A future Marine in boot camp on Parris Island is being recognized before he's even graduated.
Austin Ferrell has been dubbed the "deadliest recruit on Parris Island" in a statement from the training depot after he achieved the highest score ever on the Marine Corps rifle qualification test, earning 248 out of a possible 250 points.
The July 30 performance is the best any shooter has done on the range in the history of the storied South Carolina training base.
“I grew up with a rifle in my hand," Ferrell said in a statement. "From the time I was six I was shooting and building firearms with my dad." He added "when I got to Parris Island, what he taught me was the reason I shot like I did."
All Marines must shoot from the standing, kneeling and prone positions at ranges extending as far as 500 yards during the test. In recent years, the Marine Corps has started using optic sights on top of the standard-issue M16 rifles to aid in accuracy, but the exam still requires a firm grasp of marksmanship fundamentals in order to pass.
There are three targets, each scored from 5 to 0 points (a 0 is a miss). Each recruit fires 50 shots for a maximum score of 250.
The first target is shot at around the 200- and 300-yard lines, from the sitting, kneeling and standing positions.
The second one, which looks like a person looking over a barricade, is used for rapid fire (10 shots in 60 seconds) at the 200- and 300-yard lines, from the sitting and prone.
The third target is a human silhouette and is used to test for slow fire at the 500-yard line from the prone position. At this range, the recruit is shooting at a target with just a sling for support. The rifle can't touch the ground or anything other than the shooter’s body.
No other military branch expects all of its recruits to be deadly at such long distances. A 190 is the minimum score, and few recruits break well above it.
But it wasn't a daunting task for Ferrell. For him, practice makes perfect.
“I would go out to a family friend’s range five days a week and practice shooting from distances of up to a mile," he said. "It’s a great pastime and teaches you lessons that stay with you past the range. Practice before I got here was definitely a big part of it, but getting into a relaxed state of mind is what helped me shoot."
Ferrell's father, George, was excited to hear the news.
“I’m so proud of him — no matter what, I’m proud of him but this is above what I expected,” he said in a statement. “I always told him to strive to be number one, and the fact that he was able to accomplish that is just a testament to his hard work.”
While his friends and family are extremely proud of Ferrell, he's still a Marine recruit, and his drill sergeants still managed to put him in his place.
"After I shot a 248, everyone was congratulating me, but when I got back to the squad bay my drill instructors gave me a hard time for dropping those two points,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell is expected to become a Marine and graduate Sept. 4.