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T'was the week before Christmas (literally) and all through the house, I was packing my gear for a 4 day Advanced Tactical Shotgun (ATS) course at Front Sight, Nevada. I had been getting things ready for a while....taking time out to attend the Precision Rifle 1 course during the first week of December.
21 months previous, Gary and I had both completed the Tactical Shotgun course with a distinguished graduate rating. This was necessary in order to progress on to the advanced course. It was time to move our training to the next level. We had looked forward to this course for nearly two years.
We arrived in Pahrump late Sunday afternoon and checked into the Saddle West Casino's motel. This has become our preferred lodging over the past years as they offer a nice discount for Front Sight First Family Members and the breakfast buffet (included with the room) starts early enough to ensure ample time to eat and still get to the range on time.
After a good nights sleep, we headed out to Front Sight for sign-in and weapons check and then headed over to the big classroom for the necessary paperwork signing. After that, it was back to the pickup for our shotguns and gear and then over to the range. We spent the first day on one of the short ranges before moving over to the Rifle 2 range. This course would be the first time I would be shooting on Rifle 2. It was recently completed along with a number of other ranges, those being designed to mostly accommodate handgun training although one can easily do 75 yard shots in them.
There were 13 students in the course, which meant we got a lot of instructor time. I had shot with some of the folks in the past and it was nice to renew old acquaintances. It was also great to make some new friends and I look forward to sharing range time with them in future courses. By the end of the first day, everyone was pretty much on a first name basis. By the end of day #4, it felt more like a class reunion as everyone was really getting to know each other.
Roland Cannon was our range master. I've had the pleasure of having him range master one of my rifle courses. Two of the other three instructors were also repeats for me....having had both of them in other long gun courses. In previous ATS presentations, Front Sight had contracted with an outside instructor to present the training. This was the first time that Front Sight instructors presented the class using their own curriculum. Roland had been busy during the past weeks as he worked out the schedule for the new Front Sight course content. He did a great job, in my opinion. I've worked in training organizations for about 28 of the last 34 years so I think I'm somewhat qualified to make that statement.
Day #1, on the range, started with a surprise. After getting our gear
out of our vehicles, we started by shooting the 4 day Tactical Shotgun course
skills test, including the malfunction drills. After that, we shot the 4
day Defensive Handgun course skills test which also included malfunction drills.
As I understand it, this is becoming part of the new curriculum to help ensure
that the student is up to the minimum level (skill wise) for continuing on with
the rest of the course. If they find you lacking, you may be asked to
leave the course.
Everyone in our class was back after lunch so I guess we
all did well enough. We continued the day with basic shooting while moving
drills....forwards and backwards. Heel to toe while moving forward, toe to
heel while moving backwards.....we practiced it quite a bit as it is fundamental
to minimizing gun movement so that you can get a reasonable sight alignment and
sight picture. As I run an EOTech on my FNH SLK Mk1 semi-auto, at least I
only had to keep EOTech's 65 MOA circular reticle on the target. Those
with rifle sights on their shotgun got to keep the front and rear sight aligned
and aligned on the target. In the above photo, Roland is explaining how it
is done while Gary gives us a working demo.
Early in the course we started practicing the transitioning between our
shotgun (primary weapon) and our handgun (secondary weapon) as we worked through
the myriad of drills and various scenarios. For all of my Front Sight
courses requiring a handgun, I use a Springfield XD9. It is a 9mm Luger
semi-auto striker fired pistol with a 16 round magazine. I've been
shooting it now for nearly 5 years and very much enjoy using it. Why a
9mm? It is cheaper to feed compared to a major caliber handgun (I
also shoot a Springfield XD .45ACP). For non-Front Sight practice, I
reload my 9mm with a Dillon 650 press which keeps me in a good supply of 9mm
loads. In the above photo, I'm geared up for a December day on the
range.....a long sleeve t-shirt over a regular t-shirt, fingerless gloves, and
knee pads. When the wind picks up, I'll toss on a hooded sweatshirt and/or
a jacket. I use a Viking Tactics sling on my shotgun. Two
Wilderness Tactical Products
belt attached pouches keeps me supplied with several boxes of 12 gauge and
allows me to easily switch between slugs and shot (lots of bird and buck were
consumed during the course). My XD9 rides in a Blade-Tech holster.
Front Sight now requires electronic hearing protection. (I've been using
it for years.)
I've shot many targets for hostages/hostage takers. Front Sight has a standard target they use for this in the defensive handgun, practical rifle, and tactical shotgun courses. In ATS, we get to move that up a level. We go from the static hostage taker target to a pair of dummies that are on a rotatable base. The hostage dummy remains stationary while the hostage taker dummy can move left and right behind the hostage.
In the above photo, I'm around 7~10 yards from the hostage. Roland is kneeling while Todd manages a pair of ropes attached to the base of the hostage taker dummy. One can move the dummy left or right by pulling on the appropriate rope. So....this now moves into the 3D dynamic realm of the hostage taker scenario. The heads are mostly made (now) from masking tape due to either the buckshot or slug hits they are subjected to. Given we started on paper targets, several turns on the dummies made it a lot more interesting and a great way to finish the hostage taker drills.
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