AAR: Learning Firearms Patrol Rifle Marksman course

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AAR: Learning Firearms Patrol Rifle Marksman course

Postby UnaStamus on Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:30 am

AAR: Learning Firearms Patrol Rifle Marksman
21-22 JUL 2018
Learning Firearms Range, Brainerd Lakes/Breezy Point, MN

While this started as an AAR, this wound up being partially a technical document commentary on scope design and use. Sorry- that’s just how this went down.

Wx: Day 1 started cloudy and cooler, but the sun came out and it warmed to high 70’s. Day 2 was sunny with a high in the low 80s. Both days had a light breeze.

Students: 9 students attended the course. Several students were guys we have had in previously Learning Firearms and hosted courses. A couple students were current or prior military, and two were law enforcement.

As an instructor I used my rifle sporadically, but the spotting scope was a key accessory.

The Rifle:
Lower: LaRue LT-15 receiver with LMT 2-stage trigger and LMT SOPMOD stock with BCM grip.
Upper: Noveske VLTOR MUR receiver, Wilson 18” Mk12 match barrel with 1:8 twist, BCM gunfighter charging handle, Geissele 15” Mk14 MLOK rail, Rainier Arms XTC brake, Atlas Bipod.
Optic: NightForce NX8 1-8x FC-MIL capped turrets in a KDG Sidelok modular 30mm mount.

The Spotter:
Swarovski STS-65 HD with 20-60x eyepiece, Manfrotto 290 Dual tripod.

Student Rifles:
Students had a variety of rifles, and the vast majority were custom builds of various configuration. There were a couple that had premium specialty receiver groups, with one student using a very rare and prized 12.5” Hodge Defense upper. Two students ran factory rifles. One was a BCM 16”, and the other was an Adams Arms .308 with minimal alterations. Several students ran suppressors in class.

Two students ran SBRs, proving that short rifles can do great things. The fact is that short barrels are stiffer than longer barrels of the same contour, so there is somewhat of an accuracy advantage up to a certain point. The issue lies with reduced bullet velocity, but nonetheless they can get the job done. In a previously hosted mid-range carbine course, I ran an 11.5” SBR with Aimpoint Micro T-1 and another student ran a 9” FN SCAR-16 CQC with Aimpoint T-1 out to 300yds.

There were no reported rifle issues. In recent years, we have seen a very positive shift in the quality of student rifles. It is now to the point where we rarely see rifle problems in any of our course, or in the courses that we host.

Student Optics:
The following optics were used by students in class:
Bushnell Elite SMRS 1-6.5x
EOTech Vudu 1-6x
Kahles K16i 1-6x (2 students)
NightForce NX8 1-8x
Steiner P4Xi 1-4x
Swarovski Z8i 1-8x
Trijicon AccuPower 1-4x
Trijicon AccuPower 1-8x

There were no optics issues, as to be expected since all were high quality. The one weak link we see often in training is that students cut corners with their optics. I was glad to see that all students brought high quality optics suited for the course.

Several years ago, Dave and I began brainstorming a designated marksman/midrange marksmanship course, but it never came to fruition. We had difficulty trying to set up a relevant context, in that magnified optics were still not that well used. Red dots still dominated the ranges. We had the room to shoot, but it wasn’t the typical rife range being that we use a gravel pit. Fast forward a couple years, and LPVOs are seeing a massive surge in popularity with the advancement of technology and the increase in quality options that don’t surpass a mortgage payment. The professional tactical environment of law enforcement has seen a need for magnified optics as well, and no longer was magnification something that was exclusively beneficial to the military. Incidents like Las Vegas and Dallas have proven that. 2-gun and 3-gun competitions are starting to incorporate more long range stages as well, and people are starting to see the fun in shooting at distance to boot.

When we started to realize that we could do this, I began to look at my own background and realized that I had a lot more experience with this kind of curriculum than I had given myself credit for. Back in 2000, I bought my first slug gun for deer hunting. I topped my Benelli SuperBlackEagle with a Leupold Vari-X II 1-4x20 non-illuminated shotgun scope. I had been using the Vari-X II for close to 17 years at that point in everything from brush to open bean fields. My longest deer kill was 175yds with that scope using a Hornady Heavy Mag H2K 300gr XTP slug. In 2003 I deployed to Iraq and for the majority of my year-plus deployment I had a Trijicon TA01 4x32 ACOG mounted on the carry handle of my issued M16A2. Around 2012ish, I picked up an Aimpoint 3x magnifier on a LaRue flip-to-side mount, which I used on a training rifle for years. I have been a cop for 11 years, and 4 years ago I transferred to a major metropolitan department. I was selected as a rife operator and was issued my own rifle, and I was left to accessorize the rifle as I saw fit in accordance with the approved equipment list. I topped the rifle with an Aimpoint CompM4S and that Aimpoint 3x magnifier, which I have been running since 2016.

For professional use of magnified optics, I looked at the situations that arose in both my military and law enforcement duties. On the military side, the ACOG was a very helpful tool. I used it primarily for observation in the field, and it filled a limited counter-sniper role sufficiently since nobody else had any magnification. Being able to spot and follow potential threats out to distance in both open terrain and urban environments was a huge asset. In the law enforcement world, the magnification has had a much more limited applicability, but it’s been a benefit nonetheless. One such incident with the 3x magnifier was during a high-risk (aka Felony) traffic stop where the driver was not getting out of the vehicle upon being ordered to. Nobody knew why. I was able to get to a side angle and view into the driver’s side window to see the driver holding a Bowie knife with a 9” blade up to his chest. I was able to warn my partner officers and a K9 about the threat and keep them from approaching. When the male suspect finally dropped the knife and got out, I was able to tell my partners that the knife was no longer in possession. At night, this was a huge benefit to our safety.

Dave first introduced me to the benefits of an LPVO (Low Power Variable Optic) for tactical use back in 2011 at a Trident Concepts carbine course. He drove home the viability and utility by being the top shooter in the class and proving that he was just as fast with a Trijicon AccuPoint TR24 1-4x as I was with an Aimpoint CompM4S red dot. I got my first real tactical LPVO in 2014 when I bought a Leupold Mark6 1-6x scope for my LMT 308MWS. I ran that in a Vickers Tactical 2-day carbine course, and at that point I was fully convinced of the capability of an LPVO to do everything an RDS could do, and more. Last year I picked up my second LPVO in the form of a Kahles K16i 1-6x, and my most recent purchase has been the NightForce NX8 1-8x, which I plan on eventually using on my duty rifle.

My agency is showing tepid interest in LPVOs and magnified optics, but there is hesitation due to not knowing whether additional training will be needed or required by the administration. In this vein, I want to get along with more magnified optic tactics and procedure development for rifles, so my interest in creating this course has been a vessel to further that effort.

Above all, I just love shooting long range and blasting steel targets with a carbine, and an LPVO or magnified optic makes that a whole lot easier.

Class started with a classroom session at Breezy Point Police Department. Most of our courses take place on the range because we feel that the best learning takes place when students are actively learning and putting skills into practice. In the case of this course, we had to take a more traditional classroom approach to the beginning of the course in order to cover required course material that would be important for use over the next two days.

We started by going over safety, which is always a key factor in our training. We go by Big Boy Rules and run a hot range when we deem it appropriate to do so.

Rifle setup was the next topic, and we discussed the different types of setups and how rifles could be configured differently. We talked about different optics and gave an overview of different optics types, setups and systems. The three key setups that we see are LPVOs, fixed-power magnified optics, and supplemental red dot sight (RDS) magnifiers.

Now, for those that are seeing the term LPVO for the first time and don’t know what it refers to, the quick nitty-gritty is that an LPVO is a scope with low magnification that can be adjusted (variable) by the shooter, which is designed for rapid target engagement at close or longer distance. LPVOs are characterized by a low-end 1x or near-1x magnification like 1.1x, 1.25x or 1.5x, with a top end magnification being limited only by design limitations and cost factors. Essentially, any scope that is a 1-4x, 1.25-4x, 1-5x, 1.5-5x, 1-6x, 1.1-8x, 1-8x or any similar configuration or variation is an LPVO. Ideally, LPVOs should have illuminated reticles that are daytime visible, though it’s not a mandate. LPVOs run the gamut of quality from low-grade economy to the top tier premium with the best glass in the world. With LPVOs, you truly get what you pay for. There are gems within each price category outside of the premium tier of LPVOs, and there are also models that are complete garbage. In the low price categories, the garbage outweighs the gold. In the upper price levels, the gold shines and garbage starts to disappear.

Fixed-power magnified optics are also referred to as battlesights or combat optical gunsights,. These are optics that have one set magnification, and have a bullet drop compensating (BDC) reticle that is calibrated for a specific rifle load. These are the most basic of magnified optics, and they’re usually extremely durable and reliable due to them having few moving parts. There are variations to this where you may have a secondary power of magnification that you can change to with the flip of a switch, like you see with the Elcan SpecterDR 1x/4x or 1.5x/6x. The Elcans have far more in common with this category than LPVOs. Traditional fixed magnification sights include the Trijicon ACOG, which has been the workhorse of US military for a couple decades, and was included in the original SOPMOD M4 package. Other battlesight variations include the Leupold HAMR, Hensoldt ZO, Browe BCO, Elcan SpecterOS, Sig Sauer BRAVO4, Steiner M332/M536, and others. Battlesights really need to have illumination of some kind in them, and there are different lighting methods. Because battlesights are so simplistic in design, they tend to have very good optical quality due to manufacturers using higher quality, stronger and better constructed glass. Battlesights also are able to be constructed with larger ocular and objective lenses, and those aid in the transmission of a greater amount of light.

The supplemental RDS magnifier is a pretty simple concept. Aimpoint, EOTech, Vortex and a couple other companies basically make a fixed-power magnification monocular that can mount to a picatinny rail either through a 30mm ring housing or a proprietary mounting system. These magnifiers sit behind an RDS and are designed to be quickly moved to the side or removed completely when not in use, though the complete removal mounts are really not ideal. 3x is the most common magnification, but we have seen options pop up across the spectrum from about 2x-6x from various manufacturers. They are simple because there are few or zero moving parts in the optic, so they tend to be incredibly durable and shock-proof, which means outstanding reliability. Magnifiers are compact and have a very small exit pupil, so they tend to have a tight eyebox. They also have marginalized optical quality due to the compact design with small ocular and objective lenses.

Within the optics types, illumination is a major benefit. Optics have illumination through various methods and technologies. The main illumination types are battery, self-luminous, fiber optic, dual illumination and solar. The most common method is battery power, which covers the majority of optics. Self-luminous is a sight that is illuminated in low light by radioactive tritium. Fiber optic uses a fiber optic rod to collect ambient daytime light and channel it to reticle. Dual illumination uses a combination of fiber optic for daytime and tritium for low light. Solar uses a small solar panel to collect light as a power source, which powers the reticle. Solar optics can have an external auxiliary battery backup power source.

Dual illumination is one of the oldest methods, and was substantially developed by the Trijicon. It benefits from needing no battery, so there is never a worry of a dead battery in the field. The only issue is that tritium has low level radioactivity, and thus has a half-life. Tritium has a half-life of approximately 12 years, meaning that from the time it is activated, after 12 years it will only emit half the radiation as when it was activated. That means dramatically reduced light emission. In my experience with dual-illuminated reticles, the tritium becomes nearly invisible to the eye in all but pitch-black conditions at about 9 years. The problem is that when you buy the optic, you don’t know when the tritium was activated. You can get new tritium inserted by the manufacturer, but it’s costly to the tune of a couple hundred dollars. Dual illumination is also hindered by reticle “washout”, which is where the point of aim or ambient light at the target is brighter than the reticle, and washes out the reticle. This is most common when you are in a dark area and aiming to a brighter one, because dual illumination optics are self-adjusting and adjust their light based on the ambient light at the location of the optic, and not where you are aiming. This is also a problem in the twilight of dawn or dusk when there is not enough ambient light to light up the fiber optic rod, but just enough light to overpower the tritium.

Battery power is currently the most common method, partly because it’s the easiest to engineer and and partly because it’s the cheapest. Within battery illuminations, there are various designs like collimating or reflected reticle, but each manufacturer picks the best method for their design and price point. The biggest issue with battery power has revolved around the illumination being daylight visible. There is also a bit of a “sub group” for illumination with the illumination being “red dot bright”. There is a difference between illumination you can see and use in daylight, and a reticle that is so bright that it’s like a red dot sight. A brighter reticle often translates to picking up the reticle faster during target acquisition, and also adds benefit when dealing with ultra-bright lighting conditions like those in snow or sand environments in broad daylight where there is extensive light reflection. The cold hard reality is that “red dot bright” is actually technically very hard to accomplish, and it limits the riflescope design. Consequently, the vast majority of optics that have the brightest illumination also tend to be the most expensive. This is often reflective of higher levels of technology and engineering within the scope.

My TA01 ACOG from my Army days was self-luminous, in that it was tritium only. In daylight and lowlight, it had a non-illuminated reticle that was not optimal in a lot of situations. It worked for what it was designed for, but the dual-illumination models were clearly far superior in utility. This highlights that optics that are self-luminous or fiber optic only tend to be very task-specific, and thus not as ideal. In the same vein, I found that having daylight visible illumination puts you at a distinct advantage over non-illuminated reticles. When you do not have a reticle that is sufficiently illuminated for daylight or bright ambient light, you have to rely on reticle design to draw your attention quickly. Simple crosshair or post reticles have to be thick enough to quickly reference, and often times that requires you to have a reticle that obscures large portions of the target. What’s more is that when you aim at dark objects or use the scope in failing or low light, the reticle become invisible. You lose your ability to accurately aim on target.

So, following that discussion we started talking about reticle design and focal planes. Dave outlined the premise behind second focal plane (SFP), which is also known as rear focal plane, and first focal plane (FFP) or front focal plane. The long and short of this description for those not familiar is the aspect ratio of the reticle in relation to the target. In a SFP, the reticle always stays the same size to your eye. When you range with a SFP reticle, it has a 1:1 ratio at a specific magnification, which is usually the highest magnification. At that specific magnification, 1mil or 1MOA corresponds to 1mil or 1MOA on the target. If that magnification is at, say 16x on a 4-16x50 scope, you must do accurate ranging or shot correction at 16x. Every magnification below that becomes a multiple of the subtension (measurement of mils or MOA). What that means is that if you half the magnification, you double the value of each increment on the scope. While you are 1mil at 16x, at 8x you would be double that at 2mils. At 12x you would be 1.5 mils, and at 4x each 1mil increment would be 4mils.

SFP was the standard for years for long range shooting and precision, but with the needs of modern precision shooting on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, the needs of modern law enforcement snipers, and the sharp rise in precision shooting competition with groups like Precision Rifle Series, SFP has become antiquated and all but obsolete with modern scope designs. SFP scopes still exist and are manufactured, but are dramatically less popular and are waning in commercial offerings. The demand has shifted to FFP.

FFP is a reticle design that stays at the same aspect ratio as the target you are aiming at through all magnifications. Whether you are at 4x or 16x, 1mil in the scope is 1mil on the target. To the eye of the shooter, the reticle will grow or shrink in size at the same rate as the target. When you zoom out the minimum magnification, the reticle will appear very fine and tiny, but then it gets large and thicker at maximum magnification. This allows for accurate and fast ranging at all magnifications without using additional math, and it allows for more accurate ranging at maximum magnification.

SFP reticles are currently quite common in hunting and benchrest scopes, simply because there is no need for ranging reticles in them. They tend to use more basic reticle designs. While FFP tends to offer a tactical advantage for precision shooting, SFP reticles offer unique advantages in LPVOs. LPVOs tend to have ranging reticles or a BDC reticle. In SFP, the reticle is only accurate at maximum magnification. While this presents a potential problem instead of advantage, the reality is that kind of precision shooting that would require the use of the BDC or subtensions would likely require the use of maximum magnification anyways since the optic has such a low magnification range. When you have a 1-6x scope, shooting precision at 1x or 2x is impractical, so you are naturally going to go to 6x to make the most accurate shot, and at that point, you will have the reticle at its accurate 1:1 focal ratio. Where the advantage of this lies is with the overall size of the reticle, which is fully visible at 1x. You have a large aiming point that draws your attention quickly. Even more important than that is that SFP reticles are easier to illuminate. The engineering needed to illuminate a fixed SFP reticle is relatively lower tech than with SFP counterparts. This technology is easier and cheaper to develop, and thus, it can be put on lower cost scopes for the benefit of more shooters. This is why daylight visible illumination and the more desirable red dot bright illumination is more common in SFP scopes. There are far more SFP scopes with daylight visible illumination than FFP scopes.

FFP reticles offer a more difficult illumination design, which often means that the reticles cannot be illuminated as brightly. A significant number of FFP LPVOs don’t have daylight visible illumination, and of the ones that do, very few are actually red dot bright. The technology has just proven to be very difficult to develop. Several years ago a solution was developed for this conundrum in the form of a new dual focal plane (DFP). These DFP scopes had a special design that used a set of lenses that operated at different magnification ranges. At low magnification, the scopes functioned as a SFP scope. This allowed bright red dot visible illumination to be designed into the scope. When the scope got above a certain magnification like 2x or 3x, the scope switched to a FFP reticle by putting the FFP lens into focus, and the FFP reticle can be used up to maximum magnification for long range use. The FFP reticle would be illuminated, but would not be daylight visible. DFP scopes wound up being very difficult to engineer, and for a period of time only one scope (US Optics SR-8C) actually successfully executed the concept. The other DFP scopes were not released. Only recently have a select few manufacturers like Schmidt&Bender and Minox brought those DFP scopes back to market.

DFP technology is still new, and not without its problems. DFP scopes are extremely expensive, and thus have a very select customer base. DFP scopes also suffer from design limitations, which result in the scopes having smaller exit pupils, which means a tighter and shorter eyebox. The scopes cut down light transmission, cause visual defects like distortion and chromatic aberration, and the increase of moving parts require a higher degree of engineering for operation and durability. This means that to counter these problems, manufacturers must use higher quality glass, more advanced engineering and development, and more advanced construction. All that explains why the prices are so high. It’s been enough of a struggle that US Optics eventually discontinued the SR-8C.

Since DFP scopes have been few in number and high in cost, there has been a drive to develop better FFP scopes. FFP scopes have posed two major problems. The first problem has been the illumination, as stated before. The design has not allowed the illumination to be bright enough with available technology. Leupold was really the first company to develop not only a working daylight visible illumination system for FFP scopes, but an illumination that is red dot bright. This was first introduced with the Mark8 1.1-8x CQBSS with what is known as reflected reticle illumination. Leupold used this same illumination design in their Mark6 1-6x, which is also a FFP scope. The only problem with this illumination design is that the illumination projects straight back from the reticle. If you are directly in the center of the eyebox, you can see the illumination. When you move off-center within the eyebox, you lose the illumination. It has a flickering effect at low magnification when you move in and out of the optimal eye position. It’s a minimal issue at 1x due to the larger eyebox, but at maximum magnification it is much more noticeable. While this is not a perfect design, it is easily negotiated and managed. The new NightForce 1-8x scopes use this illumination technology, but have refined it to have less of the flickering effect.

The second problem with FFP is the reticle design. Since the reticle has to be visible and usable at max magnification while still allowing precision, this requires the reticle to be extremely fine at the lowest magnifications. Essentially, most FFP reticles are useless at 1-3x. The flip side is that FFP reticles typically use a larger center aiming section that acts as an aiming point that covers between 1-4 MOA of the target. At 1x, this usually resembles the dot of your typical red dot sight. As you zoom in, the reticle becomes more complex with added benefits. Some scope companies have actually created two different reticles into one design. The EOTech Vudu reticle for example looks like the famed 65MOA circle dot reticle in the EOTech holographic sights at 1x. When the user zooms in, the circle expands out of the field of view to reveal that the center dot is actually a BDC horseshoe reticle at 6x. It’s a unique design that is quite innovative, but unfortunately the illumination still isn’t as bright as many would like. It’s simply a matter of technological limitations.

At this point, I’m sure this some are asking “Which is the best option?”. Well, that all depends on what you want. For precision, FFP tends to be the better option due to the need for the use of the reticle subtensions. For most use, however, I believe that LPVOs are best when they’re SFP due to the ease of developing red dot bright illumination and the fact that a BDC or ranging reticle is really only needed at high magnification. Cost is also a factor, and SFP scopes are more affordable.
In our training, we discussed these advantages and disadvantages, though not at this length. We then discussed trajectory and zeroing. When we discussed the trajectory, we went over the basic concepts of trajectory and then discussed how the zeroing range affected that trajectory with relation to the point of aim. The key is to have a trajectory that requires no elevation correction for as long of a distance as possible. This what we refer to as Point Blank Range (PBR). In this instruction, we tied it in with zero distance and the reticles utilized by our optics.

Some reticles are calibrated for a specific cartridge at a certain muzzle velocity. The Trijicon ACOG TA01 for example was calibrated for M855 5.56mm to be zeroed at 100m. The aiming points on the BDC reticle correspond to ranges at 100m intervals out to 800m. Unfortunately, not all reticles are so easy to use. Most reticles in LPVOs correspond to MOA or milrad increments. As such, you need to know how your reticle corresponds to your chosen zero distance. To do this, the Strelok ballistic app is a vital tool that we use. We use Strelok Pro, but even the basic version has advantages. Strelok has a database of nearly all scope reticles, and when you input all necessary date like the cartridge, muzzle velocity, environment and zero distance, it will give you a readout of the ranges that every stadia line on the reticle corresponds to. When we discussed zero distance, we discussed how the 50yd and 100yd zeroes are the most ideal, and tend to have the most accurate correspondence with most scope reticles. The caveat here is that if you have a calibrated BDC reticle, you need to make sure you follow manufacturer instructions on zeroing. The class gave a thorough instruction on how to input accurate data into the Strelok app.

Once we finished the classroom portion, we packed up and convoyed to our range, which in a private gravel quarry.

TD1 Range:
At the range, we quickly set up our tents and range and gave a quick safety brief and range overview. We then got down to business and set up chronometers and had students each shoot 5 shots through the chronometers to get an average velocity for their chosen ammunition. After collecting velocities, we broke for lunch.

After lunch, we began zeroing. We requested that students come to class with at least a rough zero on their rifles. We started zeroing at 50yds, and then moved back to 100yds for those students that wanted 100yd zeros. The deciding factor for which range to zero at came down to the muzzle velocity of each student’s chosen cartridge load and the design of their scope reticle. When the numbers were ran through Strelok, students could make an educated decision on which zero worked best for their setup.

We moved to Dave’s 5x5 drill, which had a specific purpose. We started doing the test in reverse at the 10yd line and worked back to the 50yd line. For the first evolution, we had students run their scopes at lowest magnification, which was 1x for everyone. For the second evolution, we ran it again in reverse but this time made every student crank up their magnification to full. This was done to highlight the concept of binocular aiming, which Trijicon founder Glyn Bindon dubbed the Bindon Aiming Concept and incorporated into his optics designs. Essentially, the BAC works when using both eyes open by allowing the reticle to superimpose onto the non-ocular eye and onto the target. It allows the shooter to engage under magnification at the same speed as with a non-magnified optic. Students quickly picked up this concept.

To wrap up the day, we moved to 200yds and shot at steel targets from prone. This allowed students to get used to their reticles and optics at distance. Students quickly got proficient with their scopes and reticles. We also set up the hostage plates on the targets to mandate greater accuracy, and students successfully performed. With that, we cleaned up and took off for dinner at our usual haunt for some delicious Ruben Balls, along with some great camaraderie and a few libations.

We started at 0900hrs, as that is the earliest we are permitted to start shooting. We started with a cold zero exercise at 100yds. This allowed students to see how their rifles performed cold. While some students who were zeroed at 100yds put their groups center, students running 50yd zeros saw where their groups were for the 100yd distance. After that initial warmup, we did 3 MOA circle drills where we had students put down shots inside of 3 MOA circles.

During this portion of shooting, accuracy was stressed. When discussing accuracy, we highlighted how shooting position and breathing were mutually inclusive to the equation. We talked about how proper breathing and relaxation can lead to accurate shooting. That led to our discussion of fatigue and how it can affect your shooting. While there is physical fatigue, mental fatigue is also a significant issue. Many factors can lead to mental fatigue, but optical quality is actually one of those factors. Eye fatigue can lead to eye strain, headaches and lethargy. When you look through poor quality glass for any period of time, it can wear your eye out and cause these issues. High end glass has fewer optical issues, and the image quality is more natural. As such, a shooter can use higher quality optics for longer without the adverse affects due to the eye not needing to exert extra effort to compensate for unnatural optical defects and poor image quality.

Dave demonstrated the Arc of Ready with a rifle and gave a quick refresher on it, and then we ran the 5x5 drill using the Arc of Ready. This was aimed at allowing students to get more proficient with their optics at close varying ranges.

After a break, we moved back up the pit to our shooting point where we had set up a prone firing point. At this location, we had steel set at 300yds, 400yds and 475yds. Students took turns shooting steel and learning their holds on their scope reticles. There was some moderate wind, so students learned to hold their scopes off to compensate for wind drift. Dave and I used our spotting scopes to spot the impacts and call corrections. My new Swarovski STS-65 spotter made this task very easy, further driving home the benefit of using high quality glass.

We took lunch, and then got back to work with barricades. Dave ran students through barricade shooting using our VTAC wall barricades. We discussed shooting from various positions behind the barricade with both strong and weak side shooting. We also discussed how to shoot through the slits and holes in the wall. The key problem here is that canting your rifle will cause your round to travel in an unintended direction dictated by the direction the rifle is canted. The bullet will always go in the direction of the scope, and drop down due to the effects of gravity. Dave highlighted a quick trick using the magazine direction to make adjustments to put hits on target. We had students shoot first from upright standing and kneeling barricade positions, and then had them run through the holes and slots in the VTAC wall to learn how to adjust their point of aim to account for rifle cant.

Students then took a break while Dave and I set up the range for our final long range evolution. Dave and I set up a USPSA/2-gun/3-gun type competition stage with a mix of close range hoser targets and long range steel that needed to be shot from various positions. Students were put on the timer and the fastest student won the coveted prize of being regarded as just being generally awesome.

We moved students back to the 100yd line and had students shoot for their qualification certificate. On that certificate is a diamond target of a particular MOA size that students have to put a 5 shot group inside of. If the students did not make all 5 shots in the diamond, the target was ripped up and thrown away. Students then had to shoot at 5 shot group at a 5 MOA circle to get their completion certificate.

During this final qualification exercise, it highlighted a critical aspect of marksmanship. Ammunition selection is vital to accuracy and consistency. Within precision shooting, every rifle has a specific load or loads that they shoot well, and others that they don’t. As such, finding that load is important. Additionally, some semi-auto (and full auto) rifles are designed for a specific cartridge. In one instance, a student was running a high-end upper setup that was designed for actual combat and duty use, and as such the barrel was designed to work with 5.56 pressures and velocities. Despite the rifle barrel being high quality and in good condition, the optic being a high end optic, and the shooting being extremely skilled, the rifle simply would not put down an accurate group with the commercial .223 ammunition that the shooter brought to class. It was a learning point that paid dividends to all students about how much is affected by ammunition selection.

The final drill of the day was a 5x5 drill for record under our time guidelines. Nobody cleaned the drill, so nobody got a plaque.

With that, we wrapped up, packed up, and called it to a close. In our final closing thoughts, we discussed the lessons learned and what the take-aways were. We had a great set of students, and this showed in the pace and performance of the class.

Now, this course was originally billed to have a night component, but after discussing the matter, Dave and I decided that we had to nix the night shoot portion due to the time of year. In July, shooting at night requires waiting until very late in the evening before we can shoot. For a 2-day course, this was just not going to be feasible because students would be worn-out on TD2, and nobody wants to shoot until 11pm or midnight on the last night of training when they have to then drive up several hours home. If we are able to convert this into a 3-day course, we would definitely incorporate a night/low-light component. The other option discussed is holding it very early or very late in the year when the days are still shorter.

The purpose of this course was to teach skills necessary to use a carbine or patrol rifle at distance utilizing a magnified optic, while still maintaining the close range combat/defense capability of the rifle. In that respect, we were able to educate students on the technical aspects of this skill set and give them confidence and knowledge in their rifle setups.

-LF Instructor Andy
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Re: AAR: Learning Firearms Patrol Rifle Marksman course

Postby Holland&Holland on Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:53 am

Excellent info here. Keep posting these.
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