Monday, September 21, 2015

Review - AAR Long Range Shooting with Jim See 9/19/2015


The very, very short version . . . what a fun day!!! Made solid hits at 435y and 500y and tagged a 16” steel plate at 800y a couple of times. Jim See is a very good instructor that is well worth your time and money! So, let’s spend some time on the details. This feels like a long post so grab an adult beverage and settle in!

I want to address this AAR in a couple different chunks.

What is the definition of “long range” shooting?

My weapon of choice. Why the heck are you shooting a short barreled .308 carbine? Increasing the accuracy of the LM-308 platform. Why replace the trigger group? Why that scope? Why a scope level? Why that bipod? What round for familiarization and what round for the coursework?

I want to chat a bit about Jim See, provide some links to his company and the company he shoots for and finally, an evaluation of his teaching style.

Homework. While I’ve spent time in the past reading about LR shooting and rifle shooting techniques – I really hit the books/videos/websites prior to start of this course. Let’s spend some energy on these resources as a starting point.

Sure Shot range is newish to our area – I’d like to spend some time on describing the range, its facilities and capabilities.

Finally, we’ll roll through the day – both classroom and range work. It was a busy day and while one might think the round count was a bit on the light side (I shot around 50 rounds) the learning that went on awesome.

What is Long Range Shooting?

It seems to be that the right answer to this is “whatever I say it is!” If you talk to most hunters it seems to be anything over 350 yard-ish. That is the most distant range it seems most are willing to say they are confident of making a solid kill shot on an animal. Of course there are those hunters who really work at their craft that will push this out to 400, 500 maybe even 600 yards. All that said, once these folks cross 350 yards, most see it as long range shooting.

Then there are the target shooters who typically practice at 500 yards and beyond with 1,000 yards plus just being part of their shooting distance. For these folks those distances beyond 500 yards would be defined as long distance shooting.

And then there are the real competitors – like Jim See. They shoot everything from 100 yards to 1,000+ yards. They are all simply part of the work that needs to be done. When I listened to Jim talk he put as much effort into the 100 yard shot as the 800 yard shot that we all had the chance to work on. I’m not sure he even thinks about “long range” – he’s more interested in bullet dope, ranges, elevations, wind direction, wind speed. I simply see Jim as a real, honest to goodness “shooter” regardless of the distance.

For me, I’m going to toss my hat in with those that feel that 350 yards or more is “long range”. My reasoning? It was quickly apparent that at the 500 yard distance wind was a tremendous factor and making the hit became much more a factor of being able to read the wind and compensate “on the fly” than being able to have a solid hold for elevation at the shooting distance. Your definition may well differ – no worries.

My weapon of choice.

Why the heck are you shooting a short barreled .308 carbine? Increasing the accuracy of the Panther Arms AP4 platform. Why that scope? Why a scope level? Why that bipod? What round for familiarization and what round for the coursework?

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My weapon for the day was a Panther Arms AP4. This is my “heavy” rifle that was purchased primarily with personal defense in mind. Should the wheels come off in a truly big way, and defense of family and friends becomes a high priority, this type of platform is one I am familiar with, the cartridge is large enough to do real work over long distances and it also provides a solid hunting rifle should food gathering become a priority. (ok, tin foil is going back in the box . . .) Would I consider this a long range precision rifle? Probably not at first blush but after yesterday’s coursework I have no doubt that I can make a solid first round hit out to 500 yards easily provided all my fundamentals are solid.

I did do some work to enable me to be more accurate with my AP-4. First I added a front tripod. I mounted a Harris Bipod #5 Adaptor to the barrel guard. This involved drilling an appropriate sized hole centered on the bottom to the front guard just over 2-inches back from the front edge. I inverted the rear plate, slipped it inside the guard and screwed the mounting bracket through the guard and into the rear plate. This was a simple process requiring around 20 minutes.

Harris Bipod #5 AR-15 Bipod Adaptor

Next I added a Harris S-BRM tripod. This had a number of advantages. The mounting plate “rocks” left and right so I could level the weapon once I was in my shooting position insuring I was level when I broke my shot. The extendable legs also have locking segments on both legs allowing me to “click” in each leg to identical lengths quickly and easily. Finally, just their reputation – they are widely acknowledged as making one of the best bipods on the market.

Harris S-BRM Hinged Bipod

The stock trigger on the AP4 is “stiff” and somewhat variable from time to time. Replacing the trigger group with a more reliable one seemed a no brainer. I chose the Timney AR-10 4lb trigger pull group. Installation was very easy due to the trigger group being fully assembled in a solid aluminum housing. It required less than 20 minutes to remove the old trigger and drop in the new one. This is probably the single most important upgrade that I made on the weapon – it made a tremendous difference in my ability to shoot accurately.

Tinmey AR-10 4lb trigger assemply

Honestly, I could have chosen a better scope had I looked a few years into the future. I wasn’t thinking “long range shooting” or having to correct on the fly for variable winds. My mind set was much more in a close range, defensive shooting POV, with hunting as a backup need. My choice was the Nikon 6320 Prostaff 3-9x 40mm Matte Riflescope with a BDC reticle. The final result on the range though was nicely surprising. We’ll talk about this in more detail but by way of explanation our “final exam” was three 14x14 plates at 435 yards, 2 rounds on each plate in 30 seconds. I dialed in the dope on the scope, bagged up and was quickly rewarded by two solid first plates. After that I just lost it . . . but it was me, not the weapon or the scope. To mount the scope to the picatinny rails I used TMS Heavy Duty 1” mounts. Again, in hindsight there are much better choices I could have made but I have no room to fault the way the mounts performed during this course. To insure my scope was level, I added a Vortex Scope Level. While shooting at longer ranges a scope that has a slight cant to it can significantly impact the hit by a number of inches. The Vortex scope was solid insurance.

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600   Scope Mount 2

VORTREX Scope Level

Finally, I added a combination of rear shooting bags that allowed me a range of adjustment from around 2 inches all the way up to around 10 inches. The idea of these are that you gently squeeze them for final adjustments of elevation before you press the trigger. If you rely on muscle control to provide a stable platform, over time you will see tremors in your scope because your muscles become tired. Using a good bipod and a set of rear bags help insure you have a stable platform before you break your shot. They definitely make the difference when shooting at these types of ranges.

I used two types of ammunition in preparing for the course and actually shooting during the course. For the precourse work I used Winchester .308 150 gr power point. It was very consistent throughout the 100-ish rounds I fired in preparation for the course. For the actual course work I used Hornady’s 178 gr, BTHP match cartridge. Its performance was flawless and the dope for the scope was very precise when dialed it in for 435 yards.

Let’s chat about Jim See . . .

Jim is the owner/operator of Center Shot Rifles LLC of Decorah, Iowa. He is also a team shooter for Surgeon Rifles. He has two PRS season wins in 2015 with his most recent being a first place finish in the 2015 Heatstroke Open. In the 2015 Precision Rifle Series Jim is currently ranked 6th nationally. When he picked up his team gun and demonstrated specific things he wanted to clarify, it became quite apparent that his national ranking is well earned.

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I arrived at the range a bit early just as John – the owner – was preparing to take our zero targets downrange to the 100y berm. Hands were shaken and introductions were made . . . and conversations began. I found Jim to be one of those instructors that are open, willing to talk, willing to share, intent on making sure everything he said and intended to pass on was understood. If any of us had a question he paused, thought a second or two and then jumped into as detailed a description as was needed to make sure the question was fully answered.

John is personable, obviously knowledgeable and has the ability to take what he knows and accurately share it with his students. He is NOT a “do it this way because I said so” but much more a “this works for me because . . . see if it works for you” kind of guy. He is a solid, clear, direct and experienced shooter and instructor. If you get the opportunity to take coursework from him, do it, without hesitation!


As I have said earlier, I am not a long range shooter. That does not mean in any way that I can’t become a long range shooter. Once I signed up for Jim’s course I “hit the books”. I began looking for foundational material. Since all the work was to be done in the prone position I looked for long range schools that published written material or provided online videos on how they taught this position. There is a lot of very good information out there and the vast majority of it tracked with what Jim taught.

I also ordered and watched the first 2 DVDs of MAGPUL’s “Art of Precision Rifle”. I must say I learned a great deal of the fundamentals from the first 2 DVDs and will make sure the remaining 3 are viewed in the next few weeks. There is nearly 10 hours of information in this series.

I also spent a fair amount of time on the JBM Ballistics website learning about how the bullets I was shooting would act over the 500 to 800 yard distances we would be shooting. They have a tremendous amount of information free for the taking – it is well worth the effort to spend some time on their website.

And, finally, spent a fair amount of time making sure I understood both the MOA and mil dot ranging systems. My scope is MOA but what I found was that while Jim was giving wind corrections, he invariable gave it in tenths of a mil dot. There in great value in understanding both systems well before you attend a long range school. As an intro to mil dot, Trijicon has as good an introduction as any out there.

There are dozens of ballistic calculator apps out there for smart phones. I have a Samsung Note3 that runs the Android OS. I chose the Strelok Pro app to use for this course. It’s very comprehensive allowing you to define specific guns, it has the ability to download specific cartridges and bullets, let’s you connect to local weather via the internet and provides clear doping information at the touch of a button. I’ll do a more comprehensive review later but I found that the Strelok Pro gave quick and accurate data.

Sure Shot Range and Gunsmithing

John Fetzer is the owner of Sure Shot. He built it on his farm in rural Iowa near Mount Auburn. It has been a work in progress over the past few years and currently has a 5-10 lane 50ft pistol bay with berms on three side, a set of steel plates located at 435 yards, 500 yards, 800 yards and two zeroing berms at 100 yards and 200 yards. He has a nice heated shooting building that allows full access to all these ranges during the winter and a heated classroom to round out his facilities. John is a friendly guy and quickly made all 8 students in this course feel like they were visiting a friend . . . which turned out to be exactly the case by the end of the day. He had a plentiful supply of water throughout the day and provided fixings for ham and cheese sandwiches during lunch.

The target group at 800 yards is new and we were essentially the first group to shoot on that part of the range. In Iowa there are very few ranges that offer targets at these distances. I suspect Sure Shot and John will see a pronounced increase business as word gets out about his facility. If you are in eastern Iowa and are looking for a great range to visit, give John a call!

Finally . . . to the course!

The day was an ambitious day! I’m not sure what Jim’s expectations were, but he was presented with a mixed bag of shooters that ranged from very new rifle shooters to one shooter who cleaned the dueling tree at 500 yards. The rifles we brought – and their associated optics – also varied a great deal as well. The criteria for the course was a rifle capable of shooting a 1-1.5 MOA group. So the specifications were a bit “loose”. Bottom line, by the end of the day – regardless of the weapon – we all were getting hits on the plates at 500 yards with we weapons we brought. At the 800 yard plates a couple got hits with the weapons they brought or, we were able to use Jim’s match gun – again, we all got at least a couple hits on the “large” plate – 16”.

John competes in the Precision Rifle Series and is a competitive shooter for Surgeon Rifles. Prior too many of the matches Jim offers a “Train-Up” course for the shooters. Much of what he covers was presented to us as the coursework for the day. His outline looked like this . . .

· Equipment preparation

  • Position Building
  • Wind Negotiations
  • Elevation Corrections
  • Performance evaluation! How to become a better shooter.
  • Corrective Action!

While the classroom time was limited to about 2 hours it was packed with information covering rifle selection, optics, bipods, rear bags, the prone position, using the rear bag, gripping the weapon, proper finger placement on the trigger, trigger press, position building from everything from prone through cattle gates – it was comprehensive to say the least.

He also covered various types of range equipment, the Kestrel weather station, the JBM website and how to print dope charts for your specific cartridge and bullet, the use of ballistic phone apps to name just a few pieces of gear.

He also integrated stories from his various competitions to make specific points about everything from building positions when presented a wide variety of shooting problems to how to approach a competition and get the most out of each specific stage.

Jim knows his stuff, shared freely and I left the lecture portion much clearer on many aspects of what would be expected of us during the course of the day.

To the range

Our first stop was the 100 yard range – the shortest we would shoot all day . . . and the longest I had ever shot. We were asked to bring 9 rounds with us and we were each given a target with three diamonds on them.

I was asked to get into the “proper” prone position – directly behind the gun with the barrel drawing a line that passes slightly to the left of my right heel. I adjusted the legs of my front bipod, placed the rear bags and squeezed to come up on target. Honestly, this position was profoundly uncomfortable and I found I rushed my shot. After a couple rounds Jim just asked if it was comfortable to shoot this way – “Nope.” Said I. Then he just asked me to get comfortable – so I moved my body a bit more to the left, snugged in and found a comfortable spot. Full disclosure here – I’m a bit of a “big guy” meaning I carry far more in my gut than I care to admit. Even “comfortable” was a bit of a stretch but I could stay on target, quiet my breathing and obtain a solid sight picture and sight alignment. Obviously I need to work with this much more, but I was surprised that I actually found a spot the worked as well as it did.

Jim made a 2-click adjustment on my windage, had me send a couple more rounds – and came to the realization the issue was my positioning, not a scope adjustment. He took it off – now it’s back to the zero I came with – tweaked my position and I was done.

THIS . . . THIS RIGHT HERE . . . is why in person coursework from a knowledgeable shooter is important. All the videos you want to watch, all the books you want to read will not get you to where an instructor will put hands on you and work with your position behind the gun, fix the weld in your shoulder, work with the way you are gripping the pistol grip and refine how you place your finger on the trigger. THAT WHOLE PROCESS IS PRICELESS and simply cannot be accomplished via video – it needs a human touch!

Finally, we were off to the 500 yard line. THE 500 YARD LINE?!?!?!? I gotta admit my head did a bit of a holy crap!! I took out my Strelok Pro ballistic app on my phone, punched in 500 yards and touched the “reticle” button. This showed me what my reticle placement should be on the target 500 yards away.

When it was my turn I took up my prone position on the concrete pad, loaded on command and placed the spot on my reticle dead center but just off the left edge of the target. Then I sent a round down range – I missed left and low. Jim had me adjust to place the reticle centered and on the top edge . . . and I got 6 hits out of the remaining 8 rounds. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. To say I was pleased with myself . . . would also be an understatement.

We rotated 3 shooters at a time. This is the other thing that in invaluable in a live class vs just watching a video . . . you get to see how the instructor corrects other shooters, what suggestions he makes, how he makes “calls” to adjust elevation and wind (which was gusting throughout the day). And, you get to ask the “why” and “how come” questions as he does it. Let’s just say much learning – on the part of everyone – occurred.

Three of us brought AR platform guns and Jim wanted to make sure we had a chance to shoot a “real gun” (meaning bolt action) so he allowed us to run a half dozen rounds down his 6.5mm Creedmore competition rifle. Ever go from a Jeep (my gun) to a Corvette? Yeah . . . it was like that. So I got just a bit cocky and asked to try the dueling tree. I got 2 of the 6 plates. Jim wanted to “check his gun” so he settled behind his gun and cleaned the plates in about 15 seconds . . . obviously it wasn’t the gun! But just working his gun with his Vortex mil dot scope, his 16 ounce trigger pull . . . like I said, Jeep vx Corvette.

This brought us to lunch time. We all made sandwiches and ate while we chatted about the day so far, heard stories from Jim’s PRS competitions and then started to talk about building positions that are not “standard” . . . cattle fences, concrete walls, telephone poles, steel barrels, vehicles . . . and what it takes to get your gun stable enough to take that kind of shot.

Back to the range

We then moved to the 800 yard range. With my Prostaff scope and the AP4 combination, my weapon pretty much topped out at 600 yards with a 100 yard zero. Jim allowed all of us to send half dozen rounds down range at the 800 yard target set. They ranged in size from a 16” circle to an 8” circle (I believe). Jim went first and within one round just beat the small plate to death. Pretty darn impressive!

My turn brought my big “ah-ha” moment for the day. I was having a hard time even hitting the large plate – I kept hitting left – so far that I actually hit the small plate to the left. Then the light bulb when off – and I felt just plain stupid. When Jim made the wind call . . . I was holding off to the opposite side. No idea why I was doing this but my “head math” was just the opposite. Once I realized that, with his competition gun, my rounds dropped right on the large plate. I made an 800 yard shot. Again, pretty darn happy with myself.

Once we had all rolled through the 800 yard targets – with many doing VERY well, we moved on to non-standard shooting positions. Jim demonstrated telephone poles, steel barrels, barrels with the top cut out, cement walls and barricades . . . all with the fundamental idea that stability of the weapon is paramount. And, he demonstrated any number of ideas on how you would go about getting that job done!

Finally, it was our “test exercise” where we could put all of this together. Our shooting exercise was to put 2 rounds on each of 3 plates at 435 yards while building a position on top of a blue barrel. For this I used the Strelok Pro calculator to calculate that at 435 yards, with my cartridge and bullet, I had a 9” drop – exactly. I dialed it into the elevation turret and loaded my magazine with 6 rounds and waited my turn.

When you came up to the barrel you had about a minute to build your position with an empty weapon. Once done your took your weapon to port and waited for the starting buzzer. When it was my turn I adjusted the legs on the bipod, Jim suggested I slip a bag under the magazine and I squeezed the bag, the crosshairs rested directly center target . . . I was ready to go. I took the weapon to port and waited to the start of my 30 second run. “standby” . . . BEEP!

I loaded the magazine, set the bipod on the barrel, put the bag under the magazine, squeezed the bag until the crosshairs were on the target . . . and pressed the trigger. “HIT!!” I hear. Repeat. “HIT!!” Now I shift left one plate . . . and I just completely lost it! I could not hit squat again to save my soul. I sent 4 rounds down range – at the largest target I might add – without a single hit. Couple thoughts on this – I obviously let the “time” issue grind on me. And I forgot what I harp on to every single student – make each shot “deliberate”. I obviously opted for speed over good sight alignment, sight picture. I get it . . . which is yet one more VALUE OF LIVE COURSE WORK! As you watch videos of training for any type of shooting – including long range rifle shooting – it is all too easy simply seeing yourself making each and every hit that guy in the video is making. Sadly, life does not work that way. Standing behind a barrel, in a live course, with 9 other people watch just you . . . is a much better test that leaning back in your recliner as you watch a shooter in a video make hit after hit after hit . . .

And with that I had to leave about 15 minutes early. It was a great day! I proved out my weapon system, it will do the type of work I want it to do. I will more than likely upgrade the optic but for a $150 piece of glass I have no complaint at all. I’m happy with the rifle and while there are certainly more appropriate rifles for long distance – I will stay happy with the AP-4 for the time being.

Again, many thanks to John Fetzer of Sure Shot for his time and the use of his facility and many thanks to Jim See for a day of learning that’s, frankly, hard to get. Jim, it was great getting to know you, you ran a great and very informative class, and I look forward to your next visit to your next course offering.

And that folks, is that. If you have the opportunity to take coursework from Jim . . . send a check tomorrow! You’ll meet a truly nice guy and learn a great deal from a real shooter.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Commentary–I had some thoughts on 9/12/2001


I had some thoughts on morning of 9/12/2001.  Amid cries of “Never Forget!!!” on each and every 9/11 since that date . . . while we haven’t forgotten . . . it is obvious we have learned little.  Pay particular attention to the first handful of paragraphs . . . any of this sound familiar in today’s discourse that is heard from the Whitehouse and on The Hill?  Lessons that remain unlearned are repeated . . .  just sayin’ . . .


11:30 AM  9/12/2001

september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-second-airplane-wtc_39997_600x450It is still hard to even begin to understand yesterday. And, as the dust begins to settle, there is talk about what we should do in response to this despicable act. I guess I would like to offer my two cents on that. By way of disclaimer, I should say I also write this while being incredibly angry. Obviously, anger with the people who conducted this attack, but also angry at us, as a nation, for allowing ourselves to become so weak.

For years and years, our government – populated by both Republicans and Democrats – has justified their way to spending less and less and less on those institutions that keep us free. Hardest hit has been the military and intelligence communities. Our soldiers live in poverty. Their housing, in many areas, is substandard. And, while Bush has promised “help is on the way”, their pay remains pathetic.

The intelligence community has seen their resources drained, their ability to gather human intelligence (read spies) severely limited and their resources compromised through Americans willing to sell their souls for 30 pieces of silver.

Our reduced spending (or spending on poorly run projects) has resulted in a military no longer able to fight a dual front war. Of course, this is OK since “no one” would ever think of attacking the US. This has resulted in a military no longer capable of mounting a campaign the size of the Gulf War. And, keep in mind, at that time it required HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Guard and Reserve troops to pull that off because our military had been reduced to such a point of weakness the US military could not do it on their own without these backup troops. Today, even with these Guard and Reserve troops, we are NOT capable of mounting such a campaign.

This reduction in funding and personnel has resulted in the mass migration of mid level officers from service to country to service to corporation. Our defense, as a nation, depends on Captains and Majors throughout our armed services just as corporations actually run on the efforts of middle management. We are losing these folks in droves!

Our congress spends billions and billions on favored projects that help the people back home while ignoring this hemorrhage and the disgusting state of military life.

I am an unblushing hawk. I suppose that is obvious from the thoughts I have shared in the past as well as what I am saying while on my current soapbox. But, now, after thousands and thousands of deaths, maybe I will be heard at a deeper level.

As a hawk, I have a love of country that extends to my willingness to give my own life in defense of it. I do not mean that to be dramatic, it is a choice I consciously made years and years ago. It means that I believe we exist as the world’s largest democracy and as the world’s most open and free society because we have been willing (in times past anyway) to remain strong and to defend our interests at home and abroad. It means that US soldiers have a code of conduct that far exceeds that of many nations that governs what the exercise of military strength allows. (And, contrary to many talking heads I heard last night, it does not permit the carpet bombing of a country, even after what happened to us yesterday. Little Islamic children have moms and dads too!).

As a hawk, I still stand in awe of today’s soldiers that are willing to give their lives to defend our way of life.

The reason yesterday happened is that we, as a country, have agreed to the systematic and deliberate destruction of our nation’s ability to protect ourselves. Send troops to Afghanistan and hunt the bastard down: we can’t, our troops are stretched to the limit. Go to our spies and find out where “he” is: we can’t, our human intelligence capability has been shredded. Increase inspections of passenger’s bags: Geezz, the wait to get on planes is long enough!! My point is, WE, the NATION are responsible for allowing this to happen.

A final consideration. This is just the beginning. This proves to our enemies that we are weak and vulnerable. That we can be gotten to. It has carried us into a reality that much of the rest of the world has already had to accept. We are simply the news member of the “club” that has endured terrorism on their home soil. Terrorism’s purpose is to simply make you afraid. Let me ask this, will you ever get on a plane, go to the 60th floor of any building or look at the skyline of New York and not have a hair or two stand up on the back of your neck?? This attack was incredibly successful and cheap (at least to date) in human capital – around a dozen dedicated terrorists. There is more to come. We need to accept this and act accordingly.

Now, what should our response be? First, it must begin at home. We must realize that peace and freedom comes at a price. Fund the military (NOT the pork projects, the soldiers). Make the military a viable career for our young people. Take pride in the military so our children see a career of defending our country as viable and wonderful a choice as being a doctor. Insist that our Congress make a commitment that once again our military power will be sufficient enough to give anyone pause before they undertake such an action again. Insist that our Congress rebuild our intelligence community. The fact that such a complex operation could be mounted and carried out without our even having a glimpse that it was coming speaks volumes about our ability to gather information. That must change. And, finally, fund the missile shield. I continue to hear over and over that this method of attack is simply not practical and we need not defend against it. I simply disagree. There is any number of ways a “rogue” country could get a short range missile within launch range given time and money. This attack should make a fairly solid argument that those kinds of enemies do exist and are willing to take the time and spend the money to carry off just such an attack.

I am taking a lot of words to say that this was a lesson of the worst kind. I pray we have learned from it.

No fun today, simply prayers. May all the families who lost loved ones find family and friends to share their burdens today, to love and hold them while they deal with their horrible loss.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Just the Basics - Prep for a Long Range Shooting Class


I’m preparing for a long range shooting class in about 2 weeks. As I’ve said in the past, I’m not a real long range rifle shooter, it’s just not my thing. That said, the opportunity to take a class from someone who has competed and succeeded on a national level . . . how could I pass that up. So, I’ve been working on getting my AP-4 prepped and ready to go. I’ll go through all of that, as well as an AAR on the course once it’s complete.

That said there was a local guy who is also taking the course. He’s the employee of a friend of mine who runs a local gun store. He’s a young guy and has virtually no experience at all in sighting in his rifle using a scope so my friend asked me to give him a hand. I was more than happy to do so.

His rifle is a FNAR .308 with a Burris 4.5-14 scope and a bipod. I have no experience with this particular gun – in fact neither does the shooter – so we jumped in together. It is a magazine fed, piston driven weapon with an AR style grip and a 20” barrel with a 1:12 right-hand twist. We would literally be sending the very first rounds down range.


Burris Droptine 45-14

“Zeroing my gun” has become one of my pet peeves at my local range. Seems like every time I see a shooter at the bench and I ask him what task he had set himself/herself today . . . it’s “zeroing my gun”. Oh . . . and I’m starting at the 100yard bench . . . heavy sigh. So with this shooter I had a clean slate and someone truly willing to learn . . . the session was just plain fun!

I’ve completely jumped on the 10yard zero bandwagon. I’ve written about it when I used it for my backup .223 prior to my CFS carbine course in June. I’ve also used it a number of times since. For today’s session I used the same target I use for the .223 but added a hash mark approximately .86 inches below the POA. If you run the ballistics on a 150 grain .308 cartridge at 10 yards the bullet is .86 inches below a 100yard zero. So that was our starting point. Take a quick look at the image reflecting our initial efforts . . . holy crap what a piss poor start!!! The hits were so bad I covered the backer board with a SEB target so I’d have some idea where the hell the rounds were hitting . . . from only 10 yards away. Are you shittin’ me???

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You can see the first group of rounds on the far right edge of the target. And, you can see the results of my crankin’ on the Windage and elevation as I walked it left . . . and up . . . and tried to get the damn thing down. WTF over?????? Finally I just STOPPED . . . and looked . . . as the shooter did as well. “Ya know, that scope just doesn’t look right.” he says. Sure enough, it does look cockeyed. A closer examination showed that the front mount for the scope was more than a little catawampus. So, into the tool kit and out with the torx set. I loosened the scope, reseated and tightened everything.

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PRESTO!! We were back in the game. After about 6 rounds I changed targets and with another six we were pretty well shooting out the hash mark. Moral of the story . . . do now ASSUME your new gun has been set up properly . . . check it carefully from top to bottom.

Next we moved to the 100yard range. I posted 4 targets down range, set up my spotting scope and spent some time working on his position at the bench.

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Butt of the stock pulled firmly into his shoulder, cheek welded behind the scope, rear bag under the butt of the stock for fine vertical adjustment. And we were ready to shoot. If you look at target #1 (top left) you will see the results. Our work at 10yards got us on paper with the first 3-round group high and right. Our first adjustment moved us pretty much on as far as Windage and our 3rd completed elevation with two of the three rounds painting just over a 1 MOA group center target. We made no more adjustments to the scope from this point on. Next we worked on the shooter.

Even shooting out to 100yards minute body movements can easily affect your shot. So we worked on things in stages. On targets 2 and 3 we focused on body position, bringing the weapon into his body, use of a rear shooting bag and trigger press. The improvement in shot placement is obvious with 2 of the 3 rounds it both cases being about 1 MOA. If you are working with a new distance shooter . . . there is no need to adjust the gun if you see results like this . . . it’s the shooter that’s throwing that 3rd shot. Next we worked on the final two components – breath management and follow through. I specifically use the work “management” because you CAN’T CONTROL YOUR BREATHING! You can work with it, you can be aware of it, you can manage it . . . but you can’t control it.

My preferred method is to “pause” for an additional second or two on the exhale part of my breathing cycle. I know some like to pause at the peak of breathing in. And a number of other options as well. I teach what I do, what can I say. So, for the 4th target we focused on bringing it all together. I kept up a running “reminder” conversation . . . position, use of the rear bag, good sight picture, smooth trigger press straight to the rear, follow through between each shot . . . his results were gratifying, two rounds touching and one just over one MOA away.

Not bad for a fellow had never shot this particular rifle/scope combination. For a fellow who’d never shot a scoped rifle period. For a fellow who had no idea what “Moment of Angle” even meant. For a fellow who had never used a bipod and rear bag. For a fellow who had never sighted in a rifle. Not bad!

So, after the final three rounds it was a wrap . . . until we take the course in a couple weeks. A few final thoughts.

If you are starting something new and need a hand . . . ask. His comment was that if he’d come out by himself he would have probably started his zero process at 100yards. Since he couldn’t hit paper at 10yards, can you imagine what his frustration level would have been? Find a friend, find an instructor who can take a bit of time and share what they know with you.

Do not assume your new gun was fully prepped. A poorly mounted scope caused us to waste a dozen round or more . . . look things over really well before you send rounds down range.

There are dozens of bits and pieces that need to work well to place accurate shots at ranges of 100yards and beyond. Your shooting position. The use of a bipod and shooting bag instead of your muscles. Good equipment. Smooth trigger press. Good follow through. Breath management. And the patience and focus to do this over and over and over and over . . . It takes a bit of time and rounds down range to put this all together. You are not going to be a “shooter” after a single range trip, that simply is not going to happen.

But, with time and dedication and focus – you will be surprised how quickly groups will tighten.

As I said earlier . . . I do not see myself as a long range shooter . . . or even a 100yard shooter. But, after a couple weeks of real effort I gotta say it’s kinda cool! As for Trent . . . he’s going to spend some range time over the next week or so to polish things a bit. Then he’s going to join me and 6 other shooters and learn from a real expert. Our max distance will be 500yards . . . sounds like fun.

Good job Trent!

Just the Basics - “Three to five rounds, High Center Mass”


My purpose, when I head to the range for a couple hours work, is to keep my defensive shooting skills as sharp as I can. Range time for me is limited by both time and money. I’d love to shoot every day – I can’t. Few can. So, when I do carve out a block of time I go with purpose.

To do this I employ a couple tools. First is the target with my long term favorite being the LE SEB target. Yet there are many others available – some that show internal organs, some specific to local police training academies, some simply “popular” like the B-27 and some favored like the FBI Q target. All have value, all have uses.

Target 2 (Mobile)   Target 1 (Mobile)b-27e-black_La (Mobile)   ILEA-Q_L (Mobile)q-wh_L (Mobile)

The second tool I use are drills that I record on my cell phone and then play via my phone’s Bluetooth earpiece. There are 10 drills that run 30 seconds each. This is typically enough to execute the shooting portion, complete a scan/assess and the reset for the next drill. On the “up” or “fire” or “threat” command I execute 3-5 rounds “High Center Mass”. On a number/shape command I execute a single precise shot. What I’d like to focus this particular post on – the idea of “High Center Mass”.

While we all pray that there is never a need to draw a defensive weapon to protect ourselves, our family or someone in our charge – the reality of today’s world is that our prayers man not be answered. Past that there is a continuum of possibilities as to what may happen. We may well be able to escape a confrontation – best way to win a gunfight is to not get into one. This should be our very first choice.

Should that be impossible the next best thing would be for the individual acting as the threat seeing a drawn defensive weapon and decide it would be best if they beat a hasty retreat.

Should those options not be available – we may well find ourselves in a situation where we need to shoot to stop the threat. This, in itself, is a source for multiple posts and not the purpose of this particular post. Again, let’s focus on the words “High Center Mass” and define that more clearly.

Once you engage a threat the best for all involved is to end the fight quickly. One option, in very specific cases, is a head shot. I have covered that in depth here and do not to address again in this post. The second option is very frequently taught as “3 to 5 rounds “High Center Mass”. On most range targets listed in this post there is some kind of outline or indicator what your point of aim should be. In the real world it’s difficult to get a threat to pause while you spray-paint an outline of the area you wish to shoot. Hence the phrase “High Center Mass”.

The importance of this area is that it is a confluence of the three major systems that allow a human body to function – the nervous system, the respiratory system and the circulatory system. In this location on the human body all three converge. Your ability to put solid hits in this region quickly and accurately is your best chance at quickly stopping the fight. The problem is that many times it’s difficult to merge the work we do on well-drawn targets with the real world of shirts, jackets, parkas and other cover garments. In real life, how do we find High Center Mass? Well, perhaps if we “drill down” a bit we can do that.

Body Composite 3

Image 1 shows the area I mean when I say the words “High Center Mass”. Put the bottom of your palm centered between the nipples with your fingers extending upward. This is roughly equal to the 4”x6” box that is popular on some targets. On a covered person this spot is located approximately half way between the elbow and the shoulder.

As we “drill down” through skin and muscle and bone you can see that this 4”x6” region provides you an opportunity to do real damage to all three systems – stopping the fight as quickly as is possible. In the best of cases – this should be your primary “go to” spot on the threat.

The next time you go to the range – take a look at how your practice, the drills you run, the targets you use. Are they the best you can get to work on your defensive skills? Are you clear on what you must do to stop a threat? Do you know what “High Center Mass” means and can you consistently hit that region at typical defensive distances?

If your answer is a firm yes . . . As Han said – “Don’t get cocky . . .” Keep working on your shooting skills and keep them sharp. And, if you can’t – make finding some good coursework part of your training goal over the next year.

One other disclaimer here as well – defensive shooting covers a broad range of possibilities. This is but one, a “perfect” one that all too many people limit themselves to. Make sure your training involves a good assortment of training scenarios that will enable you to widen your skillset.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review - BCM GUNFIGHTER Charging Handle


Back in June of this year I attended Rob Pincus’s CFS course for the carbine. You can read the complete review here. One of the things that I noticed was that in coursework when I ran my Panther Arms Oracle hard . . . it didn’t perform very smoothly. Honestly, that was the case for many of the shooters. While working on my home range with range trips sending 100-ish rounds down range, things ran pretty darn smooth. However, with the volume of fire required for the CFS course . . . things got “sticky”. One of the “hitches” turned out to be the charging handle . . . it didn’t work very smoothly at all. Let’s look at that and see what options are out there to work out the issues I was having with this component of my carbine.

Installed Charging Handle 1 (Large)   Installed Charging Handle 2 (Large)

The bolt carrier group is that part of the carbine that ejects a spent casing, strips a new round from the magazine and pushes it into the chamber, it contains the firing pin and performs the primer strike when the trigger is pressed. In gas driven ARs gas from the fired round is captured, routed back to the top of the bolt carrier group and is used to drive the bolt rearward executing the tasks listed above. This process is similar in concept to the firing cycle of a semiautomatic pistol.

There are times though when a shooter will want to “work the bolt” to clear a malfunction of their carbine or to simply clear the AR. Part of the clearing drill for a semiautomatic pistol is to rack the slide to the rear and release it. For the AR platform carbine this is replaced by moving the charging handle firmly and quickly to the rear and then releasing it.

The charging handle locks in place when pressed forward. Grabbing it will move the “lock” so that it may be drawn to the rear. It is cantilevered off a roll pin typically located to the left of center of the weapon. This roll pin then takes the entire load required to move the bolt to the rear. When things are working well, and the bolt carrier group moves fairly easily in the upper receiver. That said, you can definitely feel the added resistance due to the fact that the roll pin is offset to the left and this has the characteristic of canting the charging handle in its channel as it is moved rearward. This does a couple things – it makes things “sticky” and it can easily move the aim point of your carbine off the threat.

My primary carbine training has its foundation in the very late 60s. To clear the weapon or to work the charging handle one held it firmly if your dominant hand, grasped the rear of the charging handle firmly, yanked it to the rear and then released it allowing the bolt to return forward. This was done while pointing the weapon slightly downward as the process was performed. When I took the CFS course Rob introduced a different process. Keep the carbine mounted and on the threat – and work the charging handle with your support hand. Yes, I know there are “issues” for left handed shooters. Stick with me anyway. The advantage to this method is that I was able to keep my focus on the threat while I worked the charging handle. The disadvantage was that with a standard charging handle design and the offset roll pin – the additional friction as I worked the bolt it would move the weapon around and, sometimes, it just plain got stuck and I had to go back to the old method. Rob’s comment was simply “upgrade your charging handle”. So, here we are.

The upgraded charging handle I chose was the BCM Gunfighter Mod 5. It has a number of advantages. It is well constructed out of T6 aircraft grade aluminum. And – it’s biggest advantage – it was designed in such a way that the roll pin DOES NOT take the load when the charging handle to moved rearward. When the release is pressed the cantilevered portion is designed so that all the force is applied directly down the centerline of the weapon. This makes a tremendous difference in the amount of friction present when the bolt is worked via the charging handle. And, for times when you’re trying to clear a failure and you need to get “aggressive” – this design makes things much beefier since you are no longer relying on the roll pin to carry the weight.

Charging Handle in Packaging (Large)

Charging Handle 2 (Large)

Bottom line – if an AR platform carbine is part of your personal defense system – make this change. You won’t be disappointed!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Review - New LEO Firearms Training AAR

A number of months ago a friend who is the primary training officer for our community’s police force gave me a call. They were in the process of reworking our town’s reserve officer corps, adding some new fulltime officers and he was interested if I would like to “play”. Take a guess at my answer . . .
So, a mini phone interview began covering everything from my firearms training to my military experience. He liked what I heard – and so did I! Then there’s was a bit of a pause . . .

Officer E: I gotta ask Bill, just how old are you anyway??

There’s a bit of a pause on my side also . . .

ME: mumblemumblemumblemumble . . . 65

Officer E: Damn . . . really?? You don’t look that old!!

So, while my ego was given a bit of a shot, the mandatory retirement age for LEOs in Iowa is 65. Heavy sigh . . . seems I had reached my expiration date! Crap!!!

Officer E: Well, we still can use a hand with the range work and training of the new officers – are you interested in helping us out?

Does a bear crap in the woods? Does the sun set in the west? Is “Star trek 4” the best frickin’ movie ever made?????

So, a few weekends ago I found myself in a large local quarry with Officer E and his other trainer Officer B getting ready to work 6 new members of our local police force through their training course of fire – 800 to 1000 rounds – including the requirement of shooting two consecutive qualification scores on the Iowa ILEA qualification course of fire. It’s a 50 round course of fire with a required 80% to pass. The target is a standard FBI “Q” target and a “hit” is a hole inside the silhouette on the target. The distances used for the final course of fire were 25y, 15y, 7y, 5y and one arm’s length. Also included were combat reloads, tactical reloads and clearing any malfunctions that happened along the way. If you’d like to see the actual course of fire, you can find the document here.
The students included a number of individuals who had been reserve officers in other communities, a former Marine, a security officer from a local nuclear plant and a fellow who hand shot a revolver 20+ years ago. They were required to conduct the training in full gear – duty belt and vest and have a total of 3 magazines on their person.

Day 1 began with a range brief and then working through a predefined set of drills designed to familiarize the new officer with each of the 4 shooting positions. We began close in and then worked our way back. The round count for the “training” portion was approximately 600 rounds with another 200 set aside for qualification rounds. They were required to shoot 4 qualification rounds and pass 2 of them consecutively.

We did catch a couple of breaks. It was a breezy day and it only got in the low to mid 80s. Not bad and since we were fairly deep in a rock quarry, it could have easily turned into an oven. Instead, it was reasonably comfortable.

I continually harp on “fundamentals” – be able to run your gun, be able to clear malfunctions, be able to consistently draw and drive to the threat, have a solid stance, have a firm grip, control your weapon and get the hits. Frankly getting the hits turned out to be the easiest part of the 2 days. The mechanics, the foundational work . . . that is what took the time and required the most focus over the course of two days.

By noon of the first day it was apparent that the new shooter simply needed to be taken aside. So Officer E took him off to our south and spent a number of hours working through the foundational stuff. With the remaining trainees – we simply “buffed, polished and waxed” their skill set. Some moved along faster than others but every one shot the drills, refined their skill set and, with the exception of two trainees – shot their two passing qualification rounds.

So what can we – as civilian shooters – draw from the training of law enforcement officers? A couple things.

Fundamentals matter. The basics, the foundation, the ability to draw, drive, engage, clear, reload – is the difference between life and death in a gunfight, for law enforcement officers as well as you, the civilian who has chosen to carry a defensive firearm.

Hits – good hits – count! “Fast is fine, but accuracy if final!” This particular topic is one of “those” rabbit holes that shooters and trainers love to talk about. But, in under all the discussion, your level of skill should allow you to get quick, accurate and effective hits at will. If you can’t – be honest with yourself and work on it! While a round mid-thigh may well change a shooter’s mind . . . they may well have all the time they need to place a solid shot in the middle of your chest. Work on it!

An officer can be called on to deliver an accurate shot over a broad range of distances. The qualification course of fire covers everything from 25 yards to and arm’s length. What distances are you training at? Can you get solid hits at 25 yards? How are your combat reloads? Can you run your gun? Again – be honest with yourself and work on it.

Finally, we ask our law enforcement officers – men and women – to put their lives on the line each and every day. They deserve our full support. Give it to them. And, should they find that some of your skills as an instructor may prove helpful to their training program – jump in and play! You will help them be able to better defend themselves, you’ll gain some solid friends and it will make you a better shooter.

Thanks for the invite E . . . looking forward to the night shoots!