AAR at Hebrewhammerblog.com (Defensive Carbine Clinic)

 Originally posted at  hebrewhammerblog.com

Originally posted at hebrewhammerblog.com

Shanah tovah!

So, I have been less active posting to the blog because I’ve been buying less and doing more. This is not a bad state of affairs, but can admittedly be on the boring side of things if you’re the reader of an Israeli firearms blog! (It also didn’t help that IWI hasn’t released any of their new guns yet… so much for release dates.)

One of the things I’ve been doing more of is training. Training is a tough commitment, but I’m in a place in my life where I’m finally in condition to do more of it, and I’ve been trying to make a priority of it. Finding good trainers is hard – most of them seem content to do CCW courses and “your first gun!” classes. There’s nothing wrong with those, but when you want more advanced training, you’re either looking harder or traveling.

I am very pleased to say that Green Ops in northern Virginia is one of those real-deal advanced training providers, and they’re worth every penny you throw their way. I’ve taken a number of courses with them, and this after-action review is for their Defensive Carbine Clinic.

(Full disclosure: I got a small class discount for AARs I previously wrote.  I didn’t ask for it, and I’d still be taking their classes without it. The amount of money in question is trivial to my situation, and thus had trivial impact on this AAR – or so I hope.)

Green Ops is run by a guy named Mike Green, who is apparently more internet-famous than I was aware of due to his frequent participation on the Primary and Secondary “network”. If you are not listening to P&S, I’d really suggest you start doing so; it’s one of the best podcasts I’ve ever listened to on any subject.

So, first thing first: what is the clinic supposed to cover? From their website:

This clinic covers the basic defensive use of the carbine (AR Platform 5.56/.223).  It will begin with the fundamentals of marksmanship and move into more advanced drills. Students will improve their carbine handling skills with a strong emphasis on the fundamentals. Students will learn self-diagnostic skills to continue development of their own personal performance.

I’m tempted to call this “carbine 101”, but it’s more like “carbine 102”. You’re expected to be zeroed in and know how to operate the controls of your rifle, but not necessarily to have good shooting technique. Think of it as a “fundamentals” class. It’s 4.5 hours, so you’re working in a somewhat compressed time space.

The class is focused heavily towards AR-15 users, which is sensible, because that’s the most popular semi-auto rifle in the US. If you are genuinely a novice shooter, you should take this course with an AR. But… no one’s gonna say no if you run it with a different rifle, provided you take responsibility for knowing how to operate it. As previously written in this blog, I’ve run it with a Tavor. And this time, I used an original-gen Galil SAR SBR. This was a damned sexy choice, but you can decide for yourself as you read if it was a good one. To get the rest of the gear questions out of the way: Blackhawk cross-draw vest, Magpul MS2 sling, and three steel Galil magazines. I should have brought four mags, but wasn’t thinking when packing. Ammo was Wolf 75gr, which was 100% reliable.

The rest of the class was packing ARs. A few were budget, but most looked pretty decked out. There was one catastrophic failure where a guy’s bolt broke (lug shear – what else?), but he had a spare and got it back running. I was surprised they didn’t talk about it more in class, because I sure thought that was one hell of a lesson to learn. My Galil had no failures of any kind, so it lived up to the hype in that regard.

The instructors for the class were Brett, Jay, and Andy. You can see their bios on the Green Ops website. I would say these particular instructors are more LEO- and competition-oriented than military, albeit they do have some of the latter experience. This isn’t a knock against them – it’s just interesting to see the differences in focus and examples compared to a military-focused instructor. I’ve known them for a few months now, and they are cool dudes.

The clinic was at the NRA HQ Range. I always go fast over this fact when I write up AARs on the local forum, but since this blog has wider reach, I’ll talk to it briefly. The NRA range is a clean, well-lit 50yd indoor range with some good electronic target controls and RSOs that aren’t in your face. Two RSOs were present with the class to keep an eye on things and make sure safety was observed. Speaking of which, safeties were used pretty religiously in this class; I’ve seen a couple schools of thought on that, and I can live with either.

The class had 16 students, including four women. I note that not because it’s a bad thing, but because it was unusual and nice to see. Skill levels varied from “shot a rifle a couple times” to “knew what they were doing pretty well”. This was also unusual, because at previous Green Ops classes I had attended, there were fewer people at that lower end of skills.

Class composition is a very under-rated component to determining how well a class will go. If you’ve got a bunch of people who are turned-on and ready to go, things are great. If there’s even a few people who don’t know what they’re doing – and, full disclosure, I’ve been that guy at a class before – things slow way down. This was the latter situation. I guess this was a bit disappointing, but it’s the risk you run when you go to open classes, so no problem.

The class leads with a classroom segment that goes for about an hour. This was focused heavily on “when is it legal to shoot someone?” and consequences of doing so. This is good material, but not quite riveting if you’ve heard it before. It’s also kind of weird for a carbine class, because I’m really not sure how many people use their long guns for their first line home defense (aka, the only line that matters). I suspect that it’s partially driven by legal concerns – not necessarily of Green Ops getting sued, but rather being able to confidently say in court “yes, we taught these guys when it’s reasonable to shoot, not just how to do it.”

As people who have done some training know, classroom time is also handy for buffering the range time while waiting for people who are late and need to fill out other paperwork, so I understand the need… but I dunno, in a 4.5 hour class, I kinda want more time on the range, too.

Green Ops has five tenants (rules? commandments?) to becoming an effective shooter:

  1. Training

  2. Dry-fire using a par timer

  3. Competition

  4. Live fire

  5. Video of yourself doing 1-4

I have been doing 1-4 religiously (including daily dry-fire), and 5 when I feel like something’s off that I can’t quite figure out (I spot a lot of stance issues with it). This stuff works. I have gone from a 1.7 second draw to 1.2 second draw in the space of a few weeks, and can do emergency reloads before the magazine even hits the ground. You learn very quickly that you need to stop focusing on your gun all the time, and start thinking about your hands and feet, and how to do operations in parallel.

After the classroom portion, there’s a small break, and then you move on to the range. There’s an initial talk about how to deal with injuries during training – de riguer, but still valuable and important. After that, it was time to safely uncase carbines and get to work!

  Explaining the drill.

Explaining the drill.

All of the drills followed the “explain-show-then-do-in-batches” philosophy. Mike Green likes to talk about his training philosophy on P&S, and how he uses cognitive science to make it the most effective for the time spent. All of the drills were explained, then shown, and then done in two lines. You shot the drill and then had some time to reload and think. It’s a good format, and I like it. Slinging tons of lead down range for the hell of it is one of those things I’ve grown more and more wary of as I’ve matured as a shooter.

There was a bit of initial dry-fire, along with practicing switching from standing-to-kneeling-to-prone. Dry-fire is valuable – I do it every day with my Glock 17 – but I suspect this was to ascertain relative skill levels without putting ammo in the guns.

  Andy teaching a younger shooter how it’s done.

Andy teaching a younger shooter how it’s done.

Following that, there was a zero confirmation exercise from the prone position. This was drama-free, except for one newer shooter who didn’t remember to turn on her optic and shot using her optic as a ghost ring (incidentally, not a bad skill to try once in a while). I did alright, but here’s your first Galil-centered take-away from the class: Galils don’t seem terribly stable when shooting from a “magazine-monopod” prone position. I had quite a bit of vertical stringing due to that instability. On the plus side, my dust cover seemed to be holding my 25yd zero fine. Maybe design and I’ll 3D-print a monopod magazine plate or similar.

Now that zeros were verified, the next item on the agenda was the first drill: from low ready, shoot one, at 10yds. Basic stuff, but snap shots are an important skill. This is also the usual “height over bore” demonstration. The Galil is on the same order of height over bore as an AR, so I basically knew where to aim. What is different with a Galil, though:

  1. It’s heavy compared to an AR like the M16A1. Think 9.8lbs vs 7.5lbs. This is nice for follow-up shots, but sucks to carry slung. I can see why the IDF tankers loved this gun while the infantry hated it.

  2. No red dot, at least on mine… yes, I shot this class with irons only. I did fine, and I am relatively happy with the Galil’s iron sight setup. If we had been shooting at 50yds-100yds, I might not have been so fine, so YMMV.

  3. The safety situation is not nearly as intuitive as the one on an AR. I think some people see the thumb safety on the Galil as gimmicky, but it is a vast improvement over just the AK lever.

  4. In order to transition the gun from low-ready to cheek weld without moving my head, I had to hold the gun stock VERY high in my shoulder pocket. This was not conducive to recoil management. I am still trying to figure out whether this was really the right way to run the gun, or if it was just how you do it with ARs.

  Working the line.

Working the line.

We then went from this to the “low ready, shoot two” drill. This is a natural evolution of the previous drill. The Galil does pretty well with it, albeit not as well as you’d hope due to the over-gassing of the action giving you and the weight of the receiver excess recoil to soak up.

I was doing pretty well with all that; where things start to get ugly was the next drill, which was “shoot one, reload one, shoot one”.

Guys, I hate to say this, but Galils and AKs are slow to reload compared to ARs. I am not some master of reloading speed, but I’ve done enough rock-and-lock to know what I’m doing. Having to charge the gun on emergency reloads, mags not dropping free all the time, and the weight of the gun making it hard to manipulate is not conducive to changing your mags fast. Skill makes up for some of it, but it’s not going to make up for all of it. My particular gun had some issues with some mags being just plain sticky due to tolerances and requiring me to rip them out with force. I am actually OK with that (positive extraction FTW), but again, it’s slow. The weight and size of the steel magazines themselves is also not to be under-estimated – it makes them ungainly to maneuver and handle. The Galil’s upturned charging handle makes the reload process moderately faster than an AK, but it’s doesn’t fix the whole problem.

I say all this not because the drill went horribly – I was fine – but because it was the first time the ergos of the platform really got in the way.

The next drill was transitions. This was a pretty simple one, too – two on the left target, two on the right target. I screwed it up initially by forgetting my hold-over, but it went smoothly after that. I have been working very heavily on my transitions on the pistol side of things, and felt like they carried over nicely to rifle.

The last target drill was stand-shoot-kneel-shoot. I found this pretty simple, because, again, dry-fire practice helps.

At this point, we moved over to some barricade shooting. Barricade shooting is fun, and they tried to mix it up with some “go safe when transitioning sides”. I had a platform issue here because I was just not fast on safe-ing/unsafe-ing the Galil. It assume it was training more than the gun, but the AR users (ie, the rest of the class) had an easier time.

The final lesson was how to clear malfunctions. They were clear that if you have a malfunction, it makes sense to spend a second to glance things over to see how it malfunctioned, because tap-rack-bang can make some malfunctions worse. This is smart. I also liked how they showed how to clear “cartridge stuck in charging handle”, which is rare, but brutal.

The final drill was “El Prez” two shots on each of three targets, reload, shoot ’em again. My time wasn’t great because of the slow reloads and forgetting to compensate for height over bore for my first rounds, but I put those paper bad guys down, so it’s all good.

Remember how I said I didn’t have any gun malfunctions? That was the case. I did, however, have a sling malfunction. My Magpul MS2 snap-shackle let loose for no obvious reason – presumably it snagged on my gear – and dropped my gun on the concrete. This is the second or third time I’ve had the MS2 fail on me, so I think I’ll be choosing a different sling next time. Lesson learned – ALL your gear matters.

At the end of every class, Green Ops always asks: did you have fun? Did you learn something? Did you get your money’s worth? The answer to this one was an unequivocal yes on all counts.

defensive-carbine-class.jpg

Conclusions?

Green Ops is great. Go to their classes if you’re in the DC area. You won’t regret it. I know some people kinda feel like they’re too good for basic classes, but to me, at the very least, they’re a valuable way to get some feedback on your problems… and EVERYONE has problems they can work on. In the meantime, listen to Primary and Secondary, because Mike has a hell of a lot of wisdom he dispenses on there for free.

The Galil SAR is the gun I thought it was… which is to say, obsolete. You can make a decent enough showing with it in terms of accuracy, but it’s going to fall flat on its face compared to an AR in terms of speed and ergonomics. I mean, direct money comparison: $2000 for a nice Galil SAR build with stamp gets you an ADM UIC Mod1 or BCM Recce 16 with an excellent reflex sight. The latter guns are just better in every way, except for “maybe surviving an RPG blast SLIGHTLY less twisted”. That’s not really my criteria for excellence, and it shouldn’t be yours, either. Technology moves on… that’s the way the world is.