May 21, 2015
By Brian Bertoldo
In late April, GOAL hosted a class entitled “Progressive Carbine,” taught by Massachusetts native and Special Forces veteran, Scott Germain, owner of Center Mass Weapons Training. This class was held over a two-day period at the Worcester Pistol & Rifle Club in Boylston, Mass.
With assistance from Dan McHugh and Alex Hartman, Germain guided class participants through a series of drills and exercises designed to “progressively” build — then improve upon — the fundamentals of effectively shooting and moving with the carbine rifle.
A total of nine students, including GOAL Director of Training Jon Green, attended the class. Students were evenly split in terms of experience with the AR platform, with some having received training in the past and others with experience limited to range time at their clubs. Since the foundation of Germain’s class is to “progress” from one key subject area to the next, it accommodates all experience levels. This provides new shooters with fundamentals they can later build upon, while allowing the more seasoned AR gunners an opportunity to challenge themselves by speeding things up during drills and fine-tuning skills.
To begin, a classroom briefing was in order. Germain told the group a bit about his 20 years of experience in Special Forces, his current job testing equipment at Natick Labs, and laid out what was to be covered in the two days, including a safety briefing. Students had the opportunity to introduce themselves and do a show and tell with their rifles. Since the majority of AR owners tend to be “gear heads” (a term of endearment), this was a welcome chance for everyone to see parts and accessories they may not have been familiar with prior to the class.
Once classroom time was over, students geared up and assembled at the club’s 50-yard range. Regardless of whether students were using an optic (as most were) or iron sights, Germain made sure everyone zeroed in for 50 yards (firing from the prone position). Fortunately, most had their rifles set at this mark already or were fairly close, making the zeroing process short and sweet
Students then moved into elements of weapon retention (proper use of sling), understanding point of aim vs. point of impact, and proper load and clear procedures.
Now, no weapons system is going to perform perfectly each and every time (well, maybe Glocks!). That’s why Germain covered a variety of common stoppages/malfunctions students might encounter and how to quickly and effectively clear them. After some practice time, students were individually tested on their ability to identify and clear such stoppages.
Reloads were addressed and were students run through the procedures for both emergency and tactical reloads. Practice makes perfect and with some repetition, students were dropping empty magazines from their rifles and locking in fresh ones with increasing rapidity. This was also a time to sort out one’s gear, specifically the placement of extra magazines on belts and chest rigs.
Once the more “administrative” aspects of running the rifle were covered, it was time to get down to some real shooting. Shooting positions were covered, including prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing, with students sending multiple rounds downrange in each. The four positions were rolled into a drill (the 50-yard aggregate), where the group shot and moved from one shooting position to the next while engaging a different target for each along the way (moving closer and closer to the target line with each position). Accuracy was stressed, as students were held accountable for hits and misses. The process of taping up targets gave everyone time to bond over the joy of many hits, or the disappointment of some “in the white.”
Transitions — strong to support side — were emphasized next, as these would prove important later in barricade drills. Most shooters don’t practice shooting from their support side. So, Germain demonstrated the proper manipulation of the rifle from side to side, stressing proper placement of hands and use of the safety. In no time, students were able to put transitioning to work, moving and shooting from side to side from behind large rain barrels.
The day finished up with the barricades coming out. The group was introduced to the various firing positions/ports on each barricade and everyone had the opportunity to get comfortable firing through each (known as the 9-hole drill). Nothing gets the heart pumping quite like shooting through and around the barricades!
After a short briefing, the class met at the club’s 100-yard range. Everything learned from the day before was going to be incorporated into either longer distance shooting, speed and/or shooting on the move in day two.
First up was distance — and the steel plate targets made their first appearance! Who doesn’t like shooting on steel? Germain had the class shoot from the prone position at the 100-yard make to ensure all were hitting the target. This transitioned into the 100-yard aggregate drill: shooting from prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing — starting from the 100-yard mark and moving closer to the target with each position.
Next, the barricades came out and students ran through a series of drills shooting around the barricades and through the ports at steel targets from about 80 yards out. Emphasis was placed on strong to support side transitions, increasing speed, and maintaining cover while shooting.
The rest of the coursework that day addressed shooting on the move, at multiple targets, and at increasing speed. The class lined up downrange for some close-in work (within 20 yards of the targets). After a drill or two getting used to engaging targets up close while moving, as well as learning how to properly transition from rifle to pistol, the class went into a series of more challenging drills: the triple threat (engaging three targets), the one through five (moving and shooting at five targets in a row), and the 2 X 2 X 2 (three targets engaged with the shooter firing two shots at each in the order called out by the instructor [e.g., middle, right, left]). A series of other close in speed drills were introduced as well as the challenging zig-zag drill — where students engage a series of targets while moving through a zig-zagging corridor of cones.
By the end of the day, a noticeable improvement in rifle manipulation, speed, accuracy, and overall competency could be seen in the group. Not to mention a lot of smiles on faces — what better way to spend two days than learning to shoot, move, and gain confidence with the carbine than with instructors who’ve honed their skills in the field!
With the already massive, and growing, popularity of the AR-15 rifle around the Commonwealth, classes of this type are as important now as ever before. As responsible citizens and gun owners, it behooves us to seek out training to build solid skills, improve upon what we already know, and better realize our lifelong appreciation of firearms and the shooting sports. Keep shooting and keep learning!