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Nearly six months passed since my first Practical Rifle course. It was the 2011 Memorial Day weekend....Gary and I were at Front Sight again with our AR-15s. We had originally planned on scheduling the course earlier in the year but work related issues came up and we had to push it back to late May. We wanted a 2 day skill builder but decided on the 4 day course (again) due to availability. Friday morning arrived and we headed for weapons inspection with gear in hand. After the paperwork was finished and the first lecture out of the way, we headed out to Rifle 1 range.
While I didn't need the introductory nature of the 4 day course, it certainly never hurts to review the basics since one can easily forget some of those little details.....and it might be one or two of those details that make the difference when it counts. Sight alignment, sight picture, respiratory pause, trigger control, and follow through....all are critical components of an accurate shot. Leave one out and you're just hoping you'll hit what you are aiming at.
As I mentioned, our class was scheduled over the Memorial Day holiday. One
of the folks brought a flag along to the range and hung it on the end of the
"war wagon". Before we started our activities for the day, Dave Goodman,
our range master, gathered us together and we had a few minutes of silence to
honor those that had fallen while protecting our country. God bless all of
our fallen comrades.
Here is a photo I snapped while the 2nd relay was on the 50 yd line shooting
from several different positions (of the shooter's choice). I've come to
the conclusion that I am too old and out of shape (especially around the belt
line) to squat or sit. As Gary said, "If you see me in a squat, call
911....I never meant to get there and I certainly will need help getting out!"
Kneeling is OK with me but I would rather stand or go prone (but not prone at
the 50 yard line since the time limit is too aggressive for this senior
During a break, the students reload their magazines, hydrate, and swap stories
about this, that, and the other thing. New shooters get a chance to chat
with those that have been doing it for a while. Everyone is paired with
another shooter who acts as both an observer/student coach and most importantly,
a safety observer.
Gary, my range buddy, goes prone on the 50 yard line to check his zero, after
finding that one of his two optic mounting screws was loose. For the
practical rifle course, rifles are zeroed at 50 yards. This allows center
mass hits from 15 to 200 yards (the maximum distance used during the skills
evaluation) without any compensation. Head shots at 15 and 25 yards
require compensation as do the 7 yard hostage taker head shots.
There is more than a buck two ninety-eight sitting in the rifle racks during a practical
rifle class. One of the guys brought a bolt action (a Remington chambered
in .223 Rem) and a couple of others brought semi-auto AK-47s. The rest of
the rifles were AR-15s of one brand or another. Some of the new shooters
were using rentals from the Pro Shop....a smart way to go when you aren't sure
what you want or for that matter, if you really want to pursue rifle shooting.
I was using my M&P15 with a full sized 3.5x35mm ACOG optic. It has gone undergone a few changes since I first got it but it is no longer a work in progress. It did its job and I can't expect more than that.
I swapped out the factory stock for a VLTOR EMOD which I really like. I wasn't getting a good cheek weld with the original stock. With the EMOD, it is just what I like given the height of the ACOG over the receiver. A Troy handguard replaced the factory handguard and a Viking Tactical sling (slings are required at Front Sight) keeps it close at hand. I use the Law Enforcement version of the Grip-Pod. I used it firing prone at 100, 200, and 400 yards. Mag-Pul magazines keep the rounds flowing. I use a Bill Springfield trigger, which measures 7 pounds on my electronic scale. While it sounds a little heavy, it has a crisp clean break....I like it on this rifle.
Here is the target from my skills test (less the hostage taker/close contact
target) shot the afternoon of day #4. 15 out of 15 shots in the thoracic
cavity (ranging from 15 to 200 yards) and 4 out of 6 shots in the cranial-ocular
cavity (at 15 and 25 yards), all shot under time pressure. OK, so I have an issue with
accurately connecting with
the 25 yard head shots (without going over time). Over all, this was good enough to
earn me a Distinguished Graduate rating, meaning I shot at least a 90% on the
evaluation. According to our instructor from
last December, 1% of the students taking the practical rifle course earn a DG
rating. It is the toughest course to DG, so he said. I look forward to attending the Precision Rifle courses offered at
Front Sight....a DG on the practical rifle course is a pre-req before
regsitering for a PR course.
In case you were wondering what I was shooting in my M&P15, it was steel cased Hornady 55gr FMJ Training ammunition. Out of my M&P15, I get a bit better than 2 MOA with it. For this course, I cleaned and lubed (Mobil1 10W-30) my rifle before the course. I had a single feed issue which was from a ground recovered magazine....and my carelessness in not checking the rounds prior to inserting it into the magazine well. We were doing Type 3 malfunctions and when the magazine hit the ground, it partially dislodged the top two rounds in the magazine. When inserted into the rifle and bolt released, it resulted in a Type 3 malfunction.
So there is Part 2 of Practical Rifle course. It doesn't get any better than this, in my opinion. I had a very good day, was on top of my game, and with a bit of luck tossed in to top it off, I made it. My gear performed well. I look forward to taking the advanced practical and also the precision rifle courses when I get some time.