By Lars Dalseide | March 24 2012 09:19

After two days of training, shooters are tested on the range

Students lined up for their Precision Rifle qualifications
Students ready to fire at the 200 yard line during Precision Rifle qualifications.

Wickenburg, Arizona - Day three of my Law Enforcement Precision Rifle class was a big one. After a quick review of the lessons we learned, it was time for qualifications. The better you shoot, the higher your qualification. The prize, of course, is Distinguished Expert. Quite the lofty goal.

Unsure of where in the qualification ladder I would land, I took to the line confident that I’d land somewhere. All I had to do was remember the training. Keep focused, acquire the target, employ trigger control and fire. Then the American Firearms Training and Tactics crew announced the first stage.

Shoot while standing at 25 yards. Though I didn’t hit dead center, I was just outside the mark and still in the game. Then the ten plus pounds of my Colt AR-15 (at least it was mine during the training) got a little heavier. Shots from standing to kneeling in four seconds was a challenge. If you’re not use to maneuvering your firearm in such a manner, you’ll find the pressure to settle, aim and fire in four seconds can play havoc on your shot.

NRAblog Editor Lars Dalseide shooting prone from the 100 yard line
NRAblog Editor Lars Dalseide shooting his Colt AR-15 prone from the 100 yard line

The shots continued to land off center but on target. Then back to 50 and 75 yards. Again we shoot from standing, standing to kneeling and standing to prone. Again the shots are on target but only on target. Dreams of a Distinguished Expert rating are way back in the rearview but the others are still within reach. Until we moved to 100 yards.

A shot few off target. Not off center, but off target. A DQ, disqualification. A DQ, however, could be erased with a reshoot. But you were only allowed one. Disqualification on two courses and you were out of luck.

Calling on muscles to be twisted and bent in directions they’ve seldom gone before, I began to question my chances. Maybe I should have trained more. Maybe I should have carried a 15 pound bar around the office for a couple of weeks in order to prepare. The gun was not cooperating. It kept getting heavier. It kept surrendering to gravity. With every ounce of strength I struggled to keep it in place. Though I wasn’t winning, I wasn’t losing. I was still in the fight. And then we moved to 200. That’s when gun fought back.

Clearing a squib during Precision Rifle qualifications in Wickenburg, Arizona
Clearing a squib during Precision Rifle qualifications in Wickenburg, Arizona

The term is squib. I pulled the trigger received nothing but a click. I eject the magazine, pulled the bolt a few times to clear the chamber, inserted a new magazine, re-racked the bolt and fired again. Nothing.

General assumption around the range was that my round had a little bit of primer and no gunpowder at all. After a thorough inspection, a hammer and rod were employed to clear the bullet (just the bullet, not the full jacket) from the barrel. Allowed to reshoot that section of the qualification, I was back in the game. Then it happened again.

Two shots into the 300 yards section and there was another click. I pulled back the bolt, ejected the magazine and saw the blockage. I notified the instructors, cease-fire was called and another inspection ensued. My day was done. There would be no rating for me.

Lars Dalseide and the Colt AR-15 used during Precision Rifle class
NRAblog Editor Lars Dalseide posing with a Colt AR-15

But I didn’t go to Arizona for a rating. It would have been nice, but that was never the goal. The goal was to experience the training and tactics utilized by police officers every day.

Like I told the guys, I made a lot of mistakes during my five days in the 100 year old state. Mistakes in loading, firing, stance and discipline. If I didn’t make any mistakes, however, then I wouldn’t have learned. And that’s why I went there in the first place.

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