burst, observes the strike of the round in relation to the target, fires a second long burst while simultaneously moving the weapon until the rounds impact on the target, and then fires a killing burst until the target is destroyed or the commander announces "CEASE FIRE."

Figure 6-4. Tracer-on-Target (TOT) Method of Adjustment.

Note. The TOT method of adjustment is not used when engaging targets with the MK 19 machine gun.


Target form is a simple method of adjustment. One form is the visible height or width of the target. Since the visible size in width and height differ, the visible height is used to adjust elevation and the visible width is used to adjust azimuth. Target form can be used with all weapons (except the TOW). The word form may be added after an announced change, or the change may stand alone if target form is the standard adjustment technique in the unit SOP. Form changes are always given in full- or half-form increments.


Mil change is simple and accurate at all ranges, but requires the gunner to remember the mil relation of his reticle.


The size and shape of the target and the engagement technique should dictate the pattern of fire used to engage an area target. Engage area targets with a killing burst (the initial burst on target, designed to kill as many as possible before the enemy goes to ground). Sweep through the forward edge of the target area with a killing burst, then switch to suppressive fires using intermittent bursts (20 to 30 rounds for light machine guns, 10 to 15 rounds for heavy machine guns, and 6 rounds for the MK 19) to suppress the target.

Area targets use the burst-on-target or tracer-on-target method of adjustment (see Figures 6-3 and 6-4) to obtain a killing burst. Once a killing burst has been fired, the gunner must suppress the target area using the searching, traversing, or Z-pattern method of engagement. These methods of engagement require different burst techniques.

Weapon System Burst Technique
  • 6- to 9-round killing burst.
  • Suppress the area with 20- to 30-round bursts, (searching, traversing, or Z-pattern method).
  • 5- to 7-round killing burst.
  • Suppress the area with 10- to 15- round bursts (searching, traversing, or Z-pattern method).
MK 19
  • 1- to 2-round sensing burst.
  • Suppress the area with 6-round bursts.


Engage point targets using direct-fire adjustment techniques for both stationary and moving targets.

The methods of direct-fire adjustment are BOT, TOT, target form, and mil change. The machine gun crew can quickly adjust, hit, and destroy the target using any of these adjustment techniques.


Engage moving targets using the BOT method of adjustment. The gunner fires the sensing burst, continuing to track the target and maintain the point of aim until he senses the rounds impacting. Once he has observed the strike of the sensing round, he makes his adjustment and fires a killing burst, maintaining his adjusted point of aim until the round impacts. He then continues to adjust and track the target until the target is destroyed.

When engaging a target that is moving in a lateral direction of the gun, the gunnery must lead (aim in front of) the target to compensate for the movement. The amount of lead depends on the velocity of the ammunition, target speed, and target angle. Applying the proper lead to a moving target will dramatically increase the chance of getting target effects with the first burst (see Figure 6-5).

Figure 6-5. Leading Moving Targets.

When engaging targets moving toward or away from the position, the gunner may need to make a small vertical adjustment. If the target is approaching, the gunner aims at the center base of visible mass. If the target is fleeing, the gunner aims at the top center of visible mass.

When a moving HMMWV is firing over its flank (side) at a stationary target, lateral motion affects the projectiles as they leave the muzzle. This lateral motion must be compensated for, and the gunner must apply lead. When firing over the left side of the vehicle, the gunner must aim to the left of the target’s center of mass. When firing over the right side of the vehicle, the gunner must aim to the right of the target’s center of mass.

If the HMMWV and the target are parallel and moving in the same direction, no lead is required. The lateral motion of the projectiles compensates for any lead requirements. If the HMMWV and the target are parallel but moving in opposite directions, target lead is required.


Aerial targets should be engaged only in self-defense or on order. If an aerial target must be engaged, the gunner should aim slightly above the nose of the approaching aircraft, and fire a continuous burst. The gunner does not track the target, but continues to fire until the target passes through the cone of fire. The MK 19 should be used to engage only hovering helicopter targets.


The football field method is used to engage fast-moving, low-altitude aircraft with all small caliber weapons (see Figure 6-6). The gunner aims approximately two football field lengths in front of the target and fires a long burst until the target leaves the effective range.

Figure 6-6. Football Field Method.

Note. The football field method is not to be used with the MK 19.


The reference point method is used to place a high volume of fire on a single point, normally used as a section or platoon method of engagement (see Figure 6-7). The gunner aims at a specific reference point and, on order, fires a long, continuous burst until the target passes through the reference point or is destroyed.

Figure 6-7. Reference Point Method.


Lead the paratrooper by two body lengths, and fire a long burst, allowing the target to pass through the cone of fire (see Figure 6-8).

Figure 6-8. Airborne Troops.

Notes. The Geneva Convention of 1949 and our Rules of War prohibit engaging crewmen parachuting from a disabled aircraft.

For additional information on TOW engagement techniques, see FM 23-34, Chapter 6.

Range Card Techniques

DA Form 5517-R (Standard Range Card) is used to make a rough topographical sketch of a designated sector of an assigned weapon system. A range card aids in planning for and controlling fires. The crew uses the range card to acquire targets during limited visibility and to orient replacement personnel or units. During good visibility, the gunner should have little difficulty monitoring his orientation. During poor visibility, lateral limits may not be detectable. When the gunner becomes disoriented and cannot find or locate reference points or sector limit markers, he can use the range card to locate the limits of the sector. The gunner should prepare the range card so he becomes more familiar with the terrain in his sector. He should continually assess the sector and update his range card. Each range card contains, as a minimum, the following information:


A sector of fire is a piece of the battlefield for which a gunner is responsible. A sector of fire is assigned to ensure that weapon systems cover all possible enemy avenues of approach. Vehicle commanders should strive to overlap sectors to provide the best use of overlapping fire and to cover areas that cannot be engaged by a single weapon system. The vehicle commander assigns left and right limits of a primary sector of fire (including PDF and FPL of fire using prominent terrain features or easily recognizable objects, such as rocks, telephone poles, fences, or emplaced stakes). The vehicle commander may also assign the gunner more than one sector of fire, designating each sector as primary, alternate, or supplementary.


Vehicle commanders choose natural or man-made terrain features to be designated as RPs to assist the gunner in target acquisition and range determination during limited visibility. There will also be predesignated TRPs.

The commander using the standard target symbol and target number issued by the FIST or FSO usually designates a TRP. If TRPs are located within the sector of fire, the vehicle commander points them out and tells the gunner their designated reference numbers.

The gunner depicts TRPs by a cross (†) with an abbreviated designation reference number in the upper right quadrant of the cross (in the sketch portion of his range card). The reference numbers are listed in the description column of the data portion of the range card.

The vehicle commander should assign additional RPs for his vehicle, to assist in the target acquisition and range determination process. An RP is depicted as a number within a circle. Normally, a gunner has at least one TRP, but should not have more than four. The range card should show only pertinent data for RPs or TRPs.


Dead space is any natural or man-made terrain feature (such as hills, draws, buildings, or depressions) that cannot be observed or covered by direct-fire systems within the sector of fire.

All dead space within the gunner's sector of fire must be determined to allow the vehicle commander and section leader to plan other weapon systems or other types of fire (mortars or artillery) to cover the area.

Dead space is indicated in the sketch portion of the range card by an irregular circle with a series of diagonal lines.

Dead space within the MELs for the weapon systems is circled with diagonal lines drawn in the circle. Dead space that extends out to or past the farthest MEL is drawn as an encased area with diagonal lines.


The depth of the sector of fire is normally limited to the maximum engagement range of the vehicle's weapon systems. It can be less if there are any natural or man-made objects or features that prevent the gunner from engaging targets at maximum engagement range (for example, hills, ridgelines, trees, and urban areas). MELs are shown in the sketch portion of the range card by a heavily drawn line for each weapon system.

MELs are not drawn through dead space. MELs are drawn behind dead space when the terrain beyond the dead space is of a higher elevation. This represents terrain that can be covered by direct-fire weapon systems. MELs are drawn along the side and in front of dead space extending out to the farthest MEL. This represents terrain that cannot be covered by direct-fire weapon systems beyond the nearest point of dead space, in relation to the position for which the range card is drawn.

To assist in determining the distance of each MEL, the gunner or vehicle commander should use a map to make sure the MELs are shown correctly on the sketch portion of the range card.


The WRP is an easily recognizable terrain feature on the map. The WRP is used to assist vehicle commanders in plotting the vehicle's position, and to assist replacement personnel and units in finding the vehicle's position. The WRP location is given as a six-digit grid.

When there is no terrain feature to be designated as the WRP, the vehicle's location is shown as an eight-digit grid coordinate in the REMARKS block of the range card.


The gunner prepares two copies of the range card. If alternate and supplementary firing positions are assigned, two copies are required for those positions. A copy is kept with the vehicle and the other copy is given to the section leader for the section sector sketch. (DA Form 5517-R may be locally reproduced on 8½-inch by 11-inch paper. Figures 6-9 through 6-11 are samples of completed range cards. (See FM 7-7J for more detailed discussion on how to prepare a range card.)

Figure 6-9. Completed Standard Range Card (TOW).

Figure 6-10. Completed Standard Range Card (PDF).

Figure 6-11. Completed Standard Range Card (FPL).


After a range card has been completed for a firing position, mark the position with ground stakes to enable the vehicle or another vehicle from a relief unit to reoccupy the position and use the data from the range card prepared for the position.


Once the range card is completed and before the vehicle is moved to a hide position or to an alternate or supplementary position, stake the position. Three stakes are required to mark the position effectively.

Place one stake in front of the vehicle so it is centered on the driver's station and just touching the front of the vehicle. This stake should be long enough for the driver to see when the vehicle gets close. Place the other two stakes parallel to the left tire and lined up with the hub on the front and rear wheels. Place these stakes close to the vehicle with only enough clearance to allow the driver to move the vehicle into the position.

Drive the stakes firmly into the ground. Place engineer tape or luminous tape on the friendly side of the stakes to make it easier for the driver to see them during limited visibility. Place a rock at each of the front two corners of the vehicle to assist in reoccupation if the stakes are lost.


If the situation permits, a ground guide can be used to assist the driver as he moves the vehicle into position.

If a ground guide cannot be used because of enemy fire, the driver moves the vehicle in parallel to the side stakes, with the front stake centered on the driver's station.

If the stakes are lost and the position is not otherwise marked, the vehicle is moved to the approximate location. The vehicle commander or gunner can use a compass to find the left or right limits. The vehicle should be moved until it is within eight inches of the exact position, if time allows.