Stag Arms and Ruger carbines were used during training at TDI. Ammo was from Hornady and Federal and optics used were from Aimpoint and EOTech.

Interest in the combative application of the “short” long gun is at an all time high. Better known as the carbine, the “short” long gun, has become one of the most popular guns available with the supply just now catching up to the demand. A year ago trying to buy an AR-15 with a short barrel and telescoping stock was a real challenge, unless you wanted to pay a premium price. While I certainly am not giving up my handguns for the long gun (I believe that is it far more likely that I will be armed with a handgun than a carbine when trouble comes) I have started to put in more training time with the carbine than I have in the past.

The Tactical Defense Institute (937-544-7228; in Southern Ohio has become one of the most credible institutions for advanced firearms skills in the nation. Founded in the 1980’s by owner and lead instructor John Benner, TDI has the reputation of offering a top-notch program for all levels of force, from verbal and open hand skills to the use of the carbine and precision rifle in the combative environment. Over the years, John has surrounded himself with a staff of instructors with military, law enforcement, competitive, medical and legal backgrounds, which allows him to offer a unique perspective. Full disclosure, John is a good friend of mine and I know his level of knowledge and skill is second to none, thus I headed to TDI when I wanted to enhance my own abilities with the combative carbine.

Using an FNH SCAR, TDI instructor demonstrates how to strip a magazine and clear a malfunction as efficiently as possibly.

Day One
The first day started with a classroom session that discussed carbines and related gear. Chris Wallace and Lynn Freshley are both veteran law enforcement officers with an extensive amount of knowledge in carbine use. Freshley stated that the three primary features of any combative carbine are: reliability, accuracy and ergonomics — meaning the gun must fit the individual shooter. The instructors discussed the difference between the gas impingement and gas piston system and admitted that the impingement system was a “dirty” system, but also noted there was no “standard” gas piston system so parts were not universal from gun to gun or was there a Mil Spec standard. “As long as you keep the gas impingement system clean and lubed it will run without problem,” Freshley noted. Wallace warned the class against adding a number of unnecessary add-ons to your carbine. “All you need is a good trigger, good sights, good sling and a good light — and you will be good!” Makes sense to me.

The type of sight makes no difference to the TDI staff. While they prefer the Aimpoint system, they readily admit that Trijicon, EOTech, Burris and a number of other manufacturers make quality optics. However, “It is essential that you have a quality set of irons to back up your optics as you never know what will/can go wrong,” related Freshley — kind of hard to argue that point. In addition, the scope tube can be used as a sighting device at close range, what is known as “shooting through the tube,” something that was also discussed during a course I took at Crucible last year.

Shooting on the move is an important skill and each student gets individual attention while trying to master it.

The number one problem relating to AR failures is the magazine, so buy good ones,” Chris Wallace stated. While all AR magazines look alike, the “innards” are often times very different, so buy quality. I have been using nothing but Magpul PMags for the last several years and I have had complete success with them. Some do not like plastic magazines and that is their decision, but when something works with totally reliability I don’t care if it is made from cow dung. One of the few times that John Benner spoke up in the class, he stated, “Learning what will work well for you and your gun is a big part of this class,” and that is a journey that we must all take as we attempt to build our skill set. The lecture concluded with a discussion of trajectory and wound ballistics, something that everyone should know but is too lengthy to discuss here. Take the time to search the Web for this information and know what your chosen round will do in your carbine.

We hit the range in a downpour of rain. As the cardboard targets “melted” off of the stands everyone in the class experienced one of the few downsides of having a glass optic…its real hard to get a clear sight picture with water literally running down the front of your glass! The remainder of day one was spent on the range zeroing the student rifles at both 25 and 100 yards. Like 9mm versus .45, some can hotly debate the distance at which a carbine is zeroed and I do not intend to go into that here. My feeling is that you must look closely at the environment where you live and work, and decide what zero distance works best for you. Once each rifle was zeroed, supported shooting was conducted at 200 yards to show each student how their particular zero would work at extended distances. While it is unlikely for me to ever use my carbine at such extended distances, it was interesting to see exactly where I needed to hold in order to hit such a long shot. The day concluded with long shots taken in supported and unsupported prone, supported and unsupported kneeling and supported and unsupported standing positions.

The author contorts himself into a usable firing position while running “The Wall” at TDI. Everyone left this drill a bit winded.

Day Two
Day two started on the main pistol range, where close quarter use of the carbine was addressed. “Snap shooting,” where the carbine is brought quickly to the cheek and the optic acquired was addressed. Quickness when the engagement is up close and personal is a must and the TDI staff did an excellent job making this point. Reloading and clearing malfunctions were the next lessons with simplicity being the order of the day. TDI teaches running the carbine much like a pistol, which offers continuity in regards to motor skill. With more complex malfunctions like rounds over the bolt, more extreme manipulations are needed, but for most situations a simple “Tap-Rack” of the action is all that is needed.

Close quarters shooting is more likely than many realize. Just because you have a carbine in your hand does not mean that your engagement distance will be long. Recently I was talking to a trainer for a large West Coast police agency that has been employing the AR-15 weapon platform for over a decade. He told me that they had recently reviewed all of the shootings their officers had been in and the average distance was 27 yards! The shortest shooting was 15 feet with the longest being 59 yards. The lesson here is that many rifle fights occur at handgun
distances, so spending all of your carbine practice time at 50 yards or more is a serious mistake. While hitting with the carbine at close quarters is not difficult, hitting exactly where you want can be a challenge due to the 2- to 2.5-inch offset that is standard on most AR-15 platforms. Take a moment to look at where the muzzle of your carbine is in relation to your iron/optical sight. At 15 feet, if you needed to hit a precise headshot to save a hostage then you would need to aim 2.5 inches above your desired impact point. Of course a shot to the chest would not be as critical, but being aware of sight offset when shooting at close quarters is essential.

Performing a proper “Drop Out” is emphasized when using cover or during a building search. The technique is both fast and effective when done right.

When shooting at close quarters, the TDI staff recommends that you face square to the target, pull the elbows tight to the body, lift the gun to the cheek (not vice/versa), pull the gun back into the body and allow the upper torso to control recoil. From this position, the class then fired one- and two-round “snap” drills, working the trigger reset in between as well as snap shooting on multiple targets. Handgun transition drills were next followed by shooting-while-moving and building search principals. These drills were designed to make each student understand how to use tactics along with the carbine, inducing stress into each manipulation as well as making the shooter be less of a target to incoming fire. Drills like moving through a serpentine of orange cones while trying to clear malfunctions taxed almost every shooter. The proper use of cover and how to “slice the pie” while using TDI designed “Drop Out” technique was covered in great detail. If ever there were a time to know how to “multi-task,” it would be when using a carbine to fight.

Day two concluded late that evening, as the use of lights was discussed and once darkness came these principals were reinforced. TDI teaches a sweeping motion with the light that not only allows the shooter to identify their target but also get quick and accurate hits. A number of drills were also shot in the dark with “flashlight rattle battle” lighting up the night.

Day Three
The third day started with another confirmation of zero before moving into some advanced shooting drills and tactical applications. The class was broken into groups with part going to the multiple shoot houses that TDI has on site while others went through a Jungle Lane drill to search for and engage hostile targets hidden among the trees and bushes at varied distance, a trip to “The Wall” where each student had to rapidly move along a wall with various shapes cut in place and engage targets in varied positions and a final stage of engaging ten inch plates at 200 yards.

The one-person building search is one of the most hazardous exercises one can undertake as no one has eyes in the back of their head. Being able to search in every direction at once is impossible, so the individual search of any structure is not recommended, but it is also understood that if loved ones are in peril, the task will be undertaken. The staff at TDI understands this and they do an excellent job of relating what will work in such situations but success is never guaranteed.

All in all, the TDI Tactical Rifle course was one of the best rifle programs that I have ever attended and I would strongly recommend that you check them out if you are shopping around for a quality combative carbine course. Having a gun is not enough…you must also know how to use it!

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Stag Arms and Ruger carbines were used during training at TDI. Ammo was from…