Trident Concepts conducted their Combative Carbine Level 2 class at the Sig Academy training facility in Epping, NH. The collection of students ranged from military special operations, to law enforcement and private citizens. We saw several returning students as well as a large group of new students to our alumni. I’m always flattered when students travel such great distances to train with us in this class we had firearms instructors all the way from the state of Alaska. They certainly represented well.
The weather prior to our training class was rumored to be beautiful and just as soon as I was packing my bags a huge weather front moved in and made our training rather challenging. Day one would be rainy and cold; precipitation varied from rain, sleet and snow all in a single day… awesome. The good news about cold weather or inclement weather is that it brings to the surface several deficiencies in a lot of training methodologies that exist today. The weather is a factor that cannot be ignored, if you fail to properly dress and are exposed to inclement weather over long periods of time it obviously has serious consequences. So, some of the most common problems that we see are cold and gloved hands not operating at optimal conditions. Other things that we see is bulky clothing interfering with tactical gear as well as shooting techniques. Some of these cannot be avoided and the best thing to do is to gain as much exposure to these circumstances so you can better prepare and plan for future instances.
We had the typical displacement of various rifle manufacturers all but one performing well. One of the rifles which was just put into service prior to the training class and by day three was having complications. While the source of the complications could not be positively identified it is possible that some of the magazines could of been part of the problem. All other rifles performed pretty standard with all shooters using either red dot sights from Aimpoint or EOTech.
We did however see one challenge that we have yet to come across which was a student who ironically happens to be a surgeon in his off time (at dinner managed to slice his trigger finger severely). This happened less than a week before the training class and the students was forced to use his middle finger as his trigger finger since his trigger finger was encased in bandages and a splint. I actually served with the teammate who in his younger years had lost his index finger and was forced to use his middle finger to squeeze the trigger so I was somewhat optimistic the student would be successful. One of the unique problems that he would have to deal with was that his middle finger as is the case with most everybody’s is slightly longer and therefore had a tendency to curl around the left edge of the trigger. This caused the shooter to pull the shots low and to the right which for a right-handed shooter is very difficult. Even though the shooter was aware of this, it was still very difficult to correct since the finger is just naturally longer and more cumbersome in the trigger guard. I will say this; the student did an excellent job of managing his challenges, was safe and by the end of the class very competent.
After our introduction and course objectives, we spent time going over weapons manipulations, loading and unloading procedures. I also spent time going over field applications for lubrication and instructed the students on the protocol to follow during the class. The one point I deviated from the norm was encouraging students to do a daily wipe down to avoid any complications from the wet weather. Most wouldn’t really need to worry about this, but it seemed prudent to encourage the students this extra step of maintenance.
We spent the next block of instruction zeroing the rifles and I was very happy to see so many students achieve a sufficient enough zero to progress with the rest of the curriculum. We did however have one student who struggled somewhat and it required a few extra volleys to get him dial them. One of the lessons learned here was to make sure the students have a clear understanding of how to use their equipment. I believe the student was having difficulty with his aiming process, which resulted in the extra volleys to try and get him sufficiently zeroed.
The skills assessment showed great promise as well and while we did finish a little bit early instead of getting ahead of the afternoon schedule I opted to take our lunch early. When we returned rather than go to the range we went to a classroom setting to work on fundamentals of marksmanship and some dry fire practice. Too much exposure to inclement weather can only have an adverse effect and since this is more of a marathon versus a sprint it was a smart choice. Many of the students would greatly benefit from the attention to detail that we spent during this block of instruction that I doubt would have happened in the cold and rain.
Once we completed the dry fire marksmanship drills we spent the rest the day on the firing line working the live fire preparatory and basic marksmanship skills. As is the case with all of our classes within the last 16 months we’ve really put a heavy emphasis on correct posture and proper body mechanics along with muscle recruitment. The heavy emphasis has paid off as students report the increased stability and shot to shot recovery. I’m always happy to see that, but there are still a few students who struggle and while I don’t believe they are struggling due to stability I feel as though their struggling due to equipment. When there is no stress component to an evolution many of the students did fairly well especially on single round drills. However, when having to deal with stress or multi-round drills we typically saw students fail to meet standards. The disappointing part to this observation was that again with no pressure the students were shooting quite well. So while I believe that stress did have something to do with it I also felt that some of them were struggling with their equipment namely muzzle breaks.
Training day 2 would be slightly better on the weather side with it just being cold with intermittent precipitation. Due to the weather issues we were a slight bit behind so day two would be jam-packed. One of the drills we would start with would be re-zeroing the red dots and zeroing the iron sights, the red dots were already close and pretty easy to fine tune, the iron sights were not. We had a couple of students who by the end of the drill still really weren’t dialed in, but for expediency sakes we would have to progress. We did find one of the front sight post that somehow had been damaged and the detent failed to engage properly so any corrections we made were completely erratic. Fortunately, the student had the tools and equipment to replace but we weren’t able to re-zero after that. Another issue we see less nowadays is the mixing and matching of manufacturers for backup iron sights. I suggest that you pick a manufacturer and go with both the front and rear side to avoid any complications. About half the time that we see the mix matched sites we have greater difficulty in zeroing and on occasion can run out of space.
We next work on more weapon manipulations and started with pistol transitions. One of the things that I’d observed were several of the slings were having the bitter ends work loose and come dangerously close to untethering. I caught one sling right at the very end and a student commented to me when he got home that his was in the same spot. Rerouting the bitter end back through the buckles to secure the slings is highly advisable or taping up the bitter end so that it can’t slip through. This problem was aggravated by the wet weather making the slippery sling material even more slippery. The other consideration during pistol transitions was to ensure that all students observed the holster during the reholstering phase of the pistol transition. The heavy jackets with all the zippers and toggles were certainly a cause for concern. Everyone did a great job of observing their actions and avoided any accidents. However, while I was walking the line I did manage to see a slider buckle that had not only found its way inside of a magazine pouch, but was protruding out the bottom end of it. When forced to use inclement weather gear be cognizant of that extra gear potentially causing problems. The rest of the training morning went smoothly without incident.
When we returned in the afternoon we started our diagnostic drills and I was happy to jump on the firing line to work through them myself. The most common problem we see has to do with the trigger. Either trigger finger placement, the finger’s location on the trigger or the movement of the trigger. Most of the time people feel as though they’re on the face of the trigger, but in actuality there on the edges so as the squeeze the trigger there pulling or pushing the trigger to the left or right respectively causing the deviation in the sites and an errant shot. Once some of the students recognized what they were doing and corrected it, many of their shooting errors disappeared. Another issue we see is the actual movement of the trigger. We teach a two-step process that has the student first making contact with the trigger and applying pressure up to the sear wall then squeezing straight through to the rear in one fluid motion. Typically the problems that we see are result of sporadic trigger finger movement. The two-step trigger management system is an excellent system to employ. It allows the student to quickly move to the trigger taking up any pre-travel and then slow down to apply a level of precision commensurate with the difficulty of the shot. Once this system is habituated the overall time will decrease as the shooter becomes more efficient, but accuracy isn’t compromised.
Towards the end of the day we would visit the various close range positions that we use in this class. For our medium height cover we use a high kneeling and we got great feedback on one specific point that we try to drive home. Once the student is down in the high kneeling position we talk about “locking in” and what were looking for is correct posture as well as dig in the back foot into the ground helping to create a very stable platform. I love the kneeling position and while I wasn’t always very good early on over the years the kneeling position has really come into its own for me and I can see how valuable it is in the world setting.
We managed to pack a lot of material into the day and actually almost got caught up. We all put in a long day so right as the temperatures began to drop again we wrapped up and called it a day.
The Sig Academy is one of the few places on the northeastern seaboard were military, law enforcement and private citizens can obtain quality training both from the staff and instructors that they bring in. We’ve been very fortunate to have such a long-standing relationship and it’s interesting to see the developments over the years. In an effort to appease their neighbors they put into effect a noise ordinance that prohibits any training before noon on Sunday. The good news, I would have the chance to get in a workout. The bad news, we would have a couple of hours missing from our schedule. We did show up early and work through some of the dry fire and familiarization of the upcoming drills to make them a little smoother once we did go live and it certainly paid off. Movement drills with the practice dry fire runs did seem more successful.
One of the school drills that I like to do in the classes, particularly when we have instructors, is weak side shooting. Many of the students have not spent adequate time on the weak side and as a reminder I tell people that the world is made up of both left and right hand corners. It’s a good idea to have a decent familiarization with regards to fighting off the weak side. As an instructor I believe it’s absolutely critical that you are familiar in order to support left-hand shooters in a predominantly right-handed world. We did have a lefty in the class and he got an opportunity to shoot off of the right side which he did quite well. Everybody else shot off their left side and the one student in particular that did quite well was the student who had the injured trigger finger. He was able to use his left hand trigger finger for this drill and certainly saw the importance behind trigger finger placement and location. He shot extremely well on the weak side and a valuable lesson learned was when we go back to shooting on the strong side. My comment to him was as he goes through is healing process and is cleared to start training again to intermix weak side with strong side so that correct habits from the weak side transfer over to the strong side.
One of the last school drills we did was a drill that randomly loaded dummy rounds into the magazines while the students were required to perform complex and challenging courses of fire. Many of the students learn firsthand why they’re having such difficulty with certain drills and that is because their trigger movement is horrible and they see it when the dummy round is in the chamber. One of the students who ended up doing quite well in the class commented, “I hope nobody saw how bad that trigger smash was” as he takes a quick peek left or right to make sure nobody was looking. We have all been there before but it still kind of funny to hear him say it.
The last school drill would be a familiarization and qualification on the Modified Navy Qual. Some students have had an opportunity to play with the drill before and some get their first look. Everybody did very well and I was happy to award a Sharpshooter’s badge to one of the students. I find this drill to be an excellent balance of speed and accuracy. If you concentrate on accuracy while moving quickly folks do quite well; if you try to go fast with accuracy as an afterthought then qualification is much more difficult.
We took a short break then got set up for the test and I was very happy to see the class do so well. We sat down and during the debrief there was a lot of valuable information put out that we commonly hear in the classes, things like trigger management, correct posture and muscle recruitment.
Overall the class was a huge success and we look forward to future programs. Please do not hesitate to contact us for clarification on any points or comments.