AAR SOB, 1 Day Video Diagnostics Carbine Course
Location: Echo Valley Training Center, Highview, WV
Instructor: John “Shrek” McPhee
Course description: This was an open enrollment class focusing on improving individual body mechanics of shooting the carbine rifle. Each student would shoot and be video recorded individually. After all shooters were finished, we would replay each student’s performance on screen, while John would provide positive as well as negative feedback on the student’s performance. Answer any questions or concerns in order to improve efficiency and correct critical errors. The video and critique would be broken down into shooting stance, presentation, grip, and reloading. Other drills included shooting on the move, shooting multiple targets, and finishing the day with a shooting competition.
Weather: Weather conditions were favorable throughout the day. Sunny and occasionally cloudy in the mid 70’s, low 80’s. Visibility was excellent, humidity was low. Overall, it was a very comfortable training day.
Rifle: BCM/Vltor AR 15 (aimpoint comp m3), M&P pro series, Blackbeard Tactical kydex holster, HSGI tacos mag pouch, magpul MS4 QD sling, Dark Angel Ifak
The training day started at 9am. We began with each student shooting at a paper target center mass about 5 yards away. 2 rounds, reloading then shooting 2 more rounds. Going one by one, John recorded us without giving any feedback just to observe our shooting stance, presentation, grip, and reloads. Once all students finished we sat back down to watch on screen while John would give us criticism as well as positive feedback on how we shot the rifle. Just like in analyzing a professional athlete's performance on sports center, using John's smart phone, he was able to analyze our body mechanics, pinpoint critical errors or areas in need of improvement. Per on screen analysis, a green line would indicate good form, yellow would mean improvement needed, and red lines displaying critical errors in need of correction.
My personal video footage and John's analysis:
Stance: Upon firing, I was slightly moving back. My feet were too wide keeping my hips further back. This kept my head from being forward of my lead foot in order to have more of my body weight control and stabilize the rifle while firing.
Presentation: My presentation was ok. I got the gun up was stable, but hesitated too long. I should have shot faster. John put a timer and noted my shot should have come at .6 of a second instead of when I actually broke off the first shot around 1 second. My angle was a little less than the ideal 40 degrees of presenting the rifle. But in the end, I hesitated too long, breaking off the shot later than I was capable of. I was thinking too much, waiting for the perfect shot.
Grip: My strong side grip was good. Elbows at a good angle. But my support side arm was too extended in a "C" clamp. Too much shoulder energy was being exhausted doing this. John drew arrows on screen that I needed to blade my support side more and roll my strong side shoulder into the gun. My support grip on the handguard was ok, but a little bit more pressure was needed.
Reloads: I felt really sloppy reloading and it was even more apparent on screen. I started angling the gun high before pushing the mag release which caused the mag to hang up instead of falling smoothly. I needed to keep the magwell pointed down then release. I also didn't tuck the stock under my armpit to keep the barrel below my line of sight and get a better angle to reload mags. I fumbled around a bit wasting time to insert the mag. I also used the palm to release the bolt. I never really noticed myself doing this. But John told me to use the thumb which is more positive in releasing the bolt.
After noon time, we all got back on the range. One by one, with a full mag, John made us present our rifles, get our sight picture while he corrected us. Move a foot here, grip this way, blade the support shoulder, adjust our grip, etc. He would ask us to "fight him" which he would press down on our hand guards and fire a slow shot. Then speed up our cadence once we have the correct pressure, stance, grip. Eventually we all did fine. When I got up. I was able to get a steady flow of shots. I felt really great finally learning how to keep the dot steady and follow up with more shots on target. My problem has always been me chasing the dot and then frustratingly break the shot. Or breaking off a shot and taking more time to adjust the dot on target, then fire. I never really had rolled my front right shoulder or bladed my support shoulder before. It vastly improved my ability to keep the dot steady and be quicker with follow up shots.
The next drills would consist of us shooting on the move. We started moving forward doing zipper drills. One to heart, then neck, then head. Then we would integrate shooting multiple targets moving laterally and diagonally. At this point I still would sometimes extend my arm too straight. John did a great job of correcting us on the line. In all the drills I was happy with my shot placement. Taking note of applying the right pressure, remembering my offset to take into account POA/POI.
Next, John had us do a drill shooting multiple targets. We would first present our rifles and have to engage 3 targets. Starting at the middle we would present, look, then shoot the middle, then left or right, and back to the middle, and so on. At first we just tracked the targets, finger off the trigger, then when we started firing, John would encourage us to go faster and take note of our shot placement whether we were going too fast, or should be pushing ourselves further. When I stepped up. I picked up a pretty decent comfort level, then pushed myself to go beyond with a little more speed. I was surprised at the progress. I was able to make center mass hits faster than I ever could in the past and smoothly transition from target to target.
We finished the day doing a contest. A one on one shootout. 2 shooters would compete each other shooting 3 targets each. 2 shots in the Alpha with time. Fastest shooter with hits in the A zone would advance. I ended up getting beat by the eventual victor. Damkot won a nice SOB belt buckle. We debriefed afterwards, cleaned up around 4:30 pm, said our goodbyes and went home.
What I learned:
I didn't really realize how much improvement I needed. And most importantly the smallest details that make a huge difference in performance. Even though it was a low round count. I was extremely satisfied with John's attention to detail, as well as his use of technology. I have to admit. This was the easiest AAR to write so far because of the video footage that John emailed back to us. I am more than pleased to have this footage to reference and learn from even off the range. Being able to see yourself and how you can improve your body mechanics is a great asset. Along with John's verbal critique and visual notes. The colored arrows that pinpoint each shooter's flaws and areas in need of improvement. I never really liked videotaping myself, but now I see the necessity for it and how it drastically reduces the learning curve.
As of now, I still consider myself a novice to rifle. I have been practicing my corrected presentations and plan on going to the range, taking more classes to integrate in my training. I still feel awkward at times getting used to the new lessons, positions in stance, grip, applying the right amount of pressure here and there, etc. But I am very thankful to have learned so much in this training day. The progress was very rewarding for me.
In conclusion, I have nothing but extremely positive feedback for John's class. I felt like I just learned how to walk again, but better, with more efficiency and confidence. This course is really all about you, even though there are other students. You really do discover new things about yourself, mentally and physically. What I appreciate about John's teaching style is he pushes each student to go beyond what they are capable of. His attention to detail is fantastic. No stone is left unturned in diagnosing each shooter's problems. He doesn't sugar coat anything and tells it like it is. Come to class with an open mind, be humble, listen to him, ask all pertinent questions, and he'll help you find that reference point to build a strong foundation. I only wish I was able to take the pistol course the day before or that this was a 2 day course to learn more shooting positions, or shoot further out, go in more depth of shooting rifle. Thanks again John! And I look forward to learning more from you in the near future!
Clarence (Big Larry)