Trident Concepts conducted a three-day Combative Carbine, Level Two (CC2) at the Sig Academy in Epping, NH recently. The class was made up of law enforcement officers, private citizens and several staff members from Sig. The facility at Sig has grown so much in the recent years, proof of solid leadership and a good product. It is so easy to do classes at Sig, the facilities are great, the staff is top notch and we get some outstanding students to come to the class. We had several come from great distances to be with us and unfortunately one would have to depart after TD1 due to an emergency. We wish him and his family the very best.
The major wild card for us was the weather, at times it was calling for mid-50°’s with 70% chance of showers and while we got a light misting at times, the cloud cover gave us some great weather and on TD3 it was cool enough to have to throw on an extra layer…bonus!
We see far less problems with rifles in our classes and from talking with other top instructors they are seeing similar trends. That is great news; it’s nice not to have to worry so much about the reliability. We still see some other craziness the biggest being rifles that are just too damn heavy for what we are doing. While the term rifle and carbine are synonymous, I interchange those terms often myself, the fact is a carbine is supposed to be “light weight”. So, aside from adding all sorts of crap to the overall weight, you have to look at the weight of the carbine itself. When all else is equal, go with the lightest you can handle and afford.
Red dot optics continues to dominate on this carbine platform and we saw the majority in this class being from the Aimpoint line, mainly the micro T1. I love this little guy and with the new 2MOA dot version I don’t see many other competitors offering anything better. Despite how awesome this optic or any optic, it is only as good as the interface or the mount. Even the best mount is of little good if not properly mounted. Take the time to get this done correctly and if you don’t know, then ask or do a web search. We have a great video that we produced on our YouTube channel.
Backup iron sights are still mission essential on a carbine. Many of the current brands are plenty good enough, but I still recommend apertures that are “same plane” and then make sure to properly install and apply some type of thread locker to keep them secure. Each time you add something to your load out you always want to do a sanity check. Can I reach it from these positions, will it work under these conditions. In this case, we had a front BUIS that was not deployable because the white light was placed so close it interfered with the deployment. Good we found out about this during training and not when it counted.
Slings have also come a long way and I’m really happy we don’t have to fight them as much. You still need to care for them, make sure the bitter ends are secured. Even then, make sure they don’t interfere with your ability to fight; you should never fight your gear, it should always fight for you. In this case, we had some slings with “floppy” bitter ends that would get sucked up into the magazine well. Even those that were tapped up still had a nasty habit of being sucked into the magazine well.
I’m still amazed that while working positions we see gear adrift; mainly magazines. It is a come as you are war, if you loose some of your gear because you were climbing something, getting out of something or wrestling with someone, you are really not helping yourself. If you are carrying the gear it is obviously important so treat it as such. Either retain magazines with flaps, straps or buckles or find better magazine pouches. One of the big ones is when you have a double magazine pouch, then remove one for a reload. The remaining magazine doesn’t really have any retention and easy to loose even if you are just running to cover ground. Do all of your magazines have to be retained, probably not, just choice wisely and make sure you put your gear through a “dip test” of sorts.
It seems a common trend these days is to create these crazy “batman” utility belts. I’m not a big fan of anything that will slow me down or weight me down and I think what is more important is to really define your mission. What is the bare minimum load out you need for whatever your mission. From there, figure out the best way to carry it and keep in mind that it may not be on a belt. I feel a good lightweight chest rig is a great compliment to a rifle. Something that can carry not just magazines, but a few other supporting items. When you have to start climbing things or getting in and out of things it is pretty easy to see the down side. Plus that doesn’t even take into consideration getting wet! Holy cow some of those things are going to pull the pants right off the wearer when wet.
We started TD1 out with a short ballistic lecture and then covered zeros and how we would zero. Within the first volley I was very happy; these guys were shooters. We had many who were already dialed in and could repeat their performance so consistency was pretty high. Then those who were off were not off by much. We had a huge class and to zero all of them in a normal type class could have taken forever, these guys were done ahead of the allotted time. We setup for our skills assessment and these guys put together a very high class average. It was clear we were going to have a great class. I had to really debate whether we should run through the basic marksmanship drills or skip them to get into the heart of the class. I could easy make an argument that these guys were doing well enough to move forward, but in the end decided to cover the bases.
As we continued to progress through the drills I do my best to emphasize how important certain components are to a solid shooting platform. Things like, stance, mount and grip are covered in depth. Even then it is still important to explain how each of these components work independently and then in sync to create the optimal platform. A major emphasis is the proper muscle groups that need to be recruited to work in concert. I see so many folks who have a hard time with this concept and we took extra time to go into greater detail on how this works.
In just about every class we run we have a micro-discussion on first, best sight picture and the importance of it for combat marksmanship. You have to be able to see what you need to see, but recognize under combat conditions the window of opportunity will be fleeting. You will have to break the shot the moment the sight settles on target, you have to fight the urge to make the sight picture “better”, sometimes good enough is better than best.
Couple the first, sight picture with a quality trigger press and that is how you achieve first round lethal strikes under pressure. There is so much associated with the trigger that it is no wonder it plagues so many shooters. I love to hear how when students intensify their focus on the trigger, how it all seems to come together. I totally agree, get the movement down correctly, create a habit and reinforce that habit over and over. That is the real key to shooting straight, creating the correct habit. Too bad we are such an “instant gratification” society as this takes some work. Once folks can assign the right reward to their habit, it makes the routine so much easier to accomplish.
We got through all of the days material with little fanfare and we actually were ahead of schedule. It was nice to see a class run so smoothly with this many students.
TD2 started out with a re-zero and many would refine their zero even more. I think something that can be frustrating is when you see a student’s zero shifts. There are lots of reasons for the shift; a simple one could be loose equipment. Reference the comment earlier in this AAR. After that, a very common reason would simply be that the student is getting better at shooting. This is a good one so when I see it I try to point it out and we had several who on the first volley you could tell were bummed. Once I explained what was going on it made more sense and allowed them to really dial in their zero even more. We also worked to zero the BUIS, which actually went equally as well. One student asked why he can shoot his iron sights so well and is RDS is a bit “sloppy”. That is a good question and my best response is iron sights require a fixated focus on the front sight to shoot well. Red dots are more forgiving and when we see a student who is having problems like this a likely culprit is the wandering focus. Their focus wanders between the target, the dot and some place in between. For optimal performance you should be focused on the target with a RDS, avoid the temptation to wander. Try to remind yourself that the greater reward rests with focusing on the target and trusting your instincts.
We worked positions the rest of the day along with some more marksmanship drills. Positions were achieved with relative ease and while most don’t like the kneeling, it is really getting more popular. The key is just as with standing you have to establish a solid base, really dig into the ground and lock in your mount. I see a lot of folks just hold the gun in position, instead of locking it in with a solid mount and powerful grip. The applications of the marksmanship principles are no different, first, best sight picture and smooth trigger work.
We worked some head to head competition along with along with some other forms of elimination drills. It was great to see folks work hard to step up and perform so well. We were very luck to have some prizes to award off the CR contingent so thank you to Surefire and the boys from CR. Look forward to having them back in the class.
TD3 kicked off with some diagnostic drills and whenever possible I try to shoot these drills myself. I love them and they work at helping to isolate good and bad within the student’s technique. Over the years through the development and enforcement of standards we have seen the benefit to objective evaluation of various techniques. It has really allowed us to tweak our approach towards mastering the fundamentals. While we brief the methodology we see the most results from a large pool we occasionally still see the hard sell. Within the first few minutes of live fire training our staff can assess the line and see potential problems in the making. Some are quick to adopt new techniques, others slowly adopt then there are those holdouts. Eventually the standards help folks come to their own decisions. It took a couple of days of one student to struggle before we saw him start toying with alternate methods. At that point we do our best to provide the most instruction so the transition is as smooth as possible. In the past, if the student doesn’t see results quickly they are more likely to throw the towel in and go back to their old technique. The diagnostics do a great job of getting them the win to keep pressing forward. The student in question continued to make great strides through out the last day and his daily scores were much higher than is first two days. Is final outcome could have been much different if he had adopted this change sooner. Well, better late than never. Another very capable student used another technique during the class, he managed to do very well, better than the majority of the class, but he recognized something important…he could do better. That is the main point; there are a lot of techniques that are out there. Establish baseline standards to use for evaluation of them, let the standards dictate what your technique.
Another enjoyable drill is shooting off our weak side. Not a lot of people take the time to develop familiarity much less proficiency. Not a real big deal unless you plan to bust corners in an effort to clear oddities or dead spaces. Another major point is more along the lines of teaching left handed shooters. Since we generally have at least one per class it is to see a little role reversal. We still continue to have problems with slings. I saw quite a bit of adjustable slings taped off or attached so narrow they didn’t allow for an easy transition to the weak side. You can still do it by swimming out of the sling, but it would be really nice if you didn’t have to.
The first best sight picture can be an anomaly until we start to shoot while moving. Then it becomes a bit easier to understand or at least appreciate. You have a limited window in these drills so if you don’t have the technique down you accommodate using other suboptimal techniques such as changing your movement speed or technique, attempting to ambush the target. Separate the lower unit from the upper unity, achieve a solid, locked off mount, employ your first best sight picture and drop the hammer cleanly. That pretty much sums it up.
A bit off topic, but we normally cover this in great detail during our Level 1 classes and that is safety manipulation. By the time we see a student in Level 2 they should already have a clear understanding of safety manipulation. The problem we see is so much range mentality trying to drive TTP development. The application of combat marksmanship is part of the overall situation. Folks get into the habit of running off safe on a range where there is some pretty clear rules about muzzles down range, straight firing line and myriad of other assumptions. They don’t have travel to real world situations; so the questions is then how do you deal with this situation. For us, it is simple; we are more inclined to tell you “when” you should put your safety on, not when you take it off. Safety goes on when you are moving and not actively engaging a threat, when you are performing manipulations where the safety can placed on or anytime you will sling or relinquish immediate control. Here is a big picture look, so during our standard combat reload drills we preach about safety manipulation. Then we progress to more complex drills from a stationary position. Then we progress to performing this drill while in motion. Yes, muzzles should be in a safe direction, but not always and yes fingers, should be off the trigger, but not always. Placing the safety on in these circumstances. People will argue they forget to take it off safe after the reload so they should avoid putting it on. How does that make sense, first it is a training issue, once you train yourself to take the safety off it shouldn’t be an issue. Keep the big picture in mind, on the range we typically follow most reloads with another volley of fire. That might very well be the case in combat, but before you assume that, think it through and then consider how much time it really takes to select fire.
This class shot extremely well, we saw lots of great performances from everyone at times. The Speed drill was no different, usually it is rare to see all runs at least someone move off the 50 yard line, but this class, all runs we saw someone move off the 35 yard line. A huge accomplishment that would be echoed on the Modified Navy Qualification, we awarded 6 Marksmanship badges in this class and two of them were at the Expert ranking. We don’t’ see those too often, but it is more than doable. Solid fundamentals executed smoothly, but quickly are what pays off. The computer program is set up for the majority so when we have someone who shoots it at subpar we have to do the math ourselves, praise for our public schools since I didn’t get the decimal point rounded correctly. It affected the overall score by 1 point, but it was a huge point. One shooter shot it perfectly and was subpar. I have done this only a handful of times so it is not easy and he did an outstanding job a true accomplishment.
We set up for our test and we saw a lot of people do really well. Again, this class is all about consistency, consistently applying the fundamentals as quickly as you can guarantee the hits. We ran our debrief and I really enjoyed the lessons learned, we hear them at each class, but it is still really nice to see that light bulb kick off again. My biggest take away from this class is enforcing standards, people will rise to the occasion if you create the opportunity for success. Bravo Zulu everyone.
Overall the class was a huge success and we look forward to future programs. I want to thank the great folks at Sig Academy for doing an outstanding job of hosting our classes. What a great bunch of folks, down to earth and hard shooters.