This winter, I was offered a chance to take an NRA instructors course through the BSA. I'm a decent shooter for being mostly self taught, so I figured, why not! It was a good class to take, very informative and useful for teaching scouts to shoot. All the age old basics are there, with the 1910 shooting positions and the like. It was dated, but had the basic knowledge and useful tips to refine the most basic of shooters.
After the class, I decided to up my game seriously. I read books, watched skills videos, talked to pros about it and decided that I'd like to forgo the competition circuit and just refine practical skills and combat techniques. I'm pretty lucky to run in a group of friends that has Avid shooters and professional soldiers and LEO SWAT shooters. I've had a great time learning how every shooter overcomes issues and trains to an optimum level. I've shot more this year than ever in my life. I'd venture to say I've shot as much ammo this year as I have the past 3 combined. It has really helped me become the shooter I always wanted to be.
Once I was feeling good about my shooting, what should I do to improve? Take some upper level training. I had an opportunity to preview a class with a new training co that is offering some next level classes like PSD and Vehicle ops as options past the basic Carbine and Pistol classes offered by most. The lead instructor has an impressive list of credentials, but Zero sell-ebrity appeal. I chose to take the vehicle class and see what it's all about.
I got my rhythm immediately, but I wasn't prepared to go right into either Bounding in pairs or Bounding by pairs, I can't remember and there was a serious contention about the actual representation of this course of fire. This was my first sign that there was some tension between instructors. It was pretty light, and I wasn't worried about it. 2 of the three had their stuff wired tight and had everything pretty well squared away. It was the third guy that seemed to look for reasons to stir the pot and let everyone know what he thought, without regard for the course.
Day one was all basic work up. They made sure that I was squared away. Transitions, accuracy, muzzle discipline, volley fire and verbal commands. Everyone was 100% in the game, Even in 100 degree heat. We did some fun drills for time and it tested us very well. We wrapped up and cleaned up our mess.
My biggest issue was with my magazines. I was using Pmags for a class for the fist time in my life. I loaded them with stripper clips to top them off in a hurry between sets and every once in a while I'd load up 31 in a 30 round mag. It made mag changes interesting when the over filled mag would lock up my AR. Same goes for 40 rounders, they lock up at 41 just like the 30's do at 31. I was using my oldest ammo, some was a bit green and corroded, but I only had 3 misfires out of 1k rounds. My biggest failure was a split case on a 9mm round. It blew out the base and caused a squib round. 2 of the other shooters were using my ammo with zero failures so my QC process is working well. I was just shooting the stuff that was marginal, so I expected a failure or two, but not 4.
The next issue was that I worked on my gun the night before I left, installing a Geissele SSA trigger from my REPR into it for the class. The pins kept walking out on me and I had to engage them further to get them to hold. My fault, totally. I know better than to take an untested gun into a class, but hey, what an adventure.
I installed an AM TAC muzzle brake that fits my GemTech can, and it worked flawlessly. Zero muzzle rise but with a bunch more blast. When we were working in close quarters, my team mates didn't care for the blast. There was also a noted reduction in flash.
This was also my first class with an urban ERT Sling. I've been using them for a while now and love them after transitioning from a single point. The only issue I had was when clearing a jam, the placement I had for the sling put the buckle right where it would catch between the edge of the stock and the charging handle. I just need to move the attachment point from the back plate to the stock.
My leg platform for the magazines proved to be too loose and would drop a mag when I ran. I got it up higher the second day and it worked like a charm.
The new bladetech holster was a total failure. It jammed up on me several times. If the gun was moved out of it's lowest position even 1mm, it would jam up the mechanism and I'd have to push it back down to release the back strap. I was rather unimpressed with my 150 dollar purchase. I'm usually pretty quick with a transition, but this seriously hampered my draw and sapped my confidence. I muddled through, but it really wasn't pleasant.
The real fun begins. We learn how to react to contact from a vehicle. Getting your butt over the hump and out the drivers door from the passenger seat caused some serious damage to me and my kit. It was tough, and I learned to do it as easily as possible. I'm glad I'd foregone the use of my plate carrier and went strictly belt and drop legs. Both the heat and conditions dictated it. A seat belt is the enemy when you are trying to get out of your metal coffin in a hurry.
We attempted bounding in a 4 man team, and I have to tell you, it was a total goat rope. No matter what we did, it was wrong. I screwed up a few times with lines of fire, and we ended up with 3 instructors telling us to do three different things, and when we got done Lovely #3 always wanted to interject or stop the exercise to tell us what to do. I kept over thinking everything and just couldn't get it all down. It was like I was back in the kitchen at home with both mom and dad telling me what to do and neither would let me do it. #3 never just let us make decisions. He wanted to constantly control our tempo and direction. When we did it the way he wanted, the other instructors jumped us. Finally we just stopped and went to something else. I totally lost my cool when I was told to bound back and got counseled by #3 for doing so when the rest of my team pushed left. My angle of fire was close, but within tolerance for the exercise. Then he wanted to argue about that. The next go round, we all got together and decided on a plan for our extraction. We did it perfectly, and #3 wanted to tear it down and nit pick the fact that our cover was thin. Yes, it was thin. Yes, it wasn't perfect. Our execution was great and we were working towards a goal of a clean run, only to have everything we worked for thrown back into our faces. We were bleeding, sweaty and tired, but he just kept at it. Finally the lead instructor called it and we moved on before the 4 students decided to zip tie his ass to the rocking chair on the porch of the main building.
We took a break and hit the AC for some hydration and some time for the instructors to talk. After the talk, we went into another drill where we did dry run bump take downs and then drilled on block and stop take downs. After we put it all together, we did it in 2 man teams live fire with targets in the car. Everyone did this well and we did several runs in different configurations. It was a very dynamic environment with a lot of trust in your partner. We were shooting at targets in our zone with the other shooter on the opposite side of the car. It went well and we sped it up til it was fluid. #3 was pretty silent and didn't talk to me at all. I think the other instructors had a "Come To Jesus" meeting with him.
We started back in on the defense tactics on a downed vehicle. We only operated in pairs, and this worked out very well. My teammate and I were doing our thing and getting solid hits on our "aggressors" out past 300 yards. The lead instructor drove and we used his vehicle as cover and bounded out past the vehicle to get angles on the the shooters. We did this several times with different positioning and cover. Really fun drills, but very tiring and high stress when you're shooting past your instructor.
The last thing we did was shoot from a vehicle, through the windshield and check the hits. We did the break and rake on the windows and shot from different angles into the car to see what stops bullets and what doesn't. We finished on that and decided to have a little contest. See who could hit a LaRue target at 125 with a pistol. My Teammate won the contest, and I was the only other person to get a hit. Good times and great experiences.
All in all, the class was great. I will not take another class if instructor #3 is there, but it seems that everyone felt the same way. The lead and second instructor are top notch. #2 was a bit of an acquired taste, but the man could do it. He was a shooter and without a doubt, had the ability to impart that knowledge in an appropriate manner. His mechanics were perfect. The lead instructor was a consummate professional. He knew the material and the best way to impart it. His issue was too many cooks in the kitchen. I believe the third instructor was pushed on him by the venue, but I'm not for certain.If #1 and #2 gave classes again, I'd be in line to hand them money. It's well worth the drive.
I don't regret driving 1100 miles each way to attend the class, it was well worth it. I was exposed to things I never planned to do or learn, it was more of a fun class for me. I did refine some skills and change some things in my standard kit and technique. I'm better for taking the class and anyone would be as well, with a caveat. If #3 is there, turn off your ear muffs when he's speaking. Listening will do nothing but frustrate you and inflate his misplaced ego.