It should come as no surprise that my decision to regularly carry has moved pistol shooting higher in my priorities. I wrote a bit about the subject around two years ago, but my focus has remained steadfastly on rifle shooting for the most part. The reason, frankly, is that I find shooting rifles to be easier, and therefore more fun.
Pistols are more difficult to master and are far more unforgiving of weak fundamentals. Despite that, if bad things were to unexpectedly happen, 90% of the time we will find ourselves reaching for a pistol out of convenience. Be it a carry weapon, or the bedside gun, we owe it to ourselves to be proficient with it.
My trusty Beretta 92A1 has been somewhat retired, and the focus of my practice has been with my FNS-9. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the Beretta. It has functioned flawlessly for seven years, but its large size means that it is not the pistol I carry. Instead, I carry My FNS-9, which has provided flawless function over five or so years and several thousand rounds. The major downside for it when I first bought it was the lack of holster availability. Today, I’m finding that the problem has been remedied by the market.
It’s no secret that pistol shooting is more challenging. Different schools and agencies have different ideas of standards. The Rogers Shooting School essentially requires the ability to hit an eight inch circle at 20 yards on demand in less than a second. Redback One and Ken Hackthorn use modified IDPA targets and standards and involve drawing from concealment. The FBI’s new standards do the same, but with modified Q targets. There is, of course, NRA Bullseye standards as well.
I suppose, the standard you choose to pursue depends heavily on your needs. For me, those needs are squarely in the defensive. I am particularly interested in Bill Rogers’ methods, though I doubt I could afford (either in dollars or time) to attend his school any time soon. The 8″ circle used in his standards is essentially the same diameter of the “-0″ zone of the IDPA targets used in other schools, and I believe provides a good starting point.
Most pistol training occurs at less than 10 yards. I’m certainly guilty of this for most of my shooting. While I’ve demonstrated the ability to make hits on silhouettes at 100 yards, or pepper poppers at 50, I didn’t exactly apply strict timing standards to those moments. As far as I can tell, there is no downside to practicing quick hits at longer ranges with a pistol. All of the skills needed to make that hit on an 8” plate at 25 yards will translate well to making hits at closer ranges. The opposite is not necessarily true.
There is also the matter of hands. I have nearly always shot with two hands in a modified isosceles stance (arms straight, feet staggered). This is obviously the most stable and contributes to good accuracy. But the reality is that defensive shooting is more than likely going to involve one hand rather than two. The second hand could be carrying something, guiding someone (like my family), or be injured. It make sense to practice with one handed shooting more than I historically have.
So, all of that said, these are my focus areas:
Hitting an 8″ circle at 25 yards on demand in less than 1.5 seconds from the ready
Hit an 8″ circle at 25 yards on demand in less than 2 seconds from the draw and shooting with both hands
Hit an 8″ circle at 25 yards on demands in less than three seconds from concealment using only the strong or weak hand
For training purposes, I could always just grab a batch of 8″ paper plates. But it is difficult to get data off of that. A better route will be NRA B-8 targets, which are 25 yard pistol targets with a 5.5″ black. If I can train to keep them there, then 8″ would be much easier.
All of this presumes I can get adequate range time to practice. Sadly, that has been much more difficult to do since the move. However, indoor pistol ranges are much easier to find that nice outdoor rifle ranges.
Not long ago, I mentioned an event that solidified my decision to obtain my concealed handgun permit from Virginia. Shortly after that, I filed the paperwork and started the waiting game. About 20 days later, my permit arrived in the mail.
On one hand, the feeling was “Oh, cool…” and I somewhat shrugged it off. Perhaps it was the reality hitting me that I really didn’t have an excuse anymore. I’ve also been seriously looking into a dedicated carry weapon, but haven’t committed. I realized, however, that it was like most things in life: the journey starts with a basic step.
I’ve been eyeballing a CZ P-01, P-07, or Sig P320 Compact. So far, though, I haven’t bought anything. The entire time I’ve been having this debate, my FNS-9 has been sitting in my safe loaded with Hornady Critical Duty. I also happened to have a belt-mounted kydex holster for it (made by the now defunct Trojan Tactical).
“Well,” I thought, “I might as well give it a try.”
The family and I went for one of our walks out among the local trails. The FNS rode outside the waistband (OWB) on my belt, but inside my jacket.
A few things immediately became apparent to me after this walk. First, the standard FNS-9’s grip can print pretty badly off the side of a jacket. It’s just too long to be carried concealed this way. I found myself resting my elbow up against my side a bit more in order to hide the print. I now realize that this is the purpose of canting the holster. Second, I found the weight of the pistol to be somewhat comforting.
The TroTac holster does not have the ability to cant, so I needed to find a suitable replacement. I ended up selecting a Vedder Holsters Rapid Tuck. I received it earlier this week, and promptly took it out on the same walk. It was very comfortable. I even ran a few errands around town with it quite comfortably. The ability to cant the holster makes a huge difference in concealment.
I will continue experimenting with positions. For now, my preference seems to be strong side kidney. I will report back once I have a final spot. I also plan to talk a bit more about the holster itself. The FNS-9 may end up being a fine carry gun, though I would still like something a little shorter and narrower.
In all, I’m finding that the decision to carry is not some magical talisman that makes things better. I didn’t really expect otherwise, though. I wasn’t particularly “fearful” before, but I do find comfort in knowing that I have more options.
There is a list of rules for gunfighting attributed to Drill Sergeant Joe B. Frick. It is usually passed around the shooting community in jest, but some of the highlights include these nuggets:
Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns
Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.
Move away from your attacker and go to cover. Distance is your friend. (Bulletproof cover and diagonal or lateral movement are preferred.)
If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a semi or full-automatic long gun and a friend with a long gun.
If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.
Most tactical training courses taken by civilian gun owners focus on quickly and accurately running a carbine. The curriculum usually includes the mechanics and care of the AR-15; fundamentals of marksmanship; malfunction clearance; and maybe some elements of shooting from behind cover. These are important skills to learn, of course, and I’ve always enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to practice them.
However, these courses only cover some select individual skills. As the rules above indicate, there is more to learn. As I would discover during this four-day course, these other skills are vital- and there isn’t any other way to develop them other than getting out and doing it.
Why Small Team Tactics?
Some years ago, I read an article that talked about the mindset of typical tactical enthusiasts (as well as preppers). In short, these individuals could learn to become very proficient in individual shooting skills, and amass large stores of supplies, but they were still individuals. Eventually, we all need sleep. In the worst case scenarios, individuals will be overrun by mobs attacking when least expected.
At some point, we have to accept that there is safety in numbers, and we will need a team.
I grew up in South Florida. I’ve lived through several powerful hurricanes, including Andrew, Katrina, Wilma, and others. While going without power for two weeks following a storm, someone kicked in my neighbor’s door and stabbed them 17 times. It took hours for the police to respond. We’ve all seen what happened when Katrina hit New Orleans, or what happened recently in Houston. Puerto Rico is still in rough shape from the recent storm season. I’ve lived in places with blizzards, fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. My prior profession also gave me unique insight into the “what ifs” of the world. After that, you come to accept that there will be situations where the veil of civility drops and you are on your own. At least for a while.
If one of my underlying goals is to protect my family and community, or at least my “tribe”, then it stands that I should start learning how to fight alongside them.
This is what brought me to Max Velocity Tactical.
I’ve seen Max’s articles on and off for a long time. It was his old posts that first got me rethinking my battle belt configuration. Max shares a similar background to most of the well-known tactical trainers. However, he gained notoriety through the prepper market rather than the tactical. In a way, that makes a lot of people cautious about his courses and writings. There is a negative undercurrent of “militia training” surrounding civilians learning small unit tactics that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. There is a definite stereotype associated with that idea, and most folks in the tactical market avoid it.
That said, in talking with him during breaks, Max has been distancing himself and his school from that image. He wants to attract a more professionally-minded tactical audience. This group invests in quality equipment, training, and fitness. They aren’t trying to be a bunch of Walter Mittys, just people developing skills. The message I noticed all during class was that this had nothing to do wth politics. In fact, I can’t recall any political comments on the part of the instructors whatsoever. Any discussion of motivation focused on teaching people a more complete tactical skillset. More still, a lot of discussion centered on how to improve the courses and training.
The courses he offers, as well as the supporting events, are part of an ecosystem known as TacGun. This philosophy focuses on developing well-rounded citizens who with not only the ability to shoot, but the ability to function as a team. That also includes demonstrating leadership and work towards the high level of physical fitness.
Those who prove aptitude in these courses sometimes get the opportunity to act as OPFOR when US Army ODA groups come train at the MVT facility. From talking to those who have had this chance, the lessons learned and camaraderie are striking. I, for one, think that would be an awesome opportunity for anyone interested in tactics.
The Training Facility
Max Velocity Tactical (MVT) is one of the few schools in the country that will teach small unit light infantry tactics to civilians.
Max, the owner and lead instructor, is a life-long infantry soldier who “grew up” in the British Parachute regiment. He also spent time with the British Special Forces Support group. He has six deployments as both an enlisted soldier and officer. Of note, he spent a tour selecting and training recruits for the Parachute Regiment. After leaving the military, he spent five years as a government contractor for both the US and UK in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The main training facility is about 40 miles west of Winchester, VA, occupying a 100 acre wooded section of the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. It includes a variety of ranges for training a wide breadth of skills from CQB to Combat Patrolling. Dug in pits dot the terrain. These pits include PT-61 pop-up target systems, to which Max fixes 3-D “Ivan” targets.
The terrain in much of the facility is…unforgiving. Once off of the flat ranges, the hills and trails are punishing to those who have a poor level of fitness or have elected to carry too much stuff in their kit. The terrain on the ranges themselves is uneven, with hills, roots, soft soil, and other debris often making correct positions difficult to obtain. On more than a few drills, I found myself shooting into cover in front of me rather than the target due to height over bore issues with the optic. These are the things you don’t get on a groomed 25 yard range.
The Training Course
Rifle Skills/Combat Team Tactics is a combination of two different courses spread over four days. The first two days consists of Combat Rifle Skills. The first day of which is a review of the AR-15 platform, marksmanship fundamentals, zeroing, and basic rifle handling. The second day teaches malfunction drills, reinforces the lessons of day one, and begins to teach movement and cover techniques on a square range. CRS concludes with buddy pair movement and an assault through. Historically, the first day was optional. Students could elect to start on day two, if they thought their skills were up to snuff. However, that will be changing next year. Students will be required to attend both days of CRS prior to Team Tactics. This could all be done in one four-day chunk, or on separate weekends within six months of one another.
I attended the RS day to help knock off some rust from my rifle handling. Four years of being stationed in California meant that I simply didn’t practice a lot of the carbine skills I picked up while living in Montana. The eccentricities of California firearms laws also meant I developed some awkward weapon handling habits.
The second two days, Combat Team Tactics (CTT), leaves the square range and takes place on Tactical Ranges 1 and 2. An outdoor classroom stands at the base of these ranges. CTT builds upon the foundations developed during CRS with a focus on communication, movement, cover, and safety. The end goal is to learn basic fire and movement drills as well as variations of breaking contact. It is these two days that showed me the things I didn’t know. It is one thing to read about these drills in a field manual, Ranger Handbook, or Max’s own manual, “Contact.” It’s another to understand the challenges associated with them.
The CTT course follows a crawl-walk-run method. Students are first provided a lecture and discussion of the drill about to be performed. Sometimes, when appropriate, there will be a demonstration. Then, students perform a rehearsal without weapons. Lastly, they perform the drill with live fire. Tactical Ranges 1 and 2 are essentially “Jungle Walks” where a team advances down a lane until they are “contacted” by pop up targets and the drill begins.
I want to point out that safety was always a paramount focus of the instructors. From the opening drills on a square range to the jungle walk lanes, the student to instructor ratio during live fire never exceeded 2:1. The instructors made sure that safety angles, muzzle discipline, and positioning were enforced at all times. I constantly heard the instructors taking note on whether or not students clicked their weapon safeties on while moving (they all did). On more than one occasion, an instructor would joke with me after a drill about, “What you didn’t see was me standing behind you with a large rock if you had raised your weapon at that moment.” Luckily, I always kept safety angles in mind.
I wrote a recap of each training day as a way to keep track of the activities performed and lessons learned each day. In hindsight, I found the course material well organized, and effectively built upon itself with each iteration.
Day 1 of the whole training event was the optional Rifle Skills day. The class opened with a safety briefing and clarification of expectations provided by Max. Through discussion, Max learned a bit about each student’s background and prior experience. It became clear that the four students (including myself) who arrived for the first RS day were all experienced rifle shooters. Two were multi-class returning alumni of Max’s other training courses, another was a retired USMC infantry officer who continues to do government security contracting work overseas.
The first day’s curriculum was adjusted in light of the students’ experience levels. We skipped over discussion of the AR-15’s history and maintenance, and moved to loading/unloading drills. The focus was on knowing the commands that would be issued on the range.
Once satisfied with load, reload, and unload, we moved on to zeroing and marksmanship. We didn’t spend much time talking about (or demonstrating) marksmanship fundamentals or positions. I would have liked a bit more here, but that’s because I’m a marksmanship nerd. We had a short discussion on preferred zero distances, point blank zero, and practical effects. Shooting positions were briefly covered. The gist of this portion of the course was to explain that there are many ways to skin a cat. It is more important to do what works for you (within reason) than obsess over minutiae of technique.
The rest of the day broke into various weapon handling drills, position transitions, and basic individual movement techniques. A large amount of emphasis was placed on communicating what was happening with you and your weapon. This would become very important later.
For the second day of training, four more students arrived. One was an LEO, another was a fire fighter, and another was a father-son duo. Of the eight in attendance, we broke into buddy pairs that persisted through the rest of the course.
The second instructor, Scott, joined us on day 2. Scott is a retired First Sergeant who came up through Army LRSC and deployed everywhere from Gulf War 1 to Afghanistan.
Scott opened with discussing malfunctions, their causes, and how to fix them (as well as inducing them for training value). Corrective actions focused mainly on variations of tap-rack-bang, but also double feeds and bolt overrides. The importance of actually looking into the ejection port to identify the source of any stoppage was emphasized.
My habits from California’s bullet button and my ambidextrous charging handle caused me grief, as I had grown accustomed to using my firing hand to do a lot of things.
The rest of the day continued to build on the basics of individual and buddy pair movement. Other topics included throughout the day were tactical reloads and scanning. The instructors are not fans of the cursory quick scan left and right that has grown popular. Instead, they emphasized a good steady scan of the surrounding terrain (and ejection port of your own rifle). This would be reinforced in the following days on the tactical ranges.
The second day finished with basic fire and movement, with a buddy pair advancing in short successive bounds covering one another.
The third day started in the outdoor classroom at the base of Tac Ranges 1 and 2. It was chilly, in the high 30’s, and there was a fair bit of shivering during the morning lectures until we actually started moving. The first half of the day built upon the closing drills from Day 2.
Rather than a single buddy pair advancing up a square range behind plywood sheets for cover, the pair would advance up Tac Range 1. The range consisted of uneven wooded terrain on a steady uphill climb. The teams would fire and maneuver while suppressing a pair of pop-up targets. Again, this was demonstrated, rehearsed, and then done with live fire.
Every time the drill grew in complexity, the course grew longer. We would “fight through” the first position, only to be contacted again by the next one further up the trail. This is where the importance of scanning began to grow. In the wooded terrain, it was not always obvious that the next “bad guy” had popped up unless you were carefully looking around. Getting “sucked into the target” was a recipe for failure.
Through it all, the instructors stuck right behind each pair. They ensured safety angles were never violated and muzzles were kept in safe directions.
Side note: these drills are the reason for the new fitness requirements (timed ruck and timed lunges) to attend training. Fighting up these hills is no joke, and people’s focus begins to drop off when they are tired. Even more so, if someone is unable to stand up from a kneeling or prone without waving their rifle in every direction, they are a safety hazard.
In all, these drills were exhausting but extremely fun. I tracked my heart rate through them, and it routinely hit 160-170- even just walking back up the hill to fetch spent magazines. My partner, the perpetually cigar-puffing retired Marine, spoke fondly of the drills. He also admitted that the terrain was humbling.
The back half of the day focused on breaking contact.
The hardest thing you will ever do in combat is extract a casualty under fire. The second hardest will be to locate the enemy. – MVT Instructors
The final day took place on Tac Range 2, which follows along a curved wooded creek bed. The drills remained the same, but the terrain grew more complicated. This is where the quote above became a factor. Finding targets to shoot at became downright difficult at a times. It was easy to focus on the ones you already knew about, and if the team wasn’t communicating as they spotted more, then we had problems. I often found myself shooting at the same few target because the cover I was behind blocked my left field of view. Had I moved my head a few inches to the right, I would have seen them and engaged.
I came to appreciate my Elcan and ACOG. They are fantastic at this sort of thing. The magnified optics helped peer into the background and hunt for targets. The illuminated reticles helped draw the eye to the aiming point. Since multiple shooters were involved, speed was less important than hits and communication. This is an important takeaway for me.
I don’t want to give too much away, but these were fantastic drills.
This was an excellent training event. I was much more satisfied with the second two days (CTT), but I understand the need to bring everyone up to a basic foundation in the first two days. If anything, I would like to have had more practice on unconventional shooting positions. Staircase barriers were already present on the square range, so it wouldn’t take much effort to cut holes in them (like the VTAC barricades) and teach those lessons. Not super important, but it would be useful to have if there is extra time with a quick-learning class.
The next logical course for me to do is Combat Patrol. That course takes the team tactics drills and expands them into planning and conducting patrols. Beyond that, I am very interested in trying my hand at the Force on Force Team Tactics event. In FoF, students split into competing squads and drill against one another using UTM bolts and rounds. However, my funding does have limits.
I would highly recommend this course for anyone looking to grow beyond just being able to shoot quickly on a square range. Learning to communicate and coordinate with others during a firefight is a skill that isn’t going to be taught by reading a manual or watching a DVD. Until more trainers get past whatever it is that stops them from teaching it to open enrollment courses, Max has a pretty solid lock on this material.
Personal Lessons Learned
It’s not about me. Once you start bringing your friends to the fight, it has a whole lot less to do with your individual speed/skill and a lot more to do with coordinating and communicating with those around you. Marksmanship absolutely matters, as only hits count, but a lot of the fancy whiz-bang stuff people attach to their weapons becomes a whole lot less important when you are keeping your rate of fire controlled and avoiding shooting from the standing as much as possible.
Communicate, coordinate, communicate- but do it quickly. I had a discussion with Scott at the end of the whole course, and the basic feedback was that my weapon handling and maneuver mechanics were pretty good, but I was simply slow to communicate. This slowed down momentum. I think my careful communication style stems from my prior military background, which required high a lot of verbal coordination and positive “echos” of commands. Still, they would prefer that a team do it correctly a bit slower than attempt to fly through and become a mess. Remembering to communicate and coordinate constantly while also trying to put shots on target is very difficult, and it simply can’t be learned from reading.
Lack of practice is killer when combined with even a little stress. Even though I set goals for myself for some weapon handling skills, I hadn’t actually been practicing prior to class. On the very first reload on Day 1, I ended up pulling out two pistol mags before finally grabbing the rifle mag I needed. Oops.
The fitter you are, the better you will be able to keep your head in the game. If you’re already sucking wind after a short walk, and then make contact, you are far less effective and may even become a safety hazard.
Do the drills to practice the skills, but don’t let them make you stupid. Two moments stick out to me regarding this. The first happened on day three. During the first two days of square range training, the react to contact drill included firing and then taking a kneeling position to simulate getting into cover. On the jungle walk, I went stupid and actually took a knee in the open on the trail rather than darting to the side behind actual cover. The second moment involved correcting a stoppage (reload) and then taking a shot at the last known target’s location (even though it was no longer visible). I did that because the drills we had practiced for the prior two days involving stoppages ended when the rifle was fired and shown to be “back in.”
The more you practice correct marksmanship fundamentals, including positions, the better able you are able to improvise when conditions are less than ideal. After we left the square range, I don’t think I ever adopted a fully correct kneeling position again. The terrain just didn’t allow for it. However, I have practiced enough with understanding NPOA and bone-on-bone to make it work anyway. The target was still hit.
You don’t need to “hug cover.” I was corrected several times for trying to bound too far ahead of my partner and the other buddy pair. In my mind, I was simply trying to get up to the next reasonable piece of cover, be it a wide enough tree or bundle of fallen logs. The reality was that I didn’t have to be next to it for the cover to do its job. As long as it was between me and them, it was working. By bounding too far ahead, I put safety angles at risk and potentially forced my partner to have to move again. Short aggressive bounds are better.
Notes on Gear
Rifle #1 went down 2/3 of the way through day one with short stroking issues. I have been unable to determine what the root cause was, so I am chalking it up to poor lubrication for now. The TR24 1-4x optic on it worked great for that application, though. However, the rear ocular focus didn’t want to stay put. Until fully diagnosed, this rifle is being moved to backup status.
Rifle #2, the LW BCM with Elcan Specter OS4x functioned flawlessly. The light weight was awesome when humping it up and down the trails, and the Elcan was perfect for target ID and engagement. The illumination setting (I used max brightness almost the entire time) was perfect for the shaded wooded terrain. It stood out just enough to draw the eye, but not so much that it was distracting. This rifle has been promoted to primary status.
Rifle #3, the 20″ Musket with UBR 2.0 and TA-110, worked great for the afternoon that I used it. The LED ACOG was superb, as expected. However, the extra weight of the entire set up was definitely noticed. The stubby foregrip was very useful for carrying the rifle in the patrol position without inducing wrist strain. All things being equal, I wouldn’t mind having to hump the musket around longer term- but I definitely preferred the lighter weight of rifle #2.
The medium battle belt was perfect. Two changes I made right before class was to swap out the HSGI Bleeder pouch for the Chinook MED TMK and I mounted a dump pouch at the center rear. Thankfully, I did not need the med kit, and the dump pouch just wasn’t useful except for gathering mags after drills. I won’t be keeping it there. The medium battle belt made a great layering item for controlling profile. I will have to write more about this.
When it comes to hats, short soft brims work better than long stiff ones. I wore a patrol cap for the first couple days, and switched to a short brim boonie hat for the second two. The patrol cap, an Outdoor Research Radar Pocket Cap in Multicam was certainly convenient. I could fold it up and stuff it in a pocket, and it didn’t interfere with my electronic ear pro at all. The boonie, a Tyr Tactical Huron short brim boonie, interfered far less with sight picture through magnified optics. Once I figured out how to make it work with my ear pro, I much preferred the boonie hat.
The MVT chest rig I picked up last year did its job well. It was low profile enough to not get in the way of any positions, or become a snag hazard, yet it worked well for reloading. Not being split front, it was a little bit of a chore to get on and off, but was otherwise nearly unnoticeable.
I wore my Vertx smock for all four days. While it sometimes grew pretty warm when in the sun, its pocket space was indispensable. On the first two days with the square range, I carried extra magazines inside the pockets (where mag sleeves were sewn in), and replenished my belt from them as needed. At no point did it interfere with movement, and I could easily see it being a trusted piece of kit.
I felt like quality eye pro made a big difference in the class as far as vision went. I used a pair of Revision Sawflys through the entire thing, swapping from tinted to clear lenses for the second two days.
I didn’t think it would matter, but I happened to wear a pair of TAD Force-10 pants for the whole course, which proved great. Not only were they durable and allowed freedom of movement, but I never realized they had magazine sleeves sewn into the cargo pockets. In all, between the pants and the smock, I could discretely carry eight 30-round magazines in purpose-made pockets.
I tested two slings during the course, the FTW multipurpose and my long-standing BFG Padded VCAS. Both worked well, but I ultimately liked using the VCAS more.
This was an awesome way to spend four days and enough money to make my wife a little mad at me. Aside from the training aspect itself, I appreciated the opportunity to vet some of the gear I’ve acquired over the years. To be honest, it all worked pretty well. I suppose that is another mark in the column for buy something good up front and it won’t fail you later.
Today was the final day of training. I don’t want to give anything away from my final AAR, but the drills continued to build in complexity. All of the lessons learned and practice from the previous days only grew in importance.
I will simply say that it was a job well done by the training team and class. You can read all the field manuals you want on the subject, but you won’t really understand them until you do it I am environment like this.
There is a funny video that goes around talking about the rules of a gunfight. Rule #1 is, obviously, bring a gun. Most people who attend firearms training are good with that.
Rule #2 is bring all your friends with guns. What I did today illustrates why that point is so important.
Day 3 gets to the meat of the Combat Team Tactics (CTT) course. Rather than starting the day on the 25 meter square range, we cross loaded our gear into trucks and drove out to “Tac Range 1.” Chairs were arranged around a whiteboard all under a pavilion set into the woods.
It was cold, about 38 degrees, and I was shivering a little during the opening lesson in this outdoor classroom. But it was all good. I dutifully scribbled notes while the two instructors talked. We covered a lot of safety, the basics of fire and maneuver, and discussed how the individual movement drills done on day 2 were to be employed.
Then we rehearsed.
This became the pattern of the day: lecture, rehearsal (without weapons), then live fire.
Each iteration of this cycle built upon the previous drill, growing in complexity by adding people.
First it was just a two shooters as a buddy pair, then a team of four broken into two pairs. The drills became more complex as the day went on.
One instructor stayed with each pair coaching and correcting safety mistakes, if needed (it wasn’t). Each run advanced further and further up the wooded hillside, with the team working against remotely controlled electronic pop up targets.
I will write more about this in the full after action review, but I will simply say that the experience was awesome.
Personal lessons learned
I let the drills from the two previous days break my common sense a bit. For one, the first time I was in charge of reacting to contact, I took a knee and fired before moving to cover. Taking a knee is what we did on the square range to simulate cover. The second one happened after a reload and I fired a shot at the enemy position, even though no target was visible. I did that because the stoppage drills (which include reloading) in the previous two days were not complete until after a shot was fired to verify proper operation. If nothing else, it shows that drills work.
Huffing it up and down the hills definitely shows why fitness is important. My Garming watch tells me I climbed 36 flights of stairs today, and my heart rate hit 160+ several times while just walking with my gear. Fitness matters!
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. If you aren’t very familiar with the people in the fight with you (and we weren’t), then you have to keep everybody on the same page. While the drills my team ran were all performed technically pretty well, we were slow because our communication was slow.
Leadership is important. Someone has to take charge. I do t think this was a problem with my team, since there was two former military officers in it (including me), but it is important for someone to recognize and take initiative.
The combo of my medium battle belt and chest rig was nearly perfect. I always had ammo available, yet did. It have my mobility hindered by “stuff.”
I brought out the musket for the second half of the day, and I was glad that I put the stubby BCM foregrip back on the bottom rail of the hand guard. While it’s not terribly useful to me from a marksmanship standpoint, it was great for actually carrying the rifle in the low patrol position. I don’t think it would have the same benefit in a lighter rifle, but in the musket it helped save a lot of wrist aching.
That said, lighter is nicer! It wasn’t a huge pain in the ass or anything, but I’ll be swichi my back to the lightweight 16 tomorrow.
Both the Elcan SpecterOS 4x and Trijicon TA110 shined in this environment. The illumination on both was perfect, and the extra magnification really made a huge difference in identifying where hits were going and what the target was doing, especially when the dust and smoke picked up. I will say that once you get off a flat/square range and into the woods, or other obscured visibility situation, they were money.
In all, it was a great day and I look forward to the “climax” tomorrow.
On the second day of this four day course, the focus remained relatively the same. Drills from yesterday were repeated, malfunctions were induced and solved, and we continued with two man bounding. It was good content, and I know a significant portion of what we did yesterday was only supposed to be done today.
I slowed things down a bit to focus on the corrections I needed to make from th day before. I kept my firing hand on the grip through all manipulations (except for locking th bolt the the rear). The malfunction drills were well done, and I was happy with my performance. In all, not a lot to say about this day just yet.
Stay hydrated. I ran into the same issue when I did the Appleseed event a while back. By the afternoon, I was fighting off a wicked headache caused from dehydration. It will be even more important the next two days.
Pay attention to holdovers. I have the optic zeroed for 100 meters. The point of impact will change significantly when shooting at 5, 15, or 25 meters. It is still generally in the right area, but if Precision is the goal, you must know and practice the holdovers.
I ran the BCM LW 16” all day. It was flawless, and I definitely have grown to more appr coats this gun than I had in the past.
Plastic MOE handguards deal with heat pretty damn well
The Elcan OS4x has been fantastic for this type of shooting. However, I dislike the mount. It hasn’t gone anywhere, but the adjustment screws on the ARMS mount keepi backing themselves off. I like was reluctant to picture them, but I may have to.
Chest rigs are definitely easier to work from than belts
My gun, as well as all th other BCMs present ran great, the cheap DTI guns combined with poor ammo crashed and burned pretty bad
Tomorrow we move off the square range and add to the toolbox.
The posts over the next few days will be short recaps is the training day’s events. I’m doing them on my phone, so forgive the typos.
Day 1 is rifle skills. This is a fundamentals course intended for those who need to be brought up ton speed on the basics of marksmanship, weapon handling, and shooting. The day is historically optional, but will not be next year. While certainly basic, I found it to be a good refresher for things I hadn’t done since the days of action shooting in Montana.
I found the discussion of the marksmanship fundamentals to be pretty minimal. But, I reckon that Max realized that all the students in the class were on top of things. For having not fired a rifle since the beginning of the year, I was quite happy with my tight 3 shot clusters during this phase (which included zeroing at 25 meters).
The remainder of the day broke down into sets of drills for weapons handling, moving through positions, and transitions from shoulder to shoulder. There was some extra events thrown in with moving into and out of cover, but that is not typical and was done more because our small class finished the curriculum early.
I would say that there probably could have been more content, but I would wager the class usually moves slower with more people. I know there is similar content tomorrow that was not fine today, so we will see how it works out.
Keep the firing hand on the trip at all times unless being used to lock the bolt back. I struggled with this mainly because I’ve grown accustomed to doing things with the firing hand. I blame California and the stupid bullet. I kept wanting to use my firing hand to actuate charging handle (I have an ambidextrous one).
When working in pairs, communication is key. More than that, don’t just yell and communicate for the hell of it- do something about it.
Stress will make you do funny things. I clearly had not been on my reload from the belt game. The first time I had to do it, I ended up pulling out pistol mags twice and then finally a rifle mag. Also, I need to pick an orientation for the rifle mags.
The medium battle belt worked fantastically, no complaints.
The Vertx smock was great, if not a little warm as the sun bore down us and th temn went into he high 70s. I are a lot of use from the magazine pouches sewn into the main chest pockets. This way, I carry a mag in the gun, two on the belt, and then feed the belt from the chest pockets during lulls.
Ascalon, the recce, choked by the end of the day. It functioned fantastic up to that point, leaving nice little piles of brass to my 4 o’clock. I don’t know if it was lube, dust, or something else, but it was suffering consistent feed failure. I was wondering if this would happen given that I’ve always questioned if it was assembled correctly by the last shop that I had remount the barrel. Rather than messing with it the rest of the day, I switched to the BCM LW 16. No further issues. I will continue running the BCM Tomorrw.
The TR24 was great, being able to move from no magnification to 4x was very useful. Although I did seem to have a problem with the ocular adjustment ring staying in place.
The fixed 4x Elcan was still quite usable, even at close range. I will get more time on it tomorrow.