These are some basic “Rates of Fire”  and “Methods of Fire” and a few tactics mixed in. Technically, this could be called “Fire Missions” but instead of artillery, you are using a rifle or pistol. Sometimes one is the same as the other. These are different from my article on Fire Commands, however, there is obviously some cross commonality. You can, and should, mix and match Fire Commands and Rates of Fire in the same way that you can mix up signals, comms, formations, tactics, and techniques. Whichever works best and is dictated by the situation.

There is no right answer; But there are plenty of wrong answers.

The book below provides excellent real world examples of these “Uncommon” rates of fire being used to GREAT effect on professional militaries, guerrilla forces, and civilian populations.

An excellent book on the subject of 20th century urban guerrilla warfare.

Field Manual on Common Machine-Gun Employment (Read Chapter 5)


Common and Uncommon: Rates of Fire and Firing Techniques Explained

These are general guidelines for general real world use.

Not exact definitions per military standard.

-The Machine Gun-

-Machine Gun Rates of Fire-

Sustained: Fire in short bursts with a brief, but intentional, pause between each burst. The idea is to make your belt last as long as reasonably possible and not “waste” ammo. Pick your targets, aim, and fire. Remember to oil your gun during a lull in fire. Communicate adjustments in fire during pauses in fire and/or communicate new targets. Observe for effect on target. Change barrels every 100 rounds. Watch your ammo count.

Rapid: Same concept as sustained fire, but us long bursts with a brief, but intentional, pause between each burst. Observe effect on target, communicate, and change targets. Change barrels every 100 rounds and oil your gun. Communicate during pauses in fire. Watch your ammo count.

Cyclic: Gun #1 fires the weapon only stopping to change targets till the weapon is dry, or jams, then Gun #2 starts firing. Change Barrels. Oil the action during belt/barrel changes. Repeat until fire superiority is gained. Hand signals are required because of the noise. Watch your ammo count.

How to Aim and Fire

Fixed Fire: Fixed fire is fire delivered against a point target when the depth and width of the beaten zone covers the target. Fixed fire also means only one aiming point is necessary to provide coverage of the target. AKA you can aim at the target and will hit it based on the weapon’s mechanical accuracy, cartridge’s trajectory, and the range to target.

Traversing Fire: Traversing fire is fire distributed in width by successive changes in direction. The gunner selects successive aiming points throughout the width of the target. These aiming points must be close enough to ensure adequate coverage but not so close as to waste ammunition. AKA you can fire right, center, and left OR left, center, and right of your target to compensate for potential environmental wind. Or, if the target is moving parallel or diagonal to your position. sometimes this is referred to as “Hosing Across Your target” by sweeping fire across the “X” axis, or “windage”

Searching Fire: Searching fire is fire distributed in depth by successive changes in elevation. The gunner selects successive aiming points in depth. The changes made in each aiming point will depend on the range and slope of the ground. AKA Fire Low, Medium, Center, Medium High, and High of your target if you do not have the time, or knowledge to make a range estimation. Stacking red dots OR aiming for the knees, belt, chest, head, and above the helmet is a standard method. Depending on the range and angle of to your target. For prone targets aim low, just below, on top, above, and high of your target to achieve a hit or suppression. This is “Hosing Down the Target” on the “Y” Axis, or “elevation”.

Traversing and Searching Fire: Traversing and searching fire is fire distributed in width and depth by successive changes in direction and elevation. Combining traversing and searching provides good coverage of the target. Adjustments are made in the same manner as described for traversing and searching fire. This is a combination of Traversing and Searching Fire mentioned above.

Free-Gun Fire: Free-gun fire is fire delivered against targets requiring rapid major changes in direction and elevation that cannot be applied with the T&E mechanism. To deliver this type of fire, the gunner removes the T&E mechanism from the traversing bar on the tripod, allowing the weapon to be moved freely in any direction. AKA point your weapon at the target and fire as fast as possible, observe effect, adjust fire, repeat


-Semi-Automatic Military Style Rifles and Combat Handguns-

These are a combination of Military, Self Defense, and Guerrilla Concepts.

Single Shot: One well aimed shot fired using the maximum 4 fundamentals of marksmanship. Anything beyond the point target range of your weapon requires this be utilized.

Steady Stream: Used to engage targets in your “Area of Effect”. These ranges, typically 500 meters or more, are outside the point target effectiveness of your weapon. You will need to fire many rounds to maximize the probability that you are keeping your weapon on target. 3-4 MOA mil spec rifles require you to fire 5-10 or more rounds to get one on target. Without the 4 fundamentals, and a perfect zero on your weapon, you are just wasting ammo.

Controlled Pair: Two rounds of standard aimed fire. BANG-BANG. Observe target for effect. You can fire 15 controlled pairs with a 30 round magazine, or 10 pairs with a 20 round magazine. Get ready for that reload; It comes faster than you think. Controlled pairs are used by militaries around the world to increase hit probability. Double the rounds fired= Double the chances of a hit.

Rounds for Bounds: Rounds are fired sparingly to reduce the possibility of reloading during covering fire for your teammates during a 3-5 second rush AKA a “bound”. Ergo the name, “Rounds for Bounds”. You don’t want to go “black” during exposed movements. Your teammate needs cover fire. When planning a “bound”, you might consider reloading your weapon prior to leaving cover and providing planned and coordinated cover fire. You can also prep your magazine i.e. have it in your hand to hasten your inevitable reload.

Double-Double: You guessed it… Two Controlled Pairs. Fired as fast as you can say “Double-Double”. Easier to say “DUB-BA DUB-BA”.

The “Mag Dump” AKA “Mad Minute”: The correct answer during most engagements. This is the citizen’s semi-automatic version of the mad minute. That reload is coming; Prepare yourself.

Sporadic Fire: Firing your weapon at inconsistent rates of fire at random targets. Down streets, over buildings, through warehouses.. etc. This works to psychologically suppress your opponent rather than physically suppress them. This is meant to create some battlefield confusion. It also forces your opponent to ask questions like “Was that one or two guys?”. This works better than you think; Consider this the same way you would consider the guy at the end of the shooting range who just popped off a .50 BMG; Or the guy next to you at the pistol range with the 500 S&W; or, once more, the same as the guy next to you who just popped off a .300 WinMag with a muzzle break. “What the hell was that?” comes to mind. Right? Works better in urban environments than woodland because of echoes and the lack of a clear line of sight or direction. You can mix brands of  ammo to create the illusion of different sounding weapons. Example: “Pop, Pow, Bang, Boom, Pop, Pop, Pow”… and so on. This will make the other guy think twice about charging at you head on. They will be forced to be more careful and considerate. This really works better than you think. Guerrilla forces are known to use mixed lots and brands of ammo, it really does sound like multiple threats are firing. Listen closely to youtube videos from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Lybia. Was that one shooter or two? Those are important questions for the defender or aggressor because it dictates the orders of march and formation.

Talking the Guns: When you and a teammate have a target pinned down or suppressed, you should alternate fire between your weapons. With a brief pause between rounds. It should take you just under one minute to fire one 30 round magazine each for two men. This can be used to cover friendly elements bounding on an objective for a known period of time; Or, to provide cover for a 3-5 second rush. Your flanking , bounding, or charging element, will need as much time as possible to get to their position. If you know they have an extra long flanking or charging movement, you should prep a magazine so that you can maintain the “conversation” with your teammate. This also helps to save ammo for the individual shooter.

Burning Your Target(s): This is an alternate to the “Mag Dump“. The intent is to disable and destroy equipment. You should NOT aimlessly fire your entire magazine at the target. This is aimed fire with a purpose. Example: You see an enemy vehicle, or enemy equipment; You, or your team, decide to “Burn the Target”. At which point you proceed to shoot everything important on the target. Tires=Bang-Bang, Engine=Bang-Bang, Windows=Bang-Bang, and Repeat. The purpose is to quickly sabotage enemy equipment without wasting ammo on pointless parts that will have zero terminal effect on the vehicle or equipment. Tracers may be used.

Trapping your Target: Similar in concept to skeet shooting, you aim at a fixed point ahead of your target and fire accurate aimed fire in the hopes that your target walks, or runs, into this. This is more effective than trying to lead your target while shooting because your position while leading our target is not stable, nor is the range constant. Whereas, when trapping your target, you fire from a fixed position into a fixed “lane” of fire. Much the same way as a skeet shooter finds his mark, fires, and the shot and clay meet each other in the middle. Leading your target properly requires a moderate amount of contemplation, whereas this simply requires a volume of fire and a proper point of aim. This can also be used with machine guns, or multiple shooters to maximize effectiveness.

Plunging Fire: Shooting at extreme long distance for high angle impacts behind cover. This is only possible with pistol cartridge carbines or rounds like the AK. Possibly shotgun buckshot. The target receives harassing fire over their cover and onto their position. You likely will not hit them, but you could if done properly.

Grazing Fire: Shooting at a low angle and bouncing rounds into your target. Or firing just over the edge of your targets cover. When used with tracers you can set multiple fires per tracer in dry grass and brush. VERY EFFECTIVE at suppressing your target or starting fires with tracers.


-Bolt Action Guns and Hunting Revolvers-

Observation Shot AKA Ranging Shot: One round is fired without considering environmental or range considerations too seriously, however all 4 fundamentals are taken seriously. The impact of the round is observed through you own scope, to identify the offset from point of aim. Adjust your aim or optic based on this information and fire again.

Snap Shot: Mostly used to keep their head down, your round is aimed fire using the 4 fundamentals, but you don’t necessarily want or need to hit your target. Remind them you are there and you are watching them. Not suppressive fire, but not a dedicated and deliberate “Precision” shot either. A mix between the two.

Sabotage Sniping: Well aimed fire intended to destroy or disable a piece of equipment. Like a radio, lights, cameras, radar dish, cell tower, power station, generator, or vehicle. Works best with steel core rounds or armor piercing. Ask the Syrians, Libyans, Egyptians, Nigerians, Congolese, or Iraqis how they feel about sabotage snipers… A handful of guerrillas manage to keep the lights off and entire militaries awake all hours, cursing their commando counterparts in the dark; Trying to fix what cannot be fixed, repair what cannot be repaired, and stop what cannot be stopped…

Quick-bolting: Empty half the magazine(or the whole thing…) using aimed fire at your target to compensate for your rate of fire. The effect depends on your weapon system. A precision rifle is more effective than a surplus military bolt action rifle; But the desired effect is the same depending on the range to your target relative to the accuracy of your weapon. Best for moving targets, longer ranges, large targets like a house, or bunched up targets. You can typically fire 2-3 rounds as the first one is impacting the target at long range before they hear the first shot. There is the added benefit that they won’t know whether or not you have a semi-automatic or bolt action weapon.

Harassing Fire: Bolt action rifles are not obsolete. A bolt action rifle is just as dangerous today as it was 100 years ago when they began producing them in mass. You just need to understand your limitations. Harassing fire is typically associated with the use of combined arms. Your bolt action rifle, with it’s slower rate of fire compared to a semi-automatic rifle, means that you will inherently waste less of your ammo. A bolt action rifle used for harassing fire will be employed in this role for significantly longer than a semiautomatic. Which means that you can fire at a target for an hour, instead of minutes. Imagine taking fire from an unknown location on your house. With 5 or 10 rounds coming in every minute. That’s only 300-600 rounds per hour… Something that you are likely to screw up using a semiautomatic. Imagine the stress, and damage, done to your position, Imagine if they fired every minute on the minute? Or every 5 minutes? The volley sights on a mil-spec surplus WW1 or WW2 rifle might seem useless on a man sized target at 800-1,000 yards, but if you aim for a window or door, you will hit within 1, 3, 6 or 10 feet of that door depending on the accuracy of your weapon; Which is considerable. Deployed against a house, office building, industrial equipment, or commercial structure? Ask the survivors of Sarajevo how they feel about harassing fire…

Siege Shooting: Like shooting fish in a barrel. The same as harassing fire, but you dig in before hand and create your own little WW1 battlefield or “Sarajevo Hotel”. You are not planning on leaving; It’s you or the other guy. This is going to last a few days until someone makes a fatal mistake… Ask anyone who has fought in a conflict in the last 50 years. Did they ever receive fire on and off for several days? No sleep because of 2am morning mag dumps and a mortar round or two? Equipment lost or destroyed? Maybe an unaimed RPG round or two? Guess what… they survived a modern day siege. ISIS and their collaborators used this tactic with great effect. They conquered half the Middle East and have made incursions into Africa, and reportedly South and Central America. Only professional militaries, and the hardest of guerrillas, can survive a “Short Siege” intact. Cinderblock and brick houses can suffer significant structural damage from Siege shooting, especially when the lower floors are targeted. Stick houses will catch fire if tracers are used, and every tracer for sale is currently sold out as of this writing for a reason; And that reason isn’t good…

Most methods work with a variety of weapon types. Mix and match. Everything works better with a team. Spotters, Shooters, and Leaders make this all work a lot better.


Thanks For Reading,

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