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AAR - SouthNarc - 2.5 Day ECQC - 07 March 2014 - Carthage, NC

I just completed the ECQC course this past weekend in NC with Craig Douglas. First of all, Craig has ton of real world experience and knowledge that he shares openly with the group. He's a really down to earth guy that will answer your questions thoughtfully.

Craigs teaching was well thought out and the material was strung together comprehensively. A very effective method of defense! Each set of techniques that he had us practice led up to live drills against a resisting opponent. Wrestling with the simunition pistols was awesome!

I came into this with a decent background in a few different martial arts (BJJ, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, MMA) and this course was a valuable experience for me. I keep rehashing the events from this weekend in my head and am totally glad I did this. I can't wait to do the next one.


To get the latest information on SouthNarc classes, please visit the Grey Group Training Website

If you have any questions about training with SouthNarc, please contact Ramia at or


AAR - SouthNarc - 2.5 Day ECQC - 07 March 2014 - Carthage, NC

Many thanks to Craig Douglas, Shawn and Ron for a wonderful weekend learning opportunity in Carthage. From start to finish, this ECQC experience was top drawer. A few highlights-

1) The course ran at a very intense and focused pace - no wasted moments.
3) Kept it fun, informative, taxing and helpful.
4) Instructor and his able assistants were patient, knowledgeable and considerate – appreciated (and needed) their personal attentions.
5) It was intense, exhausting, and demanding – more information than this sixty-one year old could absorb, but all of it made sense and was bridged to real world threats and response options.
6) Valued the restraint on language – fun and loose, but considerate.
7) The knowledge base of Craig and his team was impressive – they were encouraging to all participants.
8) Craig kept us on the fine edge of experiential training, but safety was consistently on point.
8) Very intentional, rationale, and practical learning stream.
9) Great group of guys and one great lady in the class - learned much from each of them.
10) This was a very challenging mental and physical exercise from start to finish. Not for the feint at heart, but nor are Rambo credentials necessary.
A couple of standout paraphrased comments by Craig-
"If professional boxers determine that blocking isn't realistic, why should we think otherwise? Protection and attacking are the two doable priorities in CQC."
"History demonstrates that wrestling is the point of resolution for many CQC situations - it is thus important to know how to effectively stay on your feet or fight on the ground when you can't."
Summation – it was a hard and helpful weekend. In a crazy world it is important the good guys be more dangerous than the bad guys. Craig, Shawn, and Ron are clearly dedicated to that mission. Many thanks to these gentlemen and Grey Group.
Carl M.
Asheville, NC

To get the latest information on SouthNarc classes, please visit the Grey Group Training website

If you have any questions about training with SouthNarc, please contact Ramia at or


AAR: Invictus Alliance Group – 3 Day Gunfighter Pistol/Carbine - November 9-11, 2013

For more on Invictus; visit their Facebook Page

Invictus Alliance Group held a stellar 3 Day Pistol/Carbine class at Trigger Time in Carthage, NC on the weekend of November 9-11.  This also happened to be a long weekend for Memorial Day so the schedule fit most of the students’ schedules well.  There were roughly 10 students, mostly military with a few law enforcement professions and civilians.  Most all of the students have had prior classes and some shooting experience before. 

As far as equipment goes, most all of the students shot Glocks and Smith-Wesson M&Ps in 9mm for pistol.  I did not notice hardly any malfunctions with pistols as no students had serious problems with their handguns.  For long guns, every student used an AR-15 type variant.  One student used an HK MR556 or HK416 type carbine.  He also had a Schmidt-Bender Short Dot 1-4x optic.  Other than one student’s SBR with a Suppressor, all of the carbines pretty much ran 100% as well.  On the 3rd day, I believe the gun with the can ran into an issue, but Javon (the Assistant Instructor) was nice enough to lend the student his carbine to allow him to keep shooting without missing any instruction or courses of fire.  I did not see any major equipment issues or malfunctions throughout the entire 3 days which is somewhat unusual for a class. Oftentimes, one will see a student or two have a weapon that continuously malfunctions where the student will either have to use a backup gun or borrow someone else’s for an entire class.  As far as optics were concerned, every student ran an Aimpoint or EOTech with the exception of the S&B Short Dot.

About half of the students in the class wore kit that they worked in for their LEO/Mil job.  The other half wore Battlebelts and other rigs that held ammo and equipment.    As far as that was concerned, I also did not see many problems with gear either.  Normally, some students will lose some equipment or gear  when they run/move in kit, finding out what works and what does not for them. I didn’t see this for the most part.

For those who do not already know, Invictus is headed by Tom Spooner and JD Potynsky.  Both have some of the most seriously impressive credentials in the gunfighting community.  Tom has over 20 years in the US Army with over 15 years in Special Operations and over 40 months of direct action combat experience in SFOD-D.  JD was an 18B Weapons Sergeant with 3rd Special Forces Group’s direct action element with multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Both are BTDT and have a tremendous amount of real world combat experience.  Simply put, they know what works and what doesn’t and are at the top of their game.   Their Assistant Instructor Javon is also a Marine Vet with combat deployments overseas and has been overseas as a contractor with JD before.

Day 1:
After a safety brief, the first day started off with a diagnostic for the pistol.  JD ran us through tests which involved shooting at NRA B-8s at 25 yds and also some close up work on IPSC/USPSA targets at 7 yards.  The diagnostic was pretty comprehensive in both close and long range skills.  They tested the fundamentals of marksmanship, speed, and weapons handling skills.  This was done cold without any warm up or practice so the instructors could see where the students were in terms of skill level.  After scores were recorded, the class gathered for a more formal introduction of everyone.

After that, we went over the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship.  JD and Tom went over one fundamental at a time between strings of fire.  All strings of fire were shot for score.  One thing that Invictus emphasizes is 100% round accountability.  They do not waste rounds.  Since every string of fire is scored, the students know that they cannot just yank rounds off and make noise.  Every shot serves a purpose.  It keeps the students on their toes, and forces them to improve and try harder.  Most all of the students saw their scores improve throughout the strings of slow fire.  We also did drills that greatly reduced moving the gun while pulling the trigger.  JD and Tom explained to us different kinds of deviation and pistol movement and how they may or may not impact where the round will hit.  Right before lunch break, all of the students got to shoot one 10 round string at 7 or 10 yards.  I believe every single student shot 100 except maybe one or two with a 99 or so. Several students completely shot out the X-Ring.   That shows two things.  1) At 7 yards, many problems in the fundamentals of marksmanship can be masked and cannot be easily diagnosed.  2) It is testament to how effective Invictus’s teaching methodology is in terms of improving the fundamentals of marksmanship.

In the afternoon, we broke out the carbines and shot a carbine diagnostic.  Just like with pistol, the diagnostic was done cold and on demand with a Pro-timer on most every course of fire.  The students were not allowed to zero or confirm their zero on their rifles either.  This makes tons of sense to me.  The instructors wanted to see who showed up with a zeroed weapon and who didn’t.  As it turned out, most of the students did show up with a zeroed or at least roughly zeroed weapon. This also serves another great purpose, especially with LEO SWAT shooters.  If an officer shows up to a class with a non-zeroed carbine, are they also riding around their patrol vehicle or SWAT vehicle with a non-zeroed carbine?  What if there is a call-up for a shooting and you have to grab that M4?  Is it zeroed?  Wouldn’t it be grossly negligent for a SWAT Officer to run into a life or death situation involving hostages with a weapon that isn’t even zeroed? 

The carbine diagnostic was also very thorough involving both fundamentals of marksmanship at distance and speed work up close.  The instructors got to evaluate the students in not only their fundamentals at 100 yards, but also their ability to present the weapons, reload, and whether they understood hold offs and line of bore-line of sight at CQB distances.  As JD said, he could generally tell how someone is going to shoot just by looking at how his or her gear is set up and how he or she manipulates his or her weapon.
After refining our zeroes and shooting more strings of fire for score on the carbine, we shot a few more drills and courses of fire.  We had a few fun competitions using BC Steel.  The students got to run the events a few times as JD explained to us the importance of being able to do certain tasks and being able to do the drills well.  These exercises made a tremendous amount of sense as far as applicability to real world scenarios go.  For example, the ability to get rounds off on target at distance with a carbine from standing to prone at a certain distance is certainly a very high priority skill for a deploying soldier. 

Day 2:
Day 2 also started off with a safety brief as safety is always paramount when firearms are involved.  As with Day 1, we started the first course of fire involving the fundamentals of marksmanship.  Tom explained to us that oftentimes one will be able to tell if he or she is having a good shooting day by the first course of fire testing the fundamentals.  Everyone has good and bad days.  Oftentimes, that first course of fire cold will tell one how the rest of the day may go. 

We covered a lot of material the second day with pistol in the morning including the presentation, draw, reloading, target transitioning, multiple shots, multiple targets, multiple shots on multiple targets etc.  We also covered different pistol shooting positions including kneeling and prone.   JD and Tom went over each topic thoroughly and answered any questions the students had.  For example, for the kneeling position with a pistol, Tom and JD detailed very well exactly where to position one’s hands and feet and where to put more or less pressure etc.  They also explained different angles a shooter may position their legs to become more effective and how to reduce muscle tension in the kneeling position.

During this day and throughout the entire course, we ran through numerous competitions as the students competed against one another.  JD explained to us the importance of adding stress to training and how there are different ways to induce stress during the training.  Also, different students will handle different kinds of stress differently, but overall, it must be induced to order to help students perform should they ever need to really use their firearm in a real world scenario.  “Performance upon demand” is one of Invictus’s mottos, and this class surely lived up to it as Tom and JD called students off the line and had them compete against one another.  This was both fun and challenging in a very good way as well.  Stress was induced, but only in a good way.  JD explained to us that peer pressure and certain “shit talking” can quickly become negative if done in a wrong way.

In the afternoon, we shifted gears again to carbine and did many iterations of drills involving ready positions, shots from the ready, multiple shots, multiple targets, reloads, and transitions etc.  We also went through the standing and kneeling positions.  Once again, accountability for every shot was emphasized.  If a student threw a shot out of the A-zone on an IPSC, he did not get a time.  100% round accountability is emphasized.  We also did several tests which were all shot for score, keeping the students on their toes and forcing them to try to bring their A Game.

In terms of talking about the carbine, Tom and JD went over the weapons from buttstock to muzzle, going over most everything pretty thoroughly.  Most of the students’ carbines were setup reasonably well.  Very few students had a lot of unnecessarily accessories on their weapons.  We went over slings, optics, muzzle devices, pistol grips, etc.  Tom and JD explained to us what they preferred and more importantly why and what works in the real world.

On Day 2, we also shot on some VTAC targets.  We did a very good target discrimination drill that was extremely fun and challenging.  JD explained that in real life the decision making aspect of shoot/no shoot is what takes the most amount of time.  It is extremely important to be able to think while the stuff is happening.  We broke up into 3 lines, and every student shooting was under the watchful eye of at least one instructor at all times.  When someone screwed up and shot a target he wasn’t supposed to shoot or did not shoot a target he was supposed to engage, he definitely found out.  This was a great drill.
We ended Day 2 with a walkback drill on BC Steel with pistol.  I believe every single student made it to at least 50 yards with a pistol.  The majority went back to 75 yards, and a few to 100.  Once again, this is testament to JD and Tom’s teaching ability. 

Day 3:
After a quick safety brief, Day 3 took off with shooting a string of fire cold on NRA B-8s at 25 yds to get the day started.  In the morning, we did pistol and shot the famous “Humbler” or 700 pt Aggregate test.  As the name implies, this was a very humbling experience.  It is a great test in that it really shows the students where they need to work on in terms of fundamentals. 

After the 700 Aggregate, Tom and JD taught us strong hand and “other strong hand” shooting.  The students were taught how to maximize use of one hand, and how to properly and effectively engage a threat using only one hand.  JD emphasized that it is often overlooked that in real life, one may only be able to use one hand because the other hand might have to be doing something else.  In addition, we talked about how important mental attitude may be, and how it may not be a good idea to label one hand “weak.”  Different techniques were also taught on how to draw, reload, and manipulate the pistol with the other strong hand. 

Before lunch, we did shooting on the move with the pistol.  We did the drills in two different iterations, but also at two different distances.  This was very telling and enlightening because it completely demonstrated to the students what the limits of distance can be for being able to effectively shoot on the move.  Under the watchful eye of Tom, JD, and Javon, they were able to make very good tweaks in each students’ technique which helped tremendously, at least for me.

After a lunch break, we moved back to carbines.   Right off the bat, we did more tests for score including the 400 point aggregate test as well as another test involving standing, kneeling, and prone.  Everything was done for score so the students could get a good measure of how much he had improved.  For most students, the kneeling position was one of the most difficult positions.

Next, we did shooting on the move both forwards and also laterally.  The instructors demonstrated the potential difficulties of shooting laterally particularly with a carbine.  We also did target transitions and target discriminations drills all on the move.   At this point, it was basically putting many skills we learned in the class together.  The students were shooting a drill where they had to decide whether to shoot/no shoot, present the weapon, shoot on the move, transition from target to target, multiple shots on multiple targets, and also transition to pistol if their carbine ran dry or malfunctioned.  All of this was done on the move as well.   Simply put, it was a very effective and efficient way to train and practice the skill sets.   After this, we did a few more courses of fire on BC steel including the famous El Prez but with a carbine.  There was plenty of friendly competition, and the students thoroughly enjoyed it.

The last event on Day 3 was the stress shoot.  Tom, JD, and Javon set up a large array of steel and VTAC targets down range.  The students ran the drill in pairs.  The stress shoot involved running, communicating, carrying Javon a certain distance, and shooting using simulated cover and barricades.  The purpose was for the students to be able to shoot while under stress and with an elevated heart rate.  This was also a great time for students to really be able to test their kit out and see what works and what doesn’t.  Everyone learned a lot from this drill in terms of shooting positions, moving, and about their own kit.  JD and Tom also gave a lot of extremely valuable feedback and made a lot of good teaching points after each pair of students went. It was a wonderful way to end the class with everyone tired but extremely happy and satisfied.   Last, we cleaned up and had a good question and answer session.

“Performance on Demand” would be a great way to summarize this class.  I really like Invictus’s philosophy in making the students take tests cold and shoot for score all the time.  They emphasize 100% round accountability.  This is really the only way of gauging a student’s skill level and making the students honest with themselves.  If someone practices shooting for 2 hours and then does 50 practice draws, what will their draw time mean then? At Invictus, the person’s draw time will be the one he or she does cold and on demand.  That is a much more realistic test of what his or her true performance will be.  It is also excellent that Invictus forces students to compete against each other, and they add elements of stress to the shooting.  These are all good for training that will help a shooter improve his or her skills.  JD, Tom, and Javon were also all completely open to any questions and ideas that students had.  They would not only explain how to do something, but also why they did it, and why it worked.  Furthermore, due to their real world combat experience, they could almost always truly give you a real world example of how it worked. 

This was definitely an A+ class.  If you get a chance to train with Invictus Alliance, you should definitely take advantage of the chance and sign up.  You will most definitely see your shooting skills improve and learn a lot. I would like to thank Trigger Time in Carthage for hosting the class, and also JD, Tom, and Javon for putting on such a wonderful class.  A great learning experience was had by all.   

To get the latest information on Invictus classes please visit the Grey Group Training website

If you have any questions about training with Invictus, please contact Ramia at or


AAR - Robert (Bob) Vogel - 2 Day World Class Pistol Skills - 07 Sept 2013 - Salina, KS

Click here for more information on Robert Vogel

1st line – I wore a maxpedition LIGER belt and a JM Custom Kydex holster and pistol mag pouch.

2nd line – None.

All the equipment functioned as designed.  There were a few operator induced issues that I’ll address later.

CLASS POI –As a general rule I don’t usually run through the entire POI drill by drill but here's the general layout.  (If you want to know what someone teaches that bad, go take the class. )

The class began with about an hour of discussion on safety, shooting and gear.

Mr. Vogel discussed some of his training and equipment.  A few points to mention from this;

First is trigger control.  Mr. Vogel taught that trigger control is the most important aspect of accurate shooting.  He works this with dry fire.  Specifically he practices working the trigger several times even though it only breaks on the first press.  This allows practicing multiple shots without relaxing his grip on the gun.

Next is the grip.  To control the gun during a rapid string of fire Mr. Vogel teaches to grab the gun as high on the frame as you can.  He pinches the gun with his strong hand and uses inward rotation with both arms to apply pressure to the frame of the gun.  Mr. Vogel is a big believer in grip training and uses the Captains of Crush grip trainers (available from Iron Mind) for this purpose.

I started using these same grip trainers after a discussion with Flashpoint a few months ago and it’s had a noticeable effect on my grip strength.  Particularly when shooting rapid strings of fire.

After the Safety brief we moved out to the range.  

The range was a clearing on the edge of a creek.  Spear Point Ranch had target stands for paper, some steel IPSC targets (as well as some big “E” type gongs we didn’t use and a Texas Star we did).  There were also lots of trees to provide shade.  That was awesome because the weather claimed it was in the 90s both days.  With some shade and a nice breeze it was pretty comfortable shooting weather.

Mr. Vogel was self-effacing and extremely personable.  He was never arrogant and he was perfectly willing to get up in front of the class and demonstrate everything he taught.  If he messed something it was used as a learning opportunity and then he re-shot it. 

The shooting drills were pretty standard fair.  Mr. Vogel is a big advocate of shooting 6 round drills.  His perspective is that you to be able to consistently establish a good grip to control a gun through six rounds (vs. being able to scam on a good grip when only firing one or two shots). 

The first day we shot from 15yds and in.  The second day we shot from 25yds and in and addressed multiple targets and movement.  We wrapped the class up shooting a simulated stage after which we shot a drill head to head.  The fastest guy in the class (an area LEO) then went head to head with Mr. Vogel and got burned down(… but he did it with style).    

Personal Lessons Learned –

If you start changing your grip, you might need to rethink parts – I mentioned earlier that I started using the COC grippers a few months back.  Something I noticed recently is that I’m gripping the pistol higher and harder with my support hand.  One side effect of this is that I’ve started to lock the slide to the rear by putting pressure on my Vickers Slide stop.  I fucked myself on a couple of drills (I ended up doing a mag change when there were still rounds in the magazine). 

I like the Vickers slide stop (I had them on most of my guns for the last couple of years).  But if I’m gripping the gun higher and harder it no longer works for me.  Fortunately RumPunch had an OEM part in his bag and he swapped me for mine.  No issues after that.

Understand your pace.  Know when you can ramp it up and when you need to dial it back – Shooting a Bill Drill from 7yds you can really burn it down.  Doing the same thing from 15yds might require a little more time between shots.  Understanding what you’re capable of is key.

I may be rethinking my sights – I can hold on one target and track my front sight while I fire multiple rounds without much difficulty.  Shooting multiple targets (picking the sight back up after my eyes move laterally) isn’t as easy and I don’t feel like I’m as fast as I could be.

I got away from night sights a few years back because I don’t see a ton of use for them.  (If it’s so dark that I can’t see my sights, I can’t see to ID my target either.)  As a result, I have a few guns with a tritium front sight but most of my guns are black front and rear.  I’m going to play around with both set ups and see what, if any, quantifiable difference that makes in my times. 

There are no shortcuts to being blazing fast and oily smooth
– Anyone who thinks there is just needs to look at Mr. Vogel’s right hand.  That dude has serious callouses built up where most of us complain about getting rubbed a little raw from a weekend of shooting.  That’s indicative of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of repetitions.  Most of them dry practice.  This is a man dedicated to his craft, and there are no short cuts to get there.

Don’t let yourself Stagnate – Constantly update what you consider fast/accurate.  Don’t just shoot drills out of a book and accept their standards for speed and accuracy.  Push yourself right up to the point of failure and then back off just a touch.  Be able to ride that line.

Like a lot of classes I’ve attended, one of the greatest parts was the other students.  Sitting around during lunch and discussing trainers, gear, drills and telling lies was a good time.  

Overall this was a good class.  Mr. Vogel’s perspective on training is definitely applicable to anyone serious about pistol work.  His insights into thinking and planning during competition were also really interesting.. Even for someone like me, who rarely shoots matches.


Rob Haught 2-Day Tactical Shotgun via Grey Group Training

Echo Valley Training Center

27-28 October 2012


by Archi

I had the great pleasure of attending Rob Haught’s two-day shotgun class at the Echo Valley Training Center over the Oct 27-28 weekend. Our class had 8 students of mixed make-up with LEOs, military, and regular guys but everybody was running Remington 870 of some type. There was a mix of stocks, magazine tube extensions, slings, sidesaddles, and barrel lengths but only one student had gun problems (with both of the 870s that he brought).  Rob did have some loaner 870 shotguns available for that and for teaching sling techniques for those without slings on their guns.

I ran a Vang Comp’d 870 with Surefire forend, +2 Vang Comp mag tube extension, 4-rd TacStar sidesaddle, VCAS padded sling and had no malfunctions except for a user-caused one (note: do not load shells backwards into the tube and expect them to feed) but some students were seeing the occasional QC issue extracting with more inexpensive Winchester Universal ammo. It’s a known issue and students with the problem were able to clear the malfunction each time by mortaring the gun and drive on.

The weather was cooler and at the early part of the Frankenstorm/ Hurricane Sandy system but all we had was some light precipitation and no rain that would impact the shooting at all. Because of the incoming weather we pushed later on Saturday and called it quits a little earlier on Sunday so that those with long drives home could have it a little easier. For most of the class we shot in two relays with guns empty except when on the line, just so that Rob could be specific about how much to load for each skill drill.

He started by discussing shotgun fit and introducing his “push-pull” method, which is simple yet amazing and has made my shotgun vault into the realm of “most fun gun to shoot” because it is easy to shoot and makes a loud boom (I’m easy to please). The technique is very easy to learn and is the basis for a lot of the future skills and lessons over the rest of the class. If you did it right it was amazing and if you did it wrong Rob pointed out that “it’s a self-correcting problem”. After the entire weekend shooting I had no issues with any shoulder soreness.

We had a short aside about equipment and modifications where Rob was not dogmatic but very clear in his reasoning for what he had seen work and what didn’t. He also was honest about what he hadn’t tried enough to comment on yet (red dot sights on shotguns, for example).  His points were bourne out by the end of the class as those shooters without the recommended short stocks or sidesaddles wanted them.

From there it was back to the line to go over ready positions (high and CQ as well as loading techniques (and unloading techniques, which were very helpful).  Rob then introduced his CQB shooting position where the buttstock is not resting in the shoulder pocket but on top of the arm to shorten the overall length. It’s helpful not only to shorten the system but also to begin shooting from unconventional positions and we started including that into drills for turning (90 and 180 degrees) and movement skills in both forward/backward directions as well as laterally.

We finished off the class dealing with multiple targets, sling types and usage, transitions to sidearms, buckshot-to-slug transitions, and a lecture and demo about slugs and sighting systems. Shooting slugs at 50 yards it was obvious that the guy in the class with the 21” rifle-sighted barrel had a leg up on the rest of us but it was possible to get hits with other setups as well. Rob also did a demo with the new Federal Flite Control buckshot which makes my Vang Comp barrel nearly obsolete by making every barrel keep those tight groups.

The final activity was a single-elimination shootoff on multiple targets involving an emergency reload where I didn’t win but at least made it past the first round.

Our overall round count wasn’t as high as I might have expected and was lower than what was recommended in the class handout but I have to say that I learned something from every round. I also wished for some more time on Sunday afternoon to practice and shoot a little more on the steel targets (which I don’t have yet at home) but with the approaching storm and everybody’s drive home I understand why we cut it a little short.

I can’t say enough good things about Rob and his assistant instructors Tom and Gary. They were all very knowledgeable and patient and had lots of illustrations for the points they were making. They also had a great teaching technique of never talking down to you but still making their point clearly and reasonably. More than just talking they taught a skill, illustrated it for you, then had you run a specific drill to learn and reinforce that skill. Once familiarity with that specific skill was set they would incorporate it into a drill with previous skill sets so you could see where it fit into the bigger picture.

By the end of the class we were engaging in square drills which incorporated all of the above - multiple targets, shooting on the move, moving in four directions, shooting from different positions (shouldered and CQ, doing emergency reloads, and transitioning to sidearms.

I filled 17 pages of notes, drawings, and diagrams in my own personal AAR notebook and was impressed enough that I told my brothers I would pay for them to attend Rob’s class in Texas a month later (sadly, pesky things like 10-yr wedding anniversaries interfered). When Rob and crew come back to Echo Valley next year I hope to bring a few more friends and attend again to build on this last experience.


Our Training coordinator is hard at work with the 2013 schedule; but until it comes out he wanted to tell you a little about himself:

I’m not Superman.

Many days I fall into conversations at work about shooting. I have no Superman background, I don't belong to any secret handshake fraternity, I had a normal job as an Officer in the Military, a normal job downrange as a Contractor, and now I have a normal office job.  I do however have a passion for shooting. I love to shoot 3-Gun, IDPA, USPSA, Designated Marksmen and Sniper matches. If there is a shot timer and a course of fire involved I am there.

This weekend I shot Woody’s Designated Marksmen & Sniper match here in North Carolina. Somehow, my partner and I managed to finish 9th out of forty teams. To be truthful, my partner is a much better shooter than I am.  With my gas rifle turning into a single shot musket during the match I became a huge anchor, but I loved the match. I got on my scope, used my hold overs and worked my trigger. The second part of the match was done individually as a Sniper match, where I limped along with my single shot rifle.  The second day it’s fair to say I finished near the bottom in the standings for that match, oh well.

I guess if that was the only match I shot this month one could say I was not addicted to shooting, but no, it was the third large match in the last week.  Last weekend I shot the Tarheel 2-Gun tactical match. There were two divisions; tactical, where the competitor wore tactical equipment, in my case a plate carrier and helmet, and a competition division.  Lord knows I should have shot the competition division and stayed with my normal 3-Gun set up, but I saw this match as an opportunity to do something I do not normally get to do and clear shoot houses in kit.  I would like to think that the 30 or so people I did finish above asked themselves if they fell off the wall in their kit would they have gotten back up and completed a stage?  I did, and I finished.

The day after that match I attended the North Carolina Justice Academy's Charity Pistol Match at the Salemburg academy range complex. It was a pistol match set up by a couple of local IDPA clubs. Good part about the match; I was classified from stage standings in ‘master’ class division. The bad part was that I finished in the middle of the pack in master class and I will not be classified as a master in IDPA because it was a non-sanctioned match. I did enjoy the match because it had a unique mover I had not shot before.  The way it moved made me feel like it was going to run me over.  In the end I had fun shooting the match and helped work part of it.

In the past couple weeks I have competed as a tactical shooter, a gunslinger, a designated marksman and as part of a designated marksmen team.  I can honestly say I was not cut out to be any of these roles in real life.  Some time ago, my initial goal when I started shooting was to not get disqualified at a match.  I will never have a fireplace full of trophies.  I will never have a major firearms company sponsoring me to shoot matches. I am no Superman.

I am a person that measures my wins in minor gains in standings.  I am a person that wants to improve. My goals are a little bigger now, and I try not to blow a stage.  If I get through a match without having a major malfunction I call the match a win for me.  I am always thinking about the next match with my list of lessons learned and focus on the next time the timer goes off.  I’m not a Superman; I’m just a Grey Man always pushing, and fighting to win a match. Who are you?

AAR: Patrick McNamara 2- Day TAPs Oct 27-28 Carthage, NC

Location: Carthage, NC at Trigger Time
Date: October 27-28, 2012
I had the great opportunity to take Mac's TAPs class this past weekend.  Mac needs no introduction as I'm sure most of you have already read about his background. He was a Tier One Operator for many many years and has also taught many high speed units and law enforcement agencies for many years.  He is also the author of the TAPs shooting book which includes many many great drills and courses of fire as well as shooting tips and philosophies.  Mac places a very high emphasis on accuracy and accountability for every round fired.
Day One started off with a safety brief.  This was one of the most important and enlightening moments in the class.  Mac believes in constantly thinking about what you are doing and not "paying lip service" to safety rules and such.  Rather than the traditional "All guns are always loaded," statement, he says that not all guns are always loaded.  What is more important is to always know the status of your weapon at all times.  To me and everyone else in class, that makes 100% more sense than "All guns are always loaded."  I mean, what if you are dry firing at home?  Is your gun loaded even with a triple checked empty chamber?  Are you meaning to put bullet holes in that wall or light switch you're dry firing at? Mac's idea of constantly encouraging the thought process was a continuing theme that eliminated and followed us throughout class which was very enlightening.
We started shooting with carbines and zeroed at 50 yards to make sure everyone was on paper at first.  Then we moved the targets out to 100 yards and zeroed again.  Mac talked about how he prefers the 200 yard zero, but mentioned how some do the 100 yard zero, and that the important part is to know the trajectory and where the bullet is going to strike at each distance.  He also did mention that the standard 25m zero is generally a no-go.  We also had a pretty good talk about ballistics and the trajectory of the 5.56x45 round.
After shooting several strings at both 50 and 100 yards for score, we did what Mac called the 4-position shoot.  It was a timed event involving standing, kneeling, sitting, and finally prone.  Everything was timed and scored. Mac did mention to us that the drill can be shot in a whole host of different variations in distances and penalties.

In the afternoon, we shifted gears and went to pistol.  We did pistol marksmanship involving freestyle, strong hand only, and support hand only shooting.  Without spilling the beans, we did several iterations and shot at many different distances utilizing a timer as well.  Next we did some El Prez stuff.  One of the sticking points was that if you screwed up and threw a shot into the C-zone of an IPSC target, you didn't get a time.  It was a No-go.  This is very good in that it forces accountability for every round fired.  
One of the main points that Mac drives hard is to stay in one's home.  One should constantly compete with himself or herself.  There are always going to be people of different skill levels and different experiences in these classes.  One should not try to just blaze away as fast as possible just because the guy next to them is much faster or more accurate etc.  In addition, it is important to be Performance driven rather than Outcome driven.  If one consistently performs well, then the outcome is likely to be good as well.
Day Two started off with a quick rehash of the safety brief, and Mac had some more very good talking points. Then we shifted gears and went to carbine and pistol.
We did some mechanics drills that emphasized a lot of efficiency and weapons handling.  Mac is very big on follow-through.  He does not believe in theatrics where people just drop their gun after the course of fire and shake their head side to side. The gun needs to stay up and one needs to check their work.  
Without going into detail, we did a very good transition drill and had a competition which was very fun. After lunch, Mac went over many unconventional shooting positions, and we tried them out on steel.  

Next, we did the Scrambler shoot as well as many other stations.  Mac had several stations where it really provoked the thought process and thinking.  It would encourage the thought-process and constant thinking rather than the same "up drills." This was very enlightening as well.  
We ended Day Two with more round robin exercises at different stations until everyone was out of ammo.  Then we had a quick debrief, and everyone hit the road.
I would highly encourage people to take Patrick McNamara's TAPs class as well as to buy his book. He puts on a great course.  Mac is able to shift gears and keep the class constantly engaged and interested.  He has very good time management, and can cover a prodigious amount of material in a very short period of time.  He doesn't believe in gimmicks, and constantly encourages the thought process.  I want to thank Mac and Grey Group for putting on a wonderful class this past weekend.  


            Last Thursday (Sept 14th) eight ladies stepped up to the firing line on the OR at Metacon and took a ladies pistol course.  The class was the first of its kind to be offered in the northeast by Northern Red an organization whose instructors are retired members of the United States Military Special Operations Command.


We were about to take the most intense, exciting pistol drill course ever taken, by any of us … these gentlemen know their weapons business!  Our instructor, JD Potynsky, is an Army Special Forces Weapons sergeant, and he teaches his courses with every bit of true sergeant-authority.  JD was assisted by an experienced active duty Special Forces fellow named “Chris”.


Without explanation JD commenced the class at 8 AM by directing us to step up to the firing line, pistols unloaded, on safe and holstered, along with 3 or 4 loaded mags – two in our double mag pouch and two in our pockets.  While he cruised the line, he had us load our pistols and fire 10 rounds into targets at 25 feet.  After we made our guns safe and holstered them, he declared the range “cold”, we stepped up to our targets and JD proceeded to analyze our shooting skills (yikes!!).  Little did we know that he needed this preliminary test to work from …


We settled back on the firing line and JD gave us an impressive list of his credentials along with a few colorful stories.  At his request, each of us told ours – ours were not too impressive.


Then the class began in earnest, we were about to learn every possible detail of marksmanship shooting:

            The basics – proper placement of your feet (stance); proper angle of your body in relation to your stance; proper extension of the arms.  JD was coaching each one of us to ensure we had proper basic positions, then we loaded up and shot 10 rounds.  After we made our guns safe and holstered them it was back to the targets and more analysis.

            Next came grip.  JD’s verbal and visual was phenomenal!  If I had to bet on it, it was the first time most of us or perhaps all of us gripped our pistols properly.  And JD trotted up and down the line moving fingers, thumbs and in some cases hands, until we all were gripping our pistols properly.  Then we loaded up and shot 20-30 rounds.  After we made our guns safe and holstered them it was more target analysis.  The accuracy was improving!

            Next came site alignment; how to evaluate the target; how to draw from your holster; how to align and load a magazine.  Again JD walked the line insisting on perfection, and we shot more rounds of ammo after each demonstration.

            With the completion of each exercise, we became more familiar with our pistols, shooting improved, and safe handling was becoming second nature to us.

So the morning flew by and so did a cool 100 rounds of ammo …


            After lunch we were back on the line.  Our targets were different now, and JD was going to make us into shooters that could draw and engage one or more targets. 

First we were taught the “art” of drawing our pistol and engaging the target all in one movement, yes, we were timed!  JD walked the line and coached each one of us until we perfected a smooth draw without fumbling or re-gripping our pistol – not an acceptable safety move.

Now we were ready to do some real shooting in the fast lane.

The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to drawing from the holster while swiping a magazine from the mag pouch while bringing your pistol into position on your chest and inserting the loaded magazine while sighting in on the target, setting the trigger and –BANG, all before the buzzer goes off.  The best time was 2.9 seconds.

Try it, it’s thrilling!  The sense of accomplishment is tremendous!

And at the end of the day there is more work to do, more to learn …

AAR - Northern Red Carbine 29-30 Sept, West Virginia

This was the second Northern Red class I've attended at Echo Valley Traning Center. JD Potynsky, Northern Red's CEO and former Green Beret, was ably assisted by Chris "The Beast" K, an active duty Green Beret. Between the two of them, they have nearly 4 years of combined combat deployments in a very SF-oriented war.

After an in-depth safety briefing, including the proper procedures for checking to make sure a gun is unloaded, the class of 18 students got right into it with a 400 point aggregate rifle drill starting at 100 yards on bullseyes. This was an unforgiving exercise for many. While an AK-74 wouldn't be my first choice for a rifle class, it is particularly difficult when the Silver Bear ammo was shooting 3' groups at 100 yards (we verified this when the student used some of my 1970s Russian surplus ammo brought for my Ballistic Advantage 5.45 AR upper). The other guns ran without issue, but zeroing seems to take more time than it should. If you show up with your rifle, optic, and ammunition zeroed at 100 yards, you should be good to go for most classes out there.

JD and Chris both hold the M4, and 5.56 ammunition, in high regard. One of the things that concerns them is that there are simply too many options out there for most shooters these days. JD used a 16" upper with EOTech XPS and 13" Troy TRX Extreme, while Chris shot a LaRue PredatAR 16" with EOTech XPS. They are fans of 2-point slings, back up irons, white lights, 30-round GI magazines, and shooting with the stock all the way out (both are around 5'9").

I don't believe it would be fair to disclose the entire playbook, but I would say that Northern Red focuses on the fundamentals incredibly well and you will come away a better shooter than when you showed up.

As part of the focus on fundamentals, Northern Red will help the student gain a better understanding of improving natural point of aim, support and firing hand positions, breathing, trigger control, eye position, etc. If students thought that prone shooting at 100 yards was tough, kneeling was even tougher. Chris demonstrated a number of different kneeling positions based on varying body types and flexibility. Anyone can shoot fast. Being able to shoot fast accurately on small targets is another matter.

Photos coming when I can edit them.

AAR Ken Hackathorn Advance Carbine, PIttsburgh, PA. August 18-19, 2012

I had the opportunity to attend my 3rd class with Ken at his 2 day Advanced Carbine and I was not going to miss it. As many of you know Ken has recently relocated to Idaho and this was going to be one of his last east coast courses for the foreseeable future. This is written from memory so if any of the details of the class are off please feel free to offer corrections/additions if you were in attendance.

The class was held at the PMSC and consisted of 16 students and 3 AI's for Ken over the 2 days. Ken began the class on the first day with explaining his requirements for a carbine for serious work, they being 1. Reliability 2. Reliability 3. Reliability 4. 2 point adjustable sling 5. Red dot sight ( preferably an Aimpoint ) and a white light. Ken then explained what he felt were the weak links with the carbine system that being magazines and expounded on what he felt were good magazines and which magazines were poor performers.

We had the pleasure of having 3, AI's for this class one being Joe Riedy of S&T Training and Consulting one other being Grant Timberlake of G&R Tactical and the final one being Joe Barnsfather of Superior Firearms. All the AI's were also VSM certified instructors. The AI's provided valuable feedback throughout the class to all students in attendance. It was my pleasure to meet both Grant Timberlake and Joe Barnsfather during this class.

The first day of class was probably what you would call a refresher for most of the students after we verified zeros on our carbines, the main focus of this class was proper trigger manipulation. Most of the drills forced you to focus on trigger control and accuracy throughout the day. Ken talked about the ideal carbine stance several times stating you " must keep you chin forward of your knees " to control the recoil. The range we were on only went back to 40 yards so we were somewhat limited in what we could accomplish with carbines, but Ken made the best of what we had available.

We did circle and figure eight drills so the students would learn to understand their wobble zone. We shot the 1,2,3,4,5 drill and several others throughout the day. Ken covered shoulder transitions with the carbine and we shot drills that required the shooter to make shots from both the dominant and support side shoulders. The range we were on did not allow any shooting after 9:00 PM and with our current summer weather and it not getting dark until approx. 8:30 it was decided to fore go a night shoot for this class.

On the second day of class we shot a lot of the same drills again but this time with added movement. We shot box drills, the V drill, the 1,2,3,4,5 drill with movement and also the Compass drill. Ken covered malfunction clearance and he also showed the students his method for reducing the dreaded type "ate " malfunction. After that we worked transition drills where we were forced to finish some drills with our pistols to meet Ken's required round count. We finished the day with Ken's version of the carbine test, that being 10 rounds in 10 seconds from 25 yards. Ken stated an acceptable score to strive for should be 90 % during this drill, I believe a lot of the students in attendance did in fact attain that 90 % if not better.

My equipment for the class consisted of a BCM mid-length 16" carbine with an Aimpoint ML-3 in Larue mount and a VCAS victory sling. I used PRVI Partizan M-193 with no issues all fed thru Magpul P-mags. My pistol was a Glock 17 with X-300 in a Safariland 6004 on an Eagle duty belt. The students in this class came from all walks of life and to a man were all stand up guys that I would have no problem training with in the future.

In conclusion this class like all others I have attended from Ken Hackathorn more than exceeded my expectations, I believe the drills used by Ken in class are some of the best thought out and easy to put to use on your own when training at your own range. His skill drills and tests are a great use of 100 or 200 rounds in a training session. If you get a chance to train with Ken don't hesitate take advantage of it you will not be sorry as it is money well spent.