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Old 04-13-2014, 6:27 PM
GNE GNE is offline
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Default AAR: Haley Strategic Adaptive Carbine 1 and D5 Handgun Shooting Science

I took the courses at Sacramento Valley Shooting Center. The carbine course was on March 11-13, and the handgun course was March 14-16. As a disclaimer, I am a civilian who recently got into seriously developing my shooting skills and have no prior formal training. As such, I am not in a position to fully evaluate how the techniques taught in the classes compare to those of other instructors or doctrines. Nevertheless, the techniques were presented in a logical manner with good supporting evidence for why they work and why a shooter would want to choose to use those techniques instead of other ones. Obviously, these observations are going to be colored by my personal opinions and other students may not see things the same way that I do.

This is going to be a rather detailed AAR, both for me to keep track of what went on as well as hopefully helping people in similar positions as me (newer shooters who have never been to a training class) to figure out what to expect and do. I took some fairly extensive notes on the materials that we covered in the classroom, but my recollection of the specifics of each drill that we did on each day at the range was a little fuzzy and started to blend together at the end of six days. I may have mixed up different events on different days of the course.

Personal Goals

As noted above, I am a relatively new shooter taking my first formal class. As a beginner, and informed by my experiences as a graduate student, I am painfully aware of the saying "I don't know what I don't know;" gaining more knowledge in general was my main goal for the class. I went into the class looking to learn more about the fundamentals of shooting, have an experienced instructor correct any flaws in my shooting that I hadn't been able to detect or fix so far, how to be able to better self diagnose problems in the future, and to have an opportunity to run some drills that I can't do normally at public ranges (e.g. rapid firing). A lot of people came in with more specific shooting goals in mind, such as working on shooting faster or having better trigger control, but there were several other people looking to make some general improvement as well.


The classes were taught by Travis Haley and Dale Hunter from Haley Strategic and were hosted by Wesley Lagomarsino, a Sacramento area firearms and CCW instructor. All three were professional, knowledgeable, and overall great guys to have as instructors.

I doubt Travis needs much introduction for anybody reading about firearms training on the internet. His catchphrases in the class are highly indicative of his approach to training: "be adaptive," "never be absolute" [except being absolute about not being absolute], and "thinkers before shooters" are all reflections of how he teaches the classes. He is vehemently against mindlessly following existing doctrine or techniques simply because that's what Organization X does or Instructor Y teaches. This includes the techniques that he was teaching us in the class. He would never tell us that his way of shooting was correct simply because it's the way he does it; in fact, he explicitly doesn't want us to do things because we think it's the "Travis Haley Shooting Method." Travis seems to easily go into what I would call "story time with Travis" mode, but his anecdotes and stories serve a purpose and contain useful information.

Dale was the other formal instructor. From the snippets I pieced together over the six days, his background includes working in the personal protection business and at an ammunition manufacturing company before going to Haley Strategic as an instructor. As expected, he is also a great shot. He did not talk nearly as much as Travis did, but given that Travis was the lead instructor that was also expected. Nevertheless, Dale was quick to answer any questions that we had and was just as helpful as Travis with diagnosing problems with our techniques on the range. Dale and Travis worked very well together as a team.

Wesley was the host of the class, who ended up being part student and part instructor. He was a sheriff's deputy for 8 years before leaving and founding his own firearms training school. As the host, he handled a lot of the logistical details for the course and did a good job of setting up the range for both classes (his friend Bill, who also attended the handgun class, was also a great help). Wesley provided some alternative viewpoints in the class and made himself available to answer shooting related questions if Travis and Dale were busy, but was pretty good about not stepping on Travis's or Dale's toes with regards to instruction. There was apparently some minor drama between him and a couple of the students in the carbine class over trading their ammo for PMC Bronze to shoot at steel targets that he had procured (we would give him approximately 200 rounds of whatever ammo that we had and he would give us the same number of rounds of PMC Bronze), but I wasn't privy to those conversations and won't cast judgment either way. I personally thought that preserving his targets was a valid reason to ask us to shoot a specific round and the trade was a fair deal.

Sign Up, Preparation, Logistics

I happened across the class list on the Haley Strategic website back in December 2013 and almost immediately decided to sign up for it. However, the sign up process was a bit convoluted, involving emailing the indicated address to get an auto response email with links to where to submit a deposit and some forms to fill out. Once all of that was completed, we waited for confirmation that we were signed up for the class, which took a while because they are typically swamped at the start of the year when they release their yearly course schedule. We were told that we would receive pertinent information about the course within two months of the course, but we only received information about when and where to show up at the weekend before the carbine class started. The handgun class got an email with a similar lead time. Communications definitely could have been better, but everybody managed to get to the class on time and everything ended up working out.

Very few (if any?) people flew into Sacramento to attend the classes. I personally drove to the range with all my gear in my car, I didn't have any problems involving transporting firearms on planes or mailing ammunition to the range. The round count for both classes was advertised at 1500. We stayed well within that number for both classes.

We had the option of catered lunch every day, which pretty much every student ended up taking. There are no food places anywhere near the range, so this was pretty useful. I was staying at a friend's house and could hypothetically have done a brown bag lunch for myself, but being able to catch up on sleep was definitely worth paying the $11 for a sandwich, drink, and chips. Wesley kept us well stocked with sports drinks and water, which was very helpful.


Both classes were held at the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center. The range facilities seem pretty similar to the other public outdoors ranges where I have shot before (Los Altos Rod and Gun Club, Sunnyvale Rod and Gun Club, Metcalf Gun Range, and South Bay Rod and Gun Club), although it seems like they have much more overall space than the San Francisco Bay Area ranges.

Both classes started the first day in a classroom, which was a small portable building with a projector and some desks and seats. Both class sizes were pretty large (20 in the carbine class and 23 in the handgun class, if I recall correctly). The portable was fairly cramped but serviceable.

The shooting portion of carbine class was held at a 200 yard range with concrete shooting benches where we could put our stuff, an overhead cover, rifle racks, and conveniently located restrooms. However, we spent most of our time downrange at the 7, 25, 50, and 100 yard lines, so we didn't get much use out of the shade.

The pistol class was held at a 100 yard range with no overhead shade or benches at the 100 yard line, but again we spent most of our time downrange between 3 and 25 yards. Both ranges are very wide, which helped a lot with maintaining good separation between students during our drills. As mentioned before, we had steel targets on the range to shoot at. There were sheriffs or corrections deputies shooting at neighboring ranges most of the time that we were there.

The weather was sunny and warm most of the time. We would start at 8:30am, when it was still around 50 degrees, but would warm up to around 70 degrees by early afternoon. Dressing in layers and liberal a application of sunscreen were both useful things. As far as I could tell, it was perfect weather for an outdoors shooting class.

Last edited by GNE; 04-13-2014 at 6:35 PM..
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Old 04-13-2014, 6:28 PM
GNE GNE is offline
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Carbine Class Makeup and Equipment

Surprisingly, the carbine class had no active duty law enforcement officers. We had a couple of active duty and retired military guys, but the majority of students were civilians with varying levels of experience. I was on the low end of the experience ladder, but there was no condescension from the other students. One guy thought that bayonet lugs were part of the California AW features list (it's not, refer to CA penal code 30515 or the Calguns AW Flowchart for the cliff notes version) and liked to talk a lot; the other students did end up asking him to stop talking a couple times. Other than that, there weren't any issues with the class members. The active and retired military guys had a bunch of stories about conducting raids in Iraq and Afghanistan, which all seemed to involve things like jumping over walls and landing neck deep in **** trenches, jumping over walls and getting hung up on trees for 40 minutes while the rest of the unit continued the raid, trying to breach a gate by driving a HMMWV into it but wrecking the HMMWV instead, and other epic disasters.

Most students were running AR-15's, either off-list lowers with bullet buttons or CA registered assault weapons. There were a variety of bullet button tools in use. Most had Aimpoints or Eotechs on their guns, but there were four people who were running ACOG's of some type. One of the people with an Aimpoint apparently had an issue where he was actually looking at the reflection of his red dot off the inside of the optic, as opposed to the red dot itself, when trying to zero his rifle on the first day. Travis and/or Dale eventually figured out what was wrong with it and helped him fix it. Most people showed up with rifles that were at least approximately zeroed in, but more on this later.

There were two guys who started out the class with AK platforms, but neither one lasted the class. One of the AK's had a lot of mechanical malfunctions of some sort. The other one was a featureless AK that looked remarkably similar to what Travis used in his Adaptive Kalash video, but fell victim to junk factory ammo (didn't catch the brand) where the manufacturer loaded .308 bullets into a 7.62x39mm casing. The bullets, being a smaller diameter than the barrel, ended up disintegrating as they went down the barrel, shredded the muzzle brake, and produced an approximately 4 meter wide pattern of fragmentation at 7 yards that not only hit the target directly in front of the rifle but the two adjacent targets as well.

The class seemed to be fairly evenly divided between single and two point slings, but as far as I can tell sling selection made no difference in this particular class. Most students used either a chest rig or a duty-type belt, with only a couple of students using padded belts. A couple of students also had plate carriers that they tried on a various points of the class.

Carbine Class Personal Equipment

I was the only student who brought a featureless AR-15. The rifle I used has a JD Machine Lower with an RRA lower parts kit and two stage trigger, a pinned Magpul STR stock, a Magpul BAD lever, a Defense Package standard throw ambidextrous safety, and an Exile Machine hammerhead grip set up in what Exile Machine refers to as a Type 3 configuration.

The upper receiver started out as a BCM BFH 16" mid length upper group. I replaced the A2 flash hider with a Parallax Tactical Paracomp, the standard FSB with a Parallax Tactical low profile gas block, and the BCM bolt carrier group with a Parallax Tactical NiB bolt carrier group, the standard BCM gunfighter charging handle with the ambidextrous version, and added a Parallax Tactical 13" keymod hand guard (I live in San Diego, and Parallax Tactical is the closest gun store to me).

Accessories included an Aimpoint T-1 with an IO cover on the Larue lower 1/3 cowitness mount, a Daniel Defense fixed front sight, a gen2 Magpul flip up rear sight, an X300 Ultra mounted at 12 o'clock in front of the fixed front sight, and an Ares Armor Husky Amentum two point sling using the QD sockets on the STR stock and on the Parallax rail. I was using gen2 and gen3 10/20 PMAGs. My main ammo for the class was American Eagle .223 and PMC X-Tac 5.56x45, in addition to the aforementioned PMC Bronze for shooting steel. I suffered no malfunctions in the course other than some minor magazine related issues and deliberately induced malfunction drills.

My primary source of ammunition was an HSGI padded belt with three HSGI stacked rifle/pistol taco pouches. I also had an IFAK and a pistol holster on the belt (I used the same belt in the pistol class). I also had an Ares Armor Aspis plate carrier with their double stacked shingle magazine pouch that holds six magazines, but only wore it briefly during the second day. The rest of my ammo supply ended up being stuffed in cargo pockets and carried around in a pair of ammo cans (one full of magazines, the other with rounds in boxes). I specifically use a padded belt because I only need to fasten it around my waist and am ready to go. In the unlikely scenario that I am going to be defending my house with a carbine and/or handgun, that would be faster than trying to strap into a chest rig or tuck magazine pouches into a belt. Similarly, my plate carrier is set up with one side already fixed, and all I need to do is throw it over my head and clip in the other side when I have the opportunity (granted, I am probably dead if "home defense" gets to this point).

Over the course, I noted several issues with my rifle and equipment, although none of them seriously inhibited my ability to participate in the class.
Because of the hammerhead grip, I cannot use my right thumb to manipulate the safety on the left side of the gun (hence the ambidextrous safety). During the class, Dale suggested I try either leaving my thumb on the right side of the gun when holding the grip and disengaging the safety with the thumb when bringing the rifle up, or using my index finger to sweep the safety as it moves into the trigger guard when bringing the rifle up. However, the safety is extraordinarily tight, meaning that I could not reliably sweep the safety with my index finger. Leaving my thumb on the right side of the gun was fairly consistent, but it is a movement that I would need to drill to be faster at, as I noticed I was fairly slow on timed drills involving bringing the rifle up and shooting into the center mass of a target. I am considering trying to modify the safety to make it looser as well as experimenting with the BADASS 45 degree throw safety to see if that would better facilitate the index finger sweep movement.

When walking around with the carbine slung directly in front of me with the bolt locked to the rear to show clear and not having any hands free, the carbine bounces around on the sling and occasionally the BAD lever will impact my body, disengaging the bolt catch. I did not try wearing a rifle with just the stock bolt release, so don't know if it could also happen to a stock lower. This isn't much of an issue, given that it only happens when slinging the carbine with the bolt locked to the rear, but I it might be a safety violation with more stringent instructors/ranges. Keeping a hand free to maintain control of the carbine is an easy solution.

Another set of issues related to the plate carrier. One problem was the two point sling getting hung up in the magazine pouches on the front of the plate carrier when I was running it, which was the main reason that I stopped using it. Also, fishing magazines out of the magazine pouches was a rather difficult process and not something I would want to try to do in a gunfight, even with practice. Open topped magazine pouches without the retaining loops might solve both those issues.

Additionally, the plate carrier inhibited shooting from a prone position given the amount of depth it has (approximately one inch thick plates and another two inches of double stacked magazines adds up). Given the difficulties associated with having stuff hung up in the double stacked magazine pouches, switching to a single stack pouch might be the solution.

Another issue with the carrier is that it forces a slight change to where I shoulder the rifle. I'm not sure there's an equipment solution to this, given my constraints of having a fixed stock (preventing me from simply collapsing it all the way and shooting off the carrier itself) and the size and cut of the plates being the main issue as opposed the nylon of the carrier getting in the way.

The 10/20 PMAGs were also an issue. I chose to use 10/20 magazines instead of 10/30 magazines because I thought there was no point in having the extra bulk of the 10/30s when limited to 10 rounds. However, Travis teaches using the magazine body as a monopod when shooting in the prone position. He does so with a standard 30 round magazine, which gets the rifle up to a comfortable height off the ground. Using the 10/20's forced me to get lower towards the ground to see through the optic, which caused greater strain when trying to do so. Another student lent me his 10/30 magazines, which actually made a large difference in my ability to shoot prone. Obviously, these issues were greatly magnified when wearing the plate carrier, as noted above.

Travis also is not a fan of the Magpul ranger plates, which are soft and prevent you from digging the rear edge of the magazine body into the ground when using it as a monopod support. I had used the ranger plates to give me a little more space to grab onto on the 10/20's, but given the advantages associated with using 10/30's for prone shooting, I may start switching to using 10/30's with standard floor plates.

Another issue with the 10/20 PMAGs was that the gen3 10/20 PMAGs have to be downloaded to 9 rounds in order to reliably seat on a closed bolt. There might be a solution involving sanding down the block before assembling the magazine to provide slightly more room for the rounds to travel downwards while preventing an 11th round from being loaded, but that would be something that would need to be done before importing those magazines to California. As mentioned above, my only rifle malfunctions in the class involved me trying to use fully loaded gen3 10/30 PMAGs; even if successfully seated in the rifle on a closed bolt, the magazine would cause feeding issues. Downloading the gen3 10/20 PMAGs to 9 rounds was the only solution available during the course.

Both types of 10/20 PMAGs would have issues falling free from the rifle during speed reloads, which is another reason to switch to 10/30's (either PMAG or USGI both fall free better, but USGI ones seem to perform better than the PMAGs in this case).

My last equipment related "issue" was a long-standing inability to use a single point sling on my rifle due to the hammerhead grip forcing my weapon hand thumb into a position that prevents the use of most endplate adapters. I don't know whether I would be better suited with a single or two point sling, but having read about the advantages and disadvantages of both I am at least interested in trying out a single point sling. I asked Travis what he would do to mount a single point sling on my rifle. After some head scratching, he suggested that I look for an end plate with a high mounted clip attachment that would allow me to clip the sling in at a point above where the thumb would go around the hammerhead grip. When I asked him if he knew of any manufacturers for that, he suggested GG&G. Somebody else who was listening in suggested that I look at Phase 5 as well. It turns out that GG&G offers Multi-Use Sling Adapter (MURP) and Phase 5 has a Revolving Sling Attachment Solution. However, neither one looks like a truly satisfactory solutions, as both still interfere somewhat with where the right hand thumb would go.
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Old 04-13-2014, 6:29 PM
GNE GNE is offline
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Other Equipment

I think I was the only person to be wearing kneepads (Arc'Teryx Military Knee Caps) and elbow pads (Alta Flex Elbow Pads), although several people had pants with built in kneepads. I'm not sure about everybody else in the class, but I would definitely not want to take a class involving any amount of kneeling or prone drills without kneepads. The kneepads needed periodic adjustment and sometimes would feel a little too tight but worked pretty well. They were especially useful during rapid transitions to the prone position.

The elbow pads were less essential, but still useful. Again, they were the most useful during the rapid transitions to the prone position, but by nature we use our hands more than the elbow to break the impact. I had no adjustment issues with the elbow pads, although wearing them on bare skin can cause chafing.

I also used the SKD Tactical PIG Alpha gloves (along with several other students), which as far as I am concerned perform exactly as advertised. The only issue I had is that it seems that the index fingers of my hands are longer than average, and my fingernails quickly wore a hole through the tip of the index fingers of the gloves.

I have recently had some ankle injuries and didn't know how much running/movement we would be doing or the type of terrain that we'd be on, so I made sure to wear a pair of boots for the class (Danner Melee 6" boot). The boots are very comfortable, but I could probably have gotten away with wearing regular running shoes like a lot of other people were wearing.

Finally, just to note in passing, make sure your pants are of decent quality if you want to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. I started the class wearing an old pair of cargo pants that I figured would end up getting destroyed in the class, but did not count on them ripping quite so spectacularly on the second day. Travis and Dale apparently had a good laugh at my butt.

Carbine Day 1

We started day 1 at the classroom, where we introduced ourselves. Travis had each student state their name, shooting experience, what they hoped to get out of the class, and one thing that they were good at. The last one forced us to conduct some self-examination as well as helping us get to know one another better.

After this, we spent a while talking about training mindsets and Travis's approach to the class. He teaches that we should focus on the processes in shooting, as opposed to immediately reaching for a specific goal (e.g. shoot X rounds in Y time at Z distance). Once we master the processes, the goal should come naturally. As mentioned before, Travis heavily emphasizes the intellectual side of shooting and understanding why we do things in certain ways as opposed to mindlessly following doctrine. As a part of this, he mentions going beyond the shooting community to look for ways to be a better shooter, including a lot of the biomechanics and neuroscience materials that we would go over later. He also heavily emphasizes having a good mindset; one of the better takeaway lines from the course was "don't go into a situation with the mindset of trying not to **** up, but rather go into it thinking that you are going to excel." The discussion touched on adult learning, instinctual behaviors, and his philosophy about shooting.

The next subject of discussion was what zero to use on the carbine. Travis is a big advocate of the 50 yard zero and, to a lesser extent, the 100 yard zero, while specifically disliking the 25 yard zero. His reason for this is that the 50 yard zero provides a combat effective zone of +/- an inch from 25 to 200 yards, with an 8 inch drop at 300 yards and only two holdovers: groin at 400 yards and feet at 500 yards. His way of doing holdovers is to simply imagine flipping the body part above the target's head. The 100 yard zero produces a slightly bigger combat effective zone of 3 inches up to 200 yards. At 300 yards, the bullet drops down 12 inches The holdovers are at the knees at 400 yards and beyond the feet at 500 yards. For CQB considerations under 25 yards, either one of these zeroes are useable by simply holding the red dot in the upper third of the combat effective zone, which is an 8 inch circle centered on the target's torso.

The 25 yard zero, on the other hand, requires holding under the target beyond 25 yards, with up to a 9" rise in the point of impact at 200 yards. This is contrary to the natural tendency to hold over the target. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that we would have to shoot at something beyond 25 yards. All these reasons are why he does not use the 25 yard zero. Travis was careful to accompany this with a disclaimer that his data was based on specific combinations of ammunition and barrels, so we would have to verify this for our own rifles and ammunition.

At this point, we covered what Travis calls the WRECS brief. W stands for weapons safety and handling (Travis uses a slightly modified version of Cooper's four rules). R stands for range considerations (commands, designated safe directions, loading areas, etc). E stands for environmental factors (make sure hydrate and use sunscreen for our class, but obviously would probably be different if the class was happening elsewhere). C stands for casualty and medical procedures (designated medic, how to contact 911). S stands for schedule (what are we going to do for the day).
We zeroed our rifles in at 50 yards, shooting at a 1 inch dot. Travis talked about the seven fundamentals of marksmanship (body position, stock weld and grip, sight alignment, sight picture, natural point of aim, breathing, and trigger control) during the course of zeroing our rifles. For me, the biggest thing was to focus on relaxing and pulling the trigger at natural respiratory pause.

After dialing in our zeroes on the single dot, we moved on to shooting at a piece of paper with four dots on it to help us learn about what happens with body position and natural points of aim. This was the point at which I started using borrowed 10/30 PMAGs for shooting in the prone, and noticed a substantial improvement in my groups. I don't know how much of that is actually due to the equipment change versus merely a "placebo effect" of having gear that Travis says is supposed to work better, but I think it actually helped.

After getting everybody's rifles zeroed in, we moved on to what Travis called combat effective target (CET) drills. Travis talked briefly about how body position, stance, and other biomechanical systems would all help us with these drills. We did the drills starting at the 7 yard line, starting at two rounds in two seconds from the high ready position and moving up to five rounds in the same amount of time. We slowly moved back to the 50 yard line. It was during these drills that I figured out that I had problems with my safety system.

We spent some time talking about bullet button systems, but covered them more in depth on day 3 when talking about reloading drills.

Carbine Day 2

We also started day 2 in the classroom. We started the day with a discussion about training mindsets. People tend to focus on the tactical, technical, and physical, but Travis argues that the cognitive parts of shooting are much more important. We also talked some more about mental preparation and how people react under critical stress, with the four options being fight, flight, posture, or submit. He also emphasized being careful about going with an immediate response to the situation, as that can lead to fighting the enemy's fight.

Next we covered biomechanical concepts and the details of the shooting positions that we did the previous day. The main takeaway points were to be efficient and relaxed in our movements and stances to reduce tension as well as trying to maintain straight lines (stronger than angles) in our stances. Travis presented several slides with three common shooting stances and how they work biomechanically. The first is the hunched shoulders, slightly crouched with butt sticking out, knees bent "tactical" stance. This is inefficient in its energy usage as well as being inherently unstable, as the recoil of the gun will push you back because the center of gravity is behind the legs. The second stance presented was the one where the shooter leans back, which is very poor for recoil control for obvious reasons. The final stance is one that looks a lot like a martial arts fighting stance, with the torso squared up to the target, shoulders relaxed, and legs naturally placed (for examples, you can look for more recent pictures of Travis). Travis argues that this stance is the most biomechanically efficient as well as the strongest for controlling recoil.

The shooting drills for the day involved confirming our zeroes at 50 yards and doing the zero dot drill again. We moved on to confirming our zeroes at 100 and 200 yards. Again, the main things for me were breathing control and relaxing during the zeroes. I also discovered (not surprisingly, due to my poor eyesight), that I had trouble seeing the center dot of the target at 200 yards. Travis suggested trying to mentally quadrant the paper instead. Ultimately, I found the best solution on day 3, which was to draw a pair of horizontal lines near the edges of the paper to give me a better reference point.

We proceeded to CET drills from 5 to 50 yards. At 7 yards, Travis introduced us to transitioning to the kneeling position. For adaptive shooting, not marksmanship, he advocates simply dropping straight down into the position with as little adjustment or movement as possible. He also does not suggest trying to settle into the position, as that prevents you from getting up and moving quickly. We also moved back to 100 yards and worked on transitions into the prone. The technique for the prone transition involves dropping down into a squat, placing the support hand on the ground outside of the knees, and then kicking both legs out behind you. This was where having knee and elbow pads were great.

The final drill of the day had us split in to two teams of 10 people in a sort of relay race. We started at the 100 yard line in a stack, where each person would have to make a hit on a steel target from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions before moving to the back of the stack. The first team to make it back to the 200 yard line would win the competition. In addition to further reinforcing the importance of relaxing and having solid shooting fundamentals, the main lesson learned from this drill was to dial down the brightness of the red dot optic down to the minimum setting, as the targets started to blend in with the background due to losing their paint after being hit dozens of times. I also discovered that shooting from the kneeling position without settling in is actually more difficult than shooting from the standing position because the body is more tense.

Wesley hosted a class dinner with Travis and Dale, which I wanted to attend but ultimately decided that being well rested for the next four days of class was going to be more important. Apparently attendance was fairly low.
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Old 04-13-2014, 6:29 PM
GNE GNE is offline
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Carbine Day 3

We spent the entire third day of the carbine class on the range. The first thing was again to confirm our zeroes at 50, 100, and 200 yards as well as working on some CET drills to warm up. After this, we covered speed and tactical reloads.

We then covered a variety of malfunctions. Travis is big advocate of problem solving instead of simply doing the tap-rack-bang drill every time. The big indication is what the trigger feels like; if the trigger clicks but nothing happens, a tap-rack-bang drill is probably appropriate. However, if the trigger is dead or mushy, that indicates malfunctions such as stovepipes, double feeds, and bolt overrides. In these malfunctions, a tap-rack-bang would simply be a waste of time or even make it worse.

We next moved into a series of movement and rapid firing drills. We started by practicing the 1-5 drill (three targets, one round into the first target, two into the second, three into the third, four into the second, and five into the first) in the static position first before doing off line of attack drills. Having a featureless rifle but no standard capacity magazines, I ended up borrowing magazines from Travis and another student (loans of "high capacity" magazines being legal as long as the lender stays nearby, per CA code 32415). We then practiced shooting at a steady rhythm, focusing on relaxing and consistency while building up the speed, before doing the same 1-5 drill including getting off the line of attack, where we'd try to quickly move in a direction while bringing the gun up before shooting the 1-5 drill. During the course of these drills, it was emphasized as well as readily apparent that being smooth, relaxed, and using just the right amount of energy was superior to being tense and "driving" or "punching" the gun to transition between targets.

After this, we started including movement into the drills. We started at the 50 yard line, sprinted straight forward to the 5 yard line to shoot a 2-2-4-2-2 drill (two shots to first target, two shots to second, four shots to third, two more shots to second, and two more shots to first), pivoted diagonally to run back to the 50 yard line, and shoot the same drill at a set of steel plates. Travis was careful to emphasize keeping the rifle pointed with the muzzle down while running as well as "moving like a stripper on a pole," with the rifle being the pole, to avoid flagging people when turning. The focus of this drill was not only to rapidly transition between targets, but also to test spatial and situational awareness. The final drill of the course was splitting the class into four teams and racing from the 50 to the 100 yard line by getting two hits onto a steel plate from the standing position. Even compared with the same drill from the day before, I felt like I had improved a lot in my ability to relax and confidently hit the targets, although there's still plenty of room for more improvement in the future.

Handgun Class Makeup and Equipment

Like in the carbine class, it was mostly civilian shooters with varying levels of experience. However, there several law enforcement officers in the class as well. Again, I was definitely on the low end of experience in the class, but everyone that I interacted with was very supportive. In particular, my partner for some of the drills was a great help (I guess this is where I put in a shout out for Bullseye USA, the gun store that he owns).

Most people used Glocks or M&Ps of various sizes and calibers. There were a couple of Springfield XD's in the course, and one person I know about was using a Sig double action of some sort. Almost all the holsters were kydex, with only one person having a nylon drop leg rig of some sort. Everybody but the law enforcement people had open topped holsters, whether concealed or not. Almost everybody ran their holsters and magazines on duty belts or regular belts if concealed. Some guns had lights on them, but this wasn't a low light class so we never used them.

Handgun Class Personal Equipment

I used a circa 2012 full size M&P9 with an Apex DCAEK and RAM, Heinie M&P ledge straight eight night sights, and a surefire X300 light. Obviously the night sights and light didn't come into use. I had grip tape on the front end of the pistol frame where the fingers would rest, as well as on various parts right below the slide, which was invaluable but was missing grip tape on the back strap. I was using the same padded belt that I had for the carbine class, which has a Blade-Tech WRS system on it. I ended up repurposing the rifle magazine pouches to hold more pistol ammo for the drills.

Over the course of the class I again discovered some equipment issues. When we were working on our handgun grips, I discovered that I simply could not maintain a high tang grip on my M&P, as the back of my firing hand tends to slide down the back of the grip. Switching back straps and adding grip tape to the back strap helps, but ultimately it appears that my hands fit glocks better. Another issue with gripping the M&P is that my hands are fairly small, which results in my support hand thumb resting on the takedown lever. The lever gets rather hot over the course of repeated firing drills, and the lever is fairly slick, which resulted in my thumb repeatedly sliding off and getting chewed up by the slide coming back forward. I ended up putting my thumb below the takedown lever and wearing gloves during the class, and have since super-glued grip tape to the takedown lever itself.

I had the opportunity to handle a Glock twice. During one of the partner shooting drills, I got to use my partner's Glock 23. Despite it being a smaller handgun and my first time shooting a .40 caliber handgun, I felt like my grip was much more solid than on the M&P. The stock glock trigger felt better compared to the stock M&P trigger, for me personally at least. At the end of the course, I had a chance to dry fire Travis's glock 17 (on a timber wolf frame) with the skimmer trigger installed. The trigger definitely feels a lot better than the DCAEK trigger on the M&P, and the reset is much better than the M&P even with the RAM installed. Combined with how much better my hand seems to fit the glock over the M&P in general, I may well try to switch to the glock platform in the future (before all the guns fall off the California safe roster and SSE gets outlawed, anyway).

The M&P 10 round magazines also don't fit ten rounds very well, and are essentially impossible to tactical reload with. One solution that I have been informed about is to use a dremel to shorten the follower such that there is more room for the tenth round, but I did not want to modify my magazines before the course in case I messed it up.

I bought the WRS holster a while ago not really knowing what I would use it for, other than the fact that I needed a holster of some sort. Having gone through the class, I would definitely choose to get an open topped kydex holster in the future, as doing drills on the thumb break mechanism quickly gets old for my thumbs.
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Old 04-13-2014, 6:29 PM
GNE GNE is offline
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Handgun Day 1

Like the carbine class, the first day of the handgun class started in the classroom with introductions and Travis telling us about his training philosophy. The first classroom session was very similar to that of the carbine one, but obviously not including a discussion about carbine zeroes. Given that there were only about four returning students out of a class size of 20+, it made sense that we would be going over this material again. Even for those of us that had heard it before, it was useful to drive the information home and was an opportunity to spend more time thinking and interpreting the information as opposed to simply trying to remember it.

The first shooting drill of the day was a set of CET drills (8 inch circle in the center of the torso), going from 3 yards back to 25 yards, trying to shoot 2 rounds into the target in two seconds from 3 to 20 yards, and then five rounds in 10 seconds at 25 yards. The purpose of the drill was to acclimate us to shooting for the day as well as to give Travis and Dale a chance to observe us.

After this drill, we went back to the classroom for lunch as well as to talk about biomechanics. Again, the talk was similar to that in the carbine class but geared towards handguns. Travis specifically mentioned that Jack Weaver dropped his elbow in the Weaver stance not because it is a better shooting position but that he had tendonitis in his left elbow. The force vectors and tension involved in the pushing and pulling over the Weaver stance makes it inherently less efficient than a modern isosceles style where there is less tension and both arms are exerting equal amounts of force.

We headed back to the range and split into pairs to get an actual feel for how the stances worked. One partner would assume the three different shooting stances and the other person would push on them to simulate recoil. As expected, the "tactical" stance ended up being inferior to simply leaning slightly forward into the gun. We also held onto empty guns in both weaver and isosceles styles and the partner would push the guns around so that we could feel how they behaved, with people noticing that the isosceles style was generally more efficient and stable.

We finished up the day with several more shooting drills. We tried shooting blind at the same point on the target to see how well we could naturally reset to the same point, then moved on to shooting at 1 inch circles at 3 yards, which roughly translates to an 8 inch circle at 25 yards; if we could consistently get hits in the 1 inch circle, that was a good sign. The last drill of the day was doing the 3-25 yard CET drill again.

Handgun Day 2

We started this day in the classroom again. Travis explained how the grip is the most important part of shooting a handgun. His suggested grip involves placing the carpal bone of the support hand into the metacarpal joint of the firing hand as high up on the grip as possible with the thumbs down, placing the fingers on top of each other to try to get as much friction between them as possible, and squeezing the palms of the hands together like a vice to create friction on the back of the grip as well. Relaxing the shoulders is less tense and more natural. Also important is to keep the muscles in the arms at mid extension, which is stronger than full extension or full contraction.
The next subject covered was the eyes. At close distances under a body alarm reaction, it is impossible to acquire a clear front sight because the front sight is not the critical threat. Only as we move back to greater distances and recognize that we can't confidently hit the target do we shift back to acquiring a clear front sight picture. Also related to the eyes, Travis argues that the search and assess is not just to look for threats but to enable us to break the tunnel vision associated with the body alarm reaction to focus back onto the battlefield. Using the head and eye movements to scan is faster compared to turning the entire body like a gun turret.

After the eyes, we covered proper trigger control. We want to place the trigger finger in line with the gun and pull back as straight as we can. Travis sums this up with the phrase "90, 10, finish flat". The 90 refers to the initial uptake in the trigger before the wall. The 10 is the break, while finishing flat refers to trying to finish the pull going as straight back as we can, determined by whether you can feel the left, middle, and right side of the trigger evenly. When trying to shoot quickly, the solution is not to simply slap the trigger faster and faster, but to economize motion and only resetting the finger as far as necessary to reach the wall before pulling back again. Again, being relaxed and controlled is better than simply being tense and attempting to go fast.

We also covered how to wear holsters and how to draw from them. For wearing a holster at the traditional 3 or 9 o'clock position, we want the holster in line with the seam of the pants such that the hand moves naturally to the gun. Canted holsters are generally for 5 o'clock wear, where the body needs to bend slightly out of the way to get the hand to the gun. When drawing, Travis again emphasizes being efficient in the movements and relaxed.

The shooting drills for the day served to apply these concepts. We tried shooting blind again to warm up and to see how having a good grip on the gun can make our shots more consistent. We also moved on to shooting a series of CET and one inch dot drills again, with the focus being on the grip. Here is where I discovered that my hands simply don't fit the M&P pistol as well as I can hold onto a glock, having had the opportunity to try out another student's glock 23. We also did the drills with our focus being on sight picture and trigger control to isolate those elements and develop an understanding of how it should feel.

We also shot what Travis called the horse drill, where we split into pairs and one person would fire and call a shot on a part of a one inch dot, and the other student would try to place a bullet into the first shooter's bullet hole. Travis and Dale demonstrated the drill, which was a pretty amazing feat to watch. Travis (or Dale) would call and shoot a bullet exactly where they called it, and the other would respond within a second and place their round right through the same hole. My partner and I faired much worse on the drill, although I was worse.

The final drill of the day was similar to that of the day 2 carbine class. We split into three teams and shot a relay from 25 yards back to 100 yards, with the criteria being achieving a single hit on a steel plate from the draw. My proudest moment of the class, and the moment where I became more than just intellectually aware of just how these techniques work, was when I got a first round hit on the steel plate from somewhere around 85 to 95 yards. Of course, I spent several seconds trying to focus on the fundamentals and to hold a steady sight picture, so there is definitely still room for improvement.
Wesley hosted another class dinner with Travis and Dale, which I did attend this time, along with most of the rest of the class.

Handgun Day 3

We spent the full day on the range for day 3. Once again we tried shooting with our eyes closed, then moved on to a series of one inch dot drills to build on the fundamentals that we learned the previous day. Travis and Dale demonstrated just how good they are at the horse game again, while the rest of us tried to emulate their performance.

We moved on to a series of drills to work on spatial and situational awareness. One drill involved us standing on top of a bosu ball and shooting at a series of steel plates, doing a tactical reload, and shooting the plates again. The drill served to highlight how one can still retain good control of the gun by just engaging the upper body muscles even if the lower body is in an awkward position. The next drill involved shooting one round at a plate, speed reloading while running to a second position, and shooting two rounds at the next target. Travis was careful to emphasize muzzle discipline for this drill.

After lunch, we did more movement and shooting drills, where we would run towards and away from a target before shooting, to further develop comfort with moving with a gun and situational awareness. We then moved on to how to tactical reload, speed reload, and clearing malfunctions. Like in the carbine class, Travis advocated problem solving malfunctions instead of simply going into a tap-rack-bang every time.

The final drill of the day was a CET test, similar to the CET drills from before, but with reloads and malfunctions built into the drill as well. A passing score would be scoring 85 out of 100 shots in the 8 inch circle of the CET target. I squeaked by with an 86. Apparently this is the first drill that people shoot in the Haley D3 disruptive environments course, with additional deductions for going over time on the drill as well. Lots of people in the class got scores around 95.

Closing Thoughts

I got everything I could have wanted out of the classes and definitely fulfilled my objectives going into them. I definitely appreciated Travis's approach to training in trying to understand the reasons and science behind the techniques. In our debriefing sessions at the end of each class, most everybody across both classes echoed similar sentiments of having learned a lot, with lots of people saying things like they had their minds blown with Travis's approaches compared to their experiences in the past. Personally, I was anticipating having my mind blown given my lack of experience, so it may have been a little less shocking. Overall, I cannot recommend the class enough to people who are interested in improving at shooting.
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Old 04-13-2014, 6:55 PM
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seal20 seal20 is offline
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Solid recap, thank you. Sounds like these guys are great instructors, not only instructing you how, but why. That's my kind of instruction!
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Old 04-13-2014, 11:16 PM
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beanz2 beanz2 is offline
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Wow, nice AAR. Too bad he's not teaching in CA anymore until next year.
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Old 04-14-2014, 12:54 PM
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VendetAR VendetAR is offline
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While I wasn't fortunate to have the time for the Handgun course, the carbine class was phenomenal. Travis really teaches the Why's of a particular drill or technique so you understand what is happening and how it is improving your shooting.

Things like prone body position and why just having your foot in a particular position, even while laying on the ground, can and will affect your groups and also how it can slow down your follow up shots.

The biggest thing I took away from the class was to work smarter, not harder. When you are smart and use efficient movements and body positions, its easier to do hard things.

Also want to say that Mr. GNE is friggin fast. I would hate to be chased down by him if he wanted to shoot me. I swear that it was like watching a tactical Usain Bolt running the course
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Old 04-14-2014, 12:59 PM
Anthracis Anthracis is offline
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Was definitely good stuff. Kudos to SacValley for hosting HSP.
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