Sanford, NC Heavy Carbine AAR

Posted by John McPhee on

J. McPhee Heavy Carbine

28, 29 March 2015

Sanford NC


This course was held at a private range near Sanford NC. The range is nicely set up, with a covered firing point / shooting bench that overlooks a large amount of steel targets across rolling terrain and a lake. The horizontal spread is interesting in that the drills you will be doing, quickly transitioning from 100 through 600 yards, you can’t simply raise the rifle slightly to engage the next target, you have to move back and forth across the range to find them. There was also some challenging wind at this range, which was somewhat surprising. Multiple crosswinds were apparent and provided a lot of valuable experience. There are targets out to 1,000 yards.


I brought a heavy barreled 18” upper from Bravo Company, threw on an 2.5 - 10 Nightforce scope with mil dot reticle from DRMO, and put that on a random lower i had in the safe. Ammo was 77 gr Sierra Match Kings. That combo holds ¾ moa. I had one double feed, no other issues. Round count for two days was approx 300.


The course started with the standard safety brief. It’s a hot range, but if rifles are set down unattended, the bolt is to be locked to the rear.


Due to the small class size, and no issues with rifles not being zeroed or equipment issues, we got to move very quickly thru the basic blocks of instruction on ballistics, trajectory, hold overs and wind formula. John has a unique ability to translate some fairly difficult concepts into easy to understand language, then walk you through drills that demonstrate the concept and ease your ability to master it.


The best explanation yet that I have heard of how to check for and adjust the scope for parallax and how to manipulate parallax with the focus to maximize the ability to read mirage, and at what ranges you should observe mirage and wind. At what ranges that wind starts to actually be a factor on hit percentage on man sized targets.


A short discussion on mil ranging was followed by discussing 5.56 and 308, 338 ballistics and how that translates into hit percentages at varying ranges.


There was a lot of discussion on the value of simply doing mil holds in the scope vs dialing the adjustment on the scope. Speed being the principal concern, neither people nor animals tend to loiter. Again, the accuracy of using the mil holds especially in regard to the size of the target and high probability of a hit, made the mil hold method much more logical. It is helpful that the ranges also correlated to actual mil holds. i.e. 300 yards = 1 mil, 400 yards = 2 mils, 500 = 3.5 mils, 600 = 5 mils.

With just a little bit of practice we were ranging, determining hold over, wind reading and engaging targets anywhere on the range, all over the range, at speed.


In between all the formal blocks of instruction were innumerable, invaluable ‘pearls’ of knowledge, ranging from discussions about gear, tactics, real world applications of the principles that were covered, and other esoterica of long range shooting.


After making hits at will, at speed, anywhere on the range with our rifles, John handed us a short barreled suppressed AR with a 7.62 x 39 upper, equipped with an Eotech, loaded with rusty wolf surplus ammo.  


a few sacred cows were slain, with good spotting and estimating hold overs in feet, we were hitting reliably out to 400 and surprisingly often at 500.


Day two was at a different range, further refining skills, shooting various drills and then doing the video diagnostics portion.


The video portion was quite possibly the single best training i have done. For several reasons. One, it is rare that you get one on one coaching in shooting fundamentals from someone with John’s background, doesn’t lie. You think that you are doing something, when in reality you are making all sorts of wasted motion or are not truly adequately managing recoil. After letting you shoot from standing, kneeling and prone ‘your way’, John shows you what was happening in slow motion, shows you how much excess motion you were allowing from recoil, how much wasted motion you were making, showed how many seconds it was costing you and then showed you how to correct all your mistakes. Then re shot the video. Which brings up an interesting point. To really mitigate recoil, you have to lean and or push yourself past your comfort zone. As most people, myself included won’t push that far..especially if we are getting ‘good enough’ hits….you don’t really ever get to your potential. This was an eye opener for me and my accuracy and stability showed marked improvement.


I have been to other courses that were heavy on math and formulas, dogma and calculations, even though lengthy and drawing your focus away from the target, were more focused on making very small groups on paper. But this course showed me how to read range and wind and make the shot quickly. Practical accuracy executed quickly.


John is a class act, and consummate professional.


I am safer and more of an asset to my team today, than prior to the course, and there is no price tag that can be put on that.




  1. Jorgensen

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