Small Arms School Corps

Small Arms School Corps

Small Arms School Corps cap badge
Active 1853-Present
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Role Small arms training
Garrison/HQ Land Warfare Centre, Warminster
March March of the Bowmen from the Robin Hood suite

The Small Arms School Corps (SASC) is a small corps of the British Army, established in 1853 by Lord Hardinge,[1] and responsible for maintaining the proficiency of the army in the use of small arms, support weapons and range management.


Prior to 1838 the majority of British soldiers were issued with the "Brown Bess" Land Pattern Musket, a smooth-bore, muzzle loading black powder flintlock musket which had seen service in one form or another since 1722.[2]

"Brown Bess" musket

In 1849, Claude-Étienne Minié produced the Minié rifle, although still a muzzle loader three important advances were incorporated. Firstly it utilises a rifled bore; secondly used an expanding bullet that a) improved accuracy out to 600 yards and b) greatly reduced the time required for reloading a rifle and thirdly incorporated percussion cap ignition of the black powder charge. Re-equipment of the Army with this new firearm being adopted in 1851, by the British Army through to 1855.[3]

The consequence of this was that the army now had a weapon that was more accurate, at a longer range, was quicker to load and was marginally safer for the user as to ignition. For the first time since the demise of the bow and arrow lethal marksmanship was possible. Shooting ceased to be a drill and became an art based on personal skill. Elevation, windage and ballistics now played a part. In order to study these new problems and introduce a shooting doctrine for instruction in Rifle Shooting it was decided to form a special Corps of experts, who would also develop and improve the rifles and those whom use them. In March 1853 the Army Estimates included the sum of £1,000 (about £91,300 today[4]) for Lord Hardinge to form an "Establishment for the instruction of the Army in rifle and target practice."[5]


From 1861 to 1867 the School of Musketry was located at the North Euston Hotel, Fleetwood.

In June 1853 Colonel Hay arrived at Hythe, Kent, with a small staff of officers. On 1 August the first instructor, Colour Sergeant MacKay of the 19th Foot, was appointed. By 15 September a further three instructors were on strength. They were Sergeant Ruston (3 Gren Gds), Sergeant Lobes (2 Gren Gds) and Sergeant Morris (97th Regt).[5] The first mention of the establishment of the School was in the Army List of 1854 when it was referred to as the School of Musketry.[5]

In September 1855 a Corps of Instructors was added to the establishment, consisting of 100 First Class and 100 Second Class Instructors who, as soon as they were sufficiently experienced (except for three who remained at Hythe), were distributed to Depot Battalions and Regiments as required. These men were the Corps of Instructors of Musketry, a misnomer as muskets were being withdrawn from service, yet the art form as to the use of long arms, to this day is known as musketry.[5]

World War I

The Machine Gun Training Centres had been established in 1914 at Grantham and by the BEF in Wisques, France. This was followed on 14 October 1915 by the creation of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). Originally equipped with the Maxim gun, these were replaced by the Vickers machine gun shortly after formation of the Corps. In 1919 the name was changed to the Small Arms School.[5]

In 1926 the School expanded to include the Machine Gun School at Netheravon, in 1931 absorbing the Chemical Warfare School at Winterbourne Gunner as the Anti-Gas Wing.[6]


The original badge of the School was crossed rifles surmounted by a crown. In 1929 the present badge was introduced, consisting of crossed rifles and a Vickers machine gun, surmounted by a crown and surrounded by a laurel wreath. The title Small Arms School Corps came into being at this time.[1]

On the occasion of the centenary of the Corps in 1953, March of the Bowmen from the Robin Hood Suite was adopted as the Corps March.[7]

In 1969 the School moved from Hythe to Warminster where Headquarters SASC remains to this day.[8]


The SASC does not recruit directly from civilian life, but only accepts applications from soldiers already serving in the British Army. All its members hold a minimum rank of Sergeant. Volunteers transfer to the SASC from All Arms and Services, although primarily from the Infantry.[1]


The training regime is as follows:[9]

Phase 1 - Selection and Training

Phase 1 takes place at Land Warfare Centre, Warminster and lasts for 11 weeks. Candidates are assessed to see if they have the ability and capacity to instruct Skill At Arms to the standard required by the SASC. The phase consists of how to train the trainer in the instruction of Small Arms, Defence Instructional Techniques (Trainer), Command, Leadership and Management training and Small Arms design principles. Candidates are also trained to assess instruction and conduct de-briefs. Their suitability to undertake the role of an SASC Instructor at a Phase 3 Training Centre is also assessed. The candidates conduct the Live Firing Tactical Training (LFTT) course at the Infantry Battle School at Brecon which is an additional five weeks in duration. The LFTT course is conducted either at the end or about halfway through Phase 1.

Phase 2 - Probation

Phase 2 usually takes place at the Infantry Battle School at Brecon. Probationers will instruct, under the guidance and supervision of an SASC Staff Instructor, on the Section Commanders Battle Course or the All Arms NCO Skill at Arms Course. Probationers normally wear the SASC cap badge and rifle Green Beret, but no other regimental insignia. On completion of Phase 2, successful candidates will be transferred to the SASC and awarded their stable belts and regimental shoulder flash.


Order of precedence

Preceded by
Royal Army Veterinary Corps
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Royal Army Dental Corps
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