While there is little doubt that Audie Murphy was an excellent shot, I can see how a question might come up, considering that he was only awarded the Marksman level of badge, which is the lowest qualification. The intermediate level is Sharpshooter, and the highest is Expert. It does seem a bit odd that he only qualified at the lowest level, considering he was shooting from a young age to put food on the table, and certainly displayed serious skills later in life.
In the 60s, when I went through Basic Training, most guys got either Expert or Sharpshooter – probably over half, as I recall. All I got was Marksman, myself.
However, the Army being what it is, sometimes the way they judge “skill” can be a bit inflexible and unrealistic, which I suspect was the case with Audie. It would be interesting if someone had asked him about this peculiar indicator of his shooting skills.
In my case, I was a fairly skilled shooter when I enlisted, having been raised in a small town in the middle of the woods, but there were certain “required positions” you had to shoot from as part of the rifle qualification. Being a weightlifter, I could not, physically, “sit on my heels” to shoot from what was called the Squatting Position -- my joints never have worked that way; the thigh and calf muscles were just too overdeveloped. The Army, always rather stuck on literal rules, had a solution. The drill sergeant pushed down on my shoulders as I was shooting in that position, though I was mostly shooting up in the air (or who knows where) during this extremely painful (for me) process – which of course got me a zero score for that particular part. The rest I did fine on, but only totaled enough for Marksman, overall. Once I got past Basic Training, the qualification rules were quite liberal, so I always shot Expert on the Carbine & other weapons.
I doubt whether this particular lack of joint limberness was Audie’s reason for scoring so poorly on the rifle range, but no doubt others fell victim to the Army’s occasionally silly interpretation of rules.
Also, most of us knew that what was called “pencil qualification” existed. Basically it was just fudging by the drill sergeants, who “qualified someone with their pencil.” Sometimes it was done when a recruit just kept missing the minimum Marksman score by one, so the sergeant faked the score rather than have to drag the kid back another day and do it over again. Sometimes it was done when a recruit was in the hospital or on Sick Call the day of the test, or doing some other duty. The NCO would just “qualify him on paper” (often with a minimum score), especially if he knew the kid could shoot, or if he knew the kid had enlisted for cook’s school or chaplain’s assistant, figuring his rifle skills were unlikely to be very important. Not a commendable approach, perhaps, but it did happen.
Generally, the Army’s rifle evaluation is a pretty good indicator of someone’s skill with the weapon, but obviously something went quite haywire when they tested Audie Murphy.