I’m always up for a chance to train. At the end of November the gents from Survival and Tactical Systems headed back to Austin, TX and I was fortunate enough to have been invited back to take part in a two-day tactical carbine course. I had the chance to attend their two-day pistol course a few months prior and walked away impressed with their experience, training philosophy and execution of the course. I won’t rehash all of the specifics but in short they focused on the basics, reinforcing them with good practice skills. They then use that as a base to build speed, efficiency and accuracy. Now I would have a chance to see how they delivered that with the carbine. I will tell you up front that I did not walk away any less impressed.
Going into the first day, the weather gods did not smile on us. Before going into it I knew we were in for a day of showers and the occasional thunderstorm, but what’s a little rain when you’ve got a box full of 5.56 rounds and rifle. Upon arriving, the range was setup and I saw some familiar faces. Nick K. (the owner / CEO of STS), Ron, and Bryan were there with a few additional instructors.
After giving everyone a chance to meet each other, Nick welcomed everyone and gave a short intro into who he is, who they are as a company and their philosophy. The over arching concept for him is that we as a community of shooters should constantly be striving to get better through training and education. This sense of community allows us to help and push each other in that goal as well as look out for one another. After that intro, Ron stepped in and took it from there. First, there was a safety brief to establish the rules of the range, how they would be running the range, and then right into a review on the function and operations cycle of the AR platform.
As the rain moved in it was time to get onto the firing line. The first task was to get everyone zeroed. There were a variety of optics being used from red dot optics, to variable powered scopes but everyone got down to establish a good 25 meter zero with irons and optics. With some quick adjustments and confirmation groups, everyone was setup for success. Once we were zeroed one of the first things discussed on the line was body mechanics, the specifics of a solid shooting position whether in the prone, sitting, kneeling or standing. They also discussed optical offset. Everyone had a chance to shoot and see the difference at 10 and 5 meters as a teaching point.
From that point, things moved pretty steadily along despite the rain coming in sideways at some points. After static shooting from 5 to 25 meters we moved right into walking and shooting. Ron discussed the need to keep your upper body and lower body operating independently and went over some techniques for that. As the shooters progressed through that, the next variable to introduce was multiple target shooting and then combining that with the walk and shoot. As shooters improved, they built on the skill and technique established before so with the walk and shoot you are moving efficiently while shooting accurately and traversing from target to target accurately.
One carry over that was very familiar was the low round counts. Just like in the pistol course, the round counts were very low per magazine. The intent is to force shooters to constantly practice the often overlooked skill of the combat reload. In the course of a drill you may get the round count wrong but the bigger picture is to keep your rifle fed and in the fight. At points Ron looked like Captain Ahab chasing the great white whale, beard hanging out of his hood, yelling fire commands over the sound of the wind and rain. When you looked around it was nothing but smiles. Despite the weather good times were had by all.
With the rain gone and some sun things were already looking good for the second day. After going over the safety brief we went right into a quick “qualification” of sorts. We fired from the 25 meter line and in, with the instructors scoring as we went. Warmed and ready to go barricade shooting was covered and we got into moving into position correctly behind the barricades and engaging multiple targets. Ron and Bryan picked the speed up letting everyone build on the skills from the day before. There were low barricades as well as the VTAC style barricades and to make things interesting there were partner drills. It was a good opportunity to get the shooters exposed to keeping a sustained rate of fire while communicating and conducting combat reloads. There were courses of fire that were setup to allow for moving from covered position to covered position engaging while moving forward, sideways and obliquely. Shooters were encouraged to push the pace without letting accuracy suffer or “outrunning their headlights”. The second day was a really good blend of shooting, and movement techniques that brought together the skills of both days. Ron is always big on self-analysis and made it a point to give the student the tools to look at their shot groups and decide what worked and what needs to be refined.
Towards the end of the day we re-shot the same course of fire we opened the day with for score. As was expected scores improved across the board. You could look around and see everyone moving more efficiently as good habits were being built and reinforced. As with the pistol course, they finished off with some good-natured competition. A course of fire was set up to cover all of the concepts they taught and then added the stress of the shot timer. We actually ran through it a few times and with each round you could see the times going down. Sometimes the only difference between winning and losing was tenths of a second. Everyone was having a great time and Fighter Design was on hand with a prize for the winner.
The STS crew did not disappoint. Solid experience combined with a great training philosophy ensured that everyone there walked away better equipped to use the rifle and equipment they came with. In both instances, the pistol course and the carbine course, the focus was on producing great training and results. Even with a little weather thrown in the mix the course ran smoothly and at the perfect pace to keep people learning and engaged. If you are looking to build some new skills or refresh some old ones, a weekend at one of the STS courses is well worth the time and money spent. Just be careful. If the subject of movies comes up Ron will single-handedly ruin every tactical movie of your childhood.
I would like to thank Survival and Tactical Systems (STS) for having me, MOTUS for publishing my article, and Pipe Hitters Union for putting this opportunity together. For more information on Survival and Tactical Systems, as well all the training courses they offer, please visit their website. I also recommend checking out The Raider Project, a non-profit that STS CEO Nick Koumalatsos is involved with that works towards facilitating a peaceful, successful transition from active military service to a civilian life filled with hope and purpose. I would also like to say thank you to Alison Capra for letting me use the images for this article.