IALEFI (International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors) conducts an annual conference for law enforcement trainers. This venue provides a chance to train in new techniques with different instructors, and this year had a full slate of great classes.
The first class called “Win the Fight!—Close Quarter Carbine” was taught by Brian Hill and Erik Lund of the U.S. Shooting Academy (USSA; usshootingacademy.com). USSA is a state-of-the-art new training center, with 34 square ranges, a steel range, shoothouse, and “The Coliseum,” a live-fire, 360-degree, drive-in shooting arena. USSA has drawn from top police, military and competition instructors to provide a broad spectrum of training opportunities. USSA opened in the spring of 2007, but will soon be on everyone’s map.
Brian is a full-time police officer, S.W.A.T. and the USSA director of training; Erik is a former VA State Trooper who now works for the Feds. Both know their business and know how to teach. My rule of thumb with any class taken, is if I can learn one thing I did OK, but I came away with at least four new training drills.
Erik established the tone of the class by asking, “Who is a tough guy?” No one stepped forward, and he used this as an example of mindset—there’s nothing wrong with being tough, and you have to be, if you plan to win in a fight. It only got better from there.
USSA’s position is that we under-shoot the carbine, that it and our officers are more capable than we think. We started with “hammers”—two hits, center mass, with one sight picture. Most of us think that hammers can only be done to 8-10 yards, but Erik had us hitting with hammers out to 25 yards.
Next came “jackhammers”—three hits with one sight picture. Again, we were surprised that we could keep them all in the chest out to 25 yards. None of us had ever tried it. Eric explained that most of us, him included, have always been told that we can’t do it. Experimentation proved that we can, and that it is a viable technique.
We’ve all done shooting on the move, going forward, backward, left to right, right to left. Most right-handed shooters have a problem going right to left, since we all try to move on a 90 degree angle to the target. By shifting the angle to about 60 degrees, we were all able to shoot on the move very effectively without worrying about walking backward, crabbing sideways, or shifting the rifle to the weak-side shoulder (it’s fine to call it weak side, because it’s not your other strong side!). Again, this was a different approach that increased all of the students’ ability.
The next technique was “getting off the X.” I’ve seen variations, but this was well done. It’s a simple matter of three rapid, dynamic steps, to either the right or the left at a 45-degree angle, while putting three hits on target. After the three, stop and hit three more. Once we all got the hang of it, we were moving in seconds, getting six good hits into the threat, while making ourselves harder to hit. Dynamic lateral movement, especially while shooting the goblin, will greatly enhance our probability of winning. This was a good drill.
Not surprisingly, the AR platform was the weapon of choice. There was one Robinson XCR and one HK 53 fired by an Anchorage, AK S.W.A.T. troop. Most of the AR’s were the M4 configuration, and most used iron sights. There was one Eotech, but the optic of choice was the Aimpoint CompM2. Spare magazines were carried in a variety of ways, but the Blade-Tech mag pouch with the Tech-loc mount was widely used. Handguns were 70 percent Glock, one 1911, and several SIGs.
It was a great class: well taught, safe, well run, with good information from qualified instructors. We were pushed along, with no wasted time, and made to work hard and correctly…my kind of class.
Unusual Shooting Positions
Next up was “Alternative Carbine Shooting Positions.” Greg “Sully” Sullivan (slr15.com) is a full-time officer and S.W.A.T. trainer. Sully is a disciple of Phil Singleton and a practicing martial artist. He is a member of the S.W.A.T. team for his department and teaches in the upper Midwest.
Sully started SLR15 (self-loading rifle) after he saw a need for better-quality guns. He began by buying lower receivers from other manufacturers, but 85 percent of them failed his specs. After nine months, some new equipment, and re-written computer programs, Sully was satisfied that his guns would work. They do. I fired his Grail model, 400 rounds without a burp. He enlarges the trigger guard for gloved hands, and built the rear sight so there is no change in point of impact for big and small apertures. Sully also beefs up the extractor, a weak link in the AR system. He uses a better spring and buffer, and has eliminated that pesky problem of a case hanging off the front of the bolt face.
Sully talked about a 50 yard zero for the .223 carbine. With this zero, the shooter can make a point-blank shot (no hold over or under) to 250 yards. It’s highly unlikely that any officer will have to shoot beyond 250, so this zero is a good way to go. For this reason, 50 yards is the standard zero in the NRA Patrol Rifle Instructor Course.
We started with traditional positions: standing bladed, squared, several prone positions, kneeling and sitting. We have all fired from these positions, and we all know that there are strengths and weakness to all of them. We fired from both strong and weak sides, realizing we have to use cover as it may be offered, not how we’d like it to be.
Sully also had us try reverse kneeling. We were all trained to put the strong-side knee on the ground, with the weak-side elbow on the knee. We reversed it, weak knee down; it allows the shooter to make great use of cover and still have support. Not traditional, but clearly effective. Someone has been thinking outside the box again.
Hitting the Prone
Small Boat Unit Prone is a technique that I’ve always liked. It allows the shooter to get really flat to the deck by laying the rifle flat, ejection port upward, with the buttstock against the bicep. Elevation of the muzzle is controlled by placing the weak hand under the forearm and moving it forward or backward. This is a place where the Aimpoint really earns its keep, allowing a good sight picture while totally flat on the ground.
My favorite was lying supine (flat on your back) at a 90-degree angle to the target. This position simulates hiding behind low cover—a log, a curb, a slight depression in the ground. I found I could be completely flat and rest the weak-side elbow on the ground, making for a very steady shot. We were limited to short range during this class, but I’ve practiced it since, with good hits at 200 yards. You can be invisible, stable, for long periods of time, and still hit bad guys.
Again, the AR was the king. Several officers fired Sully’s rifles, in various configurations, and all were impressed. There was one Colt 9mm subgun and several HK carbines in the hands of federal agents. After iron sights, the Aimpoint was prominent, with two of the new Micro T-1 (gotta have one, only 4 ounces!) being used. Good gear, no problems, and a chance to try other folks’ gear to see what works.
We finished the class with the “El Diablo Drill”—18 rounds, 18 yards, 18 seconds. The shooter has three mags, each loaded with six rounds. On the fire command, he shoots six rounds standing; while dropping to any kneeling position, he reloads, and then fires six kneeling; reloads while dropping to prone to fire the last six. This drill really proved the importance of proper manipulation on the speed loads—dump the mag, reload, run the bolt. It has to be done while shifting position, or you run out of time.
The worst thing we can say as students is “but I like to do it this way.” If we don’t get out of our comfort zone, try new stuff, see that it’s good and that it works, we’ll never learn anything. Erik Lund is big and ugly, Sully is a heretic, but I had a great time, learned new stuff, and the boss paid for the ammo. Life doesn’t get any better than that.