Training – Prep For Your First LR Shooting Competition


The decent down the rabbit hole continues. Jim See has formed an Iowa Precision Shooters group with the intent of holding precision shooting competitions in our region. Our first one is November 7th. There will be 6 stages, 3 prone and 3 from improvised barricades. Each stage will require 8 – 10 rounds with time limits of 90 to 180 seconds. There was no indication of the ranges but the max range for the shooting venue is 800 yards . . . should be interesting. I sense my tail is about to slip below the surface!

So I want to take a few lines to share my prep for this event. And, I want to take a short detour to share why I even bother to share it . . . or anything else on this blog for that matter. Then we’ll get to the “meat”.

I had an interesting conversation with a shooter/trainer whose opinion I value. They are direct, honest and detailed when I look for feedback. They have been kind enough to evaluate coursework I’ve developed and I found their AAR to be of real value. As we chatted some interesting words came out of the Bluetooth earpiece . . . “You know, you’re rare in our industry . . . very few will offer their work up for such evaluation.” I pondered that for a bit – sadly I suspect the evaluation is true.

As instructors I believe we must challenge ourselves . . . on the range, in the classroom and it what we choose to develop and offer to prospective students. If we can’t answer the where’s, whys and how comes . . . honestly we have no business offering anything to a student. Since I focus on the “new and inexperienced” shooter most of what I offer is basic or foundational. One of the quickest – and perhaps the most uncomfortable ways – is to hold yourself up to your peers for review and evaluation.

And another is to share what you’ve learned, how you’ve learned it, what your thoughts are, what your opinions are . . . so others can learn from your mistakes and successes. And that, good reader, IS the purpose of this blog . . . so you can learn for both my words and experiences – it’s as simple as that. Back to the title of this post – preparing for your first LR precision shooting meet.

The Gun

It needs to be both precise and accurate, at least 1 MOA and reliable.  I described my current LR gun here as I prepped for my first LR Shooting Course. As you can see it’s a 16” carbine – not a typical choice for a LR weapon. But, it’s what I have and what I will use for this next year because it’s real purpose is a longer range defensive firearm.

The Gun

I have upgraded the scope to a Prostaff 5 with a Mil Dot reticle. It’s certainly not a $2,500 piece of glass but I am more than satisfied with it as I begin learning this new skill.

At the end of the day I was able to shoot a couple of sub-MOA groups and a solid MOA group with the level of accuracy I wanted. I’m satisfied it will do the job . . . now we’ll see if I can.

100Y Zero Target

As described above I’ve added a Timney trigger, a Harris bipod, Vortex scope level . . . it’s as ready as I know how to make it.

Rear Bags

The whole idea is to separate your muscles from the gun. By doing this you reduce unwanted tremors that reduce your precision. One of the tools used to do this are rear bags. This looks like one of those “options” that you can easily go crazy on. Already I’ve tried a half dozen. I’ve added a couple for this match . . . the Weibad Mini Cube and Todd Tac Bag. They are used to help you “build your position” to make sure your weapon is as stable as possible. Honestly, this is one of those areas I’m still working my way through . . . we’ll see how it goes on the 7th.

Flatline Ops Rear Bag   Wiebad Mini Cube Rear BagWiebad Todd Tac Bag


Consistency is the key . . . a consistent position, consistent trigger press, consistent pull weight and a consistent cartridge. While I have reloading gear for the .308 I’m not “there” yet to load a consistent cartridge for the match. The alternative . . . match grade ammunition. My choice is the .308 Hornady 178gr BTHP.

Range Time

THIS is where I’m lacking . . . heavy sigh. I’d love to spend a couple hours each week on this particular skill set. Sadly, real life has a tendency to poke its nose into my fun. But, that said . . . if I focus on the fundamentals of sight alignment, sight picture, reading the wind and trigger press – I am hopeful I’ll not make a fool of myself. Again, time will tell.


“Dope” is the fundamental adjustments you will need to make to your scope to adjust for bullet drop and windage (the biggies) and a whole host of other things. It’s specific to your barrel, bullet, speed and direction of the wind and the distance to the target. This is my dope for my particular round for this match. The advantage of having this info printed out is that should my Strelok Pro fail on my Android . . . I have everything I need. I also suspect glancing at the sheet will be quicker that punching in the data . . . again, we’ll see.


The last piece here is the same as any coursework – dress for the weather. It’s supposed to be in the upper 40s to low 50s with 60% chance of rain. We’re gonna have weather . . . dress for it. It’s as simple as that.

So there you have it – I’m as ready as I’m going to be. The thing I’m really looking forward to is simply the learning opportunity. There are 20+ shooters signed up. Each will have their own thoughts, ideas, methods . . . untold opportunities to learn. Should be fun.

AAR to follow, hope to get enough photos to give you all an idea of how it went. To hold you over a bit here is a link to the Precision Rifle Series 2014 Finale . . . some pretty good shooters there! Enjoy!!


Training – Accidental, Negligent, Complacent, Ignorant, Stupid


On the evening of Friday, October 16th Cody Deneault and his pregnant wife went to the movie theater in Salina, KS to celebrate his birthday. In his pocket was loaded and UNSHOLSTERED handgun. I’m sure you know where this is going . . . during the movie he stuck his hand inside his pocket to adjust its position . . . and shot himself in the leg.

From the news article’s interview with him . . . (Links to the news story and another blog’s thoughts are at the end of this post)

Let’s chat a bit about this incident and the “mindset” of Cody Deneault in the aftermath of the event.


  • arising from extrinsic causes
  • occurring unexpectedly or by chance
  • happening without intent or through carelessness and often with unfortunate results


  • marked by or given to neglect especially habitually or culpably
  • failing to exercise the care expected of a reasonably prudent person in like circumstances


  • marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies


  • destitute of knowledge or education,
  • lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
  • resulting from or showing lack of knowledge


Lest some think I am riding atop my high horse, I too have experience an unexpected discharge of a firearm causing a lifelong memory as intense as if it happened this past weekend.

It was in the opening weeks of pheasant season in Michigan. My dad had passed away 6 or 7 years earlier and my mom was intent that I would be able to go hunting if I so desired. On the day in question she rushed home from her job at the post office, we loaded up my dad’s full choke 12ga Browning semiautomatic shotgun, hopped into the car and drove to a 20 acre plot of land we owned so I could walk the fields for a bit before it got dark. This was my first time hunting with the 12ga and, frankly, I was unfamiliar with how it worked. I figured out how to put 3 or so rounds in it, I knew enough that I should put it on “safe” before I started walking and I did know about “safe directions”. What I didn’t know was . . . which way was safe? When you could see the red band . . . or when you couldn’t?. To me, at age 12-14 what made perfect sense was that if I could see red . . . that would STOP the trigger. You know stop signs are red . . . right? So, before we headed into the field I thought I would test my theory. I pressed the safety so I could see the red band, I was smart enough to know what a safe direction was, I positioned the butt stock firmly in my crotch . . . I know, I know . . . the home of my future progeny . . . and pressed the trigger fully expecting to not have the trigger go anywhere because . . . red band . . . stop sign . . . it all sounded so reasonable in my head when I worked it out.

Imagine my utter shock when Goliath of Old Testament times appeared out of nowhere and promptly kicked me in the balls with his number 50s!!! I was stunned!! I was breathless!! My mom, being entirely clueless of my balls-on science experiment, hollered over to my row . . . “Did you shoot one honey?!?!?” I must confess I never told her this story though if she’s looking over my shoulder I hope she knows how much I loved her for taking me hunting and that she is having a good chuckle with my dad over my story.

So in that instance, I had a purposeful discharge of a firearm, in a safe direction to wring out an experiment because I was ignorant. Stupid perhaps, but I’ll stick with ignorant simply because everything was done with purpose and in a safe direction. On the plus side . . . I’ve never forgotten the lesson . . . ever! And, was still able to have a great son and daughter a few years down the road so no lasting damage was done.

“Hunt for Red October” Admiral Josh Painter: “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”

As Admiral Painter put it . . . if we allow the way we handle our defensive firearm to get out of control . . . if we are carless . . . if we are complacent . . . if we are stupid . . . we’ll will be lucky to leave this life with the same number of holes with which we entered.

You carry a loaded defensive handgun to protect your life, the lives of your family or someone in your charge. And while we all hear of the “21 foot rule”, the “2 second rule” and a host of other “rules” surrounding our ability to present our defensive handgun quickly enough to stop a threat . . . the FBI boils it down in a slightly different way. Approximately 86% of all engagements happen within 12 to 15 feet. Up close and personal. Working to be quick enough to engage a real threat at that distance should be the goal of all of us.

So in Mr. Deneault case . . . what went wrong. Let’s look at how he characterized his “misshap”.

  • “I think I either bumped the trigger or pushed it the wrong way or something and it went off,” Cody said.
  • “I’d say my biggest mistake here was probably I didn’t have a holster,” he said. “And that is on me, for sure.”

There was no accident here . . . bumping a trigger . . . pushing it the wrong way . . . is not an accident when the weapon is buried in your pocket, you are seated in a theater and the lights are out. Oh . . . and this little gem . . . “my biggest mistake here was probably I didn’t have a holster” . . . that is NOT an accident . . . that is negligence, pure and simple. What lead to this?

I suspect complacency played no small part. “I was in the military!” “I’m a law enforcement officer!” “I’ve been shooting all my life!” These statements attempt to characterize the shooter as someone skilled in the use of a handgun. Actually military service or LEO experience does little to guarantee the shooter is experienced in the use of their handgun. In fact, I fine that most in these categories spend little range time getting real work done – most focus on “qualifying” . . . and little else. I suspect Mr. Deneault fell into this trap convincing that his military time suddenly gave him skills that he’s actually spent little time on.

Ignorance certainly played a role here. Had he taken any serious coursework regarding defensive carry he would have – at the very least – insured that he had a proper holster for his pocket carry and that he was reasonably proficient in drawing it smoothly and quickly. Ignorance can be a killer . . . did you take advanced work this year? Did you take any coursework this year? How’s that range time coming?

As reluctant as I am to use a more coarse term . . . Stupid easily applies here.

  • given to unintelligent decisions or acts
  • acting in an unintelligent or careless manner

The choice to pocket carry without a holster that covers the trigger is certainly an unintelligent decision and making such a decision is undoubtedly carless. In reading his responses to the reporter it is apparent he has learned little from this experience. I would not be surprised to see his name in the paper somewhere down the road in some very similar circumstance.

He good news? He shot himself . . . and not his wife, or unborn child, or anyone else in the theater. And I pray a light goes on somewhere that will lead him to more training and to a place where he takes his responsibility of carrying a defensive weapon a bit more seriously.

Bottom line . . . don’t be stupid!

Review – MAGPUL DYNAMICS – Precision Rifle


Rabbit holes can be challenging. My current quest, as I’ve covered in a couple posts, is one of becoming a good long range shooter. This means that my goal is to shoot my AP4 to the level of its capabilities. It has proven to be capable of sub-MOA work and can reliably produce a group 1 MOA plus or minus 1/10. That’s my goal, to do this upon demand.

I also hate to look stupid or unskilled . . . I know you’re all shocked! So, as with all things I jump into (and believe me there’s a ton of topics that grab my attention from Astronomy to Wilderness Survival) I jump in with both feet, hit the books, hit the “classroom” and – in today’s world – I look for solid coursework on the Internet (think Udemy or Creativelive for example) or on DVD. In my review of Jim See’s long range shooting course I linked to MAGPUL DYNAMICS “The Art of The Precision Rifle” as one of my source materials for course preparation. If you are poking your nose down this particular rabbit hole and looking for some good foundational material, you could do much worse than this $38, 5-DVD, 10 hour set of coursework. Honestly, it’s a no brainer – send them your money, wait for the brown truck of happiness and enjoy!

   Cover (Large)   Back Panel (Large)Inside Panels (Large)

So, I thought I’d take a bit of time and do a review of this set of coursework.

The primary players on for the majority of the video are Todd Hodnett, Chris Costa, Travis Haley, Steve Fisher, Mike Olivella and Caylen Wojcik. Todd Hodnett is the President of Accuracy 1st – a company specializing in training long range shooters (both civilian and military/LE) as well as selling products to assist the shooter.

At the time of filming Chris, Travis, Steve, Mike and Caylen were instructors for Magpul Dynamics. Magpul Dynamics has morphed into Magpul CORE and still offer the Long Range 1 course that seems to follow the first 2 DVDs of this material.

Caylen Wojcik continues to work for Magpul as their Director of Training for Long Range Shooting. Steve Fisher now acts as a Trainer/Business Consultant in his company Sentinel Concepts. Mike Olivella is currently a Trainer/Coach for SOLKOA Inc. in Florida. Chris Costa left Magpul in 2012 and founded Costa Ludus LLC specializing and weapons and tactics training. Finally, Travis Haley also left Magpul and founded Haley Strategic, offering a broad range of training and custom equipment.

The course work was divided into a five disc set, each focused on multiple topics. I’ll list the contents of each and then give you my thoughts on its individual content.

DISC1 – Course Part 1 (142 min)


  • Intro
  • Rifle Setup
  • Zeroing
  • Reticles
  • Truing
  • Ballistics
  • Cold Bore vs Clean Bore
  • Trace

DISC 1 focused on the foundation – the rifle, its configuration, the equipment tacked on it (bipod, stock, scope, rear bags), zeroing the weapon, building your position behind the gun, loading the bipod, the various Reticles available and a ton of little bits and pieces of wisdom that Todd Hodnett has picked up over the years teaching this type of coursework. The range was setup through a valley in Texas. Targets ranged from a couple hundred yards to a mile. I’d say most the shooting was done between 400 yards and 1100 yards. DISC 1 is worth the price of admission along just for the amount of info presented regarding the weapon and the shooters position.

DISC 2 – Course Part 2 (133 min)


  • Broken Scope Field Zero
  • Accuracy 1st Wind Formula
  • Wind Course Part 1
  • Wind Course Part 2
  • Wind Course Part 3
  • Wind Course Wrap Up
  • The One Mile Shot
  • Mindset
  • Wrap Up

The focus of this entire DVD was wind, wind, wind, wind, wind . . . While mild winds have little effect on a 100 yard shot, push that shot out to 300, 500, 800, 1000 yards and you bullet can easily be pushed left or right distances larger that the width of your entire target. By observing surrounding grasses, indicator flags, mirage an estimate of the wind speed and direction can be made. Then, either by experience, ballistics tables for your particular bullet and cartridge or through the use of a Ballistics Calculator a “hold” can be developed so the reticle can be used in such a way to allow the “hold” to account for the speed of the wind and its direction insuring that your bullet still strikes your intended target. Honestly, in watching the 3-part wind course and experiencing Jim See call the wind during his long range shooting course . . . this is much more an art form than a purely computational problem. I suspect I will be putting many more rounds down range before I am anywhere near comfortable with this particular stretch of the “rabbit hole”.

The distances they were shooting were pretty darn impressive. The weapons ran the gamut from a .338 to a .308 carbine. It was a pretty impressive 2 hour display.

DISC 3 – USMC Fundamentals (126 min)


  • The Sniper
  • The USMC Sniper
  • LE Sniper
  • Tools of the Military Sniper
  • Data Books
  • Exercises
  • Quick Reference Drills

I wonder how many long range shooters visualize themselves as a sniper on over watch. The reality is that actually shooting is but a very, very small part of a sniper’s job. Much of it revolves around data gathering, acting as a spotter for artillery, mortar fire or close air support. And, on occasion they take out a designated target. That said, the shooting process, the preparation, the training, the mindset was well laid out and is certainly applicable for the civilian long range shooter. It was also noted that many of the requirements for a military sniper carry into the law enforcement community. In fact, given that law enforcement snipers operate in a community environment their requirement for precise shots is significantly higher.

Some time was also spent on Data Books. These are used as direct feedback to you, the shooter, to evaluate your level of training, your understanding of what exactly you are doing on the range and to provide solid data on the performance of your particular weapon. Secondarily, they provide good documentation that you are serious about your training.

DISC 4 – Gear (97 min)


  • Bolt Action
  • Semi-Automatic
  • Ancillary Gear
  • Rifle Optics
  • Muzzle Accessories
  • Support Equipment

This DVD drilled down much more comparing bolt action weapons to semi-automatic weapons. It covered rear bags, bipods, shooting sticks, tripods, hand held weather stations, rifle scopes and various reticles, muzzle breaks, suppressors and various support equipment. There is no shortage of gear you can spend money on. There was a lot of solid information, well thought-out discussion and ideas you might want to review before you head to the gun store.

DISC 5 – Bonus Features (93 minutes)

This disc filled in any remaining blanks that I could see. They covered cleaning, unconventional positions, long range trajectories and ways you can push yourself as a long range shooter.

Obviously, to get through the entire set of discs you are looking at 10 hours. The majority of the “meat” is contained in the first two discs, but that in no way implies that you should take a pass on the remaining three. I found real value in each disc, each lesson and each shooting example.

So, would I consider this a long range shooting course? No, not really. But for me, a data geek, it was nice to have some of the terminology, the basics and a general idea of a direction before I took Jim See’s long range course. None of the information conflicted with Jim’s approach. And, I did feel like it gave me a bit of a leg up since I’d never shot at the distances Jim asked of us.

“The Art of The Precision Rifle” is well worth your time and the $38 that Amazon is asking for the product.


Training – Dry Fire – An Update


Dry Fire: The act of drawing and engaging a “threat” with an empty firearm for the purpose of refining your skill set.

It’s beginning to lean into the corner turn between fall and winter with a full return to warm, comfortable range days some 5 months in the future. Oh, it’s still pretty darn nice out at the range here in Iowa – it was 70*F today . . . but promises of mid-40s and lower in the next few weeks leads me to believe it might be worthwhile to revisit my indoor dry fire range, chat a bit about the purpose of dry fire and to lay out some of the tools I use.

The definition is mine . . . dry fire is the act of drawing your unloaded (checked 3 times and still aimed in a safe direction) defensive carry weapon and engaging a threat with 3-5 rounds high center mass with a slow and safe holster at the end of the drill. Or, perhaps with a precise shot to the head or some other called box or threat. You can get real work done on every aspect of your draw and engagement with the exception of recoil management . . . it is well worth your time.

Safety. I have, at times, heard the words . . . “I know it’s empty, I’ve dropped the magazine – but, just to satisfy you, I’ll rack the slide one more time!” And, I’ve observed the genuine surprise of their face as they rack the slide and eject a live round on to the floor. It’s a reminder that there are NO SHORTCUTS to safety – rack your slide 3 times to insure that your defensive weapon is, indeed, empty.

At the same time, make sure there is NO AMMUNTION in the room! That includes the backup magazine you carry on your person. There should be nothing around you but an empty gun and empty magazines.

Set up your “range” so when you “fire” at the targets, you are pointing in a safe direction or into a “berm” that can handle the discharge of a live round.

Consider a LaserLyte round. I’ve reviewed their full system in the past – and still use their target with my SIRT pistol, but their cartridges are an excellent tool to provide a visual indicator of your sight alignment, sight picture in your everyday carry weapon – and to insure that your chamber does not have a live cartridge in it. The only disadvantage to these “rounds” is that you cannot use them for multi-round engagements; you will need to work the slide each and every time unless you have a DA semiautomatic pistol.

I am very fond of the SIRT pistol, which I reviewed here. I have the Glock 17 look-a-like and have probably sent thousands upon thousands of rounds “down range” with them. I bought the 3-pack for use in my coursework – another great benefit to these particular training aids. As you can see in the review, they fit my carry holster just like my daily carry weapon, have the ability to change magazines and provide a solid laser indicator of where the “round” hit. The slide is not operational, nor – obviously – is there any recoil management issues. But, for working on the speed of my draw stroke, clearing my cover garment, the accuracy of my first round hit (and follow-up hits sans recoil) and allowing me to practice magazine changes without damaging a real magazine by ejecting it on to the floor – there is no training tool out there that is better in my opinion.

The cost of a pistol and a couple magazines is $200-ish. While that may seem pricy – in today’s market this is equivalent of around 1,000 rounds of Blazer 115gr FMJ ball ammunition – the ability it provides you to build a “range” in a spare room, the elimination of travel time to and from the range, the ability to grab 15 minutes of range time pretty much any time you wish – and the prospect that ammo may once again become as rare as hen’s teeth some time down the road – I’ve decided that my investment in a SIRT pistol has been well worth it!

Finally, here’s my “range”.

Dry Fire Wall 10-14-2015 (Large)

It occupies about 1/3 of an office wall and has “evolved” over the past couple years. It has everything from a dot torture to outlines for IDPA targets out to -200 yards. It also has the LaserLyte target as well. It allows me to do everything from simple draw and engagement drills to more complex cognition drills. A handy way to mix this up is to build 5-minute drill sets on your cell phone’s audio recorder. You can find an example here. (To save it on your computer simply right click on the screen and select “save as”.) There are 10 ea. 30-second “drills” in this example. On the “UP!” command send 3-5 rounds to the high center mass of your selected target. On a “ONE” or a “SQUARE” or a “HEAD” deliver a one-round precise shot to the designated box/number. (This also works on a live fire range if you have one of the blue tooth ear pieces or a blue tooth speaker available). So in the 30 seconds you must draw, engage your target, scan and assess your situation and then holster your weapon. 5 minutes is easy to slip into your routine a couple times a day and by building your own 5 minute drill sets and then using your shuffle capability in your phone, you can come up with a dry fire drill set that is NOT boring and will challenge you. Give it a try.

So how do your approach your dry fire time? Well, just like you would a live fire trip. Have a plan. What do you want to work on? Accuracy? Dropping the time of your draw stroke? Your magazine change? Single or multiple target engagements? Headshots with a family member held hostage? Dot torture? Frankly, with the exception of recoil management – there is simply no limit to what you can work on.

Don’t take shortcuts. It can be all too simple to just work from a high compressed ready or a low ready and not integrate a draw from your holster. Answer me this . . . if this “range time” is supposed to help you win a gun fight . . . how many of you walk around with your defensive weapon at the high compressed ready? No shortcuts. Remove your carry weapon and spare magazine from your person and store it safely. Or, prepare it for use by dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber . . . rack the slide 3 times!! Then, I would strongly suggest you insert a LaserLyte round to make sure there can never be a live round in the chamber until your session is over.

Use a timer. It will only give you a draw time, but it will provide some level of uncertainty when you will need to draw. Depending on which weapon you are using, it may record your first round being “fired” . . . or not. I find the PACT Club Timer I use typically will not record my SIRT pistol’s trigger press. That said, the randomness of the timer has value IMNSHO.

Record your dry fire training. While no holes are made . . . the time you spent is real training time. Should the worst ever happen and your find yourself in court I believe there is real value in having a log that shows you have a history of taking your firearms training seriously.

Have goals. Cleaning Dot Torture. All rounds within the sensor target on a LaserLyte electronic target. Work your magic on Todd Green’s FAST drill. Record your results – so you know where you came from and so you gain confidence you can get to where you want to go.

Does this take the place of your live fire range time? Obviously not. But, it can be a very economical and convenient way to get good work done when you simply can’t make it to the range this week . . . or month . . . or quarter . . . or year . . .

Dry Fire . . . It Does A Shooter Good!

Just the Basics – Accuracy and Precision


  • Exactness.
  • The ability of a measurement to match the actual value of the            quantity being measured.


  • The state or quality of being precise; exactness.
  • The ability of a measurement to be consistently reproduced.
I’ve started . . . and I mean just started . . . down the rabbit hole of long range shooting. My current weapon of choice for this endeavor is a Panther Arms AP4 .308.
20151003_151341 (Large).
I’ve described it to varying degrees here, here and here. The last link has a title of “Training – Long Guns . . . and shooting the accurately . . . Part 1 – What does “accurate” mean?” Accuracy is simply part of this equation . . . there is also “precision”. So let’s spend a bit of time defining “accuracy” and “precision” and their place in the shooting community – particularly long range shooting.

Accuracy is the more flexible of the two terms because it is up to personal interpretation. If you take a walk through my last article referred to above – there actually is a place for “close enough for government work”. If you are talking about the arena I spend most of my time in, defensive shooting, you must be accurate enough to get combat effective hits on a defined threat as quickly as possible. This comes under Rob Pincus’ idea of a “balance of speed and precision”. It typically shakes out as 3-5 rounds, high center mass in an open palm sized group. Anything within that area will have a real effect on the threat’s ability to continue their attack on you. There is no need to take the amount of time it would take to make sure all the rounds created the smallest group possible.

What if your required POA becomes “the head shot”? I talked about that at length here. Now the size of your target has been reduced to something the size of a silver dollar. Here you must move past the level of defensive accuracy and place a “precise” shot to the ocular cavity. Something requiring a much higher level of skill.

So what does this look like on a target? Well, it looks something like this . . .

First let’s examine a target that shows a lack of both accuracy and precision.

20151003_154614 (Large)

Notice there is no pattern, no groupings . . . just a bunch of holes on a piece of paper. Now, given that the paper was placed at the 100 yard line, there is some level of accuracy and precision . . . but it is far below what we are looking for. The AP4 is capable of 1.00 MOA give or take a couple of tenths. When we achieve that, we are “there”.

Second, let’s look at a target that is “accurate” but not “precise”.

20151003_154559 (Large)

Notice that in both instances the rounds are within a 4” square (with one flyer), but their overall groupings are far wider that the 1 MOA of the gun. So while the groups are accurate – they are NOT precise.

Third, let’s look at a target that has “precise” hits but lacks accuracy.

20151003_154458 (Large)

Notice that target 1, with the exception of 1 flyer, there are 2 three round groups that are sub-1 MOA but the groups are high and left of the desired target – the 1 inch square in the center. These groups are VERY precise with one being less than ½” . . . yet it is NOT accurate.

Finally, let’s look at a target that is both Accurate AND Precise – within the capabilities of the weapon.

Notice that on target 2 the 4-round group is almost exactly a 1 MOA sized group, the capability of the gun. And, it is much more centered on the desired target, the 1 inch square in the center of the 4 inch square. The group is both Accurate AND Precise.

In the long range shooting environment – whether hunting, shooting competitively, defensively or using your skill as a designated marksman or sniper in the military – there are many instances where your ability to be both accurate and precise are required. And that ability like so many others requires good equipment, good instruction and trigger time.

Only YOU can take yourself to that level. I must admit I am enjoying walking down this rabbit hole much more than I thought I would. I suspect it will find its way into my range work on a regular basis and that a couple of firearms will find themselves upgraded to accommodate this new path.

In fact it was an upgrade to the AP4 that brought about the range session that created the targets shown. I was unhappy with the scope I had used in the long range shooting class. So, I upgraded to a Nikon Prostaff 5 with a Mildot reticle and a Nikon M-223 mount. I wish I could have afforded some of the $3,000+ scopes that were in the class . . . but I have enjoyed my marriage for too many years to break in a new wife at this time in my life. The short story is I was very happy with the performance of the Prostaff 5 and also with its price point. I’ll do a review of it in the not to distant future.

There is value in adding accurate and precision long range shooting skills to your skillset. It does not need to cost an arm and a leg and, you will learn far more about being deliberate, about ballistics and how a gentle breeze can affect your shot than you ever imagined! Enjoy!!

AAR – Suarez International “HITS-8 Defensive Knife” 08/28/2015 – By: Chris Shoffner –

Course Title: “HITS-8 Defensive Knife”
Instructor: Steve Collins
Date of course: 08/28/2015
Location: Armed Missouri, Inc.
Class time: 8:00 – 5:00

How do you take a person who has no experience or knowledge in the application of a knife for self-defense, and turn him or her into a knife-fighting expert in just 9 hours? You don’t. It simply can’t be done. How do you take a person who has no experience or knowledge in the application of a knife for self-defense, and provide him or her with a solid foundation from which to start utilizing the knife as a defensive tool in just 9 hours? You enroll them in the Suarez International, HITS-8 Defensive Knife class, have them show up, pay attention, and put in the work!

That is exactly what happened with me during my participation in this class. I’ve been carrying a knife for years – since I was a young man even before high school. I’ve used a knife in most any way you can imagine – as a cutting tool, as a saw, wire cutter, carving tool, deer skinner, meat processor, and even a hammer on a few occasions – but I’ve never used one as a defensive tool, at least not in a practical sense. So I came into this course a blank slate. I was ready to learn, ready to put in the work, ready to be humbled, and ready to improve.

The SI Defensive Knife class is billed as, “……a compressed version of our two day Defensive Knife program…”. The course description goes on to say, “……You will learn knife grips, angles of attack and defense, ballistic cutting and thrusting tactics, use of the live hand, footwork concepts, dynamic training drills and exercises to develop spontaneous and unplanned reactions. We will dispel the commonly held myths of the knife and leave you with a respect and a skill-set for this close range weapon that equals or surpasses your skill with the CCW pistol and allows you to begin integrating the knife and the gun…”. While this all might sound a little intimidating, the format is actually very well thought out and presented in a very logical order, so the intimidation factor drops off pretty quickly once the class begins.

The class starts out with a safety briefing and an equipment check to make sure everyone has possession of a training knife on their person, rather than a true blade. Next is a bit of lecture regarding theory and concepts of using a knife as a defensive tool. From there, it moves into some penetration and slicing demonstrations using a variety of blades and a pork roast that is wrapped in 20 or so layers of plastic rap around a broom handle. Steve lovingly referred to this as “Pork Man” throughout the demonstrations. It took no less than the very first demonstration for the students to realize just how serious of a tool a quality blade is. “Pork Man” suffered stab after stab and laceration after laceration. Even the small, 2-inch blades left nasty cuts and slices all the way to “the bone” (the broom handle). When Steve deployed what he called “the comma cut” with any of the blades, “Pork Man” sustained damage that would have taken a talented surgeon to try to piece back together.

With a good understanding of just how efficient a good knife blade can be at piercing and cutting, we then began actual work with our training blades. In all, we had 5 students enrolled in the class. Everyone was instructed to bring both their daily carry knife as well as a replica “training blade” facsimile of it. We started off with some basic fighting strokes, (5 strokes in total) which each of us practiced on our own, one type of stroke at a time, until each of us had the mechanics down pretty well.

As we progressed, we started combining the strokes together, so a practice drill would comprise of drawing the knife from the sheath, then moving into one or more fighting strokes, then eventually back to the sheath. After a little more work combining different strokes on our own, the students were paired up and used each other as compliant “sparring” partners. The bulk of the morning consisted of adding new components, practicing those new components on our own, then practicing them with a compliant partner.

At one of our hydration breaks about an hour into the class, I remember mentioning to Steve that I had “….learned more about knife fighting in 20 minutes of hands-on participation in his class, than I had in the past 43 years of my life….”. And that was the truth. I was no expert, but I already felt a lot more competent, confident, and knowledgeable than I did just an hour before.

After a short break for lunch, the group returned to the range and we began working on counter-measures to the fighting strokes we had worked on all morning. This involved all of the students partnering up in pairs and working through the drills over and over again. Similar to the fighting strokes we’d learned in the morning, the techniques Steve taught us to counter those moves were kept as simple as possible to allow for as little tie-up time with the adversary as possible. Being able to end the fight quickly and make a quick escape is definitely preferential to engaging in some kind of long, drawn out knife fight. And, just like the morning block of instruction, techniques were learned one at a time, then Steve would teach us how to start combining multiple moves and strokes for a more effective, less predictable defense.

As the day progressed, we experimented with a variety of different grips – a few different forward grips and some reverse grips. We also started working from different angles of attack and the training partners became less compliant as the day progressed. We eventually ended the class with about a half hour of discussion followed by a quick debrief as all of the students in attendance were scheduled to attend the next two days of Force on Force training together.


Honestly, it is rare that I take a defensive oriented class where I am not at least somewhat familiar with some of the material before it starts. In this case, however, it was like sailing into uncharted waters. Knife fighting is simply outside of my realm of experience and was definitely outside of my comfort zone. There were many times throughout this class where I felt awkward like a kid trying to ride a bike for the first time. That said, Steve has a way of keeping things simple and he doesn’t mind demonstrating something 2, 3, or even 10 times if a student needs it (and all of us required plenty of remediation throughout the day). He was quick to point out that we needed to focus on proper technique and application of technique before we worried about trying to develop more speed.

In addition, I learned a new appreciation for the capabilities of edged weapons in a defensive role. Knife fighting is up, close, personal, violent, and bloody business. It is absolutely something you do NOT want to engage in unless you have absolutely no other option. You are not insulated by distance in a knife fight – it all happens inside of two arms reach. There is no mercy from a blade – it will cut to the bone and pierce to the vital organ faster than you can imagine. Incapacitation comes from blood loss – a LOT of blood loss – or from starvation of oxygen due to a slashed wind pipe or punctured lung.

Of course, I also subsequently learned that the knife IS a viable secondary weapon to the handgun, or even as a primary weapon in non-permissive environments. A very capable blade can be in the form of an innocent looking folder in the pocket, a fixed-blade boot knife, or a hefty blade carried in a centerline position, easily accessible with either hand – and the carry options are almost limitless (though some modes of carry make for much easier access and presentation than others).

Lastly, I confirmed that, just like my choice in defensive firearms, I want my blade to be as simple to operate as possible. The guys using folding knives in this class, no matter how good they became with their presentation, simply couldn’t deploy and utilize the weapon as quickly as the guys using the fixed blade knives (all else being equal). There were times where even the assisted-opener models failed to open due to a minor mistake in the draw stroke or due to catching on some clothing. That never happened with any of the fixed blade models. They came out of the sheath ready to fight every time.

In closing, Steve Collins, once again, proved himself to be a capable and diverse instructor. He brings a deep level of experience and expertise, and always presents the material in an easy-to-understand format with a realistic level of humility and the right amount of seriousness.

As to the coursework itself, I believe it is well suited for the novice like me. Just like nearly any other discipline, there are certain fundamental skills and concepts a person must learn first before moving on. This class provided me with those fundamentals. I didn’t leave the class a knife fighting expert (nor was I supposed to), but I did leave with the confidence and competence to start carrying an edged weapon in a role that surpasses that of a common pocketknife/utilitarian mode. I will be looking forward to hosting and attending this class again, hopefully sometime next year, as a way to reinforce what I learned and as a way to evaluate the progress I’ve made.

As always, stay safe!

Chris Shoffner
M.A.P.S.I. Founding Member

Review – AAR Long Range Shooting with Jim See 9/19/2015


The very, very short version . . . what a fun day!!! Made solid hits at 435y and 500y and tagged a 16” steel plate at 800y a couple of times. Jim See is a very good instructor that is well worth your time and money! So, let’s spend some time on the details. This feels like a long post so grab an adult beverage and settle in!

I want to address this AAR in a couple different chunks.

What is the definition of “long range” shooting?

My weapon of choice. Why the heck are you shooting a short barreled .308 carbine? Increasing the accuracy of the LM-308 platform. Why replace the trigger group? Why that scope? Why a scope level? Why that bipod? What round for familiarization and what round for the coursework?

I want to chat a bit about Jim See, provide some links to his company and the company he shoots for and finally, an evaluation of his teaching style.

Homework. While I’ve spent time in the past reading about LR shooting and rifle shooting techniques – I really hit the books/videos/websites prior to start of this course. Let’s spend some energy on these resources as a starting point.

Sure Shot range is newish to our area – I’d like to spend some time on describing the range, its facilities and capabilities.

Finally, we’ll roll through the day – both classroom and range work. It was a busy day and while one might think the round count was a bit on the light side (I shot around 50 rounds) the learning that went on awesome.

What is Long Range Shooting?

It seems to be that the right answer to this is “whatever I say it is!” If you talk to most hunters it seems to be anything over 350 yard-ish. That is the most distant range it seems most are willing to say they are confident of making a solid kill shot on an animal. Of course there are those hunters who really work at their craft that will push this out to 400, 500 maybe even 600 yards. All that said, once these folks cross 350 yards, most see it as long range shooting.

Then there are the target shooters who typically practice at 500 yards and beyond with 1,000 yards plus just being part of their shooting distance. For these folks those distances beyond 500 yards would be defined as long distance shooting.

And then there are the real competitors – like Jim See. They shoot everything from 100 yards to 1,000+ yards. They are all simply part of the work that needs to be done. When I listened to Jim talk he put as much effort into the 100 yard shot as the 800 yard shot that we all had the chance to work on. I’m not sure he even thinks about “long range” – he’s more interested in bullet dope, ranges, elevations, wind direction, wind speed. I simply see Jim as a real, honest to goodness “shooter” regardless of the distance.

For me, I’m going to toss my hat in with those that feel that 350 yards or more is “long range”. My reasoning? It was quickly apparent that at the 500 yard distance wind was a tremendous factor and making the hit became much more a factor of being able to read the wind and compensate “on the fly” than being able to have a solid hold for elevation at the shooting distance. Your definition may well differ – no worries.

My weapon of choice.

Why the heck are you shooting a short barreled .308 carbine? Increasing the accuracy of the Panther Arms AP4 platform. Why that scope? Why a scope level? Why that bipod? What round for familiarization and what round for the coursework?

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My weapon for the day was a Panther Arms AP4. This is my “heavy” rifle that was purchased primarily with personal defense in mind. Should the wheels come off in a truly big way, and defense of family and friends becomes a high priority, this type of platform is one I am familiar with, the cartridge is large enough to do real work over long distances and it also provides a solid hunting rifle should food gathering become a priority. (ok, tin foil is going back in the box . . .) Would I consider this a long range precision rifle? Probably not at first blush but after yesterday’s coursework I have no doubt that I can make a solid first round hit out to 500 yards easily provided all my fundamentals are solid.

I did do some work to enable me to be more accurate with my AP-4. First I added a front tripod. I mounted a Harris Bipod #5 Adaptor to the barrel guard. This involved drilling an appropriate sized hole centered on the bottom to the front guard just over 2-inches back from the front edge. I inverted the rear plate, slipped it inside the guard and screwed the mounting bracket through the guard and into the rear plate. This was a simple process requiring around 20 minutes.

Harris Bipod #5 AR-15 Bipod Adaptor

Next I added a Harris S-BRM tripod. This had a number of advantages. The mounting plate “rocks” left and right so I could level the weapon once I was in my shooting position insuring I was level when I broke my shot. The extendable legs also have locking segments on both legs allowing me to “click” in each leg to identical lengths quickly and easily. Finally, just their reputation – they are widely acknowledged as making one of the best bipods on the market.

Harris S-BRM Hinged Bipod

The stock trigger on the AP4 is “stiff” and somewhat variable from time to time. Replacing the trigger group with a more reliable one seemed a no brainer. I chose the Timney AR-10 4lb trigger pull group. Installation was very easy due to the trigger group being fully assembled in a solid aluminum housing. It required less than 20 minutes to remove the old trigger and drop in the new one. This is probably the single most important upgrade that I made on the weapon – it made a tremendous difference in my ability to shoot accurately.

Tinmey AR-10 4lb trigger assemply

Honestly, I could have chosen a better scope had I looked a few years into the future. I wasn’t thinking “long range shooting” or having to correct on the fly for variable winds. My mind set was much more in a close range, defensive shooting POV, with hunting as a backup need. My choice was the Nikon 6320 Prostaff 3-9x 40mm Matte Riflescope with a BDC reticle. The final result on the range though was nicely surprising. We’ll talk about this in more detail but by way of explanation our “final exam” was three 14×14 plates at 435 yards, 2 rounds on each plate in 30 seconds. I dialed in the dope on the scope, bagged up and was quickly rewarded by two solid first plates. After that I just lost it . . . but it was me, not the weapon or the scope. To mount the scope to the picatinny rails I used TMS Heavy Duty 1” mounts. Again, in hindsight there are much better choices I could have made but I have no room to fault the way the mounts performed during this course. To insure my scope was level, I added a Vortex Scope Level. While shooting at longer ranges a scope that has a slight cant to it can significantly impact the hit by a number of inches. The Vortex scope was solid insurance.

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600   Scope Mount 2

VORTREX Scope Level

Finally, I added a combination of rear shooting bags that allowed me a range of adjustment from around 2 inches all the way up to around 10 inches. The idea of these are that you gently squeeze them for final adjustments of elevation before you press the trigger. If you rely on muscle control to provide a stable platform, over time you will see tremors in your scope because your muscles become tired. Using a good bipod and a set of rear bags help insure you have a stable platform before you break your shot. They definitely make the difference when shooting at these types of ranges.

I used two types of ammunition in preparing for the course and actually shooting during the course. For the precourse work I used Winchester .308 150 gr power point. It was very consistent throughout the 100-ish rounds I fired in preparation for the course. For the actual course work I used Hornady’s 178 gr, BTHP match cartridge. Its performance was flawless and the dope for the scope was very precise when dialed it in for 435 yards.

Let’s chat about Jim See . . .

Jim is the owner/operator of Center Shot Rifles LLC of Decorah, Iowa. He is also a team shooter for Surgeon Rifles. He has two PRS season wins in 2015 with his most recent being a first place finish in the 2015 Heatstroke Open. In the 2015 Precision Rifle Series Jim is currently ranked 6th nationally. When he picked up his team gun and demonstrated specific things he wanted to clarify, it became quite apparent that his national ranking is well earned.

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I arrived at the range a bit early just as John – the owner – was preparing to take our zero targets downrange to the 100y berm. Hands were shaken and introductions were made . . . and conversations began. I found Jim to be one of those instructors that are open, willing to talk, willing to share, intent on making sure everything he said and intended to pass on was understood. If any of us had a question he paused, thought a second or two and then jumped into as detailed a description as was needed to make sure the question was fully answered.

John is personable, obviously knowledgeable and has the ability to take what he knows and accurately share it with his students. He is NOT a “do it this way because I said so” but much more a “this works for me because . . . see if it works for you” kind of guy. He is a solid, clear, direct and experienced shooter and instructor. If you get the opportunity to take coursework from him, do it, without hesitation!


As I have said earlier, I am not a long range shooter. That does not mean in any way that I can’t become a long range shooter. Once I signed up for Jim’s course I “hit the books”. I began looking for foundational material. Since all the work was to be done in the prone position I looked for long range schools that published written material or provided online videos on how they taught this position. There is a lot of very good information out there and the vast majority of it tracked with what Jim taught.

I also ordered and watched the first 2 DVDs of MAGPUL’s “Art of Precision Rifle”. I must say I learned a great deal of the fundamentals from the first 2 DVDs and will make sure the remaining 3 are viewed in the next few weeks. There is nearly 10 hours of information in this series.

I also spent a fair amount of time on the JBM Ballistics website learning about how the bullets I was shooting would act over the 500 to 800 yard distances we would be shooting. They have a tremendous amount of information free for the taking – it is well worth the effort to spend some time on their website.

And, finally, spent a fair amount of time making sure I understood both the MOA and mil dot ranging systems. My scope is MOA but what I found was that while Jim was giving wind corrections, he invariable gave it in tenths of a mil dot. There in great value in understanding both systems well before you attend a long range school. As an intro to mil dot, Trijicon has as good an introduction as any out there.

There are dozens of ballistic calculator apps out there for smart phones. I have a Samsung Note3 that runs the Android OS. I chose the Strelok Pro app to use for this course. It’s very comprehensive allowing you to define specific guns, it has the ability to download specific cartridges and bullets, let’s you connect to local weather via the internet and provides clear doping information at the touch of a button. I’ll do a more comprehensive review later but I found that the Strelok Pro gave quick and accurate data.

Sure Shot Range and Gunsmithing

John Fetzer is the owner of Sure Shot. He built it on his farm in rural Iowa near Mount Auburn. It has been a work in progress over the past few years and currently has a 5-10 lane 50ft pistol bay with berms on three side, a set of steel plates located at 435 yards, 500 yards, 800 yards and two zeroing berms at 100 yards and 200 yards. He has a nice heated shooting building that allows full access to all these ranges during the winter and a heated classroom to round out his facilities. John is a friendly guy and quickly made all 8 students in this course feel like they were visiting a friend . . . which turned out to be exactly the case by the end of the day. He had a plentiful supply of water throughout the day and provided fixings for ham and cheese sandwiches during lunch.

The target group at 800 yards is new and we were essentially the first group to shoot on that part of the range. In Iowa there are very few ranges that offer targets at these distances. I suspect Sure Shot and John will see a pronounced increase business as word gets out about his facility. If you are in eastern Iowa and are looking for a great range to visit, give John a call!

Finally . . . to the course!

The day was an ambitious day! I’m not sure what Jim’s expectations were, but he was presented with a mixed bag of shooters that ranged from very new rifle shooters to one shooter who cleaned the dueling tree at 500 yards. The rifles we brought – and their associated optics – also varied a great deal as well. The criteria for the course was a rifle capable of shooting a 1-1.5 MOA group. So the specifications were a bit “loose”. Bottom line, by the end of the day – regardless of the weapon – we all were getting hits on the plates at 500 yards with we weapons we brought. At the 800 yard plates a couple got hits with the weapons they brought or, we were able to use Jim’s match gun – again, we all got at least a couple hits on the “large” plate – 16”.

John competes in the Precision Rifle Series and is a competitive shooter for Surgeon Rifles. Prior too many of the matches Jim offers a “Train-Up” course for the shooters. Much of what he covers was presented to us as the coursework for the day. His outline looked like this . . .

· Equipment preparation

  • Position Building
  • Wind Negotiations
  • Elevation Corrections
  • Performance evaluation! How to become a better shooter.
  • Corrective Action!

While the classroom time was limited to about 2 hours it was packed with information covering rifle selection, optics, bipods, rear bags, the prone position, using the rear bag, gripping the weapon, proper finger placement on the trigger, trigger press, position building from everything from prone through cattle gates – it was comprehensive to say the least.

He also covered various types of range equipment, the Kestrel weather station, the JBM website and how to print dope charts for your specific cartridge and bullet, the use of ballistic phone apps to name just a few pieces of gear.

He also integrated stories from his various competitions to make specific points about everything from building positions when presented a wide variety of shooting problems to how to approach a competition and get the most out of each specific stage.

Jim knows his stuff, shared freely and I left the lecture portion much clearer on many aspects of what would be expected of us during the course of the day.

To the range

Our first stop was the 100 yard range – the shortest we would shoot all day . . . and the longest I had ever shot. We were asked to bring 9 rounds with us and we were each given a target with three diamonds on them.

I was asked to get into the “proper” prone position – directly behind the gun with the barrel drawing a line that passes slightly to the left of my right heel. I adjusted the legs of my front bipod, placed the rear bags and squeezed to come up on target. Honestly, this position was profoundly uncomfortable and I found I rushed my shot. After a couple rounds Jim just asked if it was comfortable to shoot this way – “Nope.” Said I. Then he just asked me to get comfortable – so I moved my body a bit more to the left, snugged in and found a comfortable spot. Full disclosure here – I’m a bit of a “big guy” meaning I carry far more in my gut than I care to admit. Even “comfortable” was a bit of a stretch but I could stay on target, quiet my breathing and obtain a solid sight picture and sight alignment. Obviously I need to work with this much more, but I was surprised that I actually found a spot the worked as well as it did.

Jim made a 2-click adjustment on my windage, had me send a couple more rounds – and came to the realization the issue was my positioning, not a scope adjustment. He took it off – now it’s back to the zero I came with – tweaked my position and I was done.

THIS . . . THIS RIGHT HERE . . . is why in person coursework from a knowledgeable shooter is important. All the videos you want to watch, all the books you want to read will not get you to where an instructor will put hands on you and work with your position behind the gun, fix the weld in your shoulder, work with the way you are gripping the pistol grip and refine how you place your finger on the trigger. THAT WHOLE PROCESS IS PRICELESS and simply cannot be accomplished via video – it needs a human touch!

Finally, we were off to the 500 yard line. THE 500 YARD LINE?!?!?!? I gotta admit my head did a bit of a holy crap!! I took out my Strelok Pro ballistic app on my phone, punched in 500 yards and touched the “reticle” button. This showed me what my reticle placement should be on the target 500 yards away.

When it was my turn I took up my prone position on the concrete pad, loaded on command and placed the spot on my reticle dead center but just off the left edge of the target. Then I sent a round down range – I missed left and low. Jim had me adjust to place the reticle centered and on the top edge . . . and I got 6 hits out of the remaining 8 rounds. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. To say I was pleased with myself . . . would also be an understatement.

We rotated 3 shooters at a time. This is the other thing that in invaluable in a live class vs just watching a video . . . you get to see how the instructor corrects other shooters, what suggestions he makes, how he makes “calls” to adjust elevation and wind (which was gusting throughout the day). And, you get to ask the “why” and “how come” questions as he does it. Let’s just say much learning – on the part of everyone – occurred.

Three of us brought AR platform guns and Jim wanted to make sure we had a chance to shoot a “real gun” (meaning bolt action) so he allowed us to run a half dozen rounds down his 6.5mm Creedmore competition rifle. Ever go from a Jeep (my gun) to a Corvette? Yeah . . . it was like that. So I got just a bit cocky and asked to try the dueling tree. I got 2 of the 6 plates. Jim wanted to “check his gun” so he settled behind his gun and cleaned the plates in about 15 seconds . . . obviously it wasn’t the gun! But just working his gun with his Vortex mil dot scope, his 16 ounce trigger pull . . . like I said, Jeep vx Corvette.

This brought us to lunch time. We all made sandwiches and ate while we chatted about the day so far, heard stories from Jim’s PRS competitions and then started to talk about building positions that are not “standard” . . . cattle fences, concrete walls, telephone poles, steel barrels, vehicles . . . and what it takes to get your gun stable enough to take that kind of shot.

Back to the range

We then moved to the 800 yard range. With my Prostaff scope and the AP4 combination, my weapon pretty much topped out at 600 yards with a 100 yard zero. Jim allowed all of us to send half dozen rounds down range at the 800 yard target set. They ranged in size from a 16” circle to an 8” circle (I believe). Jim went first and within one round just beat the small plate to death. Pretty darn impressive!

My turn brought my big “ah-ha” moment for the day. I was having a hard time even hitting the large plate – I kept hitting left – so far that I actually hit the small plate to the left. Then the light bulb when off – and I felt just plain stupid. When Jim made the wind call . . . I was holding off to the opposite side. No idea why I was doing this but my “head math” was just the opposite. Once I realized that, with his competition gun, my rounds dropped right on the large plate. I made an 800 yard shot. Again, pretty darn happy with myself.

Once we had all rolled through the 800 yard targets – with many doing VERY well, we moved on to non-standard shooting positions. Jim demonstrated telephone poles, steel barrels, barrels with the top cut out, cement walls and barricades . . . all with the fundamental idea that stability of the weapon is paramount. And, he demonstrated any number of ideas on how you would go about getting that job done!

Finally, it was our “test exercise” where we could put all of this together. Our shooting exercise was to put 2 rounds on each of 3 plates at 435 yards while building a position on top of a blue barrel. For this I used the Strelok Pro calculator to calculate that at 435 yards, with my cartridge and bullet, I had a 9” drop – exactly. I dialed it into the elevation turret and loaded my magazine with 6 rounds and waited my turn.

When you came up to the barrel you had about a minute to build your position with an empty weapon. Once done your took your weapon to port and waited for the starting buzzer. When it was my turn I adjusted the legs on the bipod, Jim suggested I slip a bag under the magazine and I squeezed the bag, the crosshairs rested directly center target . . . I was ready to go. I took the weapon to port and waited to the start of my 30 second run. “standby” . . . BEEP!

I loaded the magazine, set the bipod on the barrel, put the bag under the magazine, squeezed the bag until the crosshairs were on the target . . . and pressed the trigger. “HIT!!” I hear. Repeat. “HIT!!” Now I shift left one plate . . . and I just completely lost it! I could not hit squat again to save my soul. I sent 4 rounds down range – at the largest target I might add – without a single hit. Couple thoughts on this – I obviously let the “time” issue grind on me. And I forgot what I harp on to every single student – make each shot “deliberate”. I obviously opted for speed over good sight alignment, sight picture. I get it . . . which is yet one more VALUE OF LIVE COURSE WORK! As you watch videos of training for any type of shooting – including long range rifle shooting – it is all too easy simply seeing yourself making each and every hit that guy in the video is making. Sadly, life does not work that way. Standing behind a barrel, in a live course, with 9 other people watch just you . . . is a much better test that leaning back in your recliner as you watch a shooter in a video make hit after hit after hit . . .

And with that I had to leave about 15 minutes early. It was a great day! I proved out my weapon system, it will do the type of work I want it to do. I will more than likely upgrade the optic but for a $150 piece of glass I have no complaint at all. I’m happy with the rifle and while there are certainly more appropriate rifles for long distance – I will stay happy with the AP-4 for the time being.

Again, many thanks to John Fetzer of Sure Shot for his time and the use of his facility and many thanks to Jim See for a day of learning that’s, frankly, hard to get. Jim, it was great getting to know you, you ran a great and very informative class, and I look forward to your next visit to your next course offering.

And that folks, is that. If you have the opportunity to take coursework from Jim . . . send a check tomorrow! You’ll meet a truly nice guy and learn a great deal from a real shooter.


Bill Keller,

Just the Basics – Prep for a Long Range Shooting Class


I’m preparing for a long range shooting class in about 2 weeks. As I’ve said in the past, I’m not a real long range rifle shooter, it’s just not my thing. That said, the opportunity to take a class from someone who has competed and succeeded on a national level . . . how could I pass that up. So, I’ve been working on getting my AP-4 prepped and ready to go. I’ll go through all of that, as well as an AAR on the course once it’s complete.

That said there was a local guy who is also taking the course. He’s the employee of a friend of mine who runs a local gun store. He’s a young guy and has virtually no experience at all in sighting in his rifle using a scope so my friend asked me to give him a hand. I was more than happy to do so.

His rifle is a FNAR .308 with a Burris 4.5-14 scope and a bipod. I have no experience with this particular gun – in fact neither does the shooter – so we jumped in together. It is a magazine fed, piston driven weapon with an AR style grip and a 20” barrel with a 1:12 right-hand twist. We would literally be sending the very first rounds down range.


Burris Droptine 45-14

“Zeroing my gun” has become one of my pet peeves at my local range. Seems like every time I see a shooter at the bench and I ask him what task he had set himself/herself today . . . it’s “zeroing my gun”. Oh . . . and I’m starting at the 100yard bench . . . heavy sigh. So with this shooter I had a clean slate and someone truly willing to learn . . . the session was just plain fun!

I’ve completely jumped on the 10yard zero bandwagon. I’ve written about it when I used it for my backup .223 prior to my CFS carbine course in June. I’ve also used it a number of times since. For today’s session I used the same target I use for the .223 but added a hash mark approximately .86 inches below the POA. If you run the ballistics on a 150 grain .308 cartridge at 10 yards the bullet is .86 inches below a 100yard zero. So that was our starting point. Take a quick look at the image reflecting our initial efforts . . . holy crap what a piss poor start!!! The hits were so bad I covered the backer board with a SEB target so I’d have some idea where the hell the rounds were hitting . . . from only 10 yards away. Are you shittin’ me???

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You can see the first group of rounds on the far right edge of the target. And, you can see the results of my crankin’ on the Windage and elevation as I walked it left . . . and up . . . and tried to get the damn thing down. WTF over?????? Finally I just STOPPED . . . and looked . . . as the shooter did as well. “Ya know, that scope just doesn’t look right.” he says. Sure enough, it does look cockeyed. A closer examination showed that the front mount for the scope was more than a little catawampus. So, into the tool kit and out with the torx set. I loosened the scope, reseated and tightened everything.

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PRESTO!! We were back in the game. After about 6 rounds I changed targets and with another six we were pretty well shooting out the hash mark. Moral of the story . . . do now ASSUME your new gun has been set up properly . . . check it carefully from top to bottom.

Next we moved to the 100yard range. I posted 4 targets down range, set up my spotting scope and spent some time working on his position at the bench.

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Butt of the stock pulled firmly into his shoulder, cheek welded behind the scope, rear bag under the butt of the stock for fine vertical adjustment. And we were ready to shoot. If you look at target #1 (top left) you will see the results. Our work at 10yards got us on paper with the first 3-round group high and right. Our first adjustment moved us pretty much on as far as Windage and our 3rd completed elevation with two of the three rounds painting just over a 1 MOA group center target. We made no more adjustments to the scope from this point on. Next we worked on the shooter.

Even shooting out to 100yards minute body movements can easily affect your shot. So we worked on things in stages. On targets 2 and 3 we focused on body position, bringing the weapon into his body, use of a rear shooting bag and trigger press. The improvement in shot placement is obvious with 2 of the 3 rounds it both cases being about 1 MOA. If you are working with a new distance shooter . . . there is no need to adjust the gun if you see results like this . . . it’s the shooter that’s throwing that 3rd shot. Next we worked on the final two components – breath management and follow through. I specifically use the work “management” because you CAN’T CONTROL YOUR BREATHING! You can work with it, you can be aware of it, you can manage it . . . but you can’t control it.

My preferred method is to “pause” for an additional second or two on the exhale part of my breathing cycle. I know some like to pause at the peak of breathing in. And a number of other options as well. I teach what I do, what can I say. So, for the 4th target we focused on bringing it all together. I kept up a running “reminder” conversation . . . position, use of the rear bag, good sight picture, smooth trigger press straight to the rear, follow through between each shot . . . his results were gratifying, two rounds touching and one just over one MOA away.

Not bad for a fellow had never shot this particular rifle/scope combination. For a fellow who’d never shot a scoped rifle period. For a fellow who had no idea what “Moment of Angle” even meant. For a fellow who had never used a bipod and rear bag. For a fellow who had never sighted in a rifle. Not bad!

So, after the final three rounds it was a wrap . . . until we take the course in a couple weeks. A few final thoughts.

If you are starting something new and need a hand . . . ask. His comment was that if he’d come out by himself he would have probably started his zero process at 100yards. Since he couldn’t hit paper at 10yards, can you imagine what his frustration level would have been? Find a friend, find an instructor who can take a bit of time and share what they know with you.

Do not assume your new gun was fully prepped. A poorly mounted scope caused us to waste a dozen round or more . . . look things over really well before you send rounds down range.

There are dozens of bits and pieces that need to work well to place accurate shots at ranges of 100yards and beyond. Your shooting position. The use of a bipod and shooting bag instead of your muscles. Good equipment. Smooth trigger press. Good follow through. Breath management. And the patience and focus to do this over and over and over and over . . . It takes a bit of time and rounds down range to put this all together. You are not going to be a “shooter” after a single range trip, that simply is not going to happen.

But, with time and dedication and focus – you will be surprised how quickly groups will tighten.

As I said earlier . . . I do not see myself as a long range shooter . . . or even a 100yard shooter. But, after a couple weeks of real effort I gotta say it’s kinda cool! As for Trent . . . he’s going to spend some range time over the next week or so to polish things a bit. Then he’s going to join me and 6 other shooters and learn from a real expert. Our max distance will be 500yards . . . sounds like fun.

Good job Trent!


Bill Keller

Founding member M.A.P.S.I.

Just the Basics – “Three to five rounds, High Center Mass”


My purpose, when I head to the range for a couple hours work, is to keep my defensive shooting skills as sharp as I can. Range time for me is limited by both time and money. I’d love to shoot every day – I can’t. Few can. So, when I do carve out a block of time I go with purpose.

To do this I employ a couple tools. First is the target with my long term favorite being the LE SEB target. Yet there are many others available – some that show internal organs, some specific to local police training academies, some simply “popular” like the B-27 and some favored like the FBI Q target. All have value, all have uses.

Target 2 (Mobile)   Target 1 (Mobile)b-27e-black_La (Mobile)   ILEA-Q_L (Mobile)q-wh_L (Mobile)

The second tool I use are drills that I record on my cell phone and then play via my phone’s Bluetooth earpiece. There are 10 drills that run 30 seconds each. This is typically enough to execute the shooting portion, complete a scan/assess and the reset for the next drill. On the “up” or “fire” or “threat” command I execute 3-5 rounds “High Center Mass”. On a number/shape command I execute a single precise shot. What I’d like to focus this particular post on – the idea of “High Center Mass”.

While we all pray that there is never a need to draw a defensive weapon to protect ourselves, our family or someone in our charge – the reality of today’s world is that our prayers man not be answered. Past that there is a continuum of possibilities as to what may happen. We may well be able to escape a confrontation – best way to win a gunfight is to not get into one. This should be our very first choice.

Should that be impossible the next best thing would be for the individual acting as the threat seeing a drawn defensive weapon and decide it would be best if they beat a hasty retreat.

Should those options not be available – we may well find ourselves in a situation where we need to shoot to stop the threat. This, in itself, is a source for multiple posts and not the purpose of this particular post. Again, let’s focus on the words “High Center Mass” and define that more clearly.

Once you engage a threat the best for all involved is to end the fight quickly. One option, in very specific cases, is a head shot. I have covered that in depth here and do not to address again in this post. The second option is very frequently taught as “3 to 5 rounds “High Center Mass”. On most range targets listed in this post there is some kind of outline or indicator what your point of aim should be. In the real world it’s difficult to get a threat to pause while you spray-paint an outline of the area you wish to shoot. Hence the phrase “High Center Mass”.

The importance of this area is that it is a confluence of the three major systems that allow a human body to function – the nervous system, the respiratory system and the circulatory system. In this location on the human body all three converge. Your ability to put solid hits in this region quickly and accurately is your best chance at quickly stopping the fight. The problem is that many times it’s difficult to merge the work we do on well-drawn targets with the real world of shirts, jackets, parkas and other cover garments. In real life, how do we find High Center Mass? Well, perhaps if we “drill down” a bit we can do that.

Body Composite 3

Image 1 shows the area I mean when I say the words “High Center Mass”. Put the bottom of your palm centered between the nipples with your fingers extending upward. This is roughly equal to the 4”x6” box that is popular on some targets. On a covered person this spot is located approximately half way between the elbow and the shoulder.

As we “drill down” through skin and muscle and bone you can see that this 4”x6” region provides you an opportunity to do real damage to all three systems – stopping the fight as quickly as is possible. In the best of cases – this should be your primary “go to” spot on the threat.

The next time you go to the range – take a look at how your practice, the drills you run, the targets you use. Are they the best you can get to work on your defensive skills? Are you clear on what you must do to stop a threat? Do you know what “High Center Mass” means and can you consistently hit that region at typical defensive distances?

If your answer is a firm yes . . . As Han said – “Don’t get cocky . . .” Keep working on your shooting skills and keep them sharp. And, if you can’t – make finding some good coursework part of your training goal over the next year.

One other disclaimer here as well – defensive shooting covers a broad range of possibilities. This is but one, a “perfect” one that all too many people limit themselves to. Make sure your training involves a good assortment of training scenarios that will enable you to widen your skillset.


Bill Keller

Founding Member M.A.P.S.I.

Review – New LEO Firearms Training AAR

A number of months ago a friend who is the primary training officer for our community’s police force gave me a call. They were in the process of reworking our town’s reserve officer corps, adding some new fulltime officers and he was interested if I would like to “play”. Take a guess at my answer . . .

So, a mini phone interview began covering everything from my firearms training to my military experience. He liked what I heard – and so did I! Then there’s was a bit of a pause . . .

Officer E: I gotta ask Bill, just how old are you anyway??

There’s a bit of a pause on my side also . . .

ME: mumblemumblemumblemumble . . . 65

Officer E: Damn . . . really?? You don’t look that old!!

So, while my ego was given a bit of a shot, the mandatory retirement age for LEOs in Iowa is 65. Heavy sigh . . . seems I had reached my expiration date! Crap!!!

Officer E: Well, we still can use a hand with the range work and training of the new officers – are you interested in helping us out?

Does a bear crap in the woods? Does the sun set in the west? Is “Star trek 4” the best frickin’ movie ever made?????

So, a few weekends ago I found myself in a large local quarry with Officer E and his other trainer Officer B getting ready to work 6 new members of our local police force through their training course of fire – 800 to 1000 rounds – including the requirement of shooting two consecutive qualification scores on the Iowa ILEA qualification course of fire. It’s a 50 round course of fire with a required 80% to pass. The target is a standard FBI “Q” target and a “hit” is a hole inside the silhouette on the target. The distances used for the final course of fire were 25y, 15y, 7y, 5y and one arm’s length. Also included were combat reloads, tactical reloads and clearing any malfunctions that happened along the way. If you’d like to see the actual course of fire, you can find the document here.

The students included a number of individuals who had been reserve officers in other communities, a former Marine, a security officer from a local nuclear plant and a fellow who hand shot a revolver 20+ years ago. They were required to conduct the training in full gear – duty belt and vest and have a total of 3 magazines on their person.

Day 1 began with a range brief and then working through a predefined set of drills designed to familiarize the new officer with each of the 4 shooting positions. We began close in and then worked our way back. The round count for the “training” portion was approximately 600 rounds with another 200 set aside for qualification rounds. They were required to shoot 4 qualification rounds and pass 2 of them consecutively.

We did catch a couple of breaks. It was a breezy day and it only got in the low to mid 80s. Not bad and since we were fairly deep in a rock quarry, it could have easily turned into an oven. Instead, it was reasonably comfortable.

I continually harp on “fundamentals” – be able to run your gun, be able to clear malfunctions, be able to consistently draw and drive to the threat, have a solid stance, have a firm grip, control your weapon and get the hits. Frankly getting the hits turned out to be the easiest part of the 2 days. The mechanics, the foundational work . . . that is what took the time and required the most focus over the course of two days.

By noon of the first day it was apparent that the new shooter simply needed to be taken aside. So Officer E took him off to our south and spent a number of hours working through the foundational stuff. With the remaining trainees – we simply “buffed, polished and waxed” their skill set. Some moved along faster than others but every one shot the drills, refined their skill set and, with the exception of two trainees – shot their two passing qualification rounds.

So what can we – as civilian shooters – draw from the training of law enforcement officers? A couple things.

Fundamentals matter. The basics, the foundation, the ability to draw, drive, engage, clear, reload – is the difference between life and death in a gunfight, for law enforcement officers as well as you, the civilian who has chosen to carry a defensive firearm.

Hits – good hits – count! “Fast is fine, but accuracy if final!” This particular topic is one of “those” rabbit holes that shooters and trainers love to talk about. But, in under all the discussion, your level of skill should allow you to get quick, accurate and effective hits at will. If you can’t – be honest with yourself and work on it! While a round mid-thigh may well change a shooter’s mind . . . they may well have all the time they need to place a solid shot in the middle of your chest. Work on it!

An officer can be called on to deliver an accurate shot over a broad range of distances. The qualification course of fire covers everything from 25 yards to and arm’s length. What distances are you training at? Can you get solid hits at 25 yards? How are your combat reloads? Can you run your gun? Again – be honest with yourself and work on it.

Finally, we ask our law enforcement officers – men and women – to put their lives on the line each and every day. They deserve our full support. Give it to them. And, should they find that some of your skills as an instructor may prove helpful to their training program – jump in and play! You will help them be able to better defend themselves, you’ll gain some solid friends and it will make you a better shooter.

Thanks for the invite E . . . looking forward to the night shoots!


Founding Member M.A.P.S.I.