Monday, October 24, 2016

Range Trip 10-24-2016  Defensive Carbine Lessons

Well, it seems we were blessed with yet another gorgeous day!  I killed off my Monday morning customer alligators so I figured “why not?”  Since I’d spent some time evaluating the Glock 19, reminding myself about utilizing a more rapid sight picture on my Glock 17 . . . I figured I’d round out the process by hitting the range with my defensive carbine.  For me that means a DMPS Oracle .223 with fold up backup sights and an EOTECH 517.   I’ve done a couple courses with this particular carbine and other it being just plain heavy, I have nothing really bad to say about it.  I last zeroed the backup sights the weekend of November 8th, 2008.  I purchased in on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008.  I will let you draw your own conclusions.   The Back-Up Sights have remained rock solid since then.  I have enjoyed the same stability with the EOTECH as well.  I have not replaced it, nor have I experienced any drift.

A while back I found a zero technique to zero a .223 AR shooting a 55 grain bullet that would zero it for both 50 and 200 yards.  You can find the post here.  About a year ago while taking a CFS carbine class, I confirmed this zero and made no adjustments.  As I said, it’s held just fine so the trip today required no tweaking what so ever.

I followed a course of fire very similar to the one that I used for the Glocks with the exception that I expanded the distances.  Again, I used the LEtargets SEB target.  The first round was 15 rounds at 10Y, 5 rounds on the “1”, 5 rounds on the “3” and 5 rounds on the “5”.  The second round was 15 rounds at 15Y, 5 rounds on the 2, 5 rounds on the 4, 5 rounds on the 6.  Round three was the “failure drill”, 2 rounds high center mass and one to the ocular cavity, a total of 15 rounds.  The fourth and final round was at 50 yards, 15 rounds to the pelvic girdle.

The idea here is to simulate an immediate need – grab the carbine from behind my rear seat, go to the proper spot on the range and shoot the course of fire.  In real life, should things go sideways in a really big way for you, you will have no time for tweaking . . . simply responding.  Your defensive carbine (if that is part of your defensive weapon systems) simply must be ready to go out of the box, just as your defensive sidearm is, in its holster, on your side as you read this.  (It’s there . . . right?)

So I slide through the sling, insert a mag, mount the carbine and yank the charging handle to the rear, then let it go.  Next I click on the 517 . . . . next I click on the 517 . . . and . . . it’s dead.  Think about this particular instant if you were to be actually engaged with a threat on a two-way range.  Can you smoothly transition to your backup irons?  Are you confident of their zero?  Can you shoot with your backup irons?  The reality is you have no time to decide any of this – if the world is sliding out of control you better engage and you better hit what you are aiming at.

So, off I go and I engage the “1” from 10 yards, 3 of the 5 rounds hitting a couple inches low.  Pro tip . . . a 55grain .223 round will hit approximately 2 inches low at 10 yards if you’ve established a 50y – 200y zero.  You need to remember this!  While you would still be hammering rounds into your threat, your precision sucks . . . just sayin’.  If you don’t visit the range, if you don’t run the guns you are going to depend on to defend yourself, your family or those in your charge . . . surprises will happen at the most inopportune times.

On to “3” . . . 5 rounds, down only 1.  I remembered the 2 inch drop, kicked myself in the butt and kept on shooting.

On to “5” . . . 5 rounds, down only 1.  I hate these damn little triangles . . . just sayin’.

Round two begins at 15 yards on “2”, drop is ever so slightly less . . . 5 rounds, down zero.  Hey, “nudges” count!

On to “4”, heavy sigh . . . all to the right, down 3.  And finishing up on “6” (did I say something about hating the little triangles???) again to the right, down 3.

Round 3 moves me up to 7 yards.  This is the failure drill.  Two rounds high center mass and one to the ocular cavity.  15 rounds total, down zero on high center mass, down 4 on the ocular cavity.

I move back to 50 yards, I am down 8 for 15.  So let’s do the math . . . for 60 rounds I am down 3,1,1,0,4,3,4,and 8 for a total of down 24 out of 60  . . . or I shot a “60%”. 

My worst target was at 50 yards.  All shooting was unsupported, so using some kind of cover as a brace may well have snugged up those 8 misses.  Next, if you get lazy and don’t shoot your iron sights, your performance suffers.  It is part of the skill set you simply must practice on.  If you are a LEO, and shoot a qual course once or twice a year with a carbine, I’d strongly suggest you shoot it with iron sights.  If you refine that skill should things go sideways in a really big way you will have a much better chance of going home standing rather than in a ZipLoc.   Obviously this holds true for me as well and I will find time to put more work in with iron sights in the very near future.

This particular part of the range trip is host to a couple lessons.  Failures happen at inopportune times.  And, if you have a battery powered optic, the batteries will fail when you need them.  And, you will look in your range bag, your pockets, your callout bag, your weapon case . . . and discover that there are no batteries to be found, your battery powered optic is useless.  Got batteries?????

So I finished up this short trip, grabbed some lunch, went back to the office to see if anyone needed a hand.  I handled a few calls, dotted a few “i’s”, crossed a few “Ts” and wondered if I had any batteries in my desk drawer.  Imagine that . . . there were a half dozen or so.  And so my work day ended and off to the range I went to repeat the same course of fire but with my EOTECH optic operational.  (the “crap” all across the target face is splatter from a steel plate that was just to the left of the target.  After I finished up the 50-yard course of fire I shot up the remaining 15 rounds on the steel.  I do kinda love that “PING” sound.  But the splatter really messed with the target).

So, did the EOTECH make all that much difference?
15 rounds at 10Y.

Down 1 on “1”, down zero on “3” and down 1 on “6”.   I could call this much improved.

Second 15 rounds at 15Y.

Down 0 on “2”, down 2 on “4” and down 2 on “6”.

Third 15 rounds at 7 yards, the failure drill.  Down 0 on high center mass, down 1 on the ocular cavity.

Fourth and final 15 rounds at 50 yards, down 3. 

So the final tally . . . down 1,0,1,0,2,2,3 and 2 for a total of down 11.  Or . . . I shot an “82%”.

So what should the take-away be for you?  First, if a carbine is part of your defensive weapons array . . . have you been to the range lately?  Have you shot any type of qualification course – your own or some other one?  (Try the OLD FBI course of fire for starters.)  Do you trust it’s “zero”?  Do the optics work?  Do you have backup irons “just in case”?  Can you shoot them?  Can you move easily from one to the other?  Do you know the different ballistic response at different distances?  Where is the point of impact for your defensive rounds at 7Y, 10Y, 15Y, 50Y, 100Y, 200Y?  Can your “run your gun”, clear failures, change magazines quickly and easily?

You will not do a single realistic evaluation of any of these questions . . . if you don’t hit the range.  It’s not “ammunition intensive”, this was only 60 rounds, yet it will wring out your skillset reasonably well.  Oh . . . have you taken a carbine course lately?  Ever?  I have found for many shooters the way the “gun runs” in their head varies radically from the way it runs in a reasonably strenuous range course.  If a defensive carbine is part of your mix, take a frickin’ course . . . just sayin’.

So there ya go.  A rather quick range trip to flesh things out turned into a rather nice learning/reminder/butt kicking trip.  I shall endeavor to do better.

Get outta the recliner folks . . . and hit the range!


  1. That is why I don't use any sighting aids with batteries... :-) And I need to get back to the range with my AR! :-(

  2. That is why I don't use any sighting aids with batteries... :-) And I need to get back to the range with my AR! :-(

  3. What is your preference(s) for lowers for an AR-15 build. Looking for experienced advice since I'll be building them for my boys before The Bitch gets elected.

  4. Hey "K" . . . (kinda feels like the opening line in a "Men in Black" movie . . .

    One of the current memes going around says something like you are better off spending $700 on a gun and $2300 on training and ammo rather than $2300 on a gun and $700 on training and ammo. I am in agreement with that.

    My AR-platform rifles are a DPMS LR-308 with a Nikon Prostaff 5 scope and a timney trigger upgrade with a Harris bi-pod. I also have a DPMS Oracle in .223 with an EOTECH 517 and Magpul pop-up backup sights with just the stock DPMS trigger group. My only "build" has a no-name lower, I started with a DPMS trigger group but replaced the actual trigger with a timney, added a Nikon Prostaff scope and a Harris bipod. The Orcale is my primary defensive carbine. The LR-308 is my at-distance long gun (I've used it successfully out to 500 yards) and the "build" is just a backup for the Oracle - though the added scope and bipod make it a good tool to work on my precision shooting.

    Taking a lot of words to encourage you to decide the purpose of the AR. Do you just want to build something? Then it really doesn't matter. If it's a defensive tool your max distance will probably by 100y with the most probable defensive distances not exceeding 50Y. Find a reliable, reasonably priced off the shelf gun and spend the extra money on ammo and training. I'd have 4-5K rounds of all your favorite calibers stocked away before Jan 20th if "she" is elected. Then, spend the range time and take good course work to really learn how to run the gun.

    Does all that make sense? All IMNSHO, of course. . . .

  5. I haven't gotten to spend as much time at the range as I would like, all summer...
    Thanks for the tips!