First some background on me

I’m not new to shooting by any means, but this year I have focused on training – like selling off several guns to pay for training and ammo focused. Events around the world lately combined with my first child being born last year and the second due any day have shifted my focus from a “I want lots of guns” perspective to a “I need to be proficient to use the guns I own.”

I’ve been shooting since I was a kid, have always loved rimfire shooting, shot a lot of shotgun in college, started doing static shooting with handguns once I turned 21 (got my GWL and a pistol before I purchased my first beer). Up until this year, nearly all of that shooting was indoors, standing still, shooting a paper target.

Pretty much all of my mother’s side of my family have been or are now LEO/Military.

My first training was with Van @ Dead Center earlier this year when I took their 4 part Defensive Pistol course (I missed one of the 4, so technically 3 part).

I have watched all the Magpul DVDs and been a YouTube ninja for several years, mostly because the cost of training kept me away – I wanted to get better, but I’d rather spend the money on a new gun, new accessory, etc than spend it on training. I’ll tell you – there is Nothing like live training! Nothing. It is worth whatever it costs you.

As to this specific course – Tactical Carbine – and my experience on a carbine platform: My range time on an AR has been limited — I’ve owned 4 ARs (2 Colts, A Pistol Build courtesy of ODT, and my current 14.5 inch which I built myself). I like to know how things work, and I like to tinker, so I’ve really grown to love the AR rifle.

Prior to Saturday’s course I had maybe – maybe – fired 200 rounds from an AR. All static, standing in a box at a range. So very little carbine use. Until this class….

About the Course

We started with the basics – trigger control, sight height over bore’s impact at close range, managing recoil, stock position and leverage on the weapon, etc.

Nothing fancy or impressive, but basic building blocks. Most of this was not new to me – you know, from all those great youtube videos I watched – but I’d never actually put it into practice. And having watched videos and tried it dry-fire didn’t help me that much when it came to actually doing it.

As it was presented – these fundamentals were the things that would all make the difference in being a better shooter. And these were the things that we were told we would forget as soon as quickly as we had “learned” them. Sure enough, these are the hardest things to force my brain to remember.

Throughout the day I found myself halfway through a drill thinking “boy I was just slapping the crap out of the trigger” or “I did not get stock into a good solid firing position before I engaged that target” etc.

If the stress course was the most “fun” part of the day, the fundamentals was the most valuable block of training.

Different Firing Positions

We worked through standing, kneeling, prone, side prone/roll over prone, and firing while lying on our backs. Most of this work was done at ~80 yards shooting steel plates (I think 10 or 12 inch).

All I can say is until you actually get a chance to get down in these various positions and fire from them, you cannot understand or be prepared for them.

The one that stuck out to me the most, as an example, was firing form my back. I’m in pretty good shape – exercise and lift regularly, etc. I can bust out 50 sit ups no problem, so I figured I’d roll half way up, shoulder the carbine and have no problem hitting the target.


This was an absolutely unrealistic firing position. I couldn’t maintain a good sigh picture, couldn’t keep the weap0n positioned where I needed it. It was just bad.

Instead, what was incredibly comfortable and allowed me to make hits on the steel plate was pressing out against the sling with my shoulders on the ground and the stock of the rifle completely off my body.

Never would have guessed that would have been the case.

We fired from behind barricades, through holes in barricades, etc. At the end of the day in the stress course, I almost shot the barricade because I totally forgot that my RDS is 2 inches over bore. Yep, they’d told us that 5 or 6 times… then when there was “Stress” introduced, I totally forgot.

Malfunctions and Reloads

We worked through Type 1, 2, and 3 malfunctions. Tactical/Administrative and speed reloads. And in this block also covered transitioning to secondary firearm.

Reloads was an area that I had actually practiced at home with empty mags. Still no comparison – I wasn’t sweaty, tired, hot, and surrounded by other guns being fired.

I learned this with the handgun training earlier in the year, but it proved true again – even if you practice clearing a malfunction or doing a reload, it’s not the same as when it happens in a course of fire or drill because you are expecting it when you’re practicing it dry fire, etc.

Multiple Threat Engagement

One thing that Van mentioned in this class and the handgun class was that speed matters, but not as much as hitting the target. Being fast and missing won’t win a gunfight. I believe that today, headshots matter – more and more based on the crap that’s going on around the world and guys with armor, explosive vests, etc.

We focused engaging a single target first from low ready, two shots to the torso. Then we shifted to engaging with a single round to the head from low-ready. Then combined the two.

Then we shifted to 2 targets.

Any time the carbine went dry, we were to transition to secondary to complete the drill.

We had literally JUST worked through transitions to secondary and reloads. And I still found myself fumbling through them once introduced in a drill where I wasn’t expecting the transition. I wasn’t firing 2 rounds then transitioning to pistol, a mag was running dry when I wasn’t expecting it, then I had to transition to pistol.

The focus on sight acquisition when transitioning from carbine to handgun surprised me. I quickly got acclimated to how quickly (relatively) I could acquire the head on the target through my RDS. But when I had to transition to handgun to complete a drill, my first shots were terrible…. TERRIBLE. I think I had accepted that at ~7 yards, I could largely point and shoot with the carbine. For a head shot (for me at least) with the pistol, I needed to actually look at the sights.

Firing while moving

I shoot IDPA twice a month, so firing while moving with a handgun is something I’m getting comfortable with… it is TOTALLY different with a carbine, body position took some adjusting to – particularly when engaging targets 90 degrees to my strong side.

Thinking about foot work (it was rainy and muddy) was a fun challenge as well – something I’d never experienced having done all of my prior shooting indoors.

Learning how to shift the weapon to corner around barricades, etc. while still controlling muzzle direction was particularly enlightening to me.

Stress Course

We ended the day with a run through a stress course that started at 80 yards, and ended at <5 yards. There 2 barricades, 5 barrels, and some mud gave a great chance to get my heart rate up and still try to make good hits on target (even though I screwed up the course of fire and ran dry before completing it).


The Gear I Used:

The rifle I took the course with is one I built from the ground up – my first build. I’ll go into details only because I’m sure someone might care about what parts, etc.

YHM Lower Receiver w/ PSA LPK with Enhanced Polished Trigger
Rainier Upper
Strike Industries ARCH extended charging handle
Aero Precision BCG
14.5 inch mid-length bergara barrel, w/ BCM A2X flash hider
fixed A2 front sight (BCM)
Magpul MOE SL handguard, MOE fixed carbine stock
Bushnell TRS-25 RDS.
Knock off DD A1.5 rear sight
Way of the Gun Sling
Rustoleum paint job… cause black is boring

I had less than 80 rounds through it prior to the course to zero the gun and ensure the 14.5 mid-length was going to cycle crappy Russian ammo. Which it did… perfectly.

Saturday I went through roughly 800 rounds. The only “malfunction” was the gun surprisingly going full auto/burst fire early in the day. Why, you ask? Because I’d never built a lower before and I put the hammer spring in backwards.

I started the course with a Plate Carrier. I got a plate carrier earlier this year – honestly, because of an article I read online – the premise was this: You’d pay thousands of dollars for guns and mags and ammo. Hundreds for sights and holsters. Hundreds for training to be prepared for a gun fight. And you won’t spend a couple hundred on body armor that could save your life if you were in an actual gun fight.

That perspective sold me.

On Saturday during the course, I lost the armor real quickly. A) it was hot as hell. B) I was in the course to become a better shooter with my AR, and a fixed stock was down right miserable to shoot with the carrier on. I’m honestly now second guessing how practical owning the armor is for me, but that’s another discussion.

I had a single AR mag belt pouch, and a single pistol mag belt pouch.

I had a Gen 2 Glock 19 in a blade tech paddle holster.

I shot Brown Bear 9mm and Wolf 62gr .223 I choose to train and shoot matches with the crappiest ammo I can get for one reason: I want to increase the likelihood of a failure, so I have to deal with it when it’s unexpected. I carry high quality factory ammo for EDC, and keep plenty of XM855 around for my AR. But I train/plink/compete with crappy stuff.

My Take Aways

1) Body Armor was not functional – especially when trying to learn and master basics. While I am glad I did train with it for a couple hours of the day, I will focus on training and getting more proficient without it before I work it back into training.

2) If you’ve not put your gun through the ringer, don’t trust it. We had 2 guns go down on the day. 1 sight that was zeroed indoors at 25 yards that was WAY off at 80. And my gun went full auto on me early in the day (I had installed my hammer spring backwards so I didn’t have enough force to keep the sear engaged)

3) Have a reason for why your rife is setup the way it is. I like the look of a fixed carbine stock, so that’s what I put on my rifle. We were presented with great arguments for the value of an adjustable stock, specifically for shooting it fully extended. I’ll probably be swapping out my stock soon. I want what is going to help me run the gun better, not what looks cool.

4) Practice, Practice, Practice. And Practice the right things – the fundamentals. Those are what I regularly forgot over the course of the day.

5) There’s no such thing as too much training. I’ll be taking more of these classes in the future.

6) Use competitions to train – I’m going to try to shift my approach to IDPA to focus more on precision, I’m not an amazing shooter by any means, but the small match I shoot at, I’ve placed for SSP every time, once winning overall. I’m going to start focusing on head shots only – just to force myself to pay more attention to sight picture. I’m also really considering 3-gun or some other way to get to shoot carbine under “Stress” more often.

Overall –

Van and Harold who provided the instruction are fantastic teachers. There is always some gear talk and “I like this because…” when you get gun enthusiasts together, that is probably increased when you add the customizability of the AR, but these guys were 100% about function and purpose for everything. They shared why they had their rifles setup how they did, etc. It was great info.

I shot ~$225 worth of ammo, plus the cost of the course (advertised at $200). IT was worth EVERY PENNY. And I will take a second course when it is offered and works with my travel schedule.

Personally, I travel 5 days a week, so as much as I’d love to take a 2 day course in another state that time away from my wife and kids isn’t going to happen. This was a GREAT close to home option that is very cost effective in my opinion. The training was very professional and down to earth. Not once did I feel like there was any fluff or pissing contest talk (cough… Yeager…cough). This was all about what is practical, what works, and what will make you a better shooter.

We trained at Simper Fi gun training up in Lula, GA. The Colonel was a great host, and has a great facility.


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