After Action Review Carbine 1
29-30 June 2013
Breezy Point, MN
TD1: Low 80’s and sunny, high gusting winds
TD1: Low 80’s and sunny
The range was set up as a 50yd range in a private rock quarry outside of Breezy Point.
Dave Timm is the primary instructor for the course, and he has a background in law enforcement and a patrol sergeant, firearms instructor and armorer. Dave also works as a sponsored 3-gun shooter for Mills Fleet Farm and Huldra/Korstog Arms. Dave has been directly involved in the development and production of the Huldra and Korstog line of rifles that Fleet Farm sells, and he continues to work at the Mills Fleet Farm range in Baxter, MN and handle customer service and support issues when people need technical assistance. Throughout the training, it was readily apparent that Dave had a wealth of technical knowledge about AR15 construction and operation. This was a significant asset to the training. When Dave answered the questions he was asked, he was completely fluent in the subject matter. Dave also had a charisma that I believe helped several students get comfortable with this type of training, which for many was foreign territory.
Mike Davis is a current deputy sheriff and firearms instructor and armorer, and has a background in the US Army Airborne and large contingent/battalion weapon armoring. Mike has previously been very involved in bringing high-level training to this area, including people like Larry Vickers and Jeff Gonzalez (Trident Concepts). Mike had a level of quiet expertise and it was obvious from the start that Mike was highly knowledgeable of the AR15 platform and mechanics of operation. When guns would go down on the line, Mike was there to assist, diagnose and in some cases, repair the guns. Mike spent a lot of time behind the line doing the “behind the scenes” work of helping to assess student shooting habits and maintaining safety standards. Mike occasionally participated in, or led, some of the direct instructing. When he had something to say, it was always worthwhile information that made a needed point. Mike’s focus for starting local training and becoming an instructor was to improve the firearms training of law enforcement firearms training with Tier One instructors.
Dave and Mike had a good chemistry and they did a great job working with each other and complementing each other. The instruction they provided was a tandem effort that worked well. Dave was the primary instructor for the course, conducting the majority of the hands-on instruction. However, Mike had a very integral role in keeping the course running and making sure that people were keeping up with what Dave was teaching. He gave individual assistance to shooters as needed, and in the case of this course, it was very much needed. When it came to demonstrating actions and drills, both Mike and Dave were right out in front running the drills at full speed, including live fire. Some instructors will not demonstrate their curriculum to students, or they will demonstrate it while shooting into dirt and open space. This is done instead of actually shooting a real target, and this leaves people with questions about the actual competency of the instructor(s). In the case of Dave and Mike, there was no question about their competency or proficiency. It was obvious that they knew the subject matter they were teaching, and that they were capable of doing everything they were teaching. Their targets reflected this.
Dave and Mike were very patient with students, and in the case of a couple students that needed intensive monitoring and remedial instruction, they were rendering the needed instruction to get the student educated correctly. Being that both were law enforcement firearms instructors, it was obvious that they’ve had experience working with a wide variety of shooter skill levels. This served as an asset to the instruction, and even more so with this particular class.
One thing that really sat well with me was how blunt and honest the instructors were. They were accepting of the fact that people had educational and financial limitations with rifle and gear selection and procurement, but they made it clear that people should always strive to get the best quality components possible. The phrase “put garbage in, get garbage out” was mentioned. This was a very apt and appropriate statement, and it rang true as the course progressed. Dave and Mike were accommodating, but vocal and honest about the quality of certain components, guns and equipment. If something were suboptimal, they would say so. This level of honesty was appreciated, because I do not have a lot of respect for instructors that are more concerned about making their students feel good about their purchase, regardless of the logic of the purchase or quality (or lack thereof) of the product.
Throughout the training, it was emphasized that what they taught was “a way”, and not “THE way”. They believed that while it’s important to get your money’s worth in training, it’s more important to get training that is worth your time. You can never get your time back, and they wanted the time to count for something.
If I had to identify the one biggest strength of this course, it would be the Cadre. I think that they have a solid foundation to build a great training group as the future progresses.
Previous to this course, I have gotten to know the instructors from prior training. Additionally, I’ve talked to Dave at length over the past year or so privately. We’ve been exchanging ideology, methodology, general gun chit-chat and a cop talk. A couple months ago I was contacted by Dave and asked if I would come to this course as a guest, for the purpose of doing a detailed AAR of the course, and to evaluate the course and offer constructive criticisms to help Dave and Mike develop the course. I have to say that I was a bit taken aback by this, as it was unexpected. I didn’t really expect to be asked something of this magnitude, because it’s a pretty big request. I have two guys who I consider friends, and I am being asked to critique and evaluate something that they were putting their full efforts into. However, I knew that if there was any way I was able to help them develop their training doctrine, I wanted to do all that I could to help them.
A mutual meat-eating hard-charging friend of ours, Chad (aka BC520) of 10-32 Solutions, was also asked to participate and offer an evaluation as well. Chad and I have known each other for a couple of years, and with Chad being a fellow cop and shooting enthusiast, we have gotten along great. He’s a guy I’ve really come to respect, and who has a lot of experience and knowledge. We are similarly trained, so our methodologies and mindsets are generally pretty parallel.
I have a lot of respect for Mike and Dave for having the stones to actually seek people to come in and independently evaluate their program. This is not because they chose me, but because they were looking for an independent voice to help them be the best that they could be, and offer the best training that they could. It could have been a myriad of other people instead of me, and I still would have the same level of respect for them. It takes a lot of courage to put themselves out there like that, and it shows a dedication to constant improvement.
Now, I mention all this because it’s important to note that Chad and I were at this course as guests, and not as paying students. I had full participation in the course, as did Chad, but we were there to evaluate the course and offer feedback. The purpose of this AAR is to give that feedback, as well as to give learning opportunities to future students. Conventionally, I typically do AARs for the purpose of self-analysis and for my own personal development. I did get some valuable information out of this course for my own use, which was a great bonus. However, much of what I am posting is an overview of the course and what it offers.
Chad and I carpooled up together and we had a good discussion on what we were looking for. Personally, I was concerned that this course would have a lot of competition shooting style drills and methodology due to Dave’s involvement with 3-gun. There is a bit of a disconnect sometimes between competition shooting and combat gunfighting, though I will touch on this issue later. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the course was gunfighting based, and not a modified competition shooting class.
There were a total of 11 shooters in the course, including Chad and myself. The experience levels of the students varied greatly. Chad and I were at the apex of the experience levels relative to where the other students were. One or two other students there had previously been to a course. Both were good shooters with good rifles and good kit. They had a very limited amount of experience though, and this became visible when it came to movement drills, but more on that later. Another student was a retired cop, but had been retired for several decades and was not familiar with this kind of shooting. This really demonstrated a major shift in law enforcement needs and training, and I consider it a positive shift that continues to move in the right direction.
A couple students showed up with rifles that they had literally just purchased and had not done a shakedown shoot with. One student was an “intensive attention” student and was the proverbial “THAT GUY”. He was not intentionally bad, but his level of unconscious ignorance was extremely apparent. He had a bad case of what he called “revolver-itis”, where he was used to having his finger on the trigger. Indexing his trigger finger and keeping it off the bang switch was an ongoing problem throughout the course. Mike was on him constantly about his trigger finger, and he was diligent about making sure safety standards were maintained. I’m rather certain that the other shooters down there appreciated this attention to safety.
It’s important to note the first safety is that spongy organ between your ears, and how you approach your safety methodology mentally has a lot to do with how you implement it physically. This was a problem for this particular student, because right away at the beginning of TD1 in the classroom he announced it to the instructor that he had revolver-itis. I think the did a major disservice to himself by acknowledging that he had this issue, because I believe it reinforces to his brain that he has to keep on doing it. Instead of saying “I have revolver-itis”, he should be saying “I’m going to keep my finger off the damn trigger NO MATTER WHAT.” His mentality was that he was going to have the problem, so it was something to work back from. He essentially told himself that it was okay for him to have that behavior because he’s done it in the past. He justified his actions. Students should never do this.
There should always be a conscious effort to be safe, and this guy simply did not grasp this concept. He never got his head straight about safety, because in his mind he never put it together that putting his booger hook on the trigger was unsafe. It was considered safe with a revolver with a 17lb trigger pull back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, so in his mind it was just as safe to do so with a 7.5lb rifle trigger. In reality we know it’s unsafe no matter what, but he never put this together. I question whether he really made a full effort to inculcate this mentality, because his trigger finger was a constant problem for both days that Mike had to keep on him about. When I say it was bad, I really mean that it was bad. To be fair, I just don’t think he “got it”. “It” referring to the mindset necessary for gunfighter training.
New students will go from unconscious ignorance where they don’t know what they are doing wrong. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. As a student progresses with good training, they move to a level of conscious ignorance where they start to realize that they’re making mistakes and actively work to correct their mistakes. Eventually comes conscious proficiency and then unconscious proficiency. This unsafe student never vacated the realm of unconscious ignorance. The student was good about keeping the rifle pointed downrange, but everything else was simply a lack of understanding and implementation. He just simply was not grasping any of the concepts, and I don’t think he really fully understood the mentality he needed to have for this level of training. To this student’s credit, at the end of the course he openly admitted in front of the class on his own that he was in no way qualified to participate in this course. He recognized that he needed more remedial training.
It’s important to note for all potential students that they need to be honest with themselves about their actual level of proficiency. The biggest disservice someone can do to himself or herself is to lie to themself about how good they really are. Training is not a place for ego and arrogance. It’s a place for humility and keeping an open mind. Too many people assume that conventional weapon usage qualifies them as being proficient with a semi-automatic military style rifle, and that simply isn’t the case. The fact that I play mini-golf with a putter does not mean I can compete in the PGA. The same applies here.
Ultimately, I think that this shooter will never really truly grasp this methodology. It’s not something that everyone can learn, nor should they. Some people are just not capable of grasping how this stuff works. It happens to a lot of people with something or another. Try as I might, I could never learn to read sheet music. Just couldn’t. This shooter would do well to accept that he just doesn’t have his mind right about learning this subject matter, and perhaps stick to general marksmanship training with remedial courses, and then just stick to deer hunting.
This shooter did sit out on one evolution of instruction due to physical limitations. When doing so, he was behind Chad and me as we were shooting. He mentioned later that he learned more about shooting watching Chad and I than he did from anything else. It was a complement to Chad and me, but on the same token I couldn’t help but be a bit offended for Dave and Mike. They were presenting the material to this shooter and really working with him to learn it. Try as they might, he just did not comprehend it. I realize that some people are visual learners, but later when I worked with the guy, it was the same old issues that never went away.
There are things to learn from this, so my purpose is not to bash this gentleman. Instead, it’s a way for us to learn about being honest with ourselves, and understanding that mentality and mindset are far more important than many people realize.
Pistol: S&W M&P9 w/ Apex DCAEK and RAM upgrade, and Streamlight TLR-1S weaponlight.
Primary Rifle: 11.5” SBR with LaRue billet lower, Geissele SD-C trigger, Noveske 60 degree ambi safety, VLTOR upper with Daniel Defense barrel and rail. Also has a PWS Triad 556 flash hider on the end. Optic was an Aimpoint CompM4s w/ LaRue mount and an Aimpoint 3x magnifier in LaRue mount.
Backup Rifle: 16” middy with Noveske Gen2 lower, ALG Defense QMS trigger, BCM upper and BCM BCG, Daniel Defense LW barrel and DD MFR 12.0 tube. A BC 1.0 was on the end of that. Topped it off with an Aimpoint T-1 w/ LaRue mount.
The gun belt was a VTAC Brokos belt with HSGI riggers belt insert. I have this setup exactly like my duty belt, so I know where everything is and how it works. I have to get a full extender for my Safariland ALS holster. The belt has ITW fastmag pistol pouches and a EMDOM-MM dump pouch. I also have my CTOMS Slimline IFAK pouch on it.
Vest was a Mayflower R&C Assault Armor Carrier in Multicam with an SKD PIG hydration carrier and Source 2L bladder, Mayflower shingle mag pouch (4 mags), an additional BlueForceGear Ten Speed single mag pouch, and a BlueForceGear tourniquet holder with a CAT tourniquet.
Rifle Mags were strictly Magpul PMAGs. Rifle ammunition was Federal XM193. Total ammo count for me was approximately 400-500rds rifle, and about 30-40rds 9mm 124gr FMJ pistol.
In terms of my gear, I had no issues. Everything I have has been arranged and rearranged enough now that I have everything in a working configuration. My 11.5” rifle was used the whole time, and it ran flawlessly. It is currently sitting at about 7500 rounds since it was last cleaned. The rifle always runs with a heavy dose of Slip2000 EWL, and it continues to run flawlessly.
My M&P9 at one point managed to get a heavy dose quarry sand and gravel in it. It still ran like a champ after that and without being cleaned.
Gear Issues in Class:
Oh boy…wow. Where to begin? There were problems galore in the class, and several of these problems were preventable. Many were the result of ignorance. Ignorance isn’t always a negative descriptor, because the reality goes back to the old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”. The ignorance was simply from lack of experience, as well as lack of research. Much like anything else, doing responsible research in the tactical realm pays dividends.
There were 11 total shooters with three having piston rifles. 2 were Huldras, and one was an LWRC. There were a couple S&W M&P15s, a couple frankenguns including mine, and Chad ran both his BCM EAG Tactical carbine and his S&W M&P15-22 .22LR rifle.
Throughout the course, I took notes, and I generated almost a page and a half of notes on student problems that arose throughout the course. So, without further ado, let’s get on with it.
One shooter was running an 11.5” SBR frankengun using a BCM barrel and components from other quality companies from Noveske, BCM and so forth. It was a well put-together gun, and he was a good shooter. He was having significant ongoing cycling problems using USGI style mags, and possibly others that I didn’t see. The rifle was equipped with a Sprinco Blue (ENHANCED power) spring and “H2” buffer. He was using PMC Bronze ammunition, and his rifle was having issues with feeding and full extraction. Dave and Mike went through some diagnostics with the rifle, and at one point Dave handed the shooter a PMAG loaded with Federal XM193. The rifle then ran like a Swiss watch. Dave and Mike advised the shooter to change out his spring to a normal power spring to reduce the resistance on the BCG due to him using lower powered PMC Bronze .223 ammunition. The shooter mentioned that he has used PMC Bronze extensively without issue. The issue is that PMC Bronze is made in South Korea, and it’s been my experience that a lot of overseas ammunition is inconsistent in load pressure and reliability. It is quite possible that the shooter got ammo from a lot that was more underpowered than PMC Bronze already is. This reinforced that when you have to put your trust in ammunition, you are always best off buying the highest quality stuff you can get your hands on. High quality domestic companies have better quality control and consistency, which leads to more consistent performance. Additionally, the shooter was not aware that BCM designs their barrels and rifles to run on 5.56 ammunition, not lower powered .223. This reinforces another facet of rifle building and buying, which is that rifles may be designed and tuned to specific types of loads for specific purposes. It’s important for the buyer to be aware of the operating designs and parameters of the components they use.
There was a shooter running a woodland camo painted/coated DPMS topped with an old Nikon ACOG-style design ripoff scope. The rifle made it through zeroing, but after that, it just simply wouldn’t run reliably. Yet another DPMS epically fails- THIS IS MY SHOCKED FACE… Mike later took the rifle apart ande the gas rings inside were ripped up with chunks missing. Or at least what was left of them. The rifle didn’t make it through TD1, and never made a return.
Additionally, the Nikon optic was not all that impressive. We zeroed at 50yds, and when we were making adjustments to the zero, Dave and Mike assigned him the adjustments to make and wrote the adjustments on the target. The shooter made the necessary adjustments, and the zero barely shifted. It took numerous attempts and volleys to get the optic dialed in to get zeroed. The adjustements of the optic were way off, which is an indication of a poorly built optic. Because the DPMS didn’t make it through the course, I never got the chance to see if the Nikon would lose zero.
One shooter had an LWRC M6A2 SPR with a Nightforce NXS Compact 1-4x24 scope mounted on top. This was an excellent setup, but the shooter had literally no range time with it and had gotten the system only a couple days before. It’s a quality rifle, but it’s generally a really bad idea to take a brand new rifle to a rifle course if you don’t have a backup. You need to test fire everything. The shooter didn’t have any rifle problems, but he did have issues with his stance. He had some problems partially due to his smaller frame and lack of experience with this shooting style. The shooter failed to use good body mechanics, which can overcome lack of strength and size issues, to help control the recoil. As a result, he got a nasty scope kiss on the forehead that was bleeding pretty good. He didn’t do enough to control the rifle. This shooter also showed up to class with no rifle magazine carriage system. The instructions specifically stated to do so, and the shooter did not follow them. He was outfitted with a loaner chest rig by Mike and Dave. The shooter also ran a GripPod on the front end of the rifle. This was extra weight on the front end of the rifle that made his manipulation and control harder. Shooters should constantly evaluate the benefit-or lack thereof-of every accessory they use. In this case the added weight was causing additional problems, and Dave wound up talking to him about it and pointing out that it was causing more problems than it was helping.
Prior to coming to the course, a student decided to get into 3-Gun competition and had a friend build/buy him a setup for it. The rifle was a Colt Competition AR15 with 20” stainless bull barrel and a Benny Cooley comp. The optics were a Nikon M-223 4-16x42 scope in a low-end bolt on mount, with offset picatinny rails at the rear of the mount that put a rail at both the 11:00 and 1:00 locations. The shooter had problems with an optic at the 1:00 position, because it was positioned directly behind the shell deflector at the rear of the receiver. As a result, the shooter mounted the offset red dot at the 11:00 position. This is problematic for two reasons: first, the shooter was right-handed and right-dominant, so the mount was directly in front of him. This caused him to have to take his face off the stock when he used the red dot. His head was directly next to the rifle, and without the consistent cheek weld, it slows target acquisition speeds and reduces the stability of the rifle. The second problem is that the red dot location reduces situational awareness.
When using the scope, you have the red dot low in your line of sight when using binocular vision. When using the red dot, the scope to the left completely obscures all of your right side peripheral vision. This is not only problematic for transitioning between multiple targets, but it makes it hard for you detect threats to you in on that side in a real world environment. In a training environment, it could also prevent you from seeing what the rest of the class is doing, or if you have someone move downrange for any reason. The proper way to run an offset red dot in this situation would be to run it at the 1:00 location, and then when transitioning to the red dot, you do a 45 degree inward rotation of the rifle to use the red dot. This allows you to maintain a cheek weld and use the red dot, and also to maintain situational awareness.
What’s further is that he was running the red dot pretty extensively, which indicated that he was running the wrong setup completely. Most of the class was 25yds and in, so with all the closer range engagement, it was worthless to have the Nikon scope. When he did use the scope, which was rare, he was very slow to engage the target. That scope was not designed or equipped for what he was immediately using it for. It would be different for a long range course, but not for a close-range combat gunfighting course.
The red dot in use was an iTAC Defense RDS1 red dot, which is a “mid-range” red dot. It’s still not to the quality of the better red dot options like an Aimpoint T1/H1, Trijicon RMR or Leupold DeltaPoint. I didn’t hear of any issues with the red dot, but it’s always worth noting that buying the best eliminates future problems with reliability. Instead of having optics with long battery life and bomb-proof reliability, you have a hobby optic that you are relying on to slam into barrels and smack up against barricades.
To the credit of the student, he realized that his rifle was a poor choice for the course. Some learning occurred because he paid attention, and he was able to identify all of the deficiencies with his rifle setup.
One student showed up to class with a S&W M&P15 fresh out of the box with just backup iron sights. Some people are just fans of irons over optics, but this student was not one of them. He didn’t have the time or money to get one, but I don’t know which. I would hope it’s the money, because the former indicates poor planning. Remember the 6 P’s, people. Dave and Mike loaned him an Aimpoint CompM4 and he did fine with that. HOWEVER, he did not do fine with the Borat-approved ammunition he was using. The ammo was called “Hot Shot”, and it was brass cased Romanian made “5.56”. He had double feeds and outright failures to extract because the ammunition was out of spec and outright crap. Dave said it in the beginning of the course: “Put garbage in, get garbage out.” This was the case with this.
Another student showed up without BUIS, which is a NO-GO in the rifle world. You need to have some kind of backup aiming system when you run an optic. Period.
One guy was running good gear, but he had an interesting gear choice mixed in. He was running a CAT tourniquet attached to an IFAK. The TQ was attached using a rubber band. In talking to the guy, I informed him of the existence of dedicated tourniquet holders that attach to MOLLE/PALS. He was unaware of this, but was open-minded. If you don’t know if something exists, look. If you have a problem with something, look for a solution. Don’t just jury-rig your own if a more reliable option already exists.
A couple students had not shot their rifles before class, so they had no zero/BZO whatsoever. This caused zeroing on TD1 to take a lot longer than necessary. As a courtesy to others, always zero your rifle before class.
The biggest glaring deficiencies were by far the gear issues. Numerous students were running the Blackhawk pre-configured assault vests, which are known to be very poor pieces of equipment. Since they are configured from the factory, the student must work with the gear being in a set location. There is no modularity or adaptability. If the shooter does not like the configuration or they have gear interference, they are left without any option except to just deal with it. As I watched shooters try and get mags out from their vests, they were fighting their gear every step of the way. It was almost painful to watch. It was not the fault of the students, but rather the fault of the gear. I say this a lot, but your gear should help you fight better; you should never have to fight your gear. It was the opposite in this case.
One particular student made a shoulder satchel out of some former Comm-bloc bag, which is what he used as a dump pouch. The pouch was slung over his shoulder. As to be expected, he had significant difficulty getting access to the bag. That was a good reason to use a proper dump pouch instead of trying to cheap out and MacGuyver one up on your own.
Holsters were another problem. One guy ran an Uncle Mike’s nylon junk case attached to his Blackhawk vest in a crossdraw fashion, and Dave and Mike saw this and made him relocate it for safety reasons. Several students were running carry pistols, and the cheap polymer holsters that came with them. These holsters are barely workable, and several students had issues with drawing and reholstering their pistols. One student had a Serpa holster, which I still contend is a safety hazard. However, that is a decision for each instructor. Another had his pistol in an inside the waistband (IWB) holster. This one I had issue with, because it does not lend well to tactical use. Several instructors have banned IWB holsters in gunfighting courses due to the safety issues, as well as slow accessibility and reholstering.
Timm Training had a good gear list on their website describing what to bring to the course. Dave mentioned that one student called him and asked for a short list of just the basics to bring. Dave had to tell the guy several times that the list on the website was the minimum list. Some people just don’t want to spend the money on the gear, or the effort on the research.
Still, it needs to be said that there is nothing inherently wrong with having gear issues at training. That’s where we learn what works and what doesn’t. I know that the training was an eye opener for several students, and they learned about why their setup wasn’t working. It goes to the credit of the students, because I think everyone there had an open mind and learned some things about gear selection and placement.
Day 1 started with Chad and I getting some breakfast at a local greasy spoon diner in downtown Nisswa, followed by a drive up to Breezy Point Police Department. We arrived with some time to spare, but most of the students were already there. Class started at 0800hrs. There were a total of 11 shooters in the course, including Chad and me. Aside from us, Mike and Dave were already there. Stewart Mills of Mills Fleet Farm, and the head of Huldra Arms/Korstog Arms, was also there to say hello. There was filming going on by Ben Johnson, a Zeiss Optics rep, and Ben also did a quick presentation of optics and programs that Zeiss was offering to shooters. Zeiss provided students with a couple bottles of lens cleaning spray, which was appreciated.
Dave started with his introduction, and explained why the course was called “Instinctive Practical Carbine”. His philosophy was “putting a round on target very quickly”, and the importance of getting rounds on target first. The purpose was to get the shooter to be the winner of a gunfight by getting rounds on faster than their opponent.
Mike followed with his instruction, and we learned about his extensive history with the US Army and armoring and weapon maintenance.
Afterwards, we kicked off the class and reviewed safety rules. The emphasis was on safety in the class, and Dave explained that there would be strict enforcement. Aside from mechanical malfunctions, there were no “accidental” discharges; only negligent. Even with mechanical malfunctions, they are negligent if they are a result of poor maintenance.
Dave then went into the course overview, which outlined that fundamentals are the basis for marksmanship. He explained the intent of the course to teach the base fundamentals of gunfighting. He then went into rifle nomenclature and explained to the students how course terminology would work. This included how to grip the rifle, manipulate the controls and safety, and generally operate it. While doing this, Dave also touched on lubrication. He explained where to lube the rifle, and advised students on the importance of using lots of lubricant. It is always worth noting that running a quality, validated lubricant is an important element to this issue.
In keeping with the rifle components, Dave made mention that using Loctite or other threadlocker was very important. Screws have a bad habit of backing out when you least need them to, and threadlocker is a good stopgap. Another safety measure is using witness marks, which Dave also touched on. Witness marks are an easy visual indicator that can be checked in the field.
Mike took over and went over rifle functions. This course was AR15-oriented, so all the explanations and overviews were of the AR15 platform. Mike went over function checks on the rifle. A function check is not just making sure the rifle fires. Instead, it’s a check of every functioning part of the rifle. This includes optics, accessories and lights. The shooter should check operation, torque and position of screws, mount tightness, lights, optics, sights, everything. The M&M Check was detailed, which is a check of Motion and Movement. This starts by physically grabbing the rifle and shaking it. Make sure nothing falls off. Then, grab and twist parts of the rifle to make sure nothing pops off. If anything moves, rattles or otherwise comes off, make adjustments to correct this. Mike stated that checking optics mounts was extremely important, and reiterated the need for threadlocker on screws.
Dave then came back to give an overview of ballistics. Internal, external and terminal ballistics were discussed, but it was outlined in a more rudimentary manner that most new shooters would understand. Going into depth on these topics would have taken a lot more time, and brought forth a lot of questions from students who did not understand them. The differences between 5.56 and .223 were outlined. Dave made sure to warn to use headspace gauges to confirm the chambering of a rifle, and not to simply trust the markings on the barrel. A discussion of some manufacturers using wrong chamberings came up. It was pointed out that hobby brands tend to be less reliable for their tolerances than higher quality brands. During this discussion, Dave’s experience with Huldra/Korstog helped a lot. He spoke with a lot of knowledge and authority. There was a quick talk of barrel construction and how they do it, and comparing it to the barrel life you will get and why.
The next discussion was on zero, or what we refer to as Battlesight Zero or BZO. Dave did a coarse explanation that zero referred to the point of aim (POA) and the point of impact (POI) being the same without the need for any POA correction. Using the dry erase board, Dave outlined rifle trajectories and used a drawing to show what a corrected trajectory looks like. The true trajectory was the initial intersection of the rifle, with the reintersection being the second zero. Dave gave drops and trajectories for 25yd, 50yd and 100yd BZOs, and explained why the 50yd BZO was selected for the program and was ideal. He pointed out the major flaws in shorter zeros like the 25yd zero, as well as the military 36m/300m zero, which launches the bullet well outside of point blank range. Dave explained the need to hold for offset at close range, and showed the trajectories of the rounds to explain why.
Overall, the ballistics presentation was very comprehensive. It was not technically intensive, which is probably for the best. Once you get overly technical, you start to present information that may not be useful for the average training shooter. The only modification I would have suggested would be to explain to the students why an Uncorrected Sight Picture (USP) was important. The need for no correction for a long distance makes shooting easier, and Dave did explain this portion, which appeared to resound well with the students.
There was a quick touch on penetration/terminal ballistics, and information was presented that explained that carbines make better home defense weapons than shotguns and handguns. Again, this was information that several students appeared to be new to. Some good lessons were learned.
Eventually, we touched on the concepts of training. Training is a perishable skill, and Dave talked about ways to help with skill building in current times of low ammo supply and high ammo prices. Dry fire practice helps with trigger control and manipulation, if done correctly. However, the dry firing will not tell you if you miss. Other methods included laser fire and the .22LR rifles. Dave showed several .22LR options, which are very good alternatives to use for manipulation and trigger press.
The next step was talking about First Line and Second Line gear. First line gear is gear that is on your immediate person. Your belt, knife, holster, etc. The key is to have a sturdy platform. With first line gear, it’s important to properly configure it to work.
Mike talked about the Second Line gear. This refers to vests, rigs and other similar carriage equipment. Mike talked about how to configure and place the gear. He pointed out how “Big Army” methodology is flawed in reality. I am familiar with this, having seen the issued gear I had in the Army fail on multiple levels. Individual configuration meant to fit the shooter was emphasized in this discussion. Another point was mentioned regarding fitment and sizing. Gear must be adjusted correctly to work correctly.
Dave outlined the procedure of administrative loading, and the importance of working inside your workspace. When doing an administrative load, Dave emphasized the need to not throw away a repetition during this process. Draw and aim before and after loading the pistol, and raise and gain a sight picture with your rifle. This was as big point to touch on, because it’s a very important aspect. Press checks were presented and explained. This was a skill that many were new to, and it showed on the range. I never use a rifle or pistol from an administrative load without one. You cannot trust the weapon to be loaded until you verify.
At 1100hrs, we broke down the classroom and headed over to the range, which was at an aggregate west of the PD. Upon arrival, Mike and Dave gave us a range tour and explained the boundaries, exits and entrances, firing lanes and facilities. We were given a medical brief, during which medical personnel were identified. A large white target was used to detail the address of the range, as well as give the range GPS coordinates for air medevac.
Once complete, we got our rifles and took a prone position at the 50yd line for zeroing. Once complete, we broke for lunch. Most people opted to stay at the range with their own food.
Following lunch, we touched on the 7 Fundamentals of marksmanship. Stance was a key element discussed in this bloc, and it was something that resounded throughout the course from evolution to evolution. The principles involved with stance and how it affects control were highlighted. We practiced this by shooting with a hunting-type bladed stance, and then shooting with a more squared combat stance. Students noticed the difference in control between the two, which was the intent of the drill.
Next we shot to see what offset looked like. This was also a newer concept for many, and we engaged the target on dots to see where the difference was between point of aim and point of impact. In training with this, we did a walk-back drill moving from the 3yd line back to the 15yd line. This allowed us to see where the bullets were striking as the range increased.
From there, the emphasis was on trigger control. We practiced this by shooting at a thin black vertical line. This was an excellent drill, and it really did a good job at identifying any flaws in our trigger press. We started with a single shot. Following that, we went to two shots. This required us to bring recoil management and sight picture into the mix. Then we went to three round volleys. Still at slow fire intervals, it was very telling to see that recoil management was still an important factor here. Again, something affected by stance. I noticed that I was starting to speed up with my shots, which caused my accuracy to wane. I started by putting rounds right on top of each other, but then my groups started opening up as I sped up. I had to make a conscious effort to throttle back, as this is a recurrent issue with me. I always have to remember to slow down. During this evolution, Dave and Mike kept harping on maintaining proper stance. Many were reverting to a less ideal bladed hunting stance out of habit, and Dave and Mike were constantly watching and making corrections as necessary.
After a break, we did an assessment drill with a walk-in from 50yds to 5yds. It was two shots in three volleys at every range. These were shot from standing. This was a good way to learn sight picture, and work with your first best sight picture (FBSP). Students shooting from standing at 50 and 35yds were slower in their rate of fire, which is what we would hope to hear. This meant that students were trying. FBSP was emphasized, but it was especially important at the longer ranges.
When we started shooting on this evolution and from there on out, we started using a picture silhouette target with vitals barely visible on the target. There were no target zones on the targets, so students had to recognize where they wanted to shoot on a human body. This was a good concept, as it helped people to learn to make lethal shots. I would still like an outer target zone so that people could see the maximum limit of their shots. Instead, Dave and Mike had students determine what shots they thought were good and which were bad, and then tape the bad shots. While I can appreciate the personal accountability placed on the students, it could also be argued that newer shooters should have to meet a standard for accuracy and that it should be externally monitored and enforced. Still, from what I saw most students were being realistic about what constituted good and bad hits.
Rifle carry and presentation were demonstrated, with Dave demonstrating the differences between low ready, high ready/high port, low tuck and high tuck. The low ready is pretty standard. The high ready used was the high port variant that supports using the rifle as an impact device in a defensive situation. The low tuck and high tuck are akin to shooting from defensive retention with a pistol, but instead doing it with a rifle. These two shooting holds were new to me, and they were a good alternative to learn in case it ever became necessary. We practiced shooting from these positions extensively. It is not as easy to be accurate with the tuck positions, but I discovered that flicking my support side index finger forward and pointing my finger at the target made me much more accurate. For people holding the hand guard, using the thumb worked as well.
After that, we called it a day and packed up. As we did so, we had a quick pow-wow by the vehicles. It was brought up that several were interested in meeting up for dinner. We decided on Zorba’s on the north end of Gull Lake in Nisswa. Chad and I got cleaned up and headed on over there. As it turned out, it wound up just being Chad, Dave, Ben Johnson and me at dinner. So, we ordered some drinks and pizza and had a discussion on various topics about training, gear, rifle construction and the lot. It should be noted that students would do well to go to the after hours meet ups. There is a lot of information exchanged and students can learn a lot in those hours.
The day started with Mike and Dave doing a review of the previous day’s learning. Fundamentals were touched on, and again the recurring theme of stance was brought up. Stance, as well as stock placement and grip, and rifle configuration all affect how you control your rifle. Gear was discussed briefly, and it was noted how training helps shake down gear. As well as those issues, we also discussed the BZO, and how it can change with environmental conditions. We talked about reloading briefly, and the need to do it in our workspace. We also talked about maintaining a tactical mindset and utilizing follow-through.
The shooting started with a walk-in drill starting from 50yds. It called for two rounds to the chest on the command to fire, with three volleys at each range. When we got to the 15yd line and in, the designated target zone moved to the head. During this time, Dave and Mike reminded students to assess their targets and scan. This was something that was not touched on extensively, but rather just reminded to students. As a teaching point, I would have liked to have seen more extensive discussion on why this is important. In law enforcement, we are familiar with this, but many people outside of this community have little understanding of the need for follow-through.
From there we went on to malfunctions. Dave and Mike have a different system than what I am used to. Their system designates malfunction levels, not types. A “Level 1” malfunction is when the rifle goes “click” when it should go “bang”. This was termed as a “stoppage”. This involves things like a failure to feed or failure to fire. This is where immediate action comes into play. For the immediate action, their protocol was to tilt the rifle and look at the bolt, tap and pull the magazine, roll the rifle ejection side down and rack the bolt back using the charging handle. We practiced this using dummy rounds, and it was interesting to see that several students were dropping their rifles down low and putting their eyes and head down. Dave and Mike actively corrected them, telling them to keep the rifle in their workspace. Additional problems arose with students riding their bolts forward, causing additional malfunctions. Some students worked through the problems, some did not. Mike and Dave remained vigilant and kept making corrections as needed.
They went on to detail “Level 2” malfunctions, which is where the trigger is mush like with a failure to extract. This called for remedial action. The methodology taught was to put the gun on safe, lock the bolt to the rear, look in the rifle, strip the mage, rack the BCG three times, reinsert the mag and fire. The way this was taught was again by using dummy rounds and creating a double feed. Some students required extra attention and guidance, but for the most part most students did quite well.
It was during this time that Chad and I had stepped back from the line and did some observing of the instructing being done by Mike and Dave. There were a couple students that continued to struggle, but Mike and Dave never gave up on them. They were vigilant and identified when students had issues.
They outlined Level 3 malfunctions, which were essentially the Type 8 malfunctions with a brass over bolt condition. For this, it was emphasized that a transition to pistol was the best option if you could not clear it readily. Dave and Mike selected Level 1, 2 and 3 to indicate Easy, Harder and Hardest.
This segued to transitions. The method taught here was to lower the rifle from the support side with the palm up, and back of the hand to the thigh. Malfunctions were initiated and then transitions were called for. During this, some students using suboptimal holsters began to fight their holsters. One student using an IWB holster had a lot of difficulty. Reholstering for several students also proved to be a chore. This highlighted to several students the need to use a quality holster that was configured correctly.
The question as to when to transition was posed, and it was presented that when you can make an effective pistol shot, transition and make the pistol shot.
After a lunch break, we got back down to business with positional shooting. At the 25yd line, the first position taught was kneeling. Traditional marksmanship kneeling was demonstrated, followed by basic unsupported kneeling and the reverse kneeling. Prone was then covered and demonstrated. It should be noted that Dave and Mike demonstrated everything they taught, and actually did shoot the drill they set up to demonstrate.
The next step was downed optic drills. Dave started by giving an explanation of co-witness, and then went into sighting methods for a downed optic. This involved using the tube as a window/viewfinder, using the tube or view window as a rear aperture for the front sight and using the backup iron sights. During this phase, I turned over my rifle to another student who did not have BUIS on his rifle. This student had significant difficulty with the drill, and was the same student that I detailed earlier who realized that he did not have the skill necessary for this level of course. Mike had been behind the line working with people, but he had to break to get targets prepared for an upcoming drill. Chad and I went back behind the line to assist Mike and Dave as needed.
I had a brain fart around this time. When Dave and Mike gave the command to Make Ready, I did just that. However, I forgot that the command also requires the application of hearing protection, which were still on the top of my head. The first shooting I heard was Chad’s .22, so it wasn’t too bad. Then I the .223/5.56 rifles kicked in and I realized my mistake. Moosecock moment for yours truly.
The next evolution moved to basic movement with forward and lateral movement. We started with lateral first, taking steps then engaging the target. This was followed by engaging the target while side-stepping. We moved on to forward movement and practiced while moving from the 10 to the 5yd line. It was demonstrated and explained that a more natural heel-toe walk was preferred to a crouched duck walk type of movement. During this drill, students that were shooting very good got to see the other side of the coin. I observed the targets up and down the line, and most targets went from discernable groupings to a shotgun pattern. The targets for Chad and I were pretty consistent with groupings, and there was a demonstrable difference between our targets and those of others. This was a good example of how shooting on the move is a very different skill than just shooting on the square range. I will readily admit that shooting on the move is one of my weakest skills, and I look at some of the other students’ targets and I can see where I came from. It’s a progression, and it really is amazing how much effort and practice it takes to get better at that skill.
After a break, Dave and Mike brought us back to shoot a drill. The first drill was a shooting box outlined on the ground, and then 5 targets at varying distances simulating cover. There was an R/C car with a target attached to it. Mike acted as range officer/safety while Dave controlled the car. During the drill, you had to shuffle back and forth and move in the shooter box to open up shooting angles. The car would move back and forth behind the targets, about 15-20yds away. This was a very fun drill, and it taught you to really use your FBSP. Once you had the shot, you had to take it. It was multiple shots until the target stopped and the drill was over, so you had to keep tracking the target.
The next drill was similar with movement, but it utilized a hostage target setup that was similar to what Louis Awerbuck uses. We took turns making shots on 3D targets with this drill, and it again emphasized the need to utilize FBSP. Dave and Mike each had a target setup, so this one went quickly and we got to swap back and forth and do multiple attempts. I was running with a 3x magnifier flipped to the side, so I ran through once with my magnifier in use.
After that, class came to a close at 1700hrs. We helped tear down the range and held a debrief. In the debrief, we went over learning points and people were able to ask any final questions they had. I think several students had an eye opening experience throughout the class, and I think everyone learned something. In the debrief, Dave stated that while he hoped that the course was worth the money, he was more concerned with making sure that the course was worth our time. And with that, it came to a close.
There are different levels of instructors that I would group into Tiers. Tier 1, 2 and 3. Tier 3 groups are your local trainers teaching low level courses like permit to carry training, and local gun ranges teaching intro courses. Tier 1 groups are the national level high end trainers that are the cream of the crop, usually bringing high level experience into the training. Tier 2 groups are your organizations and instructors that are offering higher level training at more affordable prices, and offering them on a state or regional level of accessibility. As such, I think that Timm Training is an outfit firmly planted in the Tier 2 arena. They offer a great training asset in the upper Midwest, and while it would be worth the money, it is also very much worth the time.
After Action Review by user UnaStamus