Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tactical Rifle Skills, Take II

In April, I took a class from Double Tap, taught by the guys at 13 Zulu and struggled through the entire course.  In retrospect, part of the reason I struggled was that I was sick and on a ton of cold meds, so while I could see Mike and Casey's mouths moving and I could hear noises coming from them, not much was sticking.  Add the pharmaceutical help to my apprehension about making a fool of myself and I created my own recipe for disaster.  This became perfectly clear to me when I woke up excited to go to class, instead of dreading dragging myself out of bed.  I went into yesterday's class with a much better attitude.

I came away from the class in April having learned a lot, but I didn't realize exactly how much I learned until yesterday.  I was much more comfortable handling the rifle and was better able to make the connection between how I manipulate my pistol and how I manipulate the rifle.  Pretty much everything is the same, just on a bigger scale.  I sort of began to grasp that concept in the first class, but the light bulb went on this time around.  Suddenly, everything made sense.

I use a car analogy a lot when teaching pistol classes.  I'm constantly telling my students that if they can drive their car, they can get into pretty much anyone else's car and drive it.  It's just a matter of taking the time to orient themselves to the controls and such in the other car; otherwise, it functions the same way.  Just like pistols.  The pistol might look different, and the controls might be in different places than the controls in your car pistol, but it works the same way.

Now why the hell couldn't I make that connection between a semi-automatic pistol and a semi-automatic rifle?  Because I'm an idiot, that's why.  Once I made the connection, everything else just fell into place.  I didn't have to think about what I was doing when I had a double feed.  I already knew what to do from clearing them in my pistol - I just had to learn where the controls were.  There was nothing magical or difficult about it.

We started the day zeroing the rifles at 25 yards.  Most of my classmates were using optics of some sorts, but there were a few of us using iron sights.  After a couple of quick adjustments, I was where I wanted to be on target, then we started in on the lecture portion of the class.  Mike and Casey have a ton of real-world experience and it's always enlightening to listen to them.

I struggled with the fighting stance.  Having been primarily a Weaver shooter my entire shooting life, squaring up to the target is difficult for me.  It was much easier the second time around, but it's still a matter of re-training muscles that have been doing things one way for ten years. (I'm using pictures from the class in April, as I don't have any from yesterday's class)

I tried to square up, I really did, but I couldn't help cocking my shoulder back.
I don't have any pictures from yesterday's class, so I can only go by feel, and I was conscious of squaring myself up to the target and keeping my shoulders squared.  It felt awkward, and hopefully, it was correct.

The controls on the rifle are quite a reach for me, so I modified the techniques to work for my hands.  My thumb is sore today from constantly rotating around the tang - I had to move my hand forward to reach the mag release and then move it the other way to work the safety.  We learned two ways to "tac" reload: the "L" reload and indexing (I think that's what it's called).

The "L", required lots of concentration.
"Indexing" required even more concentration.

In the end, I modified the indexing reload.  My hands aren't quite big enough to go around the mag in a "beer can" hold, so instead of holding the mags like a beer can, I grasp them on the bottom and keep my index finger between as a spacer.  That method worked out very well for me yesterday, so I think I'll keep it.

I love the way the class started with the fundamentals: grip, stance, etc., and them moved us forward rapidly.  We covered far too much in six hours for me to write about it all, so I'll give you some highlights.

The 9-hole.  Oh, it's a bitch.  But it's an excellent way to encourage us (the students) to break out of the standing on the line and shooting mentality.  The 9-hole requires some creative problem solving and unorthodox stances.  It's an excellent training tool. My class mates with optics definitely had the advantage here - shooting iron sights was challenging with some of the positions. No two people shoot this the same.  Heck, I didn't shoot it the same way no matter how many times I ran through it.

We also did side-to-side rifle transitions.  I did okay with them in April, but got a lot more practice yesterday, because I can't follow directions.  Our directions were to load up two magazines with ten rounds apiece.  I had a brain fart and thought, "okay, twenty rounds" and then happily loaded up two twenty round magazines.  The drill was to complete the 9-hole, then stand and engage the steel targets utilizing side-to-side transitions until we were out.  Awesome!  I run through the 9-hole with only one make up shot, do my tac reload and start my transitions.  And kept going and going and going.  I was beginning to believe that I had stumbled across a magical Hollywood magazine like they have in the movies.  Ten rounds is a goodly number of transitions to do.  Twenty is torture.  But, by God, I went until I was dry.  I couldn't hold up my arms and it was taking me longer and longer between shots, but I did it.

Afterward, I was very careful to double check what we were supposed to be loading. I wasn't sure I had it in me to overcome that kind of a mistake again.  My arms are aching now just from the memory.

The "capstone" or "final exam" of the day is an exercise that encompasses all of the skills we learned throughout the day.  We partner up, engage our targets while moving, transition to our secondary weapon if necessary, cover each other on the reloads and then continue attacking our targets.  It's supposed to look something like this:

Mike and Casey make it look effortless because they are two halves of the same whole, I swear.  They've been working together long enough that I'm fairly certain they have their own telepathic communication going on and that they were only talking back and forth for our benefit.

It was a great class, and I'm glad I took it a second time.  So much more clicked for me and my confidence level with the carbine is much higher.  I'm looking forward to taking the next level of this course when it's offered.

If this looks like a class you'd be interested in, be sure to contact Double Tap.  It's worth every penny.


SENIOR said...

Damn, that course looks like fun.

GunDiva said...

Senior, come visit. We'll be doing it again in August. I cannot express how much fun this course is. I can't wait until I get to take the second half.

agirlandhergun said...

That does look like fun!! I really need to take a riffle course soon.

Is She Dangerous said...

Once I get a rifle, I think I'll consider the class for certain. Was it expensive?

agirlandhergun said...

Discussing this stance with my husband.

Double Tap said...

Thanks Diva for the great review. I plan on taking the class again as well at some point. Even though I've been instructing for years on the use of handguns, I never felt my rifle skills were up to par. After taking the class and doing some practice on my own I have confidence to pick up an AR and "drive" it.

A-Girl, one of our Instructors is a former Marine and both Instructors currently teach ground combat skills for the USAF. They present this information as "a way" of gun handling, but not the "only way".

The class is pretty modest at $165 and it comes with our guarantee - pay for it once, take it as many times as you want. We can bundle ammunition to your student fee as well.