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Combat Rifle Applications

April 29, 2016

We recently completed a Combat Rifle Applications course in NV.

Like every class I teach, I had the opportunity to pick up some great ideas during the AAR, for improving my presentation of the material, but it seems it turned out really well anyway.

The student body in this class represented a diverse range of skill and ability level.

The following review from one student seems to be representative of the experience in the class.

AAR of Combat Rifle Applications course, Nevada, April 2016

I have lots to say about the CRA course I completed a few days ago, but first let me outline my background, so that to the extent you believe me, you’ll understand my perspective and credit my views.

My military experience in the US Army and National Guard at their nadir in the 1970s was unremarkable and conveyed no bragging rights. I later served twenty years as an agent, trainer, training manager, and director of operations with a certain federal agency that requires a high level of firearms, small unit tactics, and CQB skills from its people – and in an inarguably good cause, for those of you who carry reflexively anti-government prejudices. I’m now retired and approaching the age of dirt, so if I ramble that’s my excuse. Indulge me. It also gives me a perspective on what John is doing with his courses.

My first big thumbs up to the man is for his presentation and how he runs his range. As a long-service veteran of the stultifying, safety-obsessed, over-controlled government approach to live fire training, I am a big fan of more informal methods and Big Boy Rules. John’s safety brief is thorough and complete, but he tells you up front that the old adage “all guns are always loaded” is a rule for children and raw beginners. His version places responsibility where it belongs: “know the condition of your weapon at all times.” His wrath is reserved for those who exhibit poor muzzle control, and that tracks precisely with my experience. All other rules may be violated (I’ve seen it again and again), but if the muzzle never “covers anything you are not willing to destroy,” everyone walks away, ego reduced but life and limb intact.

What many shooters and most observers will not understand is the level of effort required to run a class under these rules, in a manner that many of my classmates characterized as “laid back.” Can’t fool me. No matter how casual he appeared, there’s nothing laid back about John’s sustained awareness of safety and performance issues, and as should be apparent to anyone who knows him or has read his work, he doesn’t hesitate to put his boot up the ass (figuratively, in my limited exposure) of anyone who strays close to or across the line of safe gun handling.

Second point: content. This was an “intermediate” level class that assumed competence in the basics of rifle shooting and handling. Sounds simple, but we were a diverse group, and I’d estimate that no more than half had been through John’s basic rifle course. The rest brought foundational skills learned in several schools. As we all know, there are many ways to skin any particular cat, and John strikes an excellent balance between tolerating a broad array of differing techniques that work for different folks, and offering pointed criticism (and alternatives) where deserved. Experience again informs my opinion, that it’s indicative of a high level of skill that John was able to herd such a diverse group in the same direction, imparting choice elements of his preferred techniques and basic-level teaching without breaking stride, and pushing everyone toward the same critical performance standards. Let me reemphasize the “performance” part. He’s not teaching a secret, inner circle, proprietary JM technique that sets him apart from competing schools and instructors, a tiresome marketing-oriented approach that I could give a shit about, having seen too damn much of it over the years. He’s not browbeating students into copying his personal techniques, stance, grip, etc. If you’re safe, and effective at meeting or (for us old farts) approaching his performance standards, that’s good enough. If you’re struggling, he’ll show you a way to improve your game and leave you to apply it or not as suits you.

We spent a good part of our course perfecting our “snap” shooting ability to place good hits on target at ranges of 50-100 meters in less than one second from the standing off-hand position. That’s a demanding standard but it has changed my perspective on what counts in a rifle fight and on how to train and practice. Coming in, I couldn’t do it and wouldn’t have believed I could. I subscribed to the old mantra of get down, get more stable, and take the time required to maximize precision. I should have known better, and applied the advice I got years ago from a Marine colonel teaching operational art and decision making at the Naval War College: “Better” is the enemy of “good enough,” and “best” is the knife in its heart. This advice applies to combat rifle shooting too, and the way I balance speed and accuracy has shifted permanently thanks to John, a take-away that in itself justified the time and expense I devoted to this course. The first hit on target wins the fight, or at least sets the condition – slows the fucker down – so that a quick follow-up will resolve the issue.

The rest of our time was spent on drills that I won’t detail, all of which supported John’s focus on depth (mastery of critical skills) vs. breadth (nominal familiarity with a wide range of skills and techniques). I agree with this approach and was well satisfied. When the basic acquisition and firing stroke is trained to what an earlier instructor of mine once called a “semi-conditioned response,” it frees up critical time for decision making, which as John belabors again and again is critical in the context in which we may be employing a combat rifle. Choosing the right target and applying the basic tactical judgments involved in engaging that target successfully and not getting shot yourself in the process is obviously as important as good shooting. Neither one alone will see you successfully through the wicked and complex problem of a gunfight.

My only criticism of the course concerned the down time involved in the later, more advanced drills that were run by only one or two shooters at a time. In my training days, we spent a lot of time and effort minimizing down time for students by running ancillary activities for the folks that weren’t running a drill or exercise, or on deck for the next iteration. This will be a challenge for John, as a lone instructor at a hosted locale, but if this course was at all typical, a square range for dry fire practice and minimal live fire confirmation, with oversight by a student participant qualified to oversee such an activity safely, could have provided some added value to everyone.

Finally, I want to talk about John’s focus and audience. The civilian firearms training world is crowded with schools and instructors fighting for market share of an audience that ranges from serving law enforcement and military personnel, through gadget-happy “speed gun” hobbyists, fantasy warriors, preppers and survivalists of varying focus and seriousness, to the (in my opinion) toxic true believers in one extremist ideology or another.

This was my first John Mosby course. Even though he was recommended to me by a couple of associates of impeccable reliability and good sense, and although I’ve followed his blog and read his books for over a year, I was still not entirely sure what I’d find, both in John himself and in the self-selected students who would choose to train under him. My personal verdict, which I offer to my brothers and sisters in public service of all sorts, is that here is a man of impeccable principle, integrity, and courage who calls things as he sees them. What he sees in our near future – what we all see with variations based on our specific lenses, belief systems, and experience – is a time of increasing trouble, for which we all seek to train and prepare, for our own sakes, our families, and our communities.

If we believed that the old social contract, whereby we trusted the State to protect us from all threats, was going to hold, then we wouldn’t be training like this. To acknowledge the weakening of that contract, to observe threats mounting faster than a constitutionally-restrained government can address them, is not to welcome the change, but just to shed the blinders of normalcy bias and see things for what they are. Americans – a large fraction of us anyway – are unique among the inheritors of Western civilization in being well-armed and inclined toward independence and self-sufficiency in the face of a threat. My impression of John’s view – better stated in his own prodigious body of writing and in person – is that an armed man who lacks the skills, judgment, and responsibility that result from hard, realistic training is a threat to himself, his family, and his community; a part of the problem, and no part of its solution. I share that view and see in it no threat to anything I believe in; no threat to the oaths I’ve sworn or to my faith in the principles of our Republic or the value of the rule of law and the social consensus, now fraying, that supports it.

When a high pressure system pushes a hot, hard foehn wind down the lee slope of a mountain ridge and topples an ancient Douglas fir, the man who cries a warning and pulls his loved ones to safety is not a tree hater. He does not swing an axe or set a wedge to hasten its fall. He only reads the wind, the swaying of the half-dead crown, and the cracks of parting heartwood for what they are. Mosby is that guy.

John does not encourage, and by his speech and his manner, I rather suspect that he would not tolerate any of the toxic –ism’s of modern political discourse. If you have a problem sharing your air with people of another race, faith, or political viewpoint than your own, you’re going to have to keep that crap locked up tight or just stay away. Train elsewhere or – here’s a thought – don’t train. To paraphrase Kipling, just trust that your god will rouse you, a little before the nuts work loose. And the rest of us will be that much safer.

My thanks to John for the training I just received, and to my classmates for their dedication and good spirits and encouragement. It was worth every penny and every hour, and I recommend it to any serious person seeking to improve his skills with his primary weapon.

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  1. SBK permalink

    This very well may be the most well written and thoughtful review of any course from any instructor that I’ve read. Thought provoking in itself as well as a very good summation of John’s teaching style and philosophy. You should start a blog yourself sir.

  2. TheRightSite permalink

    Reblogged this on The Right Site and commented:
    Well worth your time and contemplation…

  3. Brad permalink

    Excellent review, since I am attending the class in Mo it was good to read a review from another “old as dirt” person. Thx.

  4. Papagrande310 permalink

    This commenter prefers “…more informal methods and big boy rules…” On the range? Sounds like that could be painful.

    In the Nav we had a saying. “Horseplay leads to sickbay”

    I say stick with the way you do it JM

    Looking forward to this class in Oregon

    • sbk permalink

      The commenter was referring to John’s methods and saying that he liked them. “informal methods and big boy rules” IS the way John conducts classes, at least in my experience. It’s certainly very different than what most people brought up in “NRA culture” are used to. If that makes you nervous you’ll want to be sure to approach your upcoming class with an open mind.

  5. Azbc permalink

    Check out this drill for clearing malfunctions….

    Also John, fyi, this class description “combat rifle applications” is not posted on your classes offered section.

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  1. Mosby: Combat Rifle Applications AAR | Western Rifle Shooters Association

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