AAR Nov 9/10 2013 CRCD – SP in NC

Link to SP in NC’s blog post HERE


Date: 9 and 10 NOV 2013.
Location: Somewhere around the 39th parallel in the hills of Appalachia.
Purpose: Refine combat rifle / carbine skills and learn to shoot, move, and communicate with another shooter, a fire team, and a squad.

Time: 0645
Weather: 22℉, breeze approx 2-5mph, clear sky
Terrain: Hilly deciduous forest, with steep valleys and hollows
The attendees rallied at a meeting point as per Max’s instructions. Max came down the mountain and led the convoy of vehicles to a parking lot outside of the training area. Gear was unloaded and moved into a six-seater ATV and attendees were ferried over a ridge into the training area, which was a fork nestled between two small valleys with creeks at the bottom. There was a newly built gazebo-type structure that served as the classroom and center of activity.

People geared up, layered up, and tried not to think about the cold. Max had a 55 gallon steel drum with vent holes drilled into it that was used for a warming fire. He threw in a bunch of tinder and small logs, cranked that up, and and the training day began.

We spent close to three hours of didactic lecture on range safety, combat drills, and individual react to contact drills.

I want to state this very clearly at this point. THIS IS NOT A BEGINNER’S CLASS BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION. You need to be very familiar with shooting a carbine in a practical environment where there is movement and chaos. You need to instinctively know how to deal with a failure to fire and get back in the fight. You need to know basic commands and the language of fire and maneuver. You need know how to be aware of where your muzzle is pointing AT ALL TIMES regardless of the amount of activity going on around you.

Max defined the react to contact drill as an “RTR drill,” which is an acronym for Return fire,Take cover, Return appropriate fire. It is the sequence that a shooter goes through when engaged by a hostile element where the shooter immediately returns fire, moves to some kind of cover or better position, scans and assesses the area to decide on where to fire next. It’s getting inside of the bad dude’s OODA loop and working to keep him from messing up yours.

Once the didactic work was finished, Max took us to the range and we executed a group Load and Make Ready. Rifles were hot and the lanes were open.

The first shooting took place on a small range that sloped upward in a small valley. This was an individual exercise. Max has pop-up electronic targets positioned at the shooter’s 9, 12, and 3 o’clock. He started out very slowly and let you know where the initial contact was going to come from. The target would pop up, you’d scream “CONTACT FRONT!” execute the RTR drill, and go safe. The targets would be anywhere from 10-30 yards away and they were green, plastic, 3D silhouettes of soldiers, but I think they looked more like something produced by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as a stress innoculator for the impending encounter we have with their activities on LV-426. But I digress. The targets were about 36″ tall and as wide as Hervé Villechaize. When you hit the target, it would go back down and depending on what Max had programmed into the computer, it would pop back up or stay down. This was the core on which all other learning was built. This exercise was also Max’s opportunity to assess the shooter and formulate what he was working with in terms of skill sets. From what I picked up, Max was wanting to see how fast you can engage the threat, get off the “X” and into cover or a better position, and get follow up shots back on the target from your new position. Do some burpees in your shooting gear while holding a carbine and you’ll start to get the picture of the physical effort required.

From there, Max had us pair up and you’d conduct the RTR with another shooter.

We took a break for chow and more didactic instruction. By this time the burn drum was pumping out some heat and was a welcome addition to the day. Yours truly brought a camp stove and some Mountain House, so I got to eat hot chow and have hot coffee, which was nice, because I hate being cold, and wet.

The next evolution was moving to contact, where a two-person team would execute the RTR, then conduct a bounding movement towards the hostile. This is where the communicating started to come into play. Again, Max was nice to us and let us know which direction the contact was coming from so each two-person team could concentrate on fire, maneuver, and communication. You learn very quickly that things go to hell fast when communication between team members breaks down. It doesn’t take much. We found ourselves doing walkthroughs on our own while other teams were going through the course. Even with multiple rehearsals, you’d still find a way to miss a “MOVE” call or a “MOVING” answer.

After that, we did more didactic on break contact drills. This introduced the lateral peel as well as bounding overwatch to the repertoire.

Back on the range, we’d conduct two-person break contact drills, again with Max giving us the heads-up as to where the contact was going to come from, so we could focus on form and communication. When we’d conduct a peel at closer range, one shooter would “go deep” and rather than the peel being strictly linear, you’d arc around hostile and one of the team would call out “GET ONLINE” which would set the team up for a break contact movement that had us getting out using a bounding overwatch to dead ground, setting up a hasty ambush, then bugging out.

That wrapped up day one. Round count for the day was about 150.

Max shuttled us all back to our cars and we headed out for the night. About half the class met for a fine dinner in town and Max was kind enough to meet us. We had a great conversation about current events, secure digital communications, digital crypto, the grid, nuclear reactors, and learned a lot more about the effects of nuclear radiation on humans than any of us ever thought we could know. The intellectual depth and professional diversity of the attendees would scare the piss out of all of the propagandist tools and regime fellators in the media and blow their comical stereotypes of the “Don’t Tread on Me” crowd to Uranus. But I digress.

Time: 0645
Weather: 49℉, breeze approx 2-5mph, with winds developing throughout the morning to sustained 30mph by 1100, partly cloudy
Terrain: Hilly deciduous forest, with steep valleys and hollows
Again we assembled at the rally point and Max took us to the training facility. After some residual radioactivity discussion and a really bad joke, we ferried back over the ridge to the classroom and got started.

Today was the day the training was ramped up. The best part (no offense Max) was that we got to shooting right off the bat.

Max had each individual shooter conduct a “jungle walk” on a much larger and steeper range that was nestled in a valley where you were out by yourself on a patrol. The terrain to your right elevated to a ridgeline, the terrain to your left initially descended to a creek, and then rapidly elevated up to a ridgeline. The terrain in front of you elevated slightly over a long distance of anywhere from 300-700 yards depending on where you were walking from. The further away, the steeper the elevation. In other words, you were a fish in a barrel.

On the jungle walk, you had to execute RTR drills when a target popped up and then fight on. This time, you didn’t know where the contact was coming from. Did I mention the targets were 1/3 the size of the targets we shot the prior day? I thought so.

A quick didactic session on reacting to contact and we were off.

The next evolution was two-person teams shooting, moving, and communicating up the big range from objective to objective. With more space, longer ranges to the targets, and smaller targets, the difficulty was ramped up considerably. Again, we got no heads up as to where the contact was coming from, so skills for scanning and communicating were paramount.

Another didactic session on breaking contact resulted in more two-person team action on the big range breaking initial contact and using bounding overwatch to exfil the area, only to get engaged from other directions on the way out.

The lunch bell rang and everyone took time for chow.

Then Max really started ramping it up. We conducted the same drill evolution but with a four-person fire team. Same things with reacting to contact and breaking contact, bounding overwatch to a rally point, setting a hasty ambush, and bugging the eff out. At this level, you could see where bad communication can get people killed in a hurry. You also saw the inherent advantages of eight eyeballs vs two eyeballs in detecting threats and being able to get a base of fire on a hostile. When it worked well, it was badass. When it went to hell, it was scary how fast it went to hell. We did have a drill where our teams started blowing communications and it turned into a soup sandwich, but because we did a quick mod to the communications protocol before the drill, we were able to get everyone out of the chaos, onto a rally point for a hasty ambush and then off the field of fire. It was nice to see that we were figuring it out enough to recover when we fouled up.

The day culminated with Max leading a squad element through a bunker assault. I won’t go into the specifics of the assault. You need to come take the class and find out. What it did was reinforce all of the drills we performed as individuals, pairs, and fire teams to make an effective squad. The assault was loud, fast, and physically challenging. You got to have lots of things go wrong for you on the way up the hill to the bunker and just had to make sure you dug yourself out of whatever hole you were in to get back in the fight and deliver rounds down range.

By the end of day two, I think I’d probably done close to 200 burpees in field gear with a carbine. My knees, hip flexors, and back were pretty well smoked, but I kept going. While ammo expenditure on day one was sparse, on day two, we got it on. I estimate my round count to be close to 800 for the day.

Max gave us a final didactic session and we called it a day.

I say with confidence that you will not get this type of training at most shooting schools. Max is an outstanding instructor. He is an excellent communicator and his enthusiasm for what he is doing comes out plainly as he does it. He is very patient and tailors instruction to each individual based on his or her skill level.

This class clearly illustrates the need to have a network of like-minded people that you can train with if there ever is a situation where we are without rule of law (WROL) and there are bands of brigands and raiders pillaging the countryside. Regardless of what the idiot “prepper” shows on TV may insinuate, the guy with his castle keep is just a big, juicy target that will die alone in a pile of silver coins and have his stockpile pillaged.

What Max teaches is not easy to execute. It requires regular practice and honest assessments of skill and ability so that people can improve. You can’t do this for two days and think you are an expert. You have only tasted a drop from an ocean of knowledge. Max mentioned in one of our informal discussions that ego is usually the greatest barrier to people mastering new skills, especially in an alpha-dominated activity like shooting. I will say that this class of people did a good job of keeping egos in check and being open to constructive feedback not only from Max, but from each other.

The only thing that would make this class better is duration. If you could drill this stuff for two weeks, it would be very impressive to see what people would be able to do by the end.

Max is also a prolific writer and has several books out that are great survival fiction. He has also written a book called “CONTACT!” which is a great technical / tactical manual that really is required reading before his class. You may not quite understand it all when you read it at first, but during the first didactic session with Max, it all comes to life very fast, and only gets better as you go through the course. Definitely check out all of Max’s books. For further comprehension of the skills we learned and their practical application, he was emphatic about me reading “Patriot Dawn” which is now #1 in queue on the nightstand. Apparently, collectivist trolls have been hitting his Amazon reviews and slamming the book, so I know it must be good if they hate it.

I also highly recommend reading the US Army Field Manual FM 7-8, The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad as well as the Ranger Handbook sections on patrolling and movement before the class as well. They will only make the info Max teaches more valuable in practical execution.

As for me, I plan on coming back Max’s way to do this class again and also take more advanced ones as he offers them.

Physical fitness
To get the most out of this class, you need to be in the best shape you can be – for YOU. I’m in pretty decent shape, and I am sitting here typing this after eating a few fistfuls of Advil to help with a sore back, knees, and hip flexors. Our class had students ranging in age from the 20s to the 60s and all points in between. Best of all, nobody was fat. The guys in the upper age range were laying down fire and moving in a way that I hope to by that age. It was impressive.

There is no flat terrain anywhere on the ranges, so you need to be able to move around with a carbine and gear and not snap an ankle. Be prepared to hit the ground hard when you react to contact and have to get up on something that might be unstable.

You will need to hydrate – a lot. I went through close to two gallons of water at the range and drank at least another half gallon each night after the class. Keep your electrolytes up too.

This is a physically taxing class.  However, Max will work with you and train you regardless of your blown knees, bulging discs, or whatever else is driving you up a wall, physically or mentally. We had a fellow student who took the class before, did what he could and knew he could do better with some PT. He came back 25lbs lighter after rucking a bunch, getting his PT on, and rocked it. He’s coming back for more and loving every minute of it. We had another student who was “moving slow” because she screwed up her knee doing Krav Maga(!) recently. Did I mention she was in her 40s? She was lugging a big old 7.62x39mm carbine with all the trimmings, full kit, diving in the dirt like everyone else, and getting rounds on target.

Max does not require you to be 75th Ranger Regiment material to take this course. The point I am trying to make here is that if you know you can stand to lose ten or twenty pounds, then start working on it NOW by cutting carbs and moving more, because you’ll do even better at the class. You’ll still make it through regardless, but getting your PT on in preparation is going to help, no matter what.

Here’s a list of gear I used for the class. I’ll post pictures later.

  • Carbine: Colt LE6920 with a JP Enterprises / VTAC handguard with free-float barrel with A2 flash suppressor, Troy Industries BUIS, SureFire G2 with VTAC mount, and VTAC sling. Everything else was stock.
  • Optic: Aimpoint M68 CCO with LaRue cantilever mount co-witnessed with sights.
  • Pistol: S&W M&P 9c
  • Mags: Colt USGI aluminum 30rd and a couple of PMAGS
  • Belt: ATS war belt with 2x ITW fast mags, Tactical Tailor (TT) dual pistol mag pouch, Blade-Tech holster, Maxpedition dump pouch, HSGI bleeder pouch with QuickClot gauze, 2x Vaseline gauze, NPA, and Israeli bandage, TT tool pouch with a Leatherman Wave, TT pouch with backup SureFire G2.
  • Chest rig: ATS low profile chest harness.
  • Misc: Mechanics gloves. Carhartt watch cap, Crye field shirt and pants, Hatch ankle and shin pads (supposedly knee pads, but they spent all their time on my shins and lateral malleolus).

That about wraps it up. Take Max’s class. You will learn much, and realize there is much to do.