AAR from Robert G at Civilian Gun Fighter
Nine months ago I had never heard of Green Ops. I believe it was on pistol-forum.com where I first saw an announcement of one of their courses, and I also read at least one AAR of a class on that site as well as on Voodoo Man’s blog. I recall viewing the Green Ops website as well, but it wasn’t until John Murphy of FPF Training told me, during his Vehicle Tactics class, that Green Ops is definitely legit that I really started considering training with them.
As it happened, Mike Green, founder of Green Ops, contacted us on our Facebook page and offered a free class to one or both of us. I could not make the class he had in mind (a carbine/pistol combo class, if memory serves), but he graciously extended the invite to “whenever”. Well, I’m happy to say that I finally got to a Green Ops class and left very impressed.
Given Mike’s background in the military (15 years in U.S. Army Special Forces), I felt like he would be a good person with whom to take a carbine class. I had not taken a carbine-specific class (i.e., a plain-Jane class as opposed to a “tactics” course) in three years, so I felt like it was time to brush up on the basics. The fact that Green Ops offers a lot of one-day classes is a huge help to me, as I love taking one-day classes within easy driving distance of home (cheaper cost for the courseitself, plus no hotel, the ability to still spend half a weekend with family, etc.). As much of my training schedule this year has been geared toward filling holes in my game as well as revisiting skills from the past, the Defensive Carbine I class seemed perfect for what I was seeking.
The course was held at the Culpeper 4H club a few miles south of Culpeper, Virginia. The facilities were decent with a pair of porta-potties, a covered area to use for some “classroom” work, lunch, and breaks (welcome on a day where the temperature reached 90 degrees….in APRIL!), and a 100 yard range wide enough to accommodate about 20 students (this particular class had a total of 14 students). Cost of the course is typically $240, with a free lunch provided by the 4H Club. All participants also get a free Green Ops T-shirt as well (I think just for first-timers). As noted above, my fee was waived by Mike, so I plan to send a donation check to 4H as I appreciated the lunch and the facilities.
The range set up for us.
Mike co-taught the class with two other instructors, Brett and Andy. Brett comes from an LE background, while Andy, though not from a two-way range environment, had a lot to offer as well (more specifics of their bios are available on the Green Ops website). Often when demonstrating a drill, one of the instructors would talk/explain while one of the others would demonstrate. With 14 students in the class, having three instructors made for a great student/instructor ratio. For more information on Green Ops, in addition to visiting their website, I would recommend watching/listening to this interview with Mike Green:
Honestly, I did not take a ton of notes in this class. This was primarily because Mike assured us early on that we would all receive a follow-up email with a list of most of the drills we would be performing in class (got the email later that evening!). What follows is based on my memory, but the order of events and/or any omissions are my own fault.
The Training Day
The training day began at 0900 with the signing of waivers and distribution of nametags. Yes, nametags. In all of the classes I have taken, this was a first. We were instructed to wear the tags either on our backs, back of our hats, etc., and I thought it was a great idea. It allowed the instructors to get to know us quickly as well as directly address us if there was an issue (much better to say, “Robert, check your stance” as opposed to “hey you, check your stance”). Mike then introduced himself and his co-instructors.
Brett then took over and began by explaining that they teach “a way”, not “the way”. I cannot count how many times I have heard this in classes, but kudos to these guys for giving it further explanation. The gist is that not only is it difficult or impossible for some people to perform certain tasks in certain ways (age, body type, flexibility, prior injuries, etc.), but some techniques, while faster or more efficient, may not be suitable for ALL situations. For example, a low-ready position might be great until you are in an elevated position, in which case a high-ready position might be more appropriate. Brett also explained that we may not be “better” after this class; their goal was to show us a path, and the only way to get better would be to follow the path with practice on our own.
Brett continued with a relatively brief (ten minutes?) lecture/discussion on justification of use of force. This struck me as something they probably do for all of their classes (when I take another Green Ops class in the future, I will confirm this). Brett hit the five highlights, complete with explanations, of Ability, Opportunity, Intent, Jeopardy, and Preclusion. For a brief lecture, he definitely did a great job of explaining each of them (for more on this topic, I would recommend “The Law of Self Defense” by Andrew Branca).
Mike then took center stage to review the firearms safety rules, and there were no surprises here. We also had a safety brief, which, while not overly long or complicated, hit, in my opinion, all of the important points.
Mike then reviewed his resume for us, and then provided for us his five keys to improvement. He called these his “recipe for success”, and they included: dry-fire, use of a shot timer, live fire at the range, participating in competitions (Mike is a Master class shooter in both USPSA and IDPA), and use of video to critique yourself. We were then given a few minutes to gather gear, apply sunscreen, get fluids in and out, and then meet downrange.
People love to hear about gear, right? I brought two AR-15s, a primary and a backup. Both are Frankenguns, to a degree. My primary is the one featured in this article I wrote in 2015, and is still set up the same way. My backup is a Spikes Tactical lower that I built up with a Palmetto State Armory LPK with ALG-ACT trigger, BCM Mod 4 charging handle, Troy folding front and rear sights, and a Sheriff of Baghdad sling. It currently wears a Leupold VXR Patrol 1.25-4x variable scope. As it happened, however, I only shot my primary. For magazines I used 30 round D&H aluminum GI models with Magpul followers, and then some Generation 3 Magpul magazines, also 30 rounders. I also brought my Glock 19, but did not fire it. I carried all of this on my rarely utilized VTAC Brokos belt equipped with rifle and pistol “tacos” by HSGI, along with a Dark Angel Medical D.A.R.K. blow-out kit, and a Safariland drop-leg holster for my Glock (it rides high near my waist, not at my knee!). I brought other options with me that were more low-profile than a full battle-belt, but decided to use the belt since this was a basic class as opposed to a tactics class. Had this been a home defense class, I would have just accessed spare magazines from my back pockets. The Brokos belt is quite comfortable, and I experienced no discomfort from it during or after the class.
With 14 students in the class, we ran most of the drills in two relays (odds and evens). We began, however, with everyone shooting at once, prone from 25 yards to check zeros (I lost count and fired six rounds instead of five). A few students were a bit off, but my shots went pretty much right where I wanted them, just below the black dot we were using as our target. After checking targets, students were given the chance to shoot a second group to see if any changes they made to sights or optics did what they wanted to do. Satisfied with my zero, I chose not to shoot again. The course description specified that students’ carbines should be zeroed prior to attending class, but I know from my own experience that this is not always possible, so I am glad the instructors provided at least a little bit of time to let students get squared away.
Andy demonstrates prone to check zero, while Mike explains the process.
The target I used most of the day. The black circle near the bottom was our aiming point to check zero. My group is visible just below the dot.
We then moved up to around 7-10 yards and began our shooting on 3×5 “cards” (actually integral to the Green Ops targets). We began by shooting “singles”, and those who were not familiar with offset “height over bore” issues learned very quickly that holding on the #1 in the center of that “card” did not result in good hits. After about 7-10 single shots from the low-ready, we moved on to “doubles”, two quick shots to the second “card”. By shooting multiple rounds, we were able to quickly see how a less-than-stellar grip or stance could impact recoil control and slow down our follow-up shots. I got several pointers from several of the instructors on both my strong-hand grip on the pistol grip, my support hand on the handguard, and on my stance not being loaded forward enough. Over the course of the class, when I remembered each of these tips, I invariably shot better. Surprise!
With everyone now having an empty magazine at hand, we moved on to some reload drills. As always, one instructor would demonstrate a few times while another would describe what was happening, and then we got our turn. We did many “shot-reload-shot” drills, and when I remembered to position my left thumb properly on the reload in order to immediately hit the bolt release, my times were decent. I need to practice this more with dummy rounds at home.
If memory serves, we next moved on to transitions (shooting at one target, then another). The importance of moving the eyes first, then the gun, was stressed. We then shot “doubles” on the #4 and #5 cards, which required a transition across the central “A zone” of the target. Now, this was obviously not a far transition, but it exposed us to the salient points of such transitions.
The last drill of the morning gave us the chance to practice all of the skills learned so far. The drill we would shoot would be a slightly modified version of the classic El Presidente drill: 3 targets, shooting each target twice, reloading, and then shooting each target twice again. The only modification from the classic El Presidente was the absence of the 180 degree turn to start the drill, and that was only because we did not practice turning in this class. I thought this was a great drill to try, as it incorporated shooting doubles, a reload, and target transitions, the main skills we had covered in the morning.
We took about an hour break for lunch (1200-1300), a welcome respite from the punishing, unseasonable heat and humidity. A lunch of burgers and hot dogs as well as condiments, chips, and drinks, was provided by the 4H Club. Thanks! This was also a welcome chance to talk a bit with Mike, Brett, and Andy, and also my fellow students. It was also a great time to get more fluids in and out.
For all that we covered, I thought the afternoon went quickly. In the afternoon, we began with Mike demonstrating a few different ways to drop to a knee (stepping forward, stepping backwards, dropping straight down). We then got the chance to practice these live (two shots standing, two shots kneeling).
We then spent a decent amount of time on malfunctions and how to clear them. We began with the most common malfunction, a failure to fire. These issues were solved with the classic “tap-rack”. We moved on to the double-feed, the failure to extract, and finally the dreaded “bolt override”. Mike showed us what each looks like as well as how to fix them. We then spent some time setting up each type of malfunction and practicing how they feel (for example, a “click” on a failure to fire versus a mushy trigger on any of the other types) and how to fix them. I had always found the more complicated malfunctions, especially the bolt override, to be a real bear to fix, but Mike what seemed like a pretty good technique for how to fix them. Sure enough, when we practiced each several times, using his technique always worked. I plan to continue to practice these with dummy rounds at home.
The next segment involved shooting around simulated cover. I was happy to see that the instructors taught this the same way that I had learned it from other former “Tier One operators”, with the outside leg forward and a simple lean in allowing the rifle to clear the cover and come on target. Likewise, when kneeling, the Green Ops crew taught us to keep the outside knee high, allowing for more stability if bumped from behind as well as the chance to slide out more easily if our “target” moved out of our line of sight. We shot from both sides of cover, and while the Green Ops crew was not necessarily in favor of switching shoulders, I chose to do so to test myself and also get some practice manipulating my sling as taught in prior coursework.
After the cover drills, we started increasing the distance of our shots. Our targets were changed to IDPA targets with the chest A zone spray painted black. We got to shoot on these with 15 rounds from 50 yards (5 standing, 5 kneeling, 5 prone). I shocked myself by putting 14 of my rounds inside the circle, missing just high and left with one shot. The class got to shoot this drill again if they so chose, especially those who were still refining their zero. I chose not to ruin a nearly perfectly shot target!
We then moved back to around 90 yards (there was a big swarm of wasps at 100, otherwise we would have shot from there) and shot the same drill. Here, while all of my shots were on the cardboard, only about half were inside the black circle.
It was during this drill that I did my best deed of the day. I was part of the first relay all day, and had just fired my rounds and was watching the second relay shoot. One of the shooters was the one student who was not shooting an AR, but instead a 9mm Tavor. The Tavor, being a bullpup design, is quite handy and easy to maneuver, even with one hand, since so much of its weight is toward the butt. As it happened, this student was shooting about 3 steps in front of me and one step to my left when a hot piece of brass from a neighbor arced through the air and went down the back of his shirt. Andy saw it, as did I, but we also saw the student start to do “the dance”. Unfortunately, his dance was not accompanied by the necessary degree of muzzle awareness, as the very handy Tavor was pointed to his right at a neighboring student. While Andy tried to help the student get the brass out of his shirt, I yelled “muzzle” and pinned his arm so the Tavor was pointed into the dirt rather than to his side. To the student’s credit, his finger stayed off the trigger the whole time. I am not going to criticize the student’s choice of firearm, but here was a case where, had the student been using an AR, I feel it unlikely that he would have muzzle-swept those to his side. Here, one of the Tavor’s best attributes worked against it. Andy thanked me for my alertness and assistance, and we continued with the rest of the class.
With the main distance work complete, we moved on to the final two events of the day. The first was a local LE (Northern Virginia, maybe Fairfax (?)) carbine qualification, the same one they do if they will be approved to have an AR in their patrol cars. The course of fire of 30 rounds went from 50 yards down to 7 yards and included shooting around cover, at least one reload, and two failure drills (two to the body, one to the head). Each course of fire had a maximum time standard, and for accuracy, 27 of the 30 rounds had to be in the A or C zones (or head, for the two head shots) of a USPSA target. I believe any shots completely off the target would be a DQ. Brett somehow messed up the shot count so that we all shot 31 rounds instead of 30. I’m happy to say that all 31 of my rounds were in the A or C zones (plus the two head shots were in the head, although one tickled the chest).
The final thing we did was from about 70-80 yards shooting on steel. Here, we had to get two hits on a piece of steel from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions. We then got to shoot it a second time, only this time we got to use a large wooden post as support. Shooting supported, I got all 6 of my hits in under ten seconds, which had Brett shaking my hand afterwards.
We ended the shooting day close to 1700, and after some “team-building” (policing brass), we moved back to the covered area. Students and instructors were all spent from the heat and humidity, though there were no heat casualties. We gathered together for awarding of certificates, and then Mike and Brett discussed the importance of training, recommended some other instructors to train with (several with whom I have already taken coursework!), and then, after some chit-chat, we all went our separate ways. Mike told me and a few other students that we were definitely skilled enough to take a Green Ops advanced carbine class, which is something I may look into in the future.
For those interested, the course description said we should bring at least 400 rounds of carbine ammunition. I brought 600 rounds and returned with 345. So I used 255 rounds. However, I probably actually fired around 247, as there were a few rounds that got dinged up doing malfunction drills that I chose to discard rather than chamber again. Also, I should note that I had two legitimate malfunctions during the class, both early in the day. Both were failures to fire, the first of which I turned into a more complex malfunction through sheer stupidity. On the second, a simple tap-rack worked. After the second malfunction, I switched from the aluminum to the Magpul magazines and had no more issues.
Green Ops is legit, no doubt. I went to the class just looking to re-familiarize myself with my carbine, as it is a platform that I do not use very much. I learned quite a bit about my grip, my stance, reloads, and clearing malfunctions. While my performance was decent, I have a lot of work to do to achieve true proficiency with the platform (my opinion). This class definitely gave me some things to work on in my own practice.
I really like the model that Green Ops uses. The multiple instructors allows for many sets of eyes on the students, which is great from a safety perspective as well as trouble-shooting issues that arise. It also keeps things fresh for the students, as the rotation of instructors teaching and demonstrating different drills meant that we were not listening to the same voice over and over again. The instructors also talked a lot about how they are not just teachers, but also students themselves, and the techniques taught were right in line with what I have learned from other ex-Tier One instructors with whom I have already taken coursework.
Though the class tuition was free for me, I plan to prove to our readers how strongly I feel about the training I received with Green Ops by taking further coursework with them (for which I plan to pay). In short, I am very excited to have learned about the existence of this training company. At this point, they are what I would describe as a “hidden gem” in the Northern Virginia area, and I look forward to my continuing education with them.
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