Trident Concepts conducted a three day Combative Carbine, Level Two class in Central Texas. The class was made up of LE/Mil and private citizens with a broad range of skills. We saw many returning students, which is always nice and several new students to our programs. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for this time of the year, in fact it seemed to get a bit hot in the afternoons. It was nothing like the summer time heat though so probably shouldn’t complain.
We saw the standard load out of AR platforms both DI and piston guns. I don’t get too wrapped around the axle over which is “better”, it’s really the shooter behind the gun that makes the difference. I am happy to report that everyone was running an Aimpoint product of some type, or at least finished the class with an Aimpoint. We had one student who started with iron sights, but added an RDS towards the end. I don’t mind folks playing with their iron sights, but for combat shooting RDS are the way to go and vary rarely do we run across active units who run iron sights only. Be familiar with them, but master the RDS.
In an effort to save money a few students will run the less expensive 5.45x39mm. This is not a bad alternative, but we typically see instability issues or rounds key holing through the target. While really not a big deal for training purposes on graded evolutions it can haunt you as one of the rounds ended off target and caused a disqualification. While another student has some reloaded ammunition that was extremely problematic and eventually had to be pulled off line and replaced with factory ammunition. It is good practice for malfunctions in a sense, but a hard lesson. The bottom line is we require factory loaded ammunition in 5.56mm for all of our graded evolutions for good reason.
We still see the occasional piece of gear falling off and in this case a light came loose and fell off twice. The first time, the student wasn’t aware of it and recovered it while down range, the next time he was able to catch it before he walked off. Again, any screw, bolt or nut needs to have tread locker of some sort, tightly secured and preferably a witness mark if it is mission critical gear, which is just about everything on most serious AR’s.
There were the usual variety of slings and some were using the butt-stock sling swivel to clip into and occasionally this configuration would force the stock to slip out of the pocket during shooting. Again, it cost the student with a DQ. If using the butt-stock sling swivel thread the sling through manually and forgo any clips. Regardless, all slings need to have the bitter end’s secured somehow, either through taping or dead manning.
We had one BUIS run into a problem I hadn’t seen before. LWRC’s new BUIS are made with a clamshell configuration so there is no loose nut. Instead the screw “pulls” the piece together. The one we had on line could not be tightened to the point where it wouldn’t shift in the rail slot. Definitely something that needs to be returned and replaced. We also had a dustcover that lost it’s lock and couldn’t be secured. That too will need to go back to the factory for replacement.
We saw several questionable magazines that have probably run their service life that were causing all sorts of problems. From failing to lock the bolt back to releasing a round when inserted. Try to have two sets of magazines, training and duty. Keep track of them somehow and replace them when needed. They are a consumable item so don’t get too fond of them. I have a box filled with old and broken magazines that I use to create malfunctions and only for training. Actually I keep them to show the various types of problems you might see.
We had one right hand student install an ambidextrous safety and really I see no need for these devices. Not only do they often time break, but also it gets the student accustomed to a different manipulation style and doing things with his trigger finger other than pulling the trigger. We see a lot who will disengage the safety with their thumb, but then use their trigger finger to reengage the safety. Standard mil-spec safety levers are all that should be employed and occasionally drop some oil on them and they are fine.
One problem that plagued us during the class was a student with a high-end gun had the worse time trying to get the rifle to produce decent shot groups while zeroing. I could see his confidence waning so on TD2 I loaned him my bipod thinking that would greatly improve his performance during the zeroing and to both of our surprise it really didn’t. I eventually got behind the gun and while not as good as I once was I managed to get all 5-shots of a group to touch with my rifle. I couldn’t even get this rifle to print 3 rounds out of 5 into a decent group. Eventually the student replaced it with a spare, but still had some difficulties. The uppers were both from the same manufacture, but they should have done much better for the money. I was also surprised at how heavy they were and no wonder the student was having a hard time. Man, I cannot stress it enough to have the lightest rifle possible. Don’t load it down with worthless crap, lean and mean with just what you need and the lightest you can afford.
We saw some nice streamlined load bearing equipment in the class and glad to see people investing in quality gear. Define your mission and then figure out how to carry it. Don’t go out and buy a piece of gear then add everything and the kitchen sink to it. Just because it has MOLLE doesn’t mean you have to use it. I had a side conversation regarding gear during one of the breaks. A student commented how a magazine pouch that received rave revues on the Internet sucked. I gave him my surprised face look, which I don’t think he recognized so I had to explain. I think it is great to see innovation; part of what makes our country the greatest. However, some things are pretty damn good and don’t need radical new designs. I’m a pretty simple kind of guy, I figure out what I need for the mission then I figure out how to carry it. I usually wear an ultra-lightweight plate carrier with a chest rig on top. Sure, it might not be streamlined and maybe I cannot get out of it quickly, but this configuration works great for mobility and speed, two traits I cherish on the battlefield.
We saw a variety of muzzle devices in the class and again, I’m not a big fan of the muzzle break. I would rather the student have solid technique that doesn’t require equipment to facilitate. I believe it makes for a more durable shooter in the long run. There are no short cuts to being a well-rounded shooter capable of handling the unkknown, just hard work, good instruction and tireless practice.
We started out the class with the typical introductions and got right into the ballistics lecture, followed by our safety brief. Once we took to the range we worked on zeroing and I was amazed at how fast we were able to get everyone dialed in for the day. All I ask is for 4 out of 5 rounds in a 4” target and we had the whole class with 5/5! That was awesome and there were some pretty damn good groups. Consistency is the name of the game. I found that out when zeroing; I had the Magpul magazine cover installed on the bottom of the magazine and then rested the magazine on the deck. It produced a suboptimal group. I was a bit miffed by my group so on the next volley I pulled it off and just like magic it went right back to a super tight group. I also decided to play around with different ammunition and showed the class the difference in shot groups and locations with a few popular brands.
After zeroing we got our skills assessment out of the way and while most did really well I decided to go ahead and knock out the preparatory marksmanship drills. We ran into some problems with a few students’ rifles when some of the flash hiders were not installed square so the ports were off a bit. Not a big deal for the most part, but I got to wonder what else was poorly installed. We did also see a rifle with the castle nut loose from replacing the end plate and failing to properly stake the nut when done.
We took our lunch break at our favorite BBQ joint in the area and then got back to the range for our afternoon session. There was little to report in the sense of problems, everything was progressing nicely. We took the time to dive into proper body mechanics and get the students into the optimal fighting stance. I had one student who was a good shooter to begin with using a really suboptimal stance and when I tried to get him to adjust it kept reverting back, more so from a lack of buy in I bet. I asked him if he was familiar with some of the common Olympic lifts and he was so I asked him to get into a certain stance. At first he was like “what” but after he did I asked him to close it up a bit and then mount the rifle. After that, I didn’t have to mention it again, drawing the corollary to certain lifts makes it a lot easier for some students to figure it out. Another was having a hard time with the mount so after giving him some pointers sans rifle on proper posture, he mounts the rifle and viola; his mount problem was solved. We occasionally saw some chicken winging going on, but after a day or so, it greatly subsided and for the most part was replaced with solid technique. I think once a person can “feel” correct technique it makes the world of difference.
We continued to work on basic marksmanship skills then progressed to more advanced drills all along the way tightening the groups.
We finished the day working on some weapon manipulations and about the only problem I saw was folks who had a hard time manipulating the safety during combat reloads. Some find that a tough sell, but at some point we need to think big picture and not confine ourselves to a range mindset. Movement is a big one, while it is not always practical to incorporate movement while training on a flat range; it is one thing you might want to consider. Being able to perform all of your drills while on the move.
We started TD2 off with re-zeroing the RDS and then spent some time working on the iron sights and getting them all zeroed. We had some guys shoot their BUIS incredibly well, almost better than their RDS. Nothing wrong with good old fashion iron sights, they are always there and provided properly zeroed, damn accurate. We had some students who had a strong cross eye dominance and this makes shooting iron sights tough and red dots easy. The best thing you can do at the range is to squint or close your weak eye. I am not a big fan of this technique, but for short-term gains it is better than the alternative. From a long-term point of view it takes developing that weak eye so it is stronger at accommodating or focusing then things will get a tad easier. Some may not be able to get over their cross-eye dominance and instead choose to shoot on their weak side. I have heard this remedy on more than one occasion. We had a student who had come through a couple of classes shooting on his weak side because of his cross eye dominance, but through our weak side shooting drills he has gotten a greater appreciation for shooting on his weak side, which is his right side. So much so, he opted to shoot this class on his right side. Honestly, I couldn’t tell he was on his new strong side, he looked very capable and while he might have struggled a little no more so than the rest of the class. He had to remind me he had previously shot on his left side for his rifle in previous classes so he was doing something right.
We covered ammunition management and the question came up regarding scans and when to perform them. I see so many times how a student will emphasize the post shooting scanning at the cost of failing to be accurate. They are so interested in wiping the gun back and forth across the line they do a terrible job of actually engaging the threat. For the most part, there is a sequence one must follow to be successful on the battlefield. First off is you have to be alert and locate potential threats, then you must identify friend or foe and then you must neutralize the threat and you finish off with continuing to scan in order to locate your next threat. If you get too wrapped up trying to scan and fail to neutralize the principle threat you are not doing yourself or your team much good. So, once you do get to the scan there is a sequence within the scan and it starts with scanning your principle target to ensure it has been neutralized then scanning the immediate vicinity for immediate threats then broadening your scan to incorporate your entire area or responsible sector.
When we got to our diagnostic drills we progressed quite well. I was somehow plagued with a 3:00 shooting error that was driving me nuts. I couldn’t quite place why my shots were going 3:00 and honestly it was starting to piss me off. I have dealt with this shooting error with student’s countless times, but having to fix my own was a bit unsettling. I didn’t nearly have the time to devote to correcting the error, but I went through the litany of usual issues. I started with checking the zero, which was dead on. I reviewed any recent changes to rifle equipment, I was using a rifle that is designated as home defense so it doesn’t get shot that much, but I had recently replaced the flash hider and fore-end thanks to my good friends at LaRue Tactical. I had also previously been to the range to test fire and re-zero so that didn’t seem the likely culprit. Which pretty much left the Indian and not the arrow. Just when I was going to start stripping my technique down I realized that this rifle was a direct impingement gun and not the piston guns I was use to shooting (my duty rifle was caught in the wake of Hurricane Sandy so I didn’t have it for the class). My though process shifted to looking at the difference between the recoil impulse and whether that could be an issue. Still, I really couldn’t put my finger on the issue. I finally concluded that it had to revolve around my trigger finger and it contacted the trigger. Same trigger for all my guns, but I have a different stock on this gun being that it is supposed to be my lightest and shortest. I suspect that it was affecting it somehow. After several different experiments I ended up adjusting my trigger finger placement and that had a little effect. What I was finally able to realize was that as I was squeezing the trigger there was an ever so slight flinch of my trigger finger to the outboard side that I can only presume pulls the shot to the right. I didn’t have my go to rifle to confirm my hypothesis so I will have to wait and report back. Frustrating for sure, but it just goes to show you that even monkeys fall out of trees.
We got busy with our movement portion and I was really happy to see the high hit ratio that I would attribute to folks having a better understanding of their first, best sight picture and trigger management. I think some have better luck because the movement is a bit of a distraction to their brain. While focusing on the movement it frees up their shooting.
As soon as we finished the movement stuff we worked on a drill that has a lot of moving parts and works various learned skills. There are randomly loaded dummy rounds and watching the line I was very happy to see so many using good trigger management skills when the dummy round was chambered. Typically we see some major jerking and slapping of the trigger, but not so much in this class. Because there are other performance objectives you have to pay attention to you kind of forget about the dummy round. It is the best window into your “true” trigger management skills and I was happy to see so many doing well. The problem with range training is that it is range training and so most everything is a planned event. You are briefed on the drill and know what to expect, you start preparing yourself or in some cases even gaming the drill because you know it’s coming. You might not even realize you have poor trigger control because you don’t run drills that isolate that specifically. This drill does and it I wish we could run more drills that border on the “unplanned” event where the student doesn’t know exactly what is about to happy, but just has to perform. I’m looking at trying to add more of those to the curriculum so we will see, but definitely worth it if we can.
We finished our school drills with a run through the Modified Navy Qualification and I am super physced to report that 40% of the class qualified. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but believe me that is a huge accomplishment. I love running this drill as it keeps me honest, I will know if I’m slacking on my PRODEV because I’m not hitting my baseline scores. I was also very happy to report that we had our first student who successfully attempted to re-qualify and better his score. What this means is that if you want to increase your ranking from Marksman, Sharpshooter or Expert you have to run through the drill again. I will hold your existing badge and if you improve it, give you a new badge commencement with your new ranking or you get your old badge back if you shot the same ranking, but if you fail to qualify we keep your badge and you have to start all over. I am always happy to see guys try to improve their scores. We have had several who opted to not risk loosing their current badge, which is fine and I get, those who risk it haven’t done so well and usually they screw it up big time like with a complete miss for some reason. I was very happy to see this student re-qualify and get his badge back; I would have loved nothing more than to see his ranking improve, but not this time. Bravo Zulu DY!
We set up for the final test, which everyone did very well and like an idiot I left my ipad at home so I could provide the class grades onsite. As soon as I got home I updated and emailed everyone’s score so at least they had the scores when they got home. Lesson learned on my part. Great comments from the class during their debrief and a big one being improving their bio-mechanics. We will be working harder to get that word out in the future classes as well as subsidizing that with it’s own stand alone program. Great way to finish the rifle classes for 2012 and I’m already looking forward to next year’s programs.
Overall the class was a huge success and we look forward to future programs. Please do not hesitate to contact us for clarification on any points or comments.