Regardless of your individual motivation, if you are like tens of thousands of other Americans, you have purchased at least one AR-15 style rifle. These rifles, based on the original Gene Stoner design, come in numerous configurations from myriad manufacturers, but for all intents and purposes, they operate or function the same way.
Purchasing a rifle is only the first step, not the last. Unless your desire is to store the gun safely away and use it as some kind of investment, you are going to want to get out and actually shoot the thing. If you take the time to read the directions, you can figure out how to load the gun and make it go bang. But it you really and truly want to learn how operate your new rifle in a proficient and effective manner, you’ll need some training.
Were I a gambling man I would put my money on the notion that most of those who have purchased an AR style rifle in the last two to three years have done so with the idea that they may some day use it as a defensive tool. Sitting down at the bench on your favorite range or even shooting at milk jugs on your buddy’s property are not going to give you the skill to use your rifle with confidence in the gravest extreme. How do you get that skill? The answer is simple and complex. You need to knuckle down and book a seat in a professional training school.
Fighting Rifle is a two-day course put on by Tactical Response of Camden, Tennessee. As the name implies, the class is designed to teach you how to fight with a rifle in your hands. “The root word in gunfight isn’t gun, it’s fight.” said James Yeager, CEO and founder of Tactical Response. “We teach people how to fight and save their own lives, regardless of what they happen to be holding in their hands.”
Don’t let the title of the class intimidate you. This is not a course designed for only those with previous training. Many students arrive to take the class who have never had any formal training with a rifle. During the weekend of September 21 and 22, 2013 I attended the course with, Jarrad, my oldest son. There were seven other men in the course, two of them had never attended a professional firearms training program.
What to Expect
As with all reputable firearms training programs, Fighting Rifle begins in the classroom. Jay Gibson, our lead instructor, covered the absolute fundamentals to include the 4 Universal Firearms Safety Rules, Emergency Medical Procedures, marksmanship principles, and basic operation of both the AR-15 and the AK-47. The learning objectives for the course were discussed and initial questions from students answered.
Each student was asked to introduce themselves, briefly detail their background, and to voice what they expected to get from the course. “Why are you here?” This is as much for the student’s benefit as it is the instructor’s. By asking the student what they expect to take home from the training, Jay forced each person to take a moment to consider there reason for attending. This gives the participant a moment not just to think about that subject, but actually give it voice. This helped set the mood or tone for the weekend training program. The starting point for any training class should be the goal. If you don’t have a goal, why bother participating? If your goal is simply to ‘shoot a lot’ you could have saved your tuition and travel cost and stayed on your home range.
The initial drills were deliberately basic and fundamental. There is no reason to try to go ‘fast’ if you don’t have motions, not fast movements. On a personal note, I’ve witnessed far too many shooters who were worried about speed before they had their skills in place. Consider the old adage, you cannot miss fast enough to catch up in a gunfight.fundamental marksmanship and gun handling down. Speaking of fast, one item that was conspicuous by its absence was the ubiquitous Shot Timer. During Tactical Response classes like Fighting Pistol and Fighting Rifle, no shot timer is used. Students are encouraged go concern themselves with smooth and deliberate
Day One of Fighting Rifle focuses on marksmanship fundamentals, smooth and effective manipulation of the gun, moving and shooting drills and use of cover. Our first day was a bit more challenging as the fresh Tennessee red mud clung to everything that hit the ground, including magazines. The evening of the first day found everyone out behind the Team Room scrubbing their gear and hosing the dried, caked mud from rifles and magazines.
On day number two, we went through a few warm up or fundamental drills to ensure that everyone was handling their guns properly and their equipment was ready to go. Blue and white plastic barrel were moved onto the range so shooters could practice not only shooting around cover but working in teams of two. Forward, rearward and sideways, moving and shooting drills were conducted to get shooters used to moving in and around obstacles while still engaging the targets.
Shoot, Move, Communicate
“Shoot, Move, Communicate” is a very basic gunfighting mantra. These words are often parroted in gun shops or on forum chats but rarely ever employed and practiced. “In a self-defense situation you are rarely alone.” Jay remarked. “Even if you are the only one with a gun, your spouse or your family are still a part of your team. Too often when we get a gun in our hands we stop talking and communicating.”
Fighting Rifle students are taught to shout out the word “Cover” when they need to reload a dry weapon or clear a stoppage. This let’s the other good guys know that they need some cover for a moment, they are not shooting. This verbal indicator comes into play toward the end of training when students must work as two man teams.
During a drill referred to as a leap-frog, a two man team must move from the right to the left and back again. One shooter provides steady cover fire as the other moves into a new position behind cover and engages. Shooter number two then leap-frogs past shooter one to a new cover position until both shooters have made it to the end and topped off their guns. This can only be accomplished effectively by the use of short but deliberate communication between the the two shooters.
The leap-frog drill challenges the students to not only put effective rounds on target, but to do so in a consistent rhythm all the while keeping their guns topped off and using the available cover or barriers effectively all the while communicating and coordinating with their teammate. This drill is deliberately placed at the end of the training course as a type of graduation exercise. Leap-frog definitely challenges your entire skill set, not just simple marksmanship. After all, gunfighting is about far more than marksmanship. To win a fight you must have your brain engaged and be constantly aware of what is going on around you.
The Wrap Up
If your desire is simply to own a piece of hardware, then buying a gun is the easy enough to accomplish. You cannot purchase skill. To obtain skill you need to leave your comfortable pond and venture out into the big world to challenge yourself. Should you be one of those folks who honestly believes that you might be called upon some day to fighting with a gun in your hand, a professional training course should be on your short list.
Fighting Rifle from Tactical Response is a course that any person who owns a ‘fighting rifle’ should avail themselves to. In the period of just two days you will fire more rounds in a purposeful and deliberate manner than in a year’s worth of casual range sessions. You will also discover your strengths and weaknesses and learn what it is you should be practicing after you return home. For detailed information and the course calendar go to the Tactical Response website.