On Sunday January 31, 2016 I was a student in the first KR avisaining Beyond the Basics: Rifle class taught by Aaron Marco of Sheepdog Solutions.
KR Training’s primary focus is on the handgun. For a number of years, Karl has offered his unique Defensive Long Gun class, but it’s an all-day class (which means a lot of time/resources to allocate) and over the past some years customer demand has been oriented towards handgun instruction, so the DLG class was mostly backburnered.
But, with so many people buying rifles the past few years, certainly people were coming to Karl wanting instruction on how to use this new purchase. Karl responded by offering Basic Rifle 1, which is akin to Basic Pistol 1 for a person who may have little to no prior experience to obtain a basic introduction to the concept of rifles. As well, Karl took the Defensive Long Gun class and trimmed some things to take it from a full-day class to a half-day class: Defensive Long Gun Essentials. DLG-E maintained the basic curriculum of DLG, but dropped some things such as the role-play scenarios. This class worked well to provide people with some fundamental instruction, but didn’t require a long day to do so.
Still, once people completed that, they wanted more; they wanted to continue to improve their skills. After I returned from taking Paul Howe’s Tactical Rifle Operator course back in October 2015, Karl asked me if we might be able to use learning there to create an “intermediate rifle” class. While we certainly could, I wouldn’t feel right about teaching it. As Karl and I continued discussion and who could perhaps teach such a course, I suggested Aaron Marco. Karl and Aaron got to talking, and here we are.
Aaron is certainly a proper person for such a class. Aaron is a USPSA Grandmaster-level shooter. He’s an avid 3-gun shooter. He’s also a member of a full-time Central Texas SWAT team. So consider, Aaron has knowledge of both the “gamer” side and “tactical” side of things. He can speak to both sides equally well, and he’s uniquely positioned to comment on both “gamer” and “tactical” topics, including all the back-and-forth that those exclusive to one side or the other lob about in disparaging the other side. Aaron’s got it pretty simple: if you’re a better shooter, because the fundamentals apply to either problem set, it will always help you. Granted, there are differences (and I was a good example of that; I’ll detail this later), but on the whole if you can be a better shooter, that will always be to your advantage.
It was an unusually pleasant day: mid-70’s/low-80’s in January, sunny, clear; just an excellent day to be out on the range. We had a sold out class of 10 students, with a lot of familiar faces. I attended with my friend Charles from Tactical Gun Review, and Oldest came with me as well. Aaron running the class and Karl assisting. A range of equipment, with a number of suppressors and short-barrel rifles. I believe all but one person was running an AR-patterned rifle, some set up for “fighting” some set up for competition. Two people were running irons, the rest had optics (most popular were 1-4/5/6x scopes, a few red dots).
The class was certainly set up to be a competition class (3-gun, etc.). That wasn’t my expectation going into the class, but I was fine with it. I knew whatever skills were taught would still help me become better.
We started by checking zero. This is a good thing to have done, because people were zeroed in different places, which was fine and you could keep whatever zero you preferred. Aaron was mostly ensuring people were zeroed somewhere, but also understood the zeros. Furthermore, Aaron discussed zeroing in a 3-gun context. Whereas a lot of tactical shooting might zero at 100 yards because it rarely cares about more than a 300 yard engagement, in 3-gun you may be shooting out to 600 yards, so different zeros may be needed, such as a 200 or even 300 yard zero! The game is so much about a balance of speed and accuracy, and speed is sometimes about minimizing manipulations that consume time (e.g. reloads, adjusting your scope, getting in and out of positions). In fact, much of the class had that as the undertone.
After zeroing, we ran various drills to illustrate important concepts. For example, issues of holdover. Aaron set a target and we walked back: 10 yards, 15, 25, 50, 75, 100, shooting it standing offhand each time (let me tell you, 100 yards quickly offhand is humbling), working to help manage speed vs. accuracy, how holdover changes, and so on.
We also worked in different positions such as kneeling, prone, around barricades, off low barrels, etc.. We worked on target transitions, working on being smooth with a steady cadence.
One fun drill we shot was Kyle Lamb (VTAC)’s “1/2 and 1/2 Drill)
- 10 rounds at 20 yards in 10 seconds
- 10 rounds at 10 yards in 5 seconds
- 10 rounds at 5 yards in 2.5 seconds
Here’s a video from Kyle himself:
Of course, it’s a lot of fun to blow through 10 rounds in 2.5 seconds, but it’s also very challenging. On the longer distances, you have to slow down, use all that time, get acceptable hits. On the shorter distances, you have to really go but even then you can’t rush: you still have to ensure the front sight post, the dot, whatever, is still bouncing within the target area. Then we ran the drill backwards (5, 10, 20), and that’s also a tough one because
Oh, and if you watch the video and see the results? Notice how all the hits are in the lower portion of the A-zone? That’s the holdover problem, and it’s tough because on a pistol there’s holdover but it’s not much and usually we don’t worry about it. But on a rifle it’s significant, and in running a drill like the 1/2 and 1/2, your brain gets so focused on “that target spot” that it’s easy to forget to adjust. All telling learning points.
One fun part of the day was Aaron set up a competition stage on the shoothouse berm. We pulled out some .22 rifles and ran though the stage. When Aaron was critiquing my run, he pointed out how he could easily tell I was more of a “tactical shooter” than a competition shooter because of how I ran the stage: how I’d shoot OR move (instead of shooting on the move), how I’d approach doorways, etc.. Interesting observation for sure.
I appreciated the class. It was great to finally meet Aaron (we’ve know of each other for a while, even exchanged some on Facebook comment threads; but never met in person until today). He’s very easy going, very skilled and knowledgeable. I also appreciated the extra time he took with Oldest to help him with some things.
For a first class, it was generally good. I do think there’s some room for improvement in the class flow. For example, the typical mode of operation in our pistol classes that might utilize the shoothouse berm will be to break class, everyone goes over to the berm for a briefing on the exercise/drill, then everyone goes back to the main range and continues class. Since the shoothouse drill is generally a one-person operation, then we’ll have 1 person break out from the main group, run the shoothouse, then rejoin class. By doing this the rest of the class keeps going, doesn’t stand around bored, everyone gets a run through the special drill/scenario, and things just run a little smoother in terms of time and curriculum management. In this class we didn’t do that: everyone stood around and watched while each person ran the stage. Sure, that replicates how a match works ;-) but a class doesn’t have to run that way. It’d would have been cool if perhaps the large range was set up with an array of paper targets and people worked on “with 15 yards” walking and target-transition engagements, or some other skill. Basically, keep everyone moving.
Small issue tho, and again, this was the first run of the class so of course we’re going to find room to improve.
The biggest thing I got was reinforcement of fundamentals. Again, I felt the CSAT course was not a beginner course, not an advanced course, but a fundamentals course; something that anyone and everyone can benefit from. I saw how the fundamentals worked, even in “competition”; it’s all the same. I also saw how when I forgot to apply the fundamentals, I stunk up the joint. It really reinforced to me that these skills are not fully engrained in me. Need more practice.
I also continue to see how rifle shooting and pistol shooting are more alike than different. Sure there are differences, but not as much as my brain wants to put into it. My brain needs to just “shut up and shoot”; it generally knows what to do.
I was happy for the class. It was just what I needed, both in terms of instruction, and just a bit of fun! A great day, excellent weather, good people, and yeah… getting to spend time with my friend Charles (we haven’t seen each other in a while) and my Oldest… hey, all good things.
Life is good.