Imagine this: you are a judge at a JROTC competition assigned to judge one of the exhibition drill categories. During a performance, a cadet drops his rifle, comes to attention, salutes the rifle, picks it up and continues on with the performance. The “Face-Palm” action would be inappropriate in this situation.
Saluting a dropped rifle has to be one of my biggest pet peeves. There is no reason for it and, to me, makes the Driller look less than intelligent.
It was started decades ago as a way to make a cadet who dropped, look silly. The embarrassment was meant to help you not drop- which it never did. It’s absolutely ridiculous to salute a dropped rifle. When you do, you are telling everyone, “Hey, I just dropped the rifle and I’m not going to try to minimize the effect that the drop has on my performance. I’m going to look stupid and salute an inanimate object.”
What if (see the picture at right) the cadet picks up the rifle, brings it to the Order position and brings his left hand across for a salute? No, this isn’t any good either! This is not a salute for the rifle it is a salute that the Marine Corps and Navy still execute when at Order. It is one of three different salutes rendered between individuals when at Order or either Shoulder position. The Army ceased performing these salutes many years ago.
Between the rifle and the Driller. [Buzzer sound] Wrong- thanks for playing! Respect is between people, respect from a rifle is impossible.
You will not find any kind of guidance like what you have read here in any military manual. Yes, you will be taught to fully respect your equipment, including your rifle, when in the military- that is a must. Your life and the lives of others depends on how well you take care of your equipment at personal and unit level. That is a completely different context, one that is not applicable to JROTC. After all the rifle with which you drill will not save your life- even if it is a Demil.
Lastly, it doesn’t matter whether you are practicing or performing, never salute a dropped rifle.