CSAT Tactical Rifle Operator AAR – October 2015

I spenrx October 10-11, 2015 in Nacogdoches, Texas at the Combat Shooting and Tactics (CSAT) facility with Paul Howe, attending his Tactical Rifle Operator course.

This class instructs students on the safe management of Tactical Rifle training for Tactical and Patrol personnel. Students will shoot from 7-200 yards with a majority of the training taking place from 100 yards in. The course will address the following major topics:

  • Safety
  • Surgical shooting (Rifle/Pistol)
  • Discrimination
  • Weapon Zero
  • Standard and Non-Standard Shooting Positions Shooting Plan Development
  • Proper position for distance Target Selection

This is my after-action report.

Background

I am a pistol guy. I just don’t do much with long-guns. My rifle work tends to be sitting in a stand taking deer or hogs at 100 yards or so, and then only a handful of times a year, if that. I’ve long wanted to up my long-gun game. I’ve thought about Project Appleseed numerous times, but it’s never happened for one reason or another. Some months ago, fellow KR Training assistant instructor Ed and I were talking, and while I don’t recall exactly how it came to pass, Ed basically got me interested enough in making this class. I cleared my schedule, applied and paid, booked hotel, got the gear I needed, and away it went. Thank you, Ed!

Goals

Again, I’m not a rifleman. To be blunt, my rifle skills suck. Thus, the remedy is education, and Paul Howe is one of the best to learn from. I’ve actually wanted to take classes from Paul for some time, but given how his schedule lays out, rarely did things mesh. So when this happened, well… I wasn’t sure if this course would be appropriate for me. I contacted Paul to ask and he said it would be perfect for someone of my skill level (basically, a beginner). And lest you think this is a beginner course, it’s not. I’d say it’s more about fundamentals, and anyone that’s truly skilled in any area knows that fundamentals are where it’s at and we can always use more training, education, practice, and stressing of fundamentals.

I wanted to go into this class to learn. I already knew I was going to stink up the joint, so there were no personal goals of being “top shot” or any such thing: just don’t totally suck. 😉  But even in that, of course I wanted to come out better than I went in. As well, I wasn’t going to worry about times. I know there’s a standards course, and while it’d have been cool to make standard, I opted to not sweat it. That I wanted to just come in, learn, soak in knowledge, apply the knowledge, do what I’m told, try to keep my mouth generally shut (other than “Yes sir” and “No sir”), and shoot as well as I could.  And to that last part, it was to NOT worry about time: get acceptable hits.

Gear

People love to talk gear, so here’s mine.

The official class gear list:

All normal tactical equipment including rifle, 3 magazines and mag pouches, eye and ear protection. 700 rounds for the rifle. Bring cold/hot weather gear as required.

I know how carbine classes tend to run, so beforehand I asked Paul about any needs. For example, a chest rig. He said no need to buy one prior to class: come, see what people are using, get ideas. He said it’d be perfectly fine to run from pockets during class. That bore out: we’d run at most 3 mags of 28-rounds at a time. I did pick up a Ready Tactcal AR15 Ambi Speed Mag Pouch from SKD Tactical because why not, but honestly I barely used it in a true “needed a mag to reload quickly” (maybe once or twice). My general procedure was one mag in the pouch, one in my left-side cargo pant pocket, and one in my left-side pant pocket. For this class, Paul runs a cold range, so you are constantly loading and unloading. Thus the mag in my front pocket was the one that got all the action; if it ran out or low-enough, there was more than enough time between drills for administrative swapping around (e.g. pull out the mag from the cargo pocket, put the empty pocket mag into the cargo pocket thus the front pant pocket was the primary holder). No big.

I appreciated that about the class because it makes it accessible to a wide range of people, and you don’t have to invest a lot if you’re still figuring things out. As well, generally speaking my need for a rifle is unlikely to have me kitted out in a full chest rig and so on. So while training often requires you to “train different from how you fight” due to logistics and realities of training, I still prefer to stay closer to the setup I would use in my likely contexts.

That said, there was ample ability to look and research gea, with a fairly wide variety of stuff present. I say “fairly” because it depends what we’re talking about.

Rifles? Everyone had AR-pattern (no AK’s, no other things). Various manufacturers. Some high-end, some not, some off-the-shelf, some franken-beasts. As far as I know, all of them ran without problems. I ran my recently acquired Smith & Wesson M&P15 TS, and it ran like a champ. It’s mostly stock; I wanted to add/change as little as possible to keep it as lightweight and simple as I could. IIRC the only mods are changing from the factory MOE stock to a CTR (better lock-up, more stable), adding a B.A.D. Lever (I appreciate what it provides), BAD-ASS Ambi safety selector (ambi good), Viking Tactics original 2-point sling (gotta carry it), Troy low profile swivel mount for the TRX Extreme (gotta mount the sling, and to this particular hand guard), MI QD sling swivels (gotta attach the sling), and optics. I’m quite happy with this rifle, and think I’ve finally found an AR I can live with.

Optics? Aimpoints and EOTech were most prevalent. At least 1 ACOG. Some had low-variable powered glass (e.g. 1-6x sorts of things), or maybe a 3x magnifier. A few shot pure irons (including Greg, the third KR Training Assistant Instructor that attended). I will say, much about the class made me long for the EO’s reticle (e.g. the 6 o’clock tick and how that really helps at 7 yards), but the reticle is the only thing I personally like about EOTech’s. As for my optics, Aimpoint Micro T-1 on a LaRue LT660 1/3 co-witness mount; trying to keep things as light as possible. The BUIS are the Magpul MBUS’s that came on the rifle from the factory. That said, I’m strongly considering changing my rear BUIS to the TROY Folding Rear with CSAT Aperture.

Sling? You’ll need one for class. Most people seemed to have a Vickers or VTAC. Ed observed that everyone (but him) had a 2-point sling. Again, I had the VTAC 2-point. It worked, tho the fact it’s a very narrow strap did wear on me a bit (a slightly wider sling to distribute the weight better would be nice, but really wasn’t a big deal). I also own a Vickers sling, and am presently debating if I want to swap. Not that the VTAC was bad, but now having tried both, wanting to spend time with the Vickers again to continue compare/contrast.

Gloves? I bought a pair of PIG Full Dexterity Tactical Alpha Touch gloves and saw numerous other folks wearing PIGs. A lot of bare hands too. I heard Paul mention he doesn’t care much: buy cheap gloves at Lowe’s, so long as they maintain dexterity. I wanted gloves for 2 reasons. First, the Troy TRX Extreme handguard (what comes on the M&P15 TS) can be a little rough on the hands. Second, and primarily, heat. Because this handguard is so… extreme in vents, heat just pours out of it. I already know it gets mighty uncomfortable and it doesn’t take long to do so, so I wanted gloves. Well, as class wore on I found myself wearing them less and less. A couple reasons. First, the guns never got that hot. This isn’t a high round-count class, it’s not endless mag dumps. Paul doesn’t like to do that, IIRC because these are machines and you want to take care of them so they can take care of you. Sure we had a few runs that were enough to generate some heat, but again, at most we’re running 3 mags of 28-each then letting things cool down (“reload mags, water in, water out”, enough time for the rifle to cool). So heat wasn’t much of an issue. Then when we moved to transition drills, I never shoot handguns with gloves so it was awkward and I just stopped. You know what else? trying to handle tape to tape targets is annoying with gloves; so you take them off to tape, and it’s just more stuff to have to keep up with. Sure, the lack of gloves wore on my hands a little bit, but no big deal. I’ll keep the gloves, but I don’t find them a make-or-break necessity for the class.

What is a necessity? Knee and elbow pads. I had purchased a set of Alta Flex knee pads and elbow pads, but I didn’t use them. First day I just didn’t – was going to wait until I needed them due to what we were doing, and most of what we were doing didn’t really need them. Second day I was already in the mindset of “nah, I don’t need them”, but yeah… I regret not using them. The Scrambler (more on that later) banged up my knees pretty good. In the future, I think it’d be wise for me to just be pro-active in any class that will involve knees touching ground to just wear them. You may or may not need them, but I should have worn mine.

Ammo. Whatever, as long as it goes bang, and it’s consistent. Consistent matters because ammo from different manufacturers, different types (e.g. a 55 gr vs. a 75 gr), or even all the same but just different lots could have enough performance variance to affect your zero, which may not matter much at 7 yards but may be noticeable at 300. So at least try to ensure everything is the same so you can be consistent throughout class. 700 rounds was the recommended count, and we went through about 600 rounds. I used Freedom Munitions .223 55 gr. FMJ new (not reman). I know Greg was using Freedom Munitions as well. Ed used PMC. Couldn’t tell you what anyone else in class ran, but as far as I remember, no one had ammo problems. While I had some bad experiences with FM’s .223 reman in the past, the new ran just peachy. Greg I think ran some reman as well (due to a shipping error on FM’s part) and no problems. One of the CSAT instructors mentioned a solid buy these days is Wolf Gold: it’s brass-cased, SAAMI-spec (tho they don’t officially have that designation), mentioned some other solid things about it, and it’s dirt cheap. I’m going to check it out in the future.

Other stuff… didn’t need rain gear. Sunscreen was good. Water and Gatorade a must. Hat, eye pro, ear pro. A folding chair would be useful: you drive your vehicle right up to the ranges, so gear-hauling is no big deal, and I just sat on my tailgate (but being able to have a chair you can relocate into shade is useful… whereas a tailgate may not be relocatable). A LULA (Maglula) magazine loader makes life nicer. Be sure to have cleaning gear, and especially oil — oil oil oil. Keep that thing lubed and wet.

OK, everyone got their gear fix? Let’s get to the important stuff.

Facility, Instructors, Class

The CSAT facility is located in Nacogdoches, TX. I didn’t get the full skinny on what’s out there and how big it is, but it’s big. There’s the bunk-house/shop/classroom, then the range itself. Pictures do NOT do it justice. It’s a high-quality, feature-rich, well put-together and maintained facility.

Paul of course has a resumé that’s known. If you don’t know who he is and how he’s qualified, just Google him. He had a cadre of assistants, making for a solid student-instructor ratio. The two assistants I worked with the most, Don and Shane, I just can’t speak highly enough about. I didn’t go into the class to pick up on anything from the Instructor-side of things, but I can say as an instructor myself that I saw a lot of great things and approaches in how they did things. They know what they’re doing. I appreciated how much they truly pay attention and watch you over time.

Class was made up of I think 23 or 24 students. All sorts of folks. We had 4 LEO, some former-MIL, but mostly just private citizens aiming for self-improvement. Some folks kitted up and tactical-operatored out, some just in jeans and a shirt. You don’t need to be “operator as fuck” to come here: just someone desiring and open to learning and self-improvement.

Weather was awesome, tho a little warmer than it should be for this time of year. Little wind, tho it was quite dry. It’s sandy loam out there, and grit gets into everything. Because it was so dry, any breeze could kick up a dust storm. In fact, when we’d have 20-some people on the line shooting, many rounds impacting sandy berm, it’d kick up quite a dust cloud — heard someone say “Now it’s just like being back in Iraq”. Apart from the dust and sand tho, great conditions.

About physical fitness and physical requirements. This class isn’t all that physical but you will do a lot of walking (gotta go check that 300 yard target, so that’s 600 yards each time you check, and half of that is uphill). My iPhone registered about 12 miles of walking over the weekend. But apart from that, there’s no serious requirements. You’re on your feet the whole time, walking, you CAN run on The Scrambler (but you don’t have to), there’s getting up and down from and into prone and kneeling positions. But that’s about it. Still, it’s enough to demonstrate to you that basic physical fitness is an important component of self-defense — and just life in general.

Day 1

What we did

Again, this class is all about fundamentals.

Front hand, back hand, head and eyes, natural point of aim. Wiggle right, wiggle left, little forward, little back. Pressure breathing (half in, all out forceful, pause). Hinge point.

Consistency.

Repeatability.

This isn’t high-speed low-drag, but this is what enables you to become high-speed low-drag.

It’s not about throwing lead quickly; it’s primarily about being accurate, then fast. About being intentional, deliberate. That the rounds go where you intend for them to go. And that requires a steady, stable platform, and you have to do some things to ensure your success in that regard.

And really, while we did lots of other things over the weekend, it all came down to these basics…. over and over. That’s all it’s about, and that’s awesome.

After introductions and a safety briefing, we started by working zeros. If you had irons and optics, getting both of them zeroed. Class was paced at the students. Yes Paul had to keep things moving, had a schedule to keep, but everything was student-paced to ensure people got what they needed. Started at 7 yards standing to get on paper and discuss holdover. Then back to 100 yards prone to really get it dialed in. Paul does like the 100 yard zero. Everyone has different takes on zeros and truly there is no 1 answer for all formulas and situations. What’s more important is to understand zeroing, trajectory, how different zeros affect flight paths and POA vs. POI (point of aim vs. point of impact). Once you understand the concept, then you can choose the zero that works right and best for you. That said, if you do hold a different zero, work the 100 yard zero that Paul recommends; makes class run smoother.

As I stated before, Paul runs a cold range for this class. Why? I don’t know the specifics, but I’m sure it’s a primarily a matter of safety. But do you know what it has a great side-effect of? You get a great many reps on how to load and unload. Paul’s loading procedure I really like and will continue to use it because it proved itself to me over the course of the weekend. First, Paul recommends after you seat the mag to pull down on it to ensure it’s seated; I had a couple times when it didn’t seat. Second, after you chamber the round, partially retract and chamber check; I had one time when a round did not chamber and would not have known without the check. Third, the procedure finishes with closing the dust cover, which hasn’t been my habit but with all that sand blowing around out there, yeah.

Updated: Paul filled me in on the cold range:

The reason for cold and chamber blocks is to hammer the load and unload sequence and by the end of day 1, you have it down. I see many problems with load sequences out there and this helps a student find all the buttons and levers on their weapons.

Everything in class was a slow pace; not boring slow, but methodical. This new skill built upon the prior skill. Very logical, very solid build. Speed also picked up as we went along. Not only was this sort of build good for students to build their skill, but it gave instructors the opportunity to diagnose student issues and work to correct them before things got faster and more difficult. Again, proper pacing.

We worked through things like 100 yards prone, 75 yards kneeling, 50 yards kneeling, 25 yards standing, 7 yards standing. As we’d get closer to the target, times got faster (oh yes, eventually you shot against a par time), shots would increase (e.g. instead of 1 round, it’d be 5, etc.). Today wasn’t for times tho, it was just about learning the skills, the positions, and continually applying the fundamentals.

One thing about the timer was that today (and really, throughout the course) the timer was there but wasn’t critical. In most regards it was presented and ran to help YOU gauge where you were. Let’s say par time was 20 seconds. Timer starts, you work, then as par time approaches you’d hear “18… 19… 20… 21… 22… 23… 24… etc.” until the everyone was done shooting. The goal was to help you find how long it was taking you to do things. Since this was how the entire weekend was run (save for the final standards course), you had a constant gauge and reference point as to your performance: am I improving? you had hard data, and many data points, to measure against.

For those of us with handguns, while it wasn’t on the course flyer, we did work transitions from rifle to handgun. Not a requirement, but was done since most people did have handguns. I’d say if you have a handgun, bring it, a few magazines, and some ammo (100 rounds? if even that). Of course, you’ve got a carry license (or are on duty), so you’d have your handgun with you anyways, right?

Class was done by about 4 PM.

How I did

When you first enter the CSAT range, there’s a sign at the entrance. This sign has an arrow pointing to the ground and it reads: “Leave Ego Here”.

Despite that, I’m still human, and boy… I felt pretty low by the end of Saturday. But, it didn’t get to me too much because of my prior framing of the class.

Like I said, I knew I wasn’t a rifleman. I know I don’t have much for rifle skills. I am not fooling myself; I don’t have any illusion about my skill level and abilities here. So the only direction I can go is up. 🙂  I had already framed how I was going to regard the weekend experience – one of learning, one of improvement. So I knew where things should be placed and how to frame it.

But it still hurts a bit when you stink up the joint so much. 🙂

I just shot like shit… what else can I say? Shots would be all over the place. There was nothing to diagnose other than “stop sucking” 😉  Now of course the CSAT instructors didn’t say that: they were nothing but helpful and supportive. And they gave me a lot of input.

For example, I struggled with finding the whole natural point of aim thing and getting that to click. Just before we broke for lunch Shane told me something and a light bulb went off. After lunch, things started to fall more into place; I still wasn’t getting it all because now I was thinking about that and so other things fell by the wayside. But things were starting to make sense.

And no question the instructors are watching you, constantly. I was doing dumb things like taking my finger off the trigger, which was causing me to slap — where’s the reset? Why am I not riding? why am I not following through? Paul was right there to remind me. I know all this stuff — it’s what I do all the time with a pistol! But my brain’s in a different space… and I think somehow I was looking at rifle and pistol as different. And sure, you can make them different, but they aren’t. Or at least, there’s a lot about them that is the same: shooting is shooting. So it clicked in me to “just shoot”.

Again, I did end the day feeling pretty dejected. But I was learning, so it was all good. I just hoped Day 2 would show some improvement.

Day 2

What we did

The morning started off very cool, but quickly gave way to warmth. It’s mid-October and this heat? Geez. Still overall it was pretty pleasant and agreeable.

Whereas yesterday we were all together, today we were split into 2 groups. My group started on sniper hill to shoot 200 and 300 yards.

I realized… I’ve never shot that far. Ever. And now to do it with a red dot? no magnification? Ho boy.

Go prone. 200 yards. We were facing directly into the sunrise. While that sucked, it was an educational moment. The sun came into my Aimpoint at just the right angle and created ghosts and reflections. I recall seeing 2 dots and after some wiggling around figured “that must be the dot” tho adjusting brightness didn’t change it (odd, but I couldn’t find anything else and figured sun washout then). I did also see simple “internals” of the scope reflecting in there. I shot what I could at 200 but expected to hit nothing (and was right). Then we shifted to 300 yards. When I did that, suddenly another third dot came into view — that’s the proper dot. Shit. I shot as best I could, but figured I would hit nothing. And I was right. It was pretty depressing to walk down to the targets and be the only guy with 2 untouched targets. But at least I realized my problem.

Then I realized I had a second problem. See, yesterday Shane had me adjust my stock all the way extended. I was one notch away from full extension but he said for me to go full because I’m a big guy. That was certainly a help. But what happened was I partially collapsed it then to put it into the bag – I never collapse it because I didn’t need to before. And I forgot to extend it, and so who knows where I was with things. That’s probably why I saw nothing.

Well, we get back to shoot 200 and 300 again. This time I have my dot, I have my stock extended. I go prone. I apply the fundamentals. I shoot. They weren’t awesome shots, but I got on paper at both ranges. I was happy, because 1. I learned a couple things, 2. I had shot at distances I’d never shot before, with no magnification, and did alright. That was pretty cool. I feel pretty safe in saying that without the fundamentals training from the prior day, I would be unable to hit targets at 300 yards — maybe with magnified optics, maybe, but even then I doubt it. Things were clicking.

After the 200/300 prone work, we did “The Scrambler”. This is a field course where you walk the range to various positions and have to engage steel targets (basically IPSC size/shape, or shaped/sized as the target zone from the CSAT target) according to the signs at the positions. If you’re curious about the course, just google “CSAT Scrambler”; there are even some videos of guys doing the course. It’s challenging for sure! You’re engaging targets at somewhat known distances (truly unknown, but you can make relative guesses). You have to consider terrain and thus what shooting position to use (maybe prone, maybe kneeling, maybe standing). You should also consider things like cover and concealment. You have to problem-solve. If you have a pistol, you might have to transition. It’s physical too, since you’re generally encouraged to run from position to position. It’s also a 2-man team drill, so it gives an opportunity to work together, team communication, etc..

I teamed with a gentleman named Cody (Go Big Red!). We actually ran things pretty well. I was actually very pleased with how well I engaged targets, ringing the steel at 300 yards was a bit of a welcome surprise. As we went along, constantly hearing BOOM then “HIT!” (from whomever was spotting), it really built my confidence. Cody and I turned in a time of 10:03, which I believe was the fastest out of our half of the class! The instructors said the really fast times are like 7:30-8:00, which tend to come from the 22-year old SWAT guys that are all gung-ho, muscled up, and all that. So all things considered, I’m pretty pleased with our performance.

After lunch, our group joined Paul for barricade work and surgical shooting, as well as some movement around teammates. The surgical stuff was close-in and it does mess with your head, because issues of POA vs POI, line-of-sight vs. line-of-bore, holdover, and then how that means you may have to aim at nothing or at things you don’t want to hit, in order to actually make the hit. This is again where something like that CSAT rear aperture (or even the EOTech’s reticle) can be very useful.

Then came standards time.

To prep, we first ran the standards against IPSC targets covered by shirts. Why? To learn how to section targets and find the target zone when you don’t have paper targets that make distinct outlines. Afterwards you took off the shirt to look at the target, and hopefully you still got everything in the proper target zone. I did pretty good!

And then, standard time. This took a while because it was run individually but as a group. Basically, everyone on the 100 yard line, run the 100 yard string one person at a time. Once everyone ran the 100 yard string, we all move to 75 yards. Then one person at a time shooting that string, and so on. So individually but as a group. This allowed a record of your time and target. It also added more pressure, which is always good.

After the standards, we packed up. Paul gave a brief weapon cleaning and maintenance presentation. Then certificates and our goodbyes. Again, done by about 4 PM.

How I did

Much better.

The day started off horrible, but quickly got better. I was excited to have made hits at 200 and 300 yards. Sure I could use lots more practice there, but it was manifest that those fundamentals (front hand, back hand, head & eyes, natural point of aim, breathing, etc.) were where it’s at. Truly, the natural point of aim thing is just magical. When you get that dialed in and working, things just happen.

And yes, having never made 200 nor 300 yard shots before – ever – it was simply just cool to have done something new, challenging, and be somewhat successful in doing so. Again, confidence boost.

All this came to bear on The Scrambler. I didn’t make a conscious choice to turn my brain off, but obviously I did and just performed, just shoot. Run to position, manage breathing, take a couple breaths to calm down. Set up. front hand, back hand, head and eyes, natural point of aim, half-in all-out… no not natural point, wait tighten up (not too tight, just enough), half-in all-out… wiggle right wiggle left, front and back, settle in… check… there we go… half-in all-out… BOOM… HIT! and off we’d go.

Kneeling… yeah, that sucks. It’s well-established that it’s the hardest and least stable platform. For sure, something I want to work on more to find my proper kneel, my proper position for it. How far to step out, where to position so I just sink right in, etc.. That’ll just take time and experimentation.

I also got some good correction from Shane. He took pictures of me standing and prone to really show me how I was picking up a different head position standing (not sticking my head out much) vs. prone (sticking my head way forward on the stock). That was enlightening. But with that getting fixed, it helped. This also brings up a discussion Ed and I had on the drive home, which I’ll have to write up another time — it’s a change in my pistol technique.

But everything was coming together. I was shooting like I know how to shoot a handgun — trigger reset, follow-through, sights, trigger, blah blah, all those things. And then just applying the simple fundamentals from class: front hand, back hand, head and eyes, natural point of aim, hinge point, breathing, etc…

And so how did I do on the standard?

You can find a copy of the rifle standard here. I’ll reproduce it below. My performance will be in the parenthesis.

  1. Ready to prone. 5 shots, 1 target. 100 yards. 20 seconds. 4 out of 5 rounds must be in the box. (24.33 seconds, 1 outside the box)
  2. Ready to kneeling. 5 shots, 1 target. 75 yards. 20 seconds. 4 out of 5 rounds must be in the box. (27.62 seconds)
  3. Ready to kneeling. 5 shots, 1 target. 50 yards. 20 seconds. 4 out of 5 rounds must be in the box. (22.03 seconds)
  4. Ready (remain standing). 5 shots, 1 target, 25 yards. 8 seconds. 4 out of 5 rounds must be in the box (8.87 seconds)
  5. Ready (remain standing). 1 shot, 1 target, 7 yards, 1 second (1.16 seconds)
  6. Ready (remain standing). 2 shots, 1 target, 7 yards, 1.5 seconds (1.76 seconds)
  7. Ready (remain standing), 2 shots body, 1 shot head, 1 target, 7 yards, 1.75 seconds. (2.31 seconds)
  8. Ready (remain standing), 5 shots body, 1 shot head, 1 target, 7 yards, 3 seconds (3.60 seconds)
  9. Ready (remain standing), 2 shots body 1 target, 2 shots body 2nd target, 7 yards, 3 seconds (3.00 seconds)
  10. Ready (remain standing), 1 shot rifle, transition to 1 shot pistol. 1 target, 7 yards, 3.25 seconds (4.03 seconds)

Note: only 1 was outside the box, and according to scoring that’s acceptable. Here’s my target:

I gotta say, I’m pretty happy about that.

If I’m going to keep preaching about “acceptable hits” then I better do it, eh? 🙂  If I tell my own students to slow down and get acceptable hits, that if they need that extra half-second to get it all right and get the hit vs. going faster and not? Then take that extra half-second. That’s what I did.

And so you can see, I made time on only 1 string (and then, just barely). But my times weren’t all that far over par either. My accuracy was where it needed to be. Yeah, I do need to work on improving holdover just a bit as well, but that – like speed – will come in time with practice.

In looking at my standards performance, a big time consumer is set up. Getting into position (front hand, back hand, head & eye position, natural point of aim). It will just take time and practice to make it feel natural and allow me to do all the things without having to consciously think through it all. Time will be gained from improvement on setup. I felt alright about shots, because I paced a tempo in my head. Any of the multiple shot drills had a solid cadence, including the drills that involved transitions. I know from pistol shooting that the Mozambique should sound like 3 shots in a row with no discernible pause between shots 2 and 3, so I worked tempo and didn’t shoot faster than I could ensure that cadence… which had to be a little slower because swinging a 7 lb. rifle is different than a 2 lb. handgun, especially after your arms are so tired.

I also know that another issue is my eyes. I found myself often shooting with my left eye closed out of habit — don’t need to do that with a red dot. But if I did or didn’t, it didn’t really hurt me, but things were better when I had both eyes open. That said, what was more the issue was just not having the visual familiarity with this sight picture. I’m very used to looking through the sights on a pistol, but a rifle and a red dot not so much. So my brain had to think about what to look for, to think about looking through that tube to find that dot. I think improvements in recoil management will help too, because things will “come right back down” and my eyes will be able to pick up on things a little sooner.

So all in all I think it’s just a matter of more practice and experience, building skill and confidence.

It’s all about the fundamentals.

Closing Thoughts

I’m happy with how the weekend ended. No I didn’t meet the standard, but I’m OK with that. I didn’t expect to meet it because I knew I had basically no skill. But I picked up a lot of skill over 2 days, but more so I picked up a lot of information. I’m sure there’s a lot about the class that I will forget, but as long as I remember those fundamentals and keep applying them? I should be good. I know you can’t remember everything you get taught, so just pick like 3 things to really remember. Here, it’s remembering those fundamentals.

I’m not sure I’ll have an opportunity to go hunting this season, but you better believe that even while sitting in the stand I’m going to be snapping to and applying these skills.

I do feel this was time and money well-spent.

Next? I think I’d like to try Paul’s Tactical Pistol Operator course. I’m already seeing what my schedule and budget can bear. 🙂

I went in unsure, I came out with higher confidence. I still have a long ways to go, but I learned a great deal, which I know I can put to use. I appreciate the simplicity, the applicability, the appropriateness. Paul is a fantastic teacher, full of knowledge, full of skill, and ability to convey it. He’s got the right attributes to help people learn and excel, and that’s just not something that everyone who calls themselves a “teacher” actually has and can do. He’s also a pretty damn funny guy. There’s no ego, there’s no pretension, no attitude. It’s just a healthy environment for learning.

I want to thank my fellow KR Training assistant instructors, Ed and Greg, for their friendship and camaraderie; it made for an enjoyable weekend. I want to thank Paul Howe and his cadre of instructors (especially Don and Shane) for all their hard work and effort to put on a great class, and their dedicated efforts to helping people better themselves… because it’s all about sensitivity and group hugs (inside joke; you’ll just have to attend a class to understand).

I’ve got some other things to write about that came out of the weekend, but for now, this is almost 6000 words and enough reading. I’ll save more for later, because meantime… I have to practice.

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