Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tactical Rifle Skills 2

A few weeks ago, I spent the day out on the range in Double Tap's TRS2 class. I took the TRS1 class twice, and wasn't sure what to expect from TRS2, but I loaded up my gear and headed to class anyway.

My goal this year is to increase the number of training classes I take. Every year, I teach additional phlebotomy classes to earn extra "play" money for the year. In the past, I used that money to buy new guns for me and the hubby. I've also used that play money on horses and the Writers' Police Academy. Instead of buying a new gun this year, I decided to take as many training classes as I could reasonably afford (and still attend WPA).

TRS2 was the first class on the schedule for me. For Christmas Mez gave me an AimPoint red dot for my AR and I was excited to get to use it. For both TRS1 classes, I used iron sights. I believe it's a good skill to have, and I'm glad I took the fundamental course with the bare basics.

The class built nicely on TRS1, though it had been over a year since that class. It took me a while to get back in the groove of things and feel comfortable again. We started with a review of the previous class and did some warm-up exercises. I still struggle with mag changes the way we were taught. My hand isn't big enough to do the "beer can" mag change, so I mostly use the "L" method, though I sometimes have issues with the magazines slipping when I do the "L". What I've come up with is kind of a bastardization of the "beer can" method.

Instead of wrapping my hand around the magazine like a beer can, I hold it like I would a pistol mag, with the butt of the magazine resting in my palm. Then I can grasp the magazine in the gun with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th fingers, keeping my index finger between the mags. I can pull the magazine out, shift my hand just a bit to the right and slam the new magazine home. I've found that I'm less likely to drop a mag or fail to seat the new one using this method.

After running through our paces from TRS1, we started into the new stuff. We worked on threats from the side and the rear. We learned how to quickly and safely turn to face the threat without sweeping each other with the muzzles of our rifles. Since I was on the far left side, I was feeling pretty good when our threat was to the left. I knew I had control over my own rifle and that I wouldn't sweep anyone in front of me. Boy, did I pucker up when the threat was on our right and I had three people behind me having to turn with their guns. It was not a comfortable feeling. I mean, we'd only been on the range an hour or so and I was so focused on what I was doing I didn't look around to see how their gun-handling skills were. (I may or may not have trust issues.) It was like doing a trust fall, but with projectiles that could kill me.

I was actually very comfortable with the skill, because I'd finally made the connection that handling the rifle is just like handling an over-sized pistol, and I had already done those skills with a pistol.

Probably the most uncomfortable part of the day for me was when we were learning unconventional shooting positions. Yes, I'd shot from most of those positions with a pistol, but the added length of the rifle barrel made it more complicated for me to move from one position to the next. When in a crouched or kneeling position, the rifle is as tall as I am. While I wasn't as fluid as other students, I did manage to complete each of the positions and I got my hits on target.

The most psychologically difficult position for me to shoot from was supine. Flat on my back with my heels drawn up to my knees is not a good position for any female. Not only is it a powerless position, trying to shoot with my rifle flat against my body was difficult. In order to see through the optic while still lying flat on my back, I laid the gun on its left side and drew it up my body until my shooting hand was pretty much level with my shoulder. By lifting my head off the ground I could look through the optic and made my hits.

The purpose of making us shoot from a supine position was to remind us that even if we ended up flat on our backs we could still get our shots on target. The example given was if we were backing up and tripped. From the ground we could still continue to send rounds downrange.

I might have struggled with the unconventional shooting positions, but once we started shooting on the move I was in my element. We shoot on the move frequently in the defensive pistol matches, and frankly, doing it with a rifle and a good optic is much easier than with a pistol. One of the exercises had us moving forward while shooting at steel, then moving on the diagonal shooting at 3" dots on silhouettes, and finally ending with a transition to pistol to take out the last guy.

When I finished my run-through I was feeling okay about it until the instructors pointed out that I was the only student to not throw rounds outside of the 3" dots. That was truly the confidence boost I needed. I felt I'd been lagging behind the other students with some of the other exercises, but to absolutely NAIL a difficult exercise made me feel much better.

Our final exercise of the day took skills we'd learned throughout the day and put them all together. We started shooting from prone, had to run to cover, engage a few targets, move to different cover (2nd cover required us to contort ourselves to fit behind it), and engage the next few targets before stepping out from cover and shooting the remaining targets as we walked toward them.

This was another exercise where my defensive pistol practice really paid off. I took the time to do a tactical reload while behind cover so that I wouldn't have to reload from empty while exposed. The instructors asked what made me think to do that, and it was absolutely something I picked up from the monthly matches.

It was an excellent class and I learned a lot; I pushed myself to do things that were not comfortable or easy, yet I left the class feeling very accomplished. I'm beginning to feel less like a noob with the AR, but will still take the class a second time. Next time around, though, I might do it left-handed. I just need to get an ambi mag release and ambi safety. I always tell my medical students when they are learning a new skill, such as phlebotomy, that it's awkward even with your dominate hand, so you might as well learn it with both hands as you'll never know when you'll need to use your non-dominate hand. Manipulating the carbine is getting more comfortable with my dominate side; might as well learn to do it with my non-dominate side as well.

If you ever get the chance to take a class from Mike and Will from Double Tap, you should jump at it.

My next class is Concealed Carry Essentials. Even though I carry daily, there's always something new to learn. I can't wait!

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