Student Review: Combat Rifle Nov 8/9: ‘Palmetto’
Student Review: Combat Rifle, Nov 8-9, 2014, “Palmetto”
I have three goals in writing this report. First: to provide an objective account of my experience and review the quality, quantity and value of the services I received. Second: to offer practical “nuts and bolts” advice to anyone preparing to take the Combat Rifle course. Third: to advance a motivational argument to anyone undecided about training with the MVT group.
For context, I am middle-age with a wife and small children. Prior military, non-combat role. Life-long firearms shooter/owner. Desk-job for the past 20 years. I have taken courses in defensive handgun instruction from a highly proficient trainer with a background as a military handgun instructor who taught military personnel, law enforcement and private security. The military training tailored to civilian needs that I received for the handgun made an incredibly profound difference in my proficiency and confidence. I wanted to find that same level of instruction for the battle rifle. Additionally, I wanted to learn the proper skills to work with others in small unit rifle teams.
The MVT Combat Rifle course is taught by Aaron who is both a combat veteran and a military firearms instructor. Aaron has “been and done.” The instruction he brings is not “theory” or “Hollywood” or “paintball” or “competition shooting”. The instruction Aaron brings is modern, battle proven skills that he has both seen and used to prevail in combat firefights.
The two-day course began with a clear foundation of safety guidelines, expectations and procedures. Safety was always Aaron’s chief concern throughout the course. The only safety issues over the weekend was that everyone, at one point or another, got a deserved chiding from Aaron over muzzle awareness. Nothing escaped Aaron’s eye and he was quite serious about maintaining a safe range.
The training progressed in a logical sequence: marksmanship, zeroing rifles, malfunctions, reloads, movements, positions, support side shooting, cover, rates and types of fire, two-man team movement. Everything was paced. We were never rushed. Aaron would not only explain the “how to” but also always the “why” of each thing we did. Aaron would first demonstrate each movement or task then we would dry-run to ensure everyone understood and was comfortable. Aaron was relaxed, patient, personable, humble and quite humorous, yet always maintained his professionalism and military bearing.
Each section and topic came with a lot of solid information to absorb and the drills were often physically taxing with bursts of movement, extended muscle control and elevated heart rate and breathing – it’s much more difficult than it looks on TV to run to cover with a rifle and support gear and then lay down effective cover fire. However there was a good balance between instruction and action with several built in breaks to rest and recover. During instruction and break periods Aaron included frequent stories and insights that were invaluable as both illustration and advice. Brutal truths from a combat veteran served to emphasize the gravity of our training.
The other students in the course were all high quality, like-minded individuals. There were no attitudes or egos. Everyone was open and friendly while maintaining a serious professionalism about our training. I was somewhat surprised to see that they came from all over the country and most had traveled quite a distance to be there.
Max did not participate in instructing Combat Rifle; he was instructing a combined CTT/CP course that week. However, he did make a point to welcome us and greet us when we arrived the first morning. Over the weekend we also had a few other opportunities to chat with Max when he would stop by the square range during his movements about the property. From the brief exchanges I had with Max, he was no-nonsense and focused on “the mission” of the training. But it was also clear that he genuinely cared about the people attending his courses. What made this most evident to me was what I observed in the handling of a student who was moved into Combat Rifle from a more advanced course.
From what I could tell, a student in the 6-day combined course sustained a muscle injury and was unable to continue at the required level of activity. Max personally transferred and transported him into the Combat Rifle course where he was readily assimilated. The rest of the weekend I observed how the MVT instructors and volunteers worked with that student to shuffle schedules and create special training opportunity for him to still get the most value for his time and investment while he was at MVT. I was not privy to the details of that situation or the final arrangements but what I did see was instructors who respected and honored that student’s commitment of time and money and who worked to go “the extra mile” to do right by that man.
The Koolwink Motel is where you want to book your room when training at MVT. It is very convenient. It is a great value. It is a gem of “Americana” and you would be hard-pressed to find cleaner motel rooms anywhere in the world. Additionally, the Koolwink is three minutes from a newer shopping-strip with a Food Lion grocery store, CVS pharmacy, Burger King and good little Mexican restaurant.
After class, the instructors and students will often gather as a group for dinner at one of the local restaurants. If you get the opportunity, be sure to join the group for dinner. You have to eat anyway, right? This is where you can really get to know the MVT instructors and volunteers and to network with like-minded people who come to the courses. This will definitely enrich your experience.
Combat Rifle is taught at the MVT “square range” which is next to where you will park. You will have access to your car during the day but you may be walking up to fifty-yards to get to it. Plan on carrying your essential gear to the range and accessing everything else from your car during the longer breaks or during lunch. Lunch, extra ammo, extra water, gun cleaning gear, etc. are fine to leave in the car.
Bring your own water. I believe that there were water coolers provided on site by MVT and they have just recently installed a hand pump well but my advice is to think of those resources as your back-up plan. Count on a gallon of water per day, probably more in hot summer. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Drink frequently and stay hydrated during the day. Also, bring high energy snacks like trail mix or Clif Bars to munch throughout the day to keep you going strong.
Bring a waterproof, pocket notepad and take diligent notes. This will help you retain the instruction and also give you reference to continue training when you get back home.
Gloves and kneepads should be considered essential. When you see some of the jagged shale at the range you will be glad for kneepads. Sustained manipulation of your rifle over two days can create abrasions and hotspots on your hands that good gloves can prevent. Again, better to have these things and not need them than to need them and not have them.
Prior to attending the course, work on organizing your support gear to the best configuration you can. Try it on and test it. Move with it. Every student in the course had a different configuration of load bearing support gear, pouches, harnesses and belts. The important thing is to have a configuration that works for you. Plan to wear your support gear for the duration of the course. This gives you the opportunity to see how it actually works in action and will give you a strong indication of what needs to be changed or eliminated. Something may seem comfortable and convenient at home in your living room but prove to be quite wrong when, for instance, you are wearing it under stress and shooting from cover or doing a reload while lying prone. Additionally, Aaron covers gear placement and theory and is there to help you configure your system. The key to getting the most from this is to dedicate a lot of thought to your gear setup prior to attending the course.
Physical conditioning is something everyone can do more of and benefit from. I did train for this course but I underestimated the training I needed to do. You certainly do not need to be super-fit or athletic for this course but the better shape you are in, the more you will be able to concentrate on your skills. I tired much more quickly than I anticipated and my core needed to be stronger to effectively execute some of the drills. My advice is work on your core, your leg strength and your “wind.” If you are physically able to do “burpees” then a good daily regimen of those for a month or two should more than put you where you need to be.
If you are on this website to begin with and you are still reading my review, the odds are I’m preaching to the choir. But maybe not. The bottom line is that if it is your intention to defend your life and your family with a rifle but you aren’t training, you’re wrong.
Don’t deceive yourself and don’t cheat yourself. Aaron hammered on this. Don’t take shortcuts because “when it’s for real” you will fail and failure means people are going to die. You can’t move better than you actually are. You are not going to “rise to the occasion.” You are not (as Max has stated on the blog) going to magically find your “inner mall ninja.” You are not even going to “default to your training.” The reality is that you will default to the level of training that you have mastered.
So what is the level of training you have mastered? Have you mastered correct methods or have you mastered a bunch of bad habits and “Hollywood”? How do you know?
Do you have a place to shoot your rifle? A place you can shoot your rifle and move? A place you can shoot and move with all your gear on? A place to shoot and move with gear in buddy teams? Are you doing it correctly? Are you doing it safely? How do you know?
Can you shoot supine or lying on your support side? Can you do it correctly? And safely? Can you do it effectively? With gear on? Under stress? When you are fatigued? How do you know?
MVT offers you combat proven training from combat proven instructors in a safe and dynamic environment. They will give you correct instruction. They will give you the opportunity to apply the instruction and they will observe you, correct you and give you feedback so that you know what to do, how to do it and why it should be done. You will test your skills, test your rifle, test your gear, test your body and test your mind. All the while you can be confident that you are building a solid foundation on which to build and progress to more advanced levels of training.
So if you aren’t training, you’re wrong. If you aren’t training correctly, you’re wrong. Don’t be “that guy” (or gal). Max offers a rare and unique opportunity to have access to world class instruction; commit and take advantage of it while you can.