(One of the most frequent questions I get asked in classes is, “How do we practice this stuff when we go home?” The short, easy answer, of course is simply to follow the appropriate POI course outlines in the appendices of Volumes One and Two of The Reluctant Partisan. They are laid out in a manner that allows you to use each block of instruction as a practice session. If you lay out the fundamental skills needed to complete each block, and use them for dry-fire practice, then when you go to the live-fire range, you can simply shoot the table of fire for that particular block. In a couple of months, you’ve worked through the entire program, and—hopefully—seen some impressive improvements in your skill set.
During the last block of classes however, I was asked at least once, in each individual class, to post an article specifically on how I set up my annual training plan and break it into cycles….This is the first installment of a Five-Part series on the subject. –JM)
In short, I divide the year into four quarters of three months each, and then I work through a three-block cycle, with each month dedicated to a particular training block. The quarterly training cycle includes three basic training blocks that, for the sake of convenience, I will label “marksmanship,” “core skills,” and “application skills.” Most of my regular training is my daily training focused on dry-fire training in the marksmanship and core skills blocks. That is because these are the foundation of skill, and if those two blocks are dialed in, the application is cake.
A typical live-fire training session will be composed of shooting 2-3 repetitions each of 2-4 specific drills designed to focus on elements of the current block of emphasis. An efficient training session, of course, should be set up in such a way that requires minimal shifting of the range set-up. A) this saves time, making my training more time efficient, and B) especially on public ranges, the less trips I need to make downrange to change the set-up, the safer I am from some knucklehead trying to show off for his wife or girlfriend shooting me out of stupidity. I’ve got a lot of shit on my plate, and I want my range trips to be effective, but I also need them to be efficient, so I make a concerted effort, if its a “working” range day, to be done in 45-60 minutes, at the outside (A “working” range day is when I’m there focused on my personal skills. A “non-working” range day is when I’m teaching the wife—although I generally try to maintain the same time constraints then—or when I’m at the range with friends and we’re just shooting different drills for fun and to spend time together, building frith.)
Every shooter with any length of experience is aware of some famous drills, has likely shot some of them, and probably has a favorite or two. It’s critical to understand however, that it is not this drill or that drill which is important. A properly designed practice drill is not about recreating specific combat situations. Instead, it is designed to achieve a specific training purpose. Generally, this is to measure your current level of skill and test your training progression, or to improve your skill. If a drill—no matter how well-loved—is not achieving that for your particular training focus, it’s pointless for anything beyond ego gratification.
This block should focus on your ability to make progressively more difficult shots, at progressively faster speeds. Many shooters fall prey to the lazy hubris of believing since they can shoot an “acceptable” group, at a given distance, they are “good enough.” A popular one in “prepper” circles is the 4MOA standard of The Appleseed Project (Meanwhile, at the last rifle course, in AZ, I was publicly berating myself for shooting a 2” group at 50M, from the squatting position…until I realized we were actually shooting at the 100M line for that iteration). That’s just not an acceptable mindset in the real world of gunfighting. You’re not going to be fighting the Battle of the Bulge (well, you might be, but we’re talking about a different Battle of the Bulge in this context), and thinking that you will be is mental masturbation. You should ALWAYS be striving to improve your accuracy and speed. Speaking objectively, there is no such thing as “accurate enough” or “fast enough.”
The balance between accuracy and speed is always going to be contextually subjective (that’s non-military speak for METT-TC dependent, by the way…).It’s subject to range, target presentation, and—above all—the limits of your personal skill and ability. This is why so much of your training time should emphasize making “impossible” shots in “impossible” times (Miss S, did you catch that?).
Core skills are those fundamental gunhandling and shooting skills that—along with marksmanship—are…wait for it…core to effectively prosecuting a fight with a firearm. This includes things like your drawstroke, or the presentation from ready with your rifle, reloading and other malfunction clearances, target transitions, and the other skills that will allow you to make each shot you fire a conscious action that occurs in a deliberate manner, but fast enough to solve the problem you are confronted with.
Application skills are those skills that allow you to translate your marksmanship and core skills into actual gunfight problem solving skills. This includes things like movement, use of cover and/or concealment, effective communication for working with a partner, safeguarding a principal like a non-combatant bystander or family member, while prosecuting the fight, and—the single most important skill in all of the gunfighting world—discrimination shooting with good, solid, accurate, rapid-fire thinking and decision-making under duress.
Critical Training Concepts
Perhaps the most critical training concept that you need to understand is that you’re going to fuck up. That’s WHY we practice! Lots of shooters—and I’ve had a lot of them in classes—have this ridiculous notion that if they screw up in training and practice, that they’re a failure. It’s as if they screw up, such as blowing a shot, or even shooting a “no shoot,” in practice, that they are somehow indelibly imprinting training scars into their neural motor pathways. BULLSHIT! You ARE going to make mistakes. Even the experts make mistakes. THAT’S WHY WE PRACTICE!!!!!!
Make your mistake. Then, analyze why the mistake happened, and determine how to fix the deficiency, and then move the fuck on. That’s the goddamned point, people. Seriously. The first two times I fired for qualification in the Army, I failed to qualify and had to shoot it again (actually, the second time was as a private in the Ranger Regiment, and I had to shoot the qualification table FIVE TIMES that day before I finally managed to meet the standard!) Fortunately, I had good mentors who taught me to take the time to analyze the problems, and figure out how to fix them. Over the course of the rest of my career, I managed to never shoot less than Expert, and honestly? I’m ten times or more a better marksman and all-around shooter now than I was when I was a soldier still.
Pushing Your Limits
Your dry-fire and live-fire practice should be about getting better. That means you generally have to push yourself to perform any given drill harder than you feel comfortable. If you’re not pushing out of your comfort margins, you’re simply not going to improve. When you push, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to blow some shots. You’re going to fumble and drop magazines during reloads. You’re going to trip, fall, and face plant in front of people (don’t ask…). You’re going to shoot “no shoots” as you push to go faster on discrimination shooting drills. The point is to push yourself to your failure point, and then to fix whatever deficiency created the failure. The majority of your training, both dry- and live-fire, should be of this type. It’s critical to understand though, that it’s not just a matter of “go faster!” You’re trying to determine when and how to move faster, but you’re also trying to determine how to modify your techniques to allow you to make the shots you need to make, in the times you need to make them.
It may be about accepting a “good enough” sight picture to get the shot you need to make. It may be a matter of changing where or how your reload magazine is carried to improve the efficiency of your biomechanics.
I feel obligated to point out that being able to achieve a given task or skill component correctly, consistently, is a prerequisite to “pushing” your ability, however. If you can’t hit an eight-inch plate from the standing with your rifle at 100M, then there’s no point in trying to push to hit that eight-inch plate from the standing with your rifle at 100M, in <1.0 seconds. If you don’t have the basic motor pattern of your speed reload drilled in, so instead you fumble it regularly, then going faster is NOT going to fix it. Pushing can only come after you’re able to perform the skill on demand, under a time constraint. I’ll share one of my “Mosby’s Maxims:” “If you can’t do it on demand, then you can’t do it on demand.” So-called “game players” are an imaginary construct of people too lazy to show up and do the work.
When you push to the point of making mistakes, then it’s time to stop and pay attention to what your failure point is, and start “being mindful” of how to fix the problem. I used to tell people to “slow down,” but found that simply telling them to “slow down,” didn’t fix anything. They still made the exact same mistake, they just did it slower. Instead, it’s about shifting your mental focus from “going fast” to “think about what you need to do.”
Calling it “mindfulness” makes it sound like some sort of New Age, Zen, Hippie Horseshit, but it’s really not. Focus on the process, including the overarching reason for the process (killing someone before he kills you or someone else) and what you need to perform in order to achieve the purpose. It’s training for performance, rather than outcome. If you perform correctly, generally, you’ll achieve the outcome you are seeking.
Be In The Moment
This is closely tied to the mental-spiritual concepts we’ve talked about in some of my more recent articles. Sometimes, on your live-fire days, especially, you need to just relax, and shoot a scheduled drill without trying to push your limits. This is about just shooting the drill accurately, and seeing how you do. Don’t push yourself faster than what you feel you’re capable of doing flawlessly.
Often, shooters—especially eager novices—feel like this is an utter waste of valuable, limited training time. There are two distinct reasons I believe that taking the time to just be in the moment is absolutely critical, though.
The first is for your psychological resilience. Just like making advances in PT means occasionally backing off, lowering the weights, or slowing down your runs, to let your body recover, and avoid physical burn-out, your brain needs that rest from constantly pushing at its extreme limits occasionally too. This is why I cycle my training through the yearly quarters, and this is why we occasionally just chill the fuck out and shoot a drill to “see what we can do.”
The second reason is the “spiritual” part. When the time comes and its on you to “beat the bad guy,” you’re either going to be able to do so, or you’re not. Nothing you can do, in the moment, is going to change your skill level. You’ll either be good enough, or you won’t be good enough. If you’ve trained enough, and the other guy hasn’t trained as hard, or as smart, as you? You’ll probably be okay.
Ultimately though, you’re going to have enough on your mind, ranging from “OH SHIT! THAT DUDE HAS A GUN AND IS SHOOTING PEOPLE!” to the cognitive process needed to process data and determine if you can take a shot or not, or if you need to move to take a shot, etc. Your body is going to receive the command to execute, and it’s going to do what it is capable of doing, predicated on your training up to that point, at its own pace.
If you’ve let it do so in training, then two things result: A) you have mental confidence in your body’s ability to do what it needs to do, and you can focus on your information processing, and B) if you do feel yourself getting panicked into a rush, you can let yourself “be mindful” of the process, by focusing on performing, rather than worrying about the outcome. You really cannot miss fast enough to win. You can, however, miss fast enough to hit somebody’s six-year old kid nearby. Continuing to “push” yourself to push past the boundaries of your ability at that point will NOT fix the problem. You cannot fix the problem of smoking a kid by then shooting their playmates as well.
Drills come in two basic, distinct flavors, when it comes to time metrics. Some, like your marksmanship and core skills drills, will be set up in a specific way, and should generally always be set up the same way. These are drills designed to determine specific time and accuracy metrics, and this consistency in set-up allows you to assess improvements in your performance. In this article series, this type of drill will have very specific standards metrics, for both time and accuracy. The standards provided are all realistic, reasonable metrics, readily achievable in reasonable time frames, by anyone sufficiently motivated to train regularly (we’re talking like 10-20 minutes every day for dry-fire, and 45-60 minutes every week or every other week for live-fire range trips. Really, if you can’t slice 15 minutes out of your day to gain proficiency with your firearm, you have no business carrying a firearm any-damned-way!).
Many of the application skills drills however, are not designed to be set up in a specific way, and doing so actually detracts significantly from the value of the drill. This, of course, means that comparing time metrics from one set-up to another is largely pointless. For these, a general time frame of how long it should take competent shooters to complete the drill will be noted, but the best metric you can take note of on these are things like time to first shot/hit, split times between shots (how well are you managing recoil and driving your gun back on target?), and how clear your communications are between partners, or how correctly you executed your decision-making drills.
This is intended to be at least a four-part article series. Part Two will cover the drills I use for dry-fire and live-fire training to improve marksmanship, under the description provided in this Part One. Part Three will cover Core Skills and the drills I use for those. Part Four will cover Applications Skills and some of the drills I use for improving those. Part Five will be an actual layout of a quarterly training plan for pistol, carbine, or both (we’ll see how tired I am of writing this series by the time I get there…)
In the meantime, I seriously urge you to consider some of the conceptual ideas covered in this Part of the series, as you go about whatever practice you are currently doing.
(As always, my comments are bold, italicized, and parenthetical. –JM)
(To begin with, this is possibly the most flattering review/evaluation I have ever received. I almost didn’t post it out of fear of sounding like I wanted to toot my own horn. Fortunately, he said some things that emphasized my goals as a teacher, so I said “fuck it,” and let it go. –JM)
This is a review of a Three Day course in Close Quarter Battle and Fighting in Structures with John Mosby in Skull Valley, AZ on 16-18 October.
This is the third of John’s courses that I have attended. My background is former Naval Officer (0-5 type–JM) and Pilot, with minimal military small arms training, currently employed as Commercial Airline Pilot, and I am approx. 60 years old. Previous to attending my first Mosby Course, I had attended numerous “square range” courses at a facility in Southern Nevada–which shall remain nameless–as well as handgun training at Federal facilities in Central New Mexico and Atlantic City.
The first Mosby course I attended was his Rifle Course held in Northern Idaho in December (yeah, what was I thinking), and the second was Small Unit Tactics in Central Idaho. These courses offer a grounding in safe weapons usage and teamwork concepts that are essential for the CQB course, which I would consider a graduate level course. This is not an entry level course. Going live with weapons, in close proximity to other shooters, with movement through structures while reacting to targets offers significant opportunities for mayhem. A strict adherence to Mosby’s Five Rules for Weapon Handling, Muzzle Awareness, and proper usage of the Weapon’s Safety Lever must be foremost in your mind. This is particularly true if you have ever seen Mosby’s solution to improper weapon handling (seeing all of Mosby’s 200+ lbs delivered “points down” with righteous and furious anger upon an unsuspecting reprobate once was enough for me) Being on the receiving end of a Mosby tackle may seem harsh and impertinent to some, but, for myself, working in an industry whose rules have been written in blood by the the careless, complacent, or undertrained, I see real value in such public “corrections” to dangerous gun handling practices delivered in brutal fashion. It has value for both those on the receiving end and for those who witness it. I suspect JM has personally witnessed the tragic results of the failure to adhere to those five rules. The temporary bruising of ego is far preferable to a lifetime of remorse. Fortunately, this last weekend, there were no such issues.
Two notable differences in this course from the courses I had attended previously was the relatively little live shooting (probably no more than 50 rounds) and the lack of physicality. For safety reasons, Airsoft M-4’s were used in the training phase as we learned the nuances of “Slicing the Pie” and maintaining the “Vertical Edge”. I don’t see how else you could effectively and realistically train these tactics while maintaining acceptable safety. After being told my fitness was “Sucking it” during the Rifle course, I was sufficiently motivated to show up for the successive courses in much better shape. The subject matter of the course precluded the need for much running or quick movement. I’ll leave the fitness hectoring to JM.
Friday morning, 0800, after link-up, we moved to the training site, courtesy of a local homestead owner. The 12 students were given about 45 minutes to get campsites and gear squared away, whereupon, JM set up a cognitive shooting drill to set the tone for the class.(editorial note: It was a context-specific variation of the PRA 1-5 Drill, described in Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan. The Commander’s description here I edited out, because it would have confused the shit out of people….–JM)
The second part of the drill built upon the first, with some added complexity. A structure was erected to conceal the 5 numbered targets behind it. Each target had three shooting zones, Head (H), Chest (X), and Groin (G). A letter was designated adjacent to the top of each target number, either H, X, or C indicating which zone was the intended target. The shooter was shown an index card with a three number sequence for three seconds which correlated to three of the targets, which were to be shot in that exact number sequence. The shooter was to “Slice the Pie” using the Vertical Edge of the obstacle, to reveal the designated numbered silhouette targets. The targets were to be shot in the precise numeric sequence that JM had written down on an Index Card, in the zone designated by the letter next to the Target number, with the First Target in the sequence getting one round, the second numbered target in the sequence getting two rounds, the third numbered target in the sequence getting three rounds, the second numbered target in the sequence getting four rounds, and the first numbered target in the sequence getting five rounds. Honestly, I am not even sure I described it right which might explain why I sure as hell didn’t shoot it right. In front of the whole class. Humble Pie earned and gratefully accepted.
The next evolution (for the lack of a better word) was a class lecture on the fundamental principles of CQB fighting inside structures, methods of breaching, and the small unit tactics we would be employing, mainly Slicing the Pie, and maintaining the Vertical Edge. JM described current doctrine employed by SWAT and military units, namely, Stacking the Door and Flooding the Zone with shooters. The flaw with this tactic, in JM’s opinion, is that, since, when things went south, as they are prone to do, the protocol was to just revert to the standard tactic of “Slicing the Pie” and “Vertical Edge” techniques, why not just start off employing the tactics that always work. (I didn’t say it was “the protocol.” I said, “what happens is…Since that happens anyway, and it works, why not make it the go-to choice anyway.” It’s not an original thought that I came up with. –JM) Classic Mosby Logic. Don’t make it complicated. Distill it down to its functional essence. Take your time. Be Patient. Think. Move as fast as you can process. Work the problem.
We broke for lunch and JM commenced to build the Shoot House (typically, the shoot house is constructed BEFORE the class begins, but in this instance, scheduling conflicts arose that required me to bust it out during the lunch break. Good thing I don’t eat, huh? –JM), but most of the class ended up meandering over to help. Two by four walls were raised and covered by opaque black plastic sheeting which formed walls and hallways. The house included a functioning door and a window created by cutting a rectangle opening in the sheeting. The next day and half were spent doing Force on Force Airsoft engagements, consisting of two man entry team, against a constantly varying OPFOR cadre with and without hostages, which helped to deeply embed the facets of the tactical principles of Slicing the Pie and the Vertical Edge, with JM providing pointed and often profane, yet obliquely humorous critiques. The M-4 Airsoft Guns added an essential element of realism to the training with minimal safety compromises, but unfortunately, after a while, the guns started to break down. The major benefits to using the Airsoft in this Force on Force drill was it really drove home the tactical issue of AR/AK height over bore adjustments for close range shooting problems, as you work the Vertical Edge, as well as emphasizing the necessity of a slow, deliberate, patient pacing as the students would work the problem, adding a necessary element of realism via a stinging 6mm rebuke from the OPFOR’s Airsoft if those principles were not followed. . I think JM would agree that a more robust training tool, if it could be acquired at reasonable cost, would be an improvement (as discussed in the class, the problem is two-fold. A) I can invest in a higher quality of Airsoft guns, but they are still “toys” at the end of the day, or B) I can invest in UTM/Sims gun bolt carrier groups. This would be preferable, since it would allow students to employ their own, actual rifles, but since the UTM sims rounds cost pretty much the same as live 5.56, the cost of the class would double instantly, to pay for the ammunition for the Sims guns. We’re still trying to determine which route to take, predicated on whether we continue with open-enrollment classes or not.–JM)
Another element JM introduced was the handling of OPFOR and of their potential “hostages”, and the priorities for securing the scene after the threats were eliminated. What became clear is that this is a dynamic environment that requires constant assessment and re-evalution of tactics. Take your time, be patient and deliberate, work the problem.
The final morning involved a discussion of how to deal with hallways and the ricochet effects off hallway walls and how that determines where to situate yourself as move in the hallway to minimize that threat. The last exercise was a live fire dynamic entry, with threat and non-threat targets set up inside the shoot house, which included a variation of the cognitive shooting problem from Day 1. After the last team did their shoot, we broke down the Shoot House and policed up the camping and parking areas.
As is typical at the final meeting in his classes, JM asks each person for three things he has learned over the weekend, what he could do to make the course better, and whether the course was worth the time, travel and money. My honest assessment is that few people go through a Mosby course without feeling that they have a deeper understanding of the course subject matter but also a realization that they have just made only their first of many steps in a much longer journey in improving their fitness, their weapon manipulation and marksmanship skills, their tactical awareness, and probably, most importantly, their mindset.
In his parting comments last weekend, JM said he does not consider himself an Instructor, but rather a Teacher. It is an important distinction. I think JM is an exceptionally good Teacher, in no small part because he himself is the perpetual student. The dude is an outlier, I have known and worked with many enlisted men, but not too many with a Masters Degree. He has an aggressive, inquisitive mind, and a fairly forceful personality but it is matched by a disarming lack of hubris. He takes the shit he does and the stuff he teaches seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He freely admits that his courses and demonstrations are under constant evaluation and evolution as he tries to find the best way to impart the course material. I think this illuminates JM’s true humility, despite what some of his detractors would say. His perpetual student mindset seeks the quickest, most illuminating path to clarity. I always come away from one of his courses realizing there are more layers to peel back as I continue down this path.
To illustrate this further, after every evolution, he goes to every student and asks them to ask him a question. It is not optional. You will have a question. His classes are not a passive learning experience. You will be actively engaged, mentally and physically. Many times when I was stuck on what question to ask, I would pass and another question from another student would bring forth something to ask. I believe that most guys leave his course realizing that they have just begun the journey towards mastery because I think JM is on a similar journey. At the end of his class, JM doesn’t give out trophies or graduation certificates but he does instill something more important. It is the notion that you are capable of more than you thought you were, and there is much more yet to learn.
For those who have not attended one of Mosby’s courses, and are looking forward to attending one in the future, come to his course with an open mind and a bit of humility. For those who have experience with firearms, I suggest that one “surrender mastery” of those previous experiences and open your mind to what Mosby is attempting to impart. JM is famous (infamous) for his “Skull Stomping” diatribes, but my perspective is that this is not driven by ego or a business plan ($500 for a three day course is a bargain, he isn’t in it for the Money) My sense is that JM is relentlessly driven by a search for truth and for teaching techniques, tactics and procedures which work. I am aware of the pissing contests between JM and other trainers. I am also aware that some seeking his advice are offended by his manner. All I can say is that after having taken three courses with Mosby, the way he has been described by other trainers (who I am not sure have even met him) does not comport with my experience. Funny, profane, self deprecating, brutally honest, but most importantly, he’s a pretty sharp guy. He doesn’t miss a thing and you will know it when you fuck up. Is he arrogant, elitist, profane, contemptuous and condescending? At times, I suspect that even he would probably agree with those assessments of himself. I suspect anyone who has made it through a SOF selection process and completed multiple deployments into hot war zones has a pretty healthy ego, fairly confident of his skill set which is leavened with an incapacity for self deception. Folks like JM are elite because they have a demonstrated dedication to a level of fitness, performance, integrity, and professionalism that have no commonality to the civilian world. Their civilian leadership (if you can call it that) asks them to endure hardships and make decisions of consequence which civilians cannot comprehend. It is not surprising to me that men who operate in that world are not just a little bit disdainful of those who go about their lives in blissful ignorance of their sacrifices. And yet, ironically, it is precisely because of their unique skills and professionalism that they are sought out, in times like these, by us, the uninitiated and unexperienced, to prepare us to defend ourselves and our loved ones for the likely future unpleasantness. So all you special snowflakes out there, if you are aware enough to want to get this kind of training, get over yourself, shut the fuck up, open your ears and your mind, and harden the fuck up.
So, those who have been in a rifle class specifically, but pretty much any class that involves the use of a rifle, can tell stories about how John Mosby abuses the shit out of his rifles. One of the demonstrations I do to illustrate a) the robustness of the Stoner platform, and b) the robustness of modern optics, is to hold my rifle out, at shoulder-height, and drop it, optics down, onto the ground, before standing on the rifle, while I finish an explanation. After four-plus years of doing that, I had—until very recently—never caused a single bit of damage to a rifle.
A couple years ago, in Arizona, I bent the rear bell on a Burris MTAC 1.5-6X, just enough that it made it difficult to adjust the magnification. Not impossible, or even close, just not as easy as it normally is. Despite the damage, the optic retained its zero, and when I removed it from my fighting rifle and put it on a hunting rifle, it zeroed to the new rifle easily. So, really, minimal damage, and for practical purposes, no damage.
A month or two ago, I finally managed to fuck a rifle up. In a vehicle class, back east, someone asked about “protecting” the rifle from banging off stuff when dismounting the vehicles. I was a little—should I phrase it….”overenthusiastic”–in my demonstration. Instead of just dropping the rifle, I chucked it—hard–about 40 feet across the meadow that was our training site. I had an AmTac Precision 15” free-float rail on the rifle. The rail ended up bent into a slight S-curve, was torqued a good 20+ degrees in twist, and the holes along the bottom of the rail were split out, and the rail section that held my Streamlight TLR-1HL weapon light came off. That is NOT, in any way, shape, or form, a denouncement of the rail system. For a couple reasons, as we’ll discuss in the next paragraph, the rail performed flawlessly, considering the abuse.
So, what happened to the optic? Well, the same thing that happened to the barrel: fuck all. When I got a chance to test-fire the weapon again, on a known-distance range, at home, it still shot sub-2MOA, and the POA/POI remained exactly the same as it was when I left for the class.
What is the point of this? There are a couple, actually.
1) Considering the cost, the Burris MTAC is, despite the one minor drawback (I absolutely despise the weird ass size of the center dot. Seriously, Burris, make me one with a 1MOA center dot, or a 2MOA at worst!), an extremely robust, well-made piece of optic.
2) AmTac makes a hell for tough piece of rail. Sure, it took some damage, but considering the fact that it protected the barrel—and all the impact would have occurred right on the barrel nut, the fact that it didn’t damage the barrel or the barrel’s straightness, at all, is noteworthy. AmTac now has the rail sitting in their front lobby, at their shop in Garden City, ID, if you want to go in and see it for yourself….
3) I see lots of comments on blogs and forums, posts on Facebook, and everywhere else in the gun community, with dudes talking about “Optics are great until shit hits the fan!” or “Well, what about when batteries run out?” “What about when you break the optics?”
As I pointed out in The Reluctant Partisan, Volume One, the chances of breaking a QUALITY combat optic, without irreparably breaking your gun in the process, are so slim as to be remarkable. Does this mean you shouldn’t run iron back-up sights? Not at all. If that tickles your taint, or gives you warm fuzzies, by all means, mount them. It’s not going to hurt anything, and the weight is negligible. When some knucklehead troglodyte at the gun store counter starts harping on how fragile optics are though, don’t get buffaloed by his baffling bullshit. You’re not going to break your optic, unless it’s a) a complete piece of shit, designed for Airsoft, b) you do it intentionally, or c) you do something really stupid, like fall off a mountain, drop your rifle off a mountain, or throw your rifle across a range to prove a point.
I wish I were as robust as a modern, quality, combat optic….
(The reviewer who wrote this is a former US Navy SEAL (verified BUD/S graduate), who, as he points out in the last paragraph, has been out for while. As always, my comments are bold, italicized, and in parentheses. My wife, HH6, pinned him with the nickname SCUBA Steve, JR, immediately upon discovering his background, since the SCUBA Steve moniker was already taken, and she’s not nearly as humorous as she thinks she is [and she will read this, so, “I love you.”]
Posting has been scant lately. We’ve been on the road teaching back-to-back classes for several weeks now, with a few more weeks to go before we get to return home for a break. My apologies for delayed responses to emails and the scarcity of entertaining—or obnoxious—blog posts.–JM)
AAR Narrative about the John Mosby Combat Rifle Class 2015108
A review and some lessons learned.
As someone who attended JM’s Open Enrollment October Combat Rifle in the vicinity of Idaho Falls, I can verify it was well worth the time, effort, and money. I’m not the only participant feeling this way. The class was attended by twenty students, many of whom had driven 8+ hours to attend the class, and one gentleman had driven 14+ hours.
An apparent side effect of having to travel so far means that participants who did make it really (REALLY–JM) wanted to be there.
This was a three-day class, from Friday through Sunday, with most people traveling on Thursday. Many made the drive home on Sunday, meaning they arrived home around midnight. The people who traveled far really had to set aside four or five days, one for travel each way, and three days on-site. That level of commitment seems to have provided a bit of participant self-selection as the class had no knuckleheads, busybodies, or other questionable characters. Apparently this is not always the case, which is why JM practices OPSEC with burner phones, and last minute link-up instructions, keeping a hard barrier between training contacts and his family (for the most part, students in these classes have been genuinely awesome people, just FYI, but it only takes one dude pissing in the pot to ruin the soup. –JM)
JM started things by having the class gather round and asking anyone who had military experience to raise their hand. He then pointed to each raised hand and asked about service and training particulars and in general, worked to get a good feel for the participants (To be honest, I do this largely out of self-interest. When I find out I’ve got guys with relevant experience, I tap them to help out as AI/Safeties, etc, as I did with SSJR…–JM). Out of our class of twenty, only a handful had any military experience and most were just “regular people.” The average age of participants was actually forty-plus, with only a couple “young bucks,” and many “seasoned” folks sporting silver hair. We also had multiple husband-and-wife or father-son teams show up.
Back to the participants and self-selection: These people were there because they really wanted to be there and it showed in their humility, attitudes, and focus. Throughout the weekend, the participants paid attention, stayed engaged, and practiced safety and muzzle awareness. I’m sure some of this was due to JM’s teaching ability—and his ability to inject a bit of “fear” when needed, such as, “if you move without putting your *&^&&^# safety on, I will tackle you and land points down—elbows and knees—so that you do NOT enjoy it!” but a lot of it was also due—again–to the caliber of the participants. During the verbal AAR, JM indicated that this is usually the case. Participants are generally good to go.
Training: The focus of this training is gunfighting, and JM reminded the participants of this fact throughout the weekend. This one lesson—gunfighting–came up again and again as participants battled with the balance between “excellent” and “good enough.” “Good enough” might be the single greatest takeaway from the weekend for many as they came from hunting backgrounds and were not used to “good enough.” Many of the tactical drills were graded on the “C zone,” which John continually pointed out is “good enough.” (Yet, as those that were there will note, the one shot I threw into the C, and out of the A Zone, completely pissed me off….”Good enough” is relative to your own standards. –JM) Yes, plugging a 3×5 card at 100M is great—if needed—but losing the fight because you took too long to set up the shot, going for excellent, and the enemy made the “good enough” shot, means you are still hit, will probably not make your shot, and now are a casualty. Focus on “good enough!” (And then improve what defines “good enough”–JM)
Drills: The drills and explanations are in JM’s book. Buy the book, review the material, and get to the class. Enough said.
The facility was private ground in the form of a cow pasture with a suitable backstop. The targets were IPSC cardboard with 3×5 cards, masking tape and Sharpies. We fired maybe 250-300 rounds total, and half of that was fired in the final drill. The point is that great training can be done almost anywhere and on the cheap. High speed shooting schools are awesome and a lot of fun, but are not required to learn to gunfight (I should point out, while I have no problem with using cool-guy training aids, ranging from custom build MOUT facilities and computerized, random pop-up targets, I grew up getting the most value out of hip pocket training, and then went to school to learn to train indigenous forces in austere environments. I’m comfortable with austere training set-ups, and consider them ideal for training preparedness minded/concerned citizens, since when SHTF, and you are forced to train others, you will probably not be training them on an automated, multi-million dollar range facility. This serves as a great introduction to what is possible inexpensively and with little layout. –JM)
I do want to highlight just how rapidly the class was able to progress, from starting with verifying the rifle zero (including getting some to the point of actually shooting a group tight enough to zero with—JM), to static-line shooting, to finally, moving, shooting, and communicating, during live-fire exercises. JM successfully crammed a lot of training into three days and you are definitely drinking from a fire hose. Several students had been to this very same class before and repeated it again—yes, as paying students—to do it all again. And this brings us to the final, real point:
Was the class worth the $500 fee? Yes, without a doubt, the class is worth it. When you add up what many students spent in time, gas, hotels, food, etc, the cost of the class was only part of the overall total. Yes, $500 is not chump change, and can buy a fair amount of ammunition. The bottom line is that, if you have spent the time and money to purchase a rifle, and think you might ever have to use it, you really do need to go get training. Real training. Gunfight training. Static range work can only get you so far (which is not anywhere near the same thing as saying, “Static range work is useless.” Static range work is essential to building the basic skills that are leveraged into gunfight shooting. Anyone who tells you static range work is useless is utterly, completely full-of-shit. –JM) People showed up with a wide variety of gear; vests, holsters, slings, armor, boots, clothes, knee and elbow pads, ear protection, etc. JM did a great job of pointing out that gear is just gear. What really matters is the person working the gear. And working the gear means you need to be trained, and then continue practicing.
JM, you can include this if you want, your call:
FWIW, your humble reviewer is a former SEAL who has been out of the game for over a decade, and has not run a gun in the same length of time. I showed up way rusty, and although much came back to me, I have a long way to go. I learned some new techniques from JM, and he is an excellent instructor. Yes, I’ve been to some of the cool schools, and spent lots of time on military ranges. I would drop $500 again, in a heartbeat, to go through JM’s Combat Rifle class again. It’s that good! Good drills, good instruction, good focus. My only regret is that JM’s location back to the Midwest puts him really far away.
JM may or may not do any more “open enrollment” classes. JM is still doing “private classes” as are other trainers. If you want this level of training, find others in your area and schedule a private class. It will be worth your time and money.
Wait, did I type that wrong? No, actually I did not.
We throw a lot of pithy quotes and cliches around the tactical community, often without understanding exactly what the Hell they mean. In the preparedness community, in my experience, this is even more prevalent. We can talk about planning all we want, but if we haven’t done the work prior—if we haven’t performed—planning is nothing but a masturbatory exercise: all of the work, and only a poor mimicry of the satisfaction of doing it for real and right.
So, what exactly constitutes “proper prior performance?” Is it just “training?” After all, I beat the dead horse of “TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN!” a lot, right?
The answer is, “Yes….and No.”
Yes, training is critical, that should be fucking obvious. Someone just posted a video that I saw on Facebook of some dude blasting at three armed robbers in his store…without hitting any of them, as far as I could tell from the video. Owning a goddamned gun does NOT make you a gunfighter. Talking about “mindset” does not mean you have the right attitude to split skulls. Period. You have to do the work. I don’t know how many times I—and pretty much every other trainer in the entire goddamned world—can beat on that. There’s more to it than that though.
What is the goal of training? Is it just to “do stuff?” Or, is it to meet—and hopefully exceed—a set metric of performance? Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that you’re NOT a complete fucking moron, and understand that training, without having a set of standards as a performance metric, is a waste of time, energy, and money. So, why do we have metrics?
One answer is simply “to know what we can do.” Another might be, “so we can tell someone new what we can do.” This latter answer is not about bragging, but simply explaining to a newcomer, “Hey, this is what we’re capable of, you need to meet these standards as well, if you want to work/train with us.”
Ultimately, going back to the title of this very short article, there is a more important reason why we have standards that MUST BE MET. It is only through the establishment—and meeting—of standards, that we can objectively plan effectively. It doesn’t matter if your planning to conduct security patrols, raids, ambushes, a bug-out, or farm work. If you don’t know—objectively—what you’re capable of, you might as well not be capable of it.
How do we know we’re capable of something? There’s only one way: by doing the work, and meeting the standard. If you don’t do the work, you don’t know if you can meet the standards, regardless of how simple they might seem. I’m going to give you a couple of examples, seen in recent classes (I’m on a seven week long teaching trip, doing a class every single weekend. I’ve got lots of recent experience to use as examples…).
1) Rifle Marksmanship: In a recent class in Missouri, I had a shooter who said he was a life-long experienced shooter, who was an “expert” marksman. He “got his deer” every year, and apparently has an entire safe full of guns, although the AR15 he was running in this class was his first fighting rifle.
The problem was, he could barely keep his shots, even during zero fire, in the A-Zone of a standard IPSC silhouette target, let alone tight enough to actually zero the weapon. “I get my deer every year” is NOT a shooting standard. Did you head shoot your deer? Were they running, walking, or stationary when you shot them? Where did you shoot them? Aiming for the heart/lungs, and blowing his paunch out instead is NOT a marker of accuracy and shooting skill. How far away were the deer when you shot them? Hitting an eight inch vitals area, at 10 yards, in the brush of east Tennessee, is not particularly evident of skill-at-arms.
“I can put one round per second into the A-Zone of an IPSC silhouette, at any distance, out to 400 meters,” is a standard. It’s an identifiable metric. “I can qualify on the US Army Qualification Tables” is a metric of performance—albeit not a particularly laudable one. “I can shoot expert on the AQT” is slightly better.
In order to establish a standard, it has to actually provide a metric. A metric is defined as “a system of measurement.” It has nothing to do with the metric system, except that the metric system are metrics. What is does have to do with is objectivity. It needs to be…well….objective.
“I can shoot gooder than all my buddies at deer camp!” is not an objective metric. It’s subjective. Maybe all your friends are actually—objectively—really shitty marksmen (if the deer and elk camps I’ve been in are any indication, this is probably the case).
Further, marksmanship alone is a piss-poor metric for combat shooting. How fast can you achieve that level of accuracy? Shooting the asshole out of a gnat, at 500 yards, is commendable. Unrealistic, but commendable. On the other hand, if I can hit a head-sized target at that range, every time, and do it in 1/10th of the time it takes you to get that super refined sight picture, you’re fucked in the eyeball, aren’t you?
With gunhandling, standards need to encompass both a time and an accuracy metric.
Can I plan anything, if I don’t know how close my people need to be, in order to actually hit what they’re shooting at? Should I just take their word that “I kin hit that thar!”
2) In another recent class, focusing on the planning and execution of a security patrol, the plan that was to be executed called for a seven-mile road march—admittedly in some really steep mountain terrain—in four hours. That’s slower than a 30-minute mile. That should be doable, even with a rucksack on, in the mountains, for a reasonably fit person, right? It took the students two hours to go three miles, and the route got steeper from there.
Now, I’m not out to pick on students in my classes, but one of the biggest takeaways from the class, for the students was, “we need to objectively determine fitness levels.”
During the planning phase, in order to determine friendly force capabilities, the group went around and asked “what’s your fitness level?” The answers were given on a scale of 1-10, and for the most part, tended to be very confident (note to future students: when the SF veteran tells you his fitness level is a “3,” and he’s obviously not in poor shape, you might take that as what my cop friends call, a clue……).
The problem was not that their fitness level assessments were wrong. They may have very well been on that level, within their social and training circles, but that’s not subjective. It’s easy to be a big fish, if the pond is small. When you are in the ocean though, there are Great White Sharks out there….
We talk a lot about PT standards, including road march times. One thing that is often overlooked is that road marches take place….on roads. Movement cross country, and especially cross-country in rough terrain, while trying to maintain stealth, takes even longer.
I had a conversation the other day with a buddy who recently left the Army Special-Missions Unit. He was discussing a raid they did, in the not-too-distant past, that involved a heli-borne insertion, followed by an 800 meter movement, over a steep ridgeline, to the objective rally point. I can run 800 meters in a couple of minutes, even uphill. That should have been an easy movement for a bunch of superfit, elite tactical athletes from SFOD-D, right? 20-30 minutes on the outside? Try two hours on for size.
Standards don’t tell us how fast we will be able to move, but they can give us an indication of how fast we CAN move. That is important for planning. If I build a plan that calls for a 15-minute mile road march movement, and the fastest my guys can move on the road, under load, is a 45-minute mile, my plan is useless as tits on a bull. If they can’t make a 30-minute mile on the road, how fast are they going to be able to move, scaling a near vertical climb, through the brush? We. Just. Do. Not. Know. Because, we don’t have any metric to base estimates on.
Not everyone in this world is a meat-eater. Not everyone in your tribe is destined for the path of the hero. Some will be butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. There’s nothing wrong with any of those trades, and all are equally important to the survival of the tribe as the warrior-hero…at least until there’s a dragon at the front gate. We expect our butchers and bakers to actually cut meat and bake bread. We expect our candlestick makers to actually make candlesticks. We expect a certain base level of quality in their work. Not expecting a base level of quality in the work of the warrior—which is, until it’s time to put heads on spikes, is training—is so ridiculous as to seem ludicrous. Establish standards, and expect yourself, and those around you, to meet them.
If you’re running “planning” exercises, even within your larger training scenarios, and you don’t have a set of performance standards that you expect people to meet, you’re playing a motherfucking game, and I would point out that Call-of-Duty, even in multi-player, online format, is probably cheaper than buying a bunch of gear (Actually, I don’t know. I don’t even know how much a Nintendo costs these days….). It’s certainly less work.
DO THE FUCKING WORK!
Or, do what everyone else does, and go collect welfare, so you don’t have to do any work.
Tragically, yesterday, a Harris County, TX deputy was assassinated at a gas station, while fueling his patrol car. While there are a lot of people who think I am vehemently “anti-cop/anti-LEO,” that’s not true. I have a large number of friends and family who are, or have been, police officers. I considered being a police officer, when I left the military, before recognizing that I genuinely don’t have the temperament to do that work, in the manner that I believe it should be done. This is NOT a bash on police officers. I will repeat. THIS IS NOT A BASH ON POLICE OFFICERS.
This is a bash on the media control of your brainwashing, and the documentation to illustrate the truth of its occurrence.
It’s been a “bad year” for cops in the US, right? Lots of them getting assassinated, right? Surely, it’s all a result of the uprisings in urban areas, by inner-city youths and their communist agitators, right? It’s horrible, right?
Well, it’s horrible, sure, but it’s actually been a pretty average—if not below average—year for violent homicide of police officers, compared to the last thirty years.
Do you need an example of media conditioning of the American mind? I’m going to give you an example.
We have Fox News on, at the moment, as we’re sitting here, deciding what we’re going to actually do for the evening, since the kids are at Grandma’s for the weekend.
They were just discussing the assassination of the Harris County, TX deputy last night. To preface this, despite some folks’ belief that I am somehow anti-cop, I am NOT saying that this was okay. At all. I am however, going to use this as a PERFECT example of how the media fucking controls people’s thinking.
Lots of cops getting killed this year, right? Lots of cops being shot and murdered.
Except, we’re actually BELOW the average for the year, compared to recent history, despite the brouhaha the media is making.
I have been wondering about it for a little while now, with the constant barrage by the media, of police officers being assassinated. So, I went and looked at the Officer’s Down Memorial Page ( https://www.odmp.org), to look at the statistics.
Keep in mind, as you look at the numbers:
1) We are already at the end of August. So, we’re 2/3 of the way through the year. As of my checking today, there were 82 line-of-duty deaths of police officers, nationwide (the Harris County Deputy was not yet listed). Of that 82, three were the result of “Assault,” twenty-three were a result of “Gunfire,” (not including “Accidental Gunfire,” which is a separate category), and three were the result of Vehicular Assault. Remember those numbers, and remember, we’re already 2/3 of the way through the year.
Vehicular Assault: 3
That’s a total, 2/3 of the way through the year, of 29 violent homicides of police officers….If the trend remains, that’s going to result in 45 violent homicides of police officers, by the end of the year, assuming my math is correct (and it’s entirely possible that it’s not. I suck at math….)
Now, let’s look at 2005:
In total, there were 166 LOD deaths of police officers, nation-wide, in 2005. Of those, none are listed as “Assault,” but there was one killed by “Stabbing.” There were FIFTY-THREE killed by “Gunfire,” FIFTEEN killed by Vehicular Assault, and one killed by a “bomb,” (And I don’t know if that was intended to kill the officer, as in a targeted assassination, or he was an EOD guy who got blown up in the line-of-duty). Assuming the bomb victim was an assassination, that’s a total of 70, for violent murders of police officers, in 2005. We’re WAY behind 2005, so far this year.
But, let’s look back another decade, to 1995:
In 1995, there were 187 total LOD deaths of police officers in the US. Of those, four were “Assaults.” SEVENTY were “Gunfire.” Four were “Stabbing” victims, eight were “Vehicular Assault.” Eight are listed as “Terrorist Attack,” referring to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in OKC (Regardless of what you think happened in OKC, let’s assume it WAS what we’ve been told it was, for the sake of argument, and it COULD be said that those eight were the victims of “assassination.”) That’s a total of 94 violent assassinations of police officers in 1995….
How about 1985?
There were 180 total LOD deaths, nation-wide. Of those, 98 were violent homicides. Six were the result of “Assaults.” SEVENTY-FIVE were the victims of “Shooting,” and three were “Stabbed.” Fourteen were the result of “Vehicular Assault.”
If you extrapolate the numbers for the rest of the year, based on averages….29 divided by 8 months is 3.65 per month. So, for 12 months, that would make the projection come out to 43.5 violent homicides of police officers in the US for the year….
So, exactly how “bad” of a year has it ACTUALLY been for police officers, and how much is actually a result of us just being MORE exposed the killings that HAVE occurred, because of the 24 hour news cycle? How much are you being played by the media?
Turn off the fucking television, get off the Internet (except to read my blog, of course….), and go get face-to-face with your friends, family, and neighbors. It’ll drop your blood pressure, almost as much as doing PT will.
(I should add the parenthetical note….I don’t believe the ODMP is an official .gov website, and I didn’t look at the FBI page to look at these numbers. Feel free to correct me, if the numbers on the FBI site contradict the message.
I should also add, again….this is NOT a bash on cops, most of whom are doing a good job at a shitty job. Any comments talking about “pigs” or advocating the assassination of police officers will be deleted forthwith. That’s NOT the purpose of this article.)
Jack Donovan, of The Way of Men fame, resurrected his Start The World podcast the other day, with an interview with Greg Hamilton, former Ranger and SF soldier, and one of the founders of Insights Training, in Tacoma, WA.
Whether it’s because Greg and I come from similar backgrounds (although Greg did a hell of a lot more cool guy stuff than I did), or we ended up in similar places because of similar philosophies, I couldn’t say, but he spends a lot of time in this interview discussing the Way of the Hero, and his thoughts on following that Way.
Listen, think, learn, apply.