Photo: Scott Smith.
Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part blog from PoliceMag.com contributor Scott Smith. In the first part, he wrote about, "Handgun Fundamentals."
To attain basic handgun and carbine training, I headed to Carthage, N.C., to meet up with Larry Vickers (LAV), a retired special operations soldier.
After the safety briefing, we hopped right in with zeroing our M4 carbines. Larry was quick to point out that the M4 is a limited-distance weapon. While the M4 is capable of it, it's not a long-range precision weapon. Contrary to what some agencies believe, the M4 is not an MP5 and should not be zeroed at 25 yards. You would be on the paper approximately two inches low. This should dead on at 50 yards; shoot it to confirm. A 50-yard zero will put you nearly dead on at 200 yards (for a man-sized target). Your accurate hits at 100 yards are roughly an inch high of POA/POI and will be a touch high at 25 yards. That said, zero at 50 yards; this will give you the most versatile accuracy from your carbine.
To show what your carbine can do and to test or improve your skills, LAV uses his 4-10 Drill. This is shooting at four distances — single-position shooting at 100 yards prone, 75 yards seated, 50 yards kneeling and 25 yards standing in 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, and 15 seconds. Fire 10 shots at each distance. You'll quickly learn trigger control and how to steady yourself, reducing the evil "wobble." During his tenure with Army Spec Ops, this was one of the operator's basic drills and is considered one of their basic skill drills. LAV feels this drill is one of the keys to being a better and consistent shooter. Having seen LAV and his protégé's from ARSOC shoot I will say it works … well.
While we were shooting at distance, LAV brought up trigger control. With a handgun, you'll see bad trigger control at close ranges. With a rifle, you'll see poor trigger control at distance. At close range having three points of contact, you can overcome wobble and slapping the trigger. At distance, you'll have a shot pattern that's not a nice tight group if you slap the trigger. Like the handgun you can use the dime drill to work on proper trigger pull.
After working on precise shooting at longer ranges, we moved back to shooting at CQB distances. At close range, you'll have to be aware of bullet offset. This is where the bullet impacts instead of where you're aiming. You can't correct this except to know that your bullet will impact approximately two inches lower than your point of aim. Period. Learn to hold it a touch high at distances of less than 25 yards. If your "zero" for point of aim/impact is correct at extremely close distances, your accuracy will be terrible as soon as you're at distances greater than 25 yards. Keep it simple. Practice at close ranges with your 50-yard zero, and you'll accurately hit your target at seven yards.
Through out this course, we covered multiple shot engagements and making each and every hit count. The key to staying on target is positive grip on the carbine to ensure that you're pulling the weapon into your shoulder. A positive grip on the forearm allows you to remove your shooting hand; the carbine should stay snug against your shoulder. This is after all a .22-caliber weapon not a super zombie killer. It has little recoil.
Torrential rains caused several ARs to have issues running. This gave us a chance to discuss the need for firearm lubrication. Don't gasp. Contrary to the military dogma of running an AR nearly "dry," LAV will tell you weapons need lube. In his couple decades of special ops experience, he learned that lubing your AR is vital in the rain. Due to the heat of firing, the rain cooks and washes the oil away. This will make your super-duper zombie shooter choke. Lubricate the bolt, charging handle, and buffer spring. Give the trigger/safety a touch of oil, and your AR will run perfectly. I found this to be one of the most important tidbits of information in the class. It works.
Larry also gave the class his thoughts on rails, sights and slings. He feels a quality red-dot is the way to fly, and Aimpoints are the best red-dot bar none. Don't buy those garage-sale priced new red dots; they're junk and always fail. The AIs from Grey Group Training were EoTech fans, yet it's your call. Larry also pointed out that the ultra mini red-dots such as Trijicon's RMR and Insights MRDS should only be used on handguns or as a backup to a real sight on a long gun. They're too small to be a main sight.
Railed forearms were the next topic. Put a quality free-floated one on your AR. They allow you to mount a light because a fighting weapon should have one.
One piece of kit all long guns should have is a sling. Yes, it's one of those topics like the Ford vs. Chevy debate. There are as many slings on the market as there are ARs. Larry prefers and strongly urges using a quality two-point sling such as the ones from Blue Force — yes, Larry designed them, and JMB designed the 1911, get over it — and they work really well.
He pointed out the three-point sling I prefer can catch on chest rigs and is tough to transition shoulders, whereas a tactical two-point does it with ease. Avoid one-point slings. They're great for range work, but get in the way during real-world use. Tou can buy those barrel cinches, but the blaster still gets in the way. As with red dots, avoid the best inexpensive sling you can buy at Joe's Dollar Tactical Gear Shop. When they fail, your AR will crash to the ground.
Another important piece of gear we discussed was the grip. There are many pistol grips on the market, but they tend to be too large. They do not allow you to manipulate the magazine release or the safety lever without changing your shooting grip (I know lefties have to do this). If you're a right-handed shooter, your hand should not have to leave "the proper shooting grip." If you have to take and rotate your hand to reach either control, the grip is too big. Put on a smaller one.
Enough of the gear break. Back to shooting. We have material to cover such as shooting on the move. Like training with a handgun, we move forward using a rolling heel-to-toe stride and retreat with a toe-to-heel stride. You'll notice there's less muzzle movement because you anchor a long gun at two points with your hands and to your shoulder via the buttstock. This does not mean you can just bee bop down the block, you still need to rolling glide when shooting on the move.
Larry puts a lot of practice and information into a one-day class. You won't improve, if you don't practice and use the knowledge. Quality perfect practice will. Don't go out and put 1,000 rounds down range and call it practice. Effective training is shooting 300 rounds that accomplish trigger control, hold off or double taps.
With training drills such as the bullet-hole drill, or any trigger control drills where you expend a lot of mental energy, you should keep your round count to maybe 150 rounds. For double taps, multiple-target engagements, or speed-type drills, expend 300 rounds. After that you're just burning ammo.
For more information, visit the Web sites of Vickers Tactical or Grey Group Training.
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