NRAblog Editor Lars Dalseide is in Arizona this week for a Precision Law Enforcement Rifle class. While there, he is providing daily updates of the experience here on NRAblog.
Wickenberg, Arizona - It was a cold night on Sunday in the outskirts of Wickenberg. To be more specific, it was cold night sleeping in the back of my SUV here in Wickenberg while waiting for my first day of Precision Law Enforcement Rifle class. But as is the case when taking part in classes like this, better to be by the action rather then be by the Best Western. Now the other guys, the veterans, are here with RVs and tents and heaters. As the rookie in the bunch I chalk it up to a little self induced hazing.
Mark Fricke, owner operator of American Firearms Training and Tactics (AFTT) arrived early to start the classroom portion of the day. First under tarp and then out in the sun (once the clouds gave way), Mark went over the finer points of what it takes to be a successful precision rifle shooter. The training, the discipline and of most importance … the equipment.
First and foremost is the rifle. While I won't go into his favorites here (2 reasons - Mark is an expert who gets paid for his opinion and I don't have near enough space to mention all the manufacturers), I will say that his explanations why were extremely detailed and thought provoking. Next was the ammunition; the maker, the style, the grains, etc… Then there was talk of sand bags, bean bags, scopes, bipods, shooting mats, knee pads and more.
Once we completed a quick breakdown of windage (determining how the wind will affect your shot) and range to target, it was time to close up the text books and break open the rifles.
Hitching a ride with a father/son team from Wyoming, we sloshed through the remnants of the previous weeks' storm, arrived at the range and set up shop. After another lesson in safety (where he explained his zero tolerance policy … point a gun in a dangerous direction and you're going home no questions asked) we were assigned our targets, set up our mats and sat behind the big guns.
Using a Colt AR-15 with Federal .223 Gold Medal, the first thing on the agenda was a test fire at 25 yards followed by another at 100. Then there were drills at quick loading, swapping magazines, clearing jams and stovepipes. Then it was time for the "real thing".
As Mark claimed and my classmates confirmed, most law enforcement officers seldom set up beyond 100 yards. Yes, there are cases that call for you to set up further out, but 99% come inside 100. With that in mind, we would be tested with five shots at 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards … every shot taken within a second of the horn. It requires you to find your target, keep your target, wait and fire on command. That's where the challenge bit me.
Rolling up to check our shots after the 100 yard shoot, I was pleased to find my group about the size of a fist. Then I looked at the other targets … all the size of a silver dollar. But that was to be expected. These guys are professional operators who have spent hundreds of hours behind the scope. As accomplished as each of these individuals are, they were also open with tips, suggestions and offers of assistance so I could improve my shot. Hopefully that will come to fruition today.
For today we're going to go through about 200 rounds from distances of up to 300 yards. As a purely recreational shooter, well, that's a bit intimidating to say the least. But Mark, and the other instructors, keep telling me that I'm only going to get better. With no bad habits (no habits at all) I'm a blank slate from which they can create a quality shooter.
Here's hoping. Especially since tonight we embark upon a little night shooting.