General

48 Hours Out; Pre-Training Inspection

 

I will have a more complete AAR of the training event in a couple weeks, after I’ve had time to process it. For now, being 48 hours out, I wanted to go over the items I’m taking along.

This is a four day training course at Max Velocity Tactical (MVT). The first day is Rifle Skills, which covers the bases of techniques needed for the following three days. The first day’s content includes:

  • Safety
  • Marksmanship Fundamentals
  • Grouping & Zeroing
  • Weapon Manipulation: malfunctions and stoppages
  • Shooting positions
  • Support side shooting
  • Facing movements / ‘ready ups’
  • Controlled pairs /hammer pairs / stream fire.

The next three days are the Combat Team Tactics course. This is class is designed to teach basic tactical combat rifle and team skills from individual up to pairs and team level. It is part of a training progression that MVT offers, with the next steps including combat patrol, CQB, and even force-on-force training using UTM rounds.

The content for CTT includes:

  • Safety and active muzzle awareness
  • Rifle Manipulation
  • Stoppage Drills
  • Combat Shooting
  • Controlled Pairs, Hammer Pairs, Stream Fire
  • Combat mindset and stress effects
  • Reaction to Contact Drills: RTR & Burst Movement
  • Intro to Patrol Movement
  • Use of Cover
  • Taking & Breaking Cover
  • Observation & Target Identification
  • Buddy Team Fire & Movement
  • Pairs & Team Break Contact Drills
  • Use of the Flank to Assault
  • Introduction to the Squad Hasty Attack

On Attending Tactical Training

This blog has always had an emphasis on marksmanship, and that has been my focus for the last three and a half years. A lot of that emphasis was due to the circumstances of living in California. Prior to that, when I lived in Montana, I spent a lot more time with action shooting (AKA 3-Gun and 2-Gun). While my focus has been on the practical application of marksmanship, I have always been a staunch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. That includes all aspects of owning firearms, including self defense.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a firm believer in the concept of banding together in times of crisis to protect yourself, your tribe, and your community. If anything, the recent spate of natural disasters should demonstrate the necessity of this position. When things get really bad, someone else coming to help you is not a guarantee (or even really likely).

Attending this kind of training moves me closer to that vision, of being better able to protect my family, friends, and community.

In the end, this is about being a well-rounded gun owner and citizen.

METT-T

If you recall, planning should focus on the principles of METT-T. This is how I am looking at things:

  • Mission: To learn effective rifle fighting and small team tactics for use in emergency situations and to grow as a gun owner and armed citizen advocate. This implies time spent manipulating weapons, maneuvering in and out of various shooting positions, traversing over unknown terrain under load, and retaining information. Possible constraints include lack of prior experience and moderate level of fitness.
  • Enemy: The enemy is time, focus, and complacency. There is a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time, which will strain knowledge retention. Focus and complacency can lead to negligent weapons handling and/or a wrongful assumption that “I’ve got this.”
  • Troops Available: This is primarily about me, but I know roughly how many other students will be attending. I do not know their backgrounds, relative skill levels, or dispositions. Everyone will be well rested. For myself, I have a relatively good grasp of marksmanship fundamentals, which will help me focus on the more tactical portion of the training. I am highly motivated, and physically up for the task.
  • Terrain: The course is taking place in a portion of the country known for difficult terrain. There will be lots of elevation gain/loss during traversal. Lines of sight are restricted by heavy forest. As of this writing, the weather is forecast to be a low of about 50 degrees each night, and a high in the upper-mid 70’s each day. Days are expected to be sunny and without precipitation.
  • Time: Time is not unlimited for this event. There is definitely a curriculum to work through, and a set amount of time to accomplish it. I do not know the itinerary at this point, so there isn’t much I can say here.

The Gear List

MVT presents this gear list for the course:

  • *Fighting Rifle: a semi-automatic battle rifle utilizing detachable magazines of minimum 20 round capacity. AR/AK type platforms are an example of a suitable rifle. The safety must be operable with the firing hand, by finger or thumb, without removing the hand from the pistol grip.
  • Rifle spare parts/spare rifle/optics are useful in case of failures.
  • *The safety selector on your rifle must be easily manipulated with the firing hand.
  • *Rifle magazines (20 or 30 rounds standard capacity): minimum eight.

(Magazine Tip: unique tape on your magazines will help you find and identify them if you drop them on the range).

(Magazine tip: bring as many magazines as you can, pre-loaded, to avoid wasting time loading mags between drills. You will require 4 empty magazines, with loose ammunition, for the first day of the CTT class)

  • *Eye protection
  • *Ear protection: Howard Leight Impact Sport/Pro electronic ear protection, or a similar product, is recommended. These will cancel out the harmful sounds of weapons firing, while allowing you to hear commands. They are excellent for tactical training, and safety.
  • *Load/ammo carrying gear: ‘Load-Out’ i.e. battle belt/plate carrier/tactical vest
  • *Water source: canteen/ camelbak/ water bottles
  • *Bug repellant

That’s the minimum list. My own list from reading AARs from people attending training, both at MVT and elsewhere, includes some more items. Here’s the breakdown.

The Weapon(s) and Ammo

I plan to run this course primarily with my original AR, the 16″ Recce (otherwise known as Ascalon). I’ve swapped back and forth with optics, but I believe I’ve settled on mounting the TR-24 for this. Since I don’t quite know what to expect, the 1-4x variable offers the most versatility between close and ranged targets. It’s a bit funny that I’ve come nearly full circle on this rifle, as it has had all manner optic from the variable, to 2.5-10, to RDS, fixed 4x/3,5x, and now back to the original low power variable.

I am bringing two backup rifles. The first is the 16″ LW KISS, equipped with the Elcan SpecterOS 4x. The second is the musket, equipped with the TA-110. I don’t expect to need them, but at least they (and their optics) will be there.

All weapons have had their optics mounted, dismounted, swapped around, and mounted again. That means they all require zeroing again. I’m hoping to squeeze in the two backups on the same day as the primary.

Strictly speaking, a pistol is not required for this training event. So, I do not plan on bringing one. I realize there is benefit to wear-testing holsters and carry methods to see if it would work, but I can do that on my own time or at some future course.

As far as magazines, I’m bringing 16 PMAG 30s, two PMAG 20s, and a PMAG 10. I don’t think there will be much use for the 20s and 10s beyond initial zeroing, but you never know. I wrapped the bottom of the mags with some blue painters tape, and then wrapped a strip of blaze orange 100 mph tape (to help with finding any dropped mags during various drills). The painters tape will help keep the mag body free of the 100 mph tape residue.

For this event, I picked up 1000 rounds of Magtech 62gr FMJ as well as an additional 500 rounds of American Eagle 55gr.

Load Carriage

I plan to run this event primarily from my medium battle belt. I don’t typically use it, but I’ve added a dump pouch to the rear to help with misc items during training. This belt is supplemented by the MVT chest rig I received late last year.

I will have a backup H-Harness set up just in case. It’s a First Spear Patrolling Harness, which is very similar to the DF-LCS V2 issued to USAF security forces. It’s definitely a touch of the old school, but this style of light infantry training is pretty much exactly what it was designed for. The First Spear harness was effectively designed by the same person (who use to work at Eagle Industries), but with more modern methods (laser-cut webbing, tubes attachments, etc.) I don’t know if it will get any actual use, but I may try to work it in and see how it does.

Clothing

  • There’s not much to put here. I’ll be carting along one beater pair of my old Air Force ABU pants, a pair of TAD Recon AC pants, and TAD Force 10 RS pants. All three are slightly different cuts and styles, so I’ll get a chance to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • For boots, I plan on sticking with my Salomon Jungle Ultras. I will have a pair of Danner Tachyons as backup.
  • Shirts are just a mix of moisture wicking ones I’ve got left over from my time in the Air Force. I will layer as necessary, but plan on having the outermost layer be my Vertx Smock. That enables me to carry a couple more mags in the pockets without having to use the chest rig.
  • For rain gear, I’ll be toting along my issued USAF gore tex jacket as an outermost layer for the really bad stuff (unlikely), and a packable inner jacket that can be worn under the smock if necessary.
  • It’s going to be sunny, so i’ll have hats. I’ve got a mixture of patrol cap style and boonie hats. Situation dependent.
  • It’s cheesy, but I’m bringing two shemaghs. They’ve been great in the past on sunny days for helping keep my neck from burning.

Protective Gear

  • Ear pro is a set of Howard Leights and some foamie ear plugs. I’ll bring along a spare set of Peltors, but the ones I’ve got have not worked right in a long time (the microphone/speakers don’t power up).
  • My eyewear is the same set of Revision Sawflys I’ve been using for years. I’ll bring a backup set of glasses as well.
  • I’ve been warned that there is a lot of getting up and down from kneeling, and that knee pads are recommended. The easiest route would have been foam inserts for pants, but only one pair of my pants can accept them. I’ll be taking a set of Alta Superflex pads.
  • For gloves, I plan to stick with my PIG FDT Alphas, with a set of Mechanix as backup.

Misc Supporting Gear

In addition to the load carriage equipment, which I’ve previously discussed, there is some extra support gear I’ll have.

  • I’m bringing two slings, the BFG Padded Vickers, and FTW multipurpose.
  • SORD shooting mat for the first day, where I expect a good bit of being on the ground.
  • GoRuck GR1 for extra “stuff.”
  • Folding stool, because sitting is nice.
  • Rite in the Rain notebook(s) for taking notes.
  • Leatherman MUT
  • Flashlight
  • Spool of paracord
  • Spool of #36 bank line
  • Canteen x 2
  • Source 3L water bladder

And Here we Go

This is a much different experience than the Appleseed I did a couple years back. I look forward to reporting back with an AAR.

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General, Reviews

Initial Impression: MVT 3X Special Forces Chest Rig

 

FullRig.JPG

My awesome wife recently bought me an MVT 3X Special Forces Chest Rig as a gift. This is intended to compliment my belt, which has undergone several changes since I first wrote about it. I’ll talk about those in another post.

I have been eyeballing a chest rig for years. In my time with the military, I’ve noted that wearing gear on the chest, as opposed to the waist, has become the de facto standard procedure. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is the prevalence of mounted operations where a chest rig (or plate carrier) is much more comfortable than a loaded belt with pouches around the back for sitting in vehicles. Chest rigs also offer less interference with the waist belt on large rucks. In the past, wearing a large ruck meant either removing the load carriage belt, or removing the the ruck. The former option reduced your fighting capability, and the latter created higher risk for injury. Chest rigs offer benefits of mobility as well, since bulky items on the belt line interfere with clearing obstacles and navigating tight spaces.

There are drawbacks, of course. From a weight bearing standpoint, the hips remain the best location to transfer weight to the ground. Chest rigs, and plate carriers, keep the weight high on the chest and can create extra stress on the spine. There are ways to mitigate this through load balancing with a backpack, but putting weight on the chest will always be a “second best” solution compared to the hips when it comes to load bearing. The simplest way around this is to not overload the chest.

A few of the rigs I’ve intended to purchase in the past, but never did, include the VTAC MOLLE Assault Rig, Esstac’s Bush Boar A1, SKD’s PIG Universal Chest Rig, Tactical Tailor MAV, Mayflower UW, and the Haley DC3R. For various reasons, I never committed the money to any of these, though they all appear to be very well made pieces of gear.

I came across posts from MVT (short for Max Velocity Tactical) while researching load bearing methods. In fact, much of the philosophy behind my original battle belt configuration came from his earlier blog posts. Max runs a training facility geared towards teaching the skills to the public beyond the standard weapons handling methods typically seen from well known training outfits. He is a veteran of the British Para Regiment, has done contractor work in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and a veteran of the US Army Reserves. His writings are excellent, and I recommend reading them if you are inclined, but beyond my typical focus areas.

At some point, Max teamed up with Mike “Diz” Dismuke to design gear. Diz is another long-time veteran of the US military, and his work with designing functional load bearing gear for 25 years is rather well known among a few pockets of professional users with the leeway to invest in such small-batch customized stuff. Diz was known for producing the “Diz Rig,” which was fabled among much of the shooting community. He also later built a custom rig that became the basis of the much sought after, but no longer manufactured, BCM 03 Chest Harness.  He was integral to the formation of UW Gear, though it seems he has since moved on. I bring this up in order to show that even though you probably haven’t heard of MVT, they have top notch people designing and building gear.

Max and Diz have gone through several iterations of chest rigs, with each generation building upon lessons learned from running the previous one through Max’s notoriously intense training programs. These programs include land navigation, rucking, small unit tactics, simulated combat in wooded environments against pop-up “Ivan” targets, and CQB. Reading Max’s blog over the years has been a great source of insight in how various gear configurations work (or don’t work). I respect how MVT is willing to change their own product lineups quickly in order to support what they think works best.

The 3X Special Forces Rig is an evolution of Max’s Responder rig, and was done at the request of a professional user group. The main difference is the addition of a integral radio pocket.

The rig is made entirely in the USA of 1000D Cordura, so it is going to put up with abuse. I know 1000D has fallen out of favor compared to 500D, but this rig is minimalist enough that I hardly notice its weight. The rig I received appears to have top notch stitching, with no loose threads in sight and nice straight stitches. In email conversations I’ve had with MVT’s manufacturer in Georgia, I get the sense that they take great pride in being a small shop and want to produce the best gear that they can.

There is ample adjustment range, and you can see in the above photo that I taped down the excess adjustment length. The H-Harness straps are wide and flat. This provides very comfortable load distribution while not getting in the way of also wearing an assault pack or ruck. There is a single row of MOLLE running vertically down the harness strap for lashing items or attaching hydration hoses.The straps can also be removed and the main chest piece attached directly to a plate carrier via fastex buckles, if so desired. If it were me, I’d rather keep the plate carrier slick and wear the rig on top.

The 3X rig is designed to carry four 30rd AR-15 magazines. Each integral magazine pouch includes a formed kydex insert that grabs the magazine for very good retention. The tension is just right in order to create very positive insertion and retrieval of magazines without slowing anything down. The kydex inserts and interior of the pockets are lined with hook and loop in order to keep the inserts in place. Previous iterations of the rig included shock cord pull tabs, but Max and company found that the kydex provided more than enough retention for Average Joe, who isn’t jumping out of airplanes.

Legal Note: I don’t have any 30 rd magazines at home to test this with (thanks, California!), but being active duty, I was able to test it on a military range with a mix of 30 rd PMAGs and USGI 30rd aluminum mags. I just wanted to get that clarification out of the way.

kydexinsert

Behind the magazine pouches, there is a map/notebook pocket and a orienteering compass pocket. The compass pocket includes a small loop of material for dummy cording. Why an orienteering compass as opposed to a lensatic like a Brunton or Cammenga? It’s a matter of experience. The British troops prefers the thinner orienteering style like a Silva Expedition, so that’s what Max built his rig for. Not being a land navigation expert myself, I can’t really comment on one or the other. The map/notebook pocket nicely fits a Rite in the Rain notebook with room to spare.

Mapandcompass.JPG

On each end of the rig, outside the four magazine pouches, there is three rows and four columns of MOLLE.

max-velocity-tactical-3x-special-forces-rig-2-682x383-1477678611
Stock photo from MVT’s store of the complete rig
I picked up a few of MVT’s admin pouches as well. Max makes it a point to eliminate noisy items from his gear, such as velcro and zippers. In order to do this, the pouches utilize a “Tuck Tab” or “Tuck Tunnel.” This means that there is a stiff sewn end of material on the flap that inserts into a sewn in tunnel on the pouch. This method appears very secure, almost totally silent, and easy to use. I have seen this same design on pouches from UW gear, so I assume it is a specialty of Diz’s. I have not seen such a design anywhere else, which is a shame. The same method is used for securing the MOLLE straps sewn on the back of the pouch.

The medium pouch is sized to fit a FLIR Scout. It also holds my Vortex Solo R/T 8x monocular very well. I also picked up a small pouch, but am not using it at the moment.

Beneath the outer rows of MOLLE is the radio pouch. This is a special feature of the 3X rig versus its predecessor, the Responder Rig. On each side of the 3X rig is a pancaked pouch sized to fit a PRC-152. It also fits two P-Mags, or just about any other handheld radio. Two loops have been sewn on the bottom of the rig for routing antennas. There are also two more slots on each side for inserting narrower objects like flashlights, markers, ChemLights, multitools, or bottles of weapon lubricant. The two Multicam rig photos below are stock photos from Max’s store.

In wearing the rig, I find it pairs well with my battle belt. The combination offers a lot of flexibility in that i can go from a “bare minimum” fighting capability with the battle belt, and then add the chest rig for more ammunition and options. Also, I found that this chest rig can be comfortably worn under my Vertx smock for a lower profile appearance.

Overall, I am very happy with this rig. It provides all the right capability without creating excess bulk, loose straps to snag, or other things getting in the way. Over the next few months, I will put it through as much use as I can and really get a feel for it. Whatever the result, which I expect will be positive, it is nice to see another well made piece of American gear on the market.

 

 

General

The Decline of Marksmanship Culture

I’ve been mulling over the cultural devaluation of marksmanship in our country. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from. On one hand, some areas of the military still put great emphasis on marksmanship, especially the Marine Corps and various special mission units. The remainder, however, no longer seems to care a great deal. “Put the little red dot on the target, pull trigger” is about as detailed as marksmanship seems to get for everyone else. In nearly eight years of active service as an officer, I have fired exactly zero shots through official training or evaluation.

Perhaps this is intentional. If anything, the trend in modern warfare (Afghanistan notwithstanding) is that small arms combat has been happening at much closer ranges than was traditionally trained for. I can understand the bean counter perspective that spending copious amounts of money on training to hit targets at 700, 800, or 1000 yards was not directly useful to gunfights that typically took place within 100 yards or less (usually much less). The DoD’s own research following WWII showed that getting hit by rifle fire beyond 300 yards was essentially a random event, like artillery or grenade shrapnel, and that the most important factor was the size and time of exposure of the target, not the skill of the marksman. It is this research that eventually led to the development of the 5.56 round and the M16.

Of course, the more I read and practice, the more I realize that the fundamentals that go into hitting those targets at 600 yards and beyond are still very important at closer ranges. But regardless, the bean counters won and devalued training in favor of equipment solutions.

This coincides with a simultaneous rise in marketing to the “tacticool” crowd, which I admit I fell into. It seemed easier to buy new equipment that promised to make me “better” rather than actually go out and practice. And then there is the ongoing distrust of the “FUDDs” who break out their scoped 30-06 for a range trip once a year before hunting season (but at least seem to care about hitting a target at further than 25 yards), and decry AR-15’s as “terrorist weapons with no place in sport shooting.” Add to that the new generation of gun enthusiasts who were introduced to firearms by playing Call of Duty rather than their fathers teaching them the skills that their fathers taught them, and you have entire generations of shooters who have never spent any significant amount of time actually learning to shoot.

Not only do we have generations of shooters who have never properly been taught to shoot, they don’t even know where to go to learn. The military is certainly one option, but just doesn’t happen for many people. Going to the range is usually a solitary experience, or you are more likely to end up talking about your gear rather than the ins and outs of marksmanship. Some people actually get upset when you try to give them advice.

So how do we fix it? I’ve seen some articles from military officers in the past talking about rethinking marksmanship training standards again, but that’s only a small subset. How do we reach the CoD generation? Whether we like it or not, these folks are the future of the shooting world. How do we engage them to learn the right skills that they can use and pass on?