I qualified “Expert” with an M1 Garand, unusual in the Navy, which did not place a high degree of emphasis on small arms proficiency. I think the reasons for that are fairly obvious, since we have the Marines to do that sort of thing for us. I was, however, cruising through Electrician’s Mate school at the top of my class without much need for studying, so I had quite a bit of free time to spend on the rifle range.
“Expert” was the only marksmanship level award actually worn on the Navy uniform, and even it was optional. It was a patch, worn on the left sleeve just above the cuff, and I never wore mine. The only privilege the award ever got me was to sit in the periscope shears with an M1 as shark guard whenever the ship had swim call at sea.
There is a trick to shooting sharks. You have to let them get fairly close, otherwise the bullet hits the water at an angle which causes it to ricochet rather than enter the water and hit the shark. Then you aim right at the base of the protruding dorsal fin, which causes it to arch out of the water, at which point you pop a couple more rounds into it. Kind of fun, actually, although the swimmers don’t usually enjoy it much.
If I got bored I would just fire a few rounds at random and watch the swimmers rise up and sort of motor across the surface of the water back to the ship. The guys could really haul ass. I would never admit to not having seen a shark, of course. That would not have been good for my health.
My skill with a rifle did not extend to pistols. In order to qualify for promotion to E-4 we had to “qualify” with a M1911 .45 caliber automatic. Qualification required you to fire ten rounds, but fortunately it did not require you to hit anything in particular, because I didn’t. I was lucky not to hit myself, and the only thing I could reliably hit was the ground. I was actually pretty good at hitting the ground.
I always felt kind of silly wearing the damned thing on watch; which, happily, I very seldom ever had to do. If I was ever confronted with the need to use it, my best bet would be to throw the gun itself at the intruder, or let him get close and hit him over the head with it. If I was shooting at him, he would be about the safest person in the vicinity.
There are a lot of people, even today who swear by that weapon, but I am definitely not one of them. I was certainly known to swear at it, though.