Larry Vickers Custom Carbine Class AAR
Ty Young of MidwestPX.com (http://www.midwestpx.com
) along with friends from TheGunVault.org (http://www.thegunvault.org
) organized a training class for the weekend of May 6-7th, 2011. This “custom” carbine class would be attended by people on extreme ends of the of the skillset spectrum, from a former HSLD guy to college students who rarely had the time or cash for tactical style shooting.
I myself, the founder and now director of operations at Weapon Outfitters (http://www.weaponoutfitters.com
) have taken local carbine classes, Magpul Carbine 1 and 2, and shoot monthly tactical rifle matches in Custer, WA (think USPSA but with rifles). I was looking foward to this training class both for the social aspect of meeting jokers from the internet in person, and also to learn weapons manipulation skills from the legendary Larry Vickers.
Vickers is a renowned small arms specialist, 20 year SFOD-D/CAG/ACE vet, and one of the most “real” trainers out there. I suggested him as a trainer early on, as I had always been intrigued by stories of his training style and the skills he taught.
The fine folks at Midwest Tactical (http://www.midwesttac.com/
) provided the facilities for this class, and the facilities were excellent. This range is dedicated mostly to law enforcement and SWAT training, and this was the first time an “open” class was ever hosted there. There was a club house/class room with running water amenities for men and women, as well as a vending machine. The range itself was a 100 yard range with 15 lanes, with a covered area at the 100 yard mark. A small shed attached to the cover stored water the host, Ty of MidwestPX.com provided.
Greg Peters, of Peters Custom Holsters (http://peterscustomholsters.com/home.html
) was in attendance, and provided a prototype AR magazine carrier for everyone to run for test and evaluation. We all provided our insights and opinions on the pouch, and I like it. It sits a bit lower than say, an ITW fast mag, and uses a molded in “spring” and tension bump to hold magazines firmly in place. Greg also provided holsters at a discount to class attendees!
The first half of training day 1 was to allow Vickers to judge the class’s overall skill level, so he could tune the curriculum to suit the median skill level. LAV discussed the merits of the 25, 50, 100, and 200 yard zero, and noted that most of the time, a 100 yard zero is the genrally the best compromise, and part of the 50 yard zero’s popularity has to do with the fact that many ranges top out at 50.
With a 100 yard zero, head shots from contact distance to 100 yards are possible, with chest shots from 150-200. This zero is well suited for the needs of domestic law enforcement, civilian need, as well as military use in urban areas. However, with this zero the 5.56 trajectory drops steeply, so for folks going into vast, rugged areas of the world, a 200 yard zero might be a better choice for longer distance engagements.
During zeroing, Larry introduced us to “El Snatcho”, where a shooter “snatches” the trigger and is accuracy is adversely affected. Vicker is a self described “accuracy nazi”, as he believes accuracy to absolutely important. LAV believes by aiming for absolute accuracy during training, students are better prepared to make “combat effective” shots when things beyond their control hit them, such as fatigue, adrenaline rushes, injury, etc.
After coaching a few shooters, we all established 100 yard zeros, and we began shooting from various distances and positions to familiarize ourselves with mechanical offset. M-16 family based weapons have extremely low recoil as the operating system is in line with the bore, but this requires sights be high off the bore for ergonomic’s sake. “No free lunch”, as Vickers likes to say. Almost everything in regards to weapons and gear has its pros and cons! After shooting at various distances, we did an individual accuracy challenge with shots at various distances, and after the dust settled, a student who was also a veteran won a free lower receiver from MidwestPX!
We had a quick lunch where students got PB&J sandwiches, courtesy again, of our gracious host from MidwestPX. After lunch, LAV taught us transitions, and did a quick accuracy acid test to gauge the group’s relative pistol skills. Aside from a few standout exceptions (such as a student who had finished a Todd Green class a few months earlier) pistol skills were poor. “El Snatcho” had reared his ugly head, and when you are shooting a 2 pound weapon system with a 5-7 pound trigger, trigger control is absolutely crucial. Vickers gave us a quick and dirty handgun training course over the course of an hour. Afterward, we divided into 3 teams.
Team “Roller Blading Street Shitters” was helmed by yours truly, and we were up against “Team Tranny” and “Team Short Bus. Can’t remember all of the team challenges, but the Street Shitters ended up winning 4/6 challenges, the first of which was an accuracy challenge at 15 yards with both weapon systems. One had to fire their primary, transition, and finish up with a secondary weapon system. With one shooter going at a time, peer pressure was strong: everyone would see the shots you made and whether or not you were an asset to your team.
Training day 1 was finished up with a “walk back” drill, shooting from the weak/reaction side. The group made it back to 150 yards, with about half the class still in the running!
Training day 2 built on the fundamentals of the previous, and we added movement to the mix! First, the class experimented with movement on our feet, and here I finally cemented the skills I failed to pick up in Magpul Carbine 2. By lowering my center of gravity, applying positive pressure with my weak hand, and doing a heel toe walk my groups shrank. I know that in recent years, “just walking” has become a popular thing with trainers, but my groups spoke for themselves! We did a figure eight drill around barricades, and followed with a team challenge where once again, victory was grasped by team RBSS. I also won a RSKTRK medical blow out kit on account of my knowledge of firearms trivia (the double stack magazine design did NOT come from the 1911 *cough*).
Instruction continued with switching shoulders to one’s weak or “reaction” side for shooting, and reloading. Vickers noted that while left handers can switch to right hand, right handers often have trouble switching, as I found this to be true in my case. Also, Vickers discussed how various slings, and how they were setup all have pros and cons. Everyone knows by now that single point slings are fast to switch shoulders, but there are cons with how they let the weapon hang during transitions and movement. With quick adjust 2 point slings, where people chose to anchor their slings also had pros and cons. An anchor point on the butt stock allows the rifle to naturally hang muzzle pointing down, but is slower. An anchor point on the rear of the receiver is faster, but now your rifle will naturally want to orient itself horizontally, requiring good muzzle awareness.
Class rifles were pretty much ALL AR-15 based weapons, and for optics, we ran 99% Aimpoint, much to Vicker's delight. One shooter ran a Nightforce 1-4X, and another a Burris 1-4X. There was only one Eotech, but it belonged to the best shooter of the class, who ended up scoring a FREE LOWER
from MidwestPX during the accuracy challenge.
He noted that while for civilian and law enforcement use, where a carbine is pretty much kept locked up away most of the time, an Aimpoint with a long battery life makes all the sense, but for his specific needs, he preferred the Eotech.
There were no major malfunctions in the class rifles, and 5-6 rifles were suppressed. I ran my 100% suppressed rifle with machine gunner's lube, an AR gas vent, H3 Buffer, Sprinco XP spring and a RTV sealed BCM charging handle for the entirety of the class (all available at my website). I also provided 2 AR gas vents as swag for whoever might have needed one! There was everything from a Knights Armament Magpul Special Edition rifle, down to a CMMG basic build. I brought my LMT 14.5" + M4-2000 as a backup, and ran a 11.5" Centurion Arms/Daniel Defense + Gemtech Trek build as my primary
Training day 2 culiminated in my favorite event, shooting from a vehicle. Amazingly diffuclt and amazingly fun, we teamed up and shot at two steel targets at idling speed and at 7 mph. Holy shit. Shooting from a moving vehicle is a very difficult proposition, as disconnecting the lower and upper body to drive your weapon is a skill one only learns from doing. My favorite thing about this challenge was how suppressed rifle shooters teamed up, and the sweet, sweet sound of rounds hitting steel echoed through the range. Suppressors definitely help with recoil reduction, and my AR Gas Vent helped me keep the rate of fire way, way high as acrid propellant gasses were blown away from my eyes.
We finished the day with a pistol based walk back, and I managed to make it back to 125 yards with a bone stock Gen 3 Glock 19 and Kyle Defoor steel and black sights. At the 150 yard line, LAV made a shot, weak hand, with his pistol on a steel sihlouette, and a student also made that shot strong hand only, with a M&P compact!
Overall, very good times and Larry Vickers is the man you want to see if you want solid fundamentals to establish a foundation for your carbine and pistol skills.
The gracious sponsors for this class were, in alphabetical order
Patches and stickers
Discount code for online store
MEGA lower receiver, hats, dinner on TD2, water and PB&J
Range, barricades, and steel
Two Tubes and Extension kits
Peters Custom Holsters
AR mag holsters and discounted pistol holsters (HUGE considering the current lead time)
Designed class shirts and provided promotional support
Class certs for everyone, a blowout kit, four hemostatic wraps, and a cert for a four hour class
Spencer's Pro Shop
Discounted class shirts
Two Glock 19 holsters and two AR gas vents
Weapon Outfitters provided photography services, as well as two Glock 19 Praetor Defense holsters and two AR Gas Vents, for use with suppressed weapons