Category Archives: Mike Hartman

American Jewish Marksmanship and the IDF – Mike Hartman

I recently blogged about the fact that competitive marksmanship is a martial art. The soldier who can shoot his enemy from the longest distance wins.

Apparently, the IDF owes much of its modern marksmanship approach to an American Jew, Mike Hartman. From this 1998 article:

A 29-year-old captain who recently assumed the helm of the IDF’s Sniper School, Hartman formerly headed the army’s Marksmanship School, which he reorganized from scratch. He was “in charge of shooting for the whole Israeli army,” he recalls.

“Every bullet that’s shot in the army is [fired the way] I taught someone to do.”

This is no small feat for any immigrant, especially an American who left the California beaches 10 years ago in search of himself and wound up in an IDF uniform.

Hartman, who had never used a rifle until he came to Israel, turned out to be a crack shot. When he joined the army a decade ago his bullets hit in a small grouping on the target and shocked the staff. His commanders would bring people just to watch this neophyte shoot. Hartman has won the IDF shooting championship six times.

Historically, Israeli soldiers have been notoriously bad shots. The first time the vast majority of Israeli youth shoot a weapon is during basic training.

“When I was in basic training we did only two days of shooting training,” says Hartman.

“Now there is a schedule for every step in the army. There is a list of exercises that every soldier must do,” Hartman adds.

Recruits now have a total of 42 lessons in seven weeks of training and are recording a stunning 86.9 percent accuracy rate on the range.

“When I started we were around 5 to 7 percent. We would hit the target five out of every 100 shots fired. And now we are close to 90 hits out of 100.

“We are by far the army that shoots the best in the world,” Hartman continues. “What the army has realized…is that a soldier is not a soldier if he doesn’t know how to shoot.”

Four years ago, when Hartman took over the Marksmanship School, “no one in the IDF thought marksmanship was important.”

The first thing he did in his campaign to improve marksmanship was to create an awareness of the need for proper, orderly training. Then he designed a course of instruction that he believed would turn the soldiers into professionals.

“My field is motivation. If you are not motivated to shoot you are not going to hit the target, even if you know what to do. You have to want to hit the target.

“I try not to offend anyone, but I’m in a position where I have to go to high-ranking officers and tell them they’ve been doing a lot of stuff wrong. Tell them to wake up and smell the coffee. We’re doing things better now,” he says.

I found a slightly different story about Hartman here (Google cache):

Mike Hartman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in Beverly Hills. At 18 he moved to Israel and for the past six years has been Israel’s national shooting champion. Now 27 and a lieutenant in the IDF, he heads the army’s marksmanship unit and trains the shooting instructors.

“I love the army and I love my work,” he says. “I wake up every morning with a smile on my face. They think I’m a little crazy, but I couldn’t be happier.”

Hartman joined the IDF through hesder, a program for yeshiva students who also do army service. He spoke virtually no Hebrew when he had his first meeting with his commanding officer, who was skeptical when this brash California kid said he wanted to be an IDF sniper. “The guy didn’t know what to do with me, but they tested me and saw I was good,” Hartmen says. He had been practicing with a BB gun in the backyard since he was six, but until the recruitment test had never shot a real gun.

In June 1994 Hartman participated in a shooting contest in Switzerland with soldiers from 15 countries. “The target was 10 meters away and we had to hit it with a Crossbow dart gun. I can’t stand to watch people shoot wrong, so I kept stepping in and helping the others aim. The other Israelis were throwing things at me! I was last up and was really nervous. I knew that if I lost, my friends would be mad at me for helping the other guys.” Hartman got the only bullseye. Hartman has already left his mark on the IDF, revamping the many programs used to train soldiers to shoot. Next fall he’ll return to university at the IDF’s expense to earn a BA in philosophy. “I love everything to do with the mind,” he says. “I meditate, for concentration. I think that’s why I’m the best shot in the army – I know how to concentrate.”

“I give everything I have to the army, but the internal satisfaction I get back is tremendous,” he says. “I feel I’m giving something to this country. I could have been a rich lawyer in Beverly Hills. Instead, I’m doing something with my life.” (From _Jerusalem Post_ Magazine, 13 Oct 95)

Regarding his contributions to Jewish Marksmanship, Hartman says:

“I’m not upset that I didn’t go back home and become a lawyer. I may not be as rich. I don’t have a house or property; I don’t even have a girlfriend,” he says. “But the inner satisfaction…If I can save one life with what I teach, then maybe that is why I am in this world.”

We American Jews live in the best country in the world with respect to access and freedoms to learn how to handle firearms. We owe it to our fellow Jews to continue the tradition begun by Mike Hartman. Competitive shooting is a safe, fun, relaxing, and constructive hobby that may one day save lives. Our Jewish presence in American gun clubs and marksmanship competitions also sends a message to our fellow Americans that we share their beliefs in freedom and liberty.