Improving your skills is a way of life. Its often said you can either work on improving, or let your skills deteriorate. If you’ve ever felt that your skills have plateaued you know exactly what Im talking about. I have wanted to test my mettle for some time, and see just where I am, I enrolled in a rifle/carbine course put on by Bruiser Industries.
Bruiser Industries is a small company that specializes in teaching shooting tactics and techniques, specifically from the perspective of Law Enforcement and Military. Their Instructors come with backgrounds from SEAL Teams, competition shooters, and specialized law enforcement.
Most of my knowledge base is self taught, I spent a lot of time reading and playing around on the internet. Listening and practicing what was available was coupled to my insatiable desire to get better, and this became my learning curve. I probably wasted a lot of ammo doing it over the years, but Im not sure I would change it after all. Lessons learned on your own sure seem to last longer, and root deeper in your mind.
I wanted to compare what I had self taught, to what was being taught to professional marksmen in the Military and SWAT community. Part of me was afraid I was going to feel like some redneck with a mullet being embarrassed by a bunch of seasoned pro’s. Lucky for me though, it turned out not to be the case.
The class I was attending was four days, focusing the first two on shooting accurately with a carbine scoped with an LVPO. We discussed the technical side of it in a classroom situation for a good portion of the day, talking about ballistics, wind, rifle setup ect. This was great for me because it doesn’t matter how much you think you know, you can always benefit from someone else’s experience or perspectives. It was very nice to have something I knew and understood, explained again by someone else with their version of the same thing.
It was then time to head to the range, and get our rifles hot and dirty. The southern California heat was brutal, the sun beat down with a vengeance that could be felt right through your clothes and sunblock. The discomfort added to the learning though I believe, doing this stuff in your comfort zone makes you a comfortable shooter. But when you are trying to stabilize a rifle from a tree crawling with biting ants, and your sweaty cheek sliding around the hot rifle and razor sharp grass cutting into your knees or elbows, breathing heavy and trying to read mirage through the scope it adds another level of pressure to you as the shooter.
During the course of the first two days we spent a good deal of time engaging targets from everything EXCEPT conventional shooting positions. Barricades, barrels, trees, tripods and anything else was used to build different shooting positions. We engaged steel targets from up close out to beyond six-hundred yards, all from these non-prone and self built shooting positions. It felt like a cross between a PRS match and sneaking across a prickly Mexican border fence.
I of coursed used a Desert Tech MDRX in 223 Wylde for the carbine portion of the course, and just to be safe around the massive California LE community I ran my twenty-inch barrel, you know because 16 inch barrels are deadly. On top of the MDRX I had mounted my US Optics TS8X LVPO, it is a FFP 1-8 scope, with a drop compensating reticle built specifically for the 5.56. One of the many valuable things we learned in the class portion was to find corrected values for the so called drop compensating hold points on the reticle. Things like atmosphere and temperature change, so the drops listed are not always correct. But you can take live data from the moment, and find the correct values for these points. So while the four-hundred yard hold point may not be actually four-hundred in real time, but you can figure out what it actually is, and assign it a new value like four-hundred and twenty-seven yards. Armed with this new data point you can more accurately engage your targets.
At the beginning of day three we were back into the classroom for additional discussion on ballistics, reticles, and more. We then headed back to the range, prepared to make our long guns fit into every uncomfortable or awkward shooting position we could make. Again the focus was to learn how to shoot from real world positions, instead of the traditional proned out on the shooting-mat.
Perhaps my favorite part of the class were these exercises of learning to build a solid shooting position using whatever you had available. Whether it was essentially lashing your rifle to a post with the sling, or using a tripod leg for rear support to make a near perfectly solid position, I picked up a lot of tricks that helped me feel more confident when making a good shot.
For the long-gun portion of the class, I brought along my latest love which is the Desert Tech SRS M2 sporting it’s brand new 6MM GT barrel. One of the latest craze cartridges to hit the competitive rifle shooting circuit. The M2 is absolutely the best rendition of the SRS to date, the optics rail is awesome for those that need it, though I rarely do. The ARCA Lock rail from Area 419 on the bottom however is a must have for anyone who shoots from a variety of positions using all the bells and whistles that go with it. I chose to run an Atlas bipod on the ARCA rail as well my favorite US Optics scope, the Foundation 25X. The internal bubble level makes for quick leveling of the rifle without ever moving from the shooting position.
We first zeroed our rifles, then moved to truing our ballistic data (cross-referencing the ballistic coefficient with velocity, then confirming against actual drop & wind). With a solid foundation to move forward from we started doing some drills on building positions in assorted places, then engaging targets at various distances. Another valuable lesson I learned at this point was a variation of one I often recommend myself. My version of the lesson is; If you don’t know why you missed or hit, you are just wasting ammo. The new lesson I learned at the Bruiser course was almost the reverse engineered version of the lesson; If you make a good hit after building a position, don’t waste ammo shooting it again. Rebuild a new position and make another shot. This was a great lesson to learn, rebuilding your shooting position and firing solution after every hit will make you an absolute monster when it comes to hitting targets in the field and on the fly.
We did an assortment of shooting drills moving around from one place to another, learning how to bracket the targets, and utilizing the whole target. This was another highlight for myself, if you know the wind and elevation estimates there is no excuse for not making use of the whole target. In plainer terms look at it like this; if you know the wind is going to blow your shot at least half a target’s width to one side, then you have no business wasting half the target by aiming center. Making full corrections is another easy mistake that many of us make, often trying to walk it in. Another lesson galvanized under the California sun was that, if it looked 1.2 Mil’s right, then correct 1.2 Mil’s! Much of making hits is analyzing the conditions, distance, and target, and evaluating where your highest probability of bullet impact is, then making sure that point is at the center of the target. The second half of that equation is the execution, a solid and steady shooting position, with a good trigger press and follow through. If you do it all right, you not only hit the target, but you’ll watch it happen in real time through your scope.
We did some long-range shooting as well, taking shots clear out to 1600 yards. The 6GT did quite well out to 1400 but the last few target made for some very difficult spotting splash. I will say this though, the GT did exceptionally well shooting against 308’s (big surprise right?) Evaluating my dope and wind holds as compared to everyone else’s did make me feel like perhaps I was cheating a bit, but the lessons were the same regardless. Most of the guys there had never shot that far before, probably never needed to either.
I also picked up on a few things I wouldn’t do by watching others. I noticed that many of the guys regardless of the range to target would zoom out to find the target, and then zoom all the way in when they’d found it. This seems like waste of motion and time for me, not to mention you don’t need 27X when shooting a man sized target at 300 yards. I also saw a lot of use of safeties, not that there is anything wrong with safeties but it again was a huge waste of time to load the rifle and engage the safety only to break your final shooting position slightly to disengage the safety seconds later. This perhaps could be just the way these guys had been instructed in the past, and everybody should use what works for them I suppose. The lesson I took away from this was to get everything ready, and make chambering a round the last thing you do. That way there is little to no use for breaking your final shooting position.
An experience like this one has been a very positive and beneficial one for me. Gaining knowledge and perspective is only part of it, having your form critiqued a little may take some humility but you’ll be better for it. I approached this course with an open mind and turned the humility up to ten, and with that attitude I was able to distill the best parts of the course I needed. Leaving your ego behind is a great way to learn.
My worries about being inadequate or under-skilled were completely unfounded. it was great to be surrounded by professionals who were also humble and eager to learn made it an overly positive experience for all. I think we all enjoyed every minute of the torture and all the hits. So if you get the opportunity, go out and train with the best, as you might imagine, I would recommend Bruiser Industries.