Student Review: HEAT 1 by Mike

HEAT 1.0- A Banquet of Perspectives

Many excellent reviews of Max’s classes have been written over the years, and it may seem as if every subject has been covered. My subject, today, will therefore not be another reiteration of how excellent his class is (it surpasses words) or why you should take it (you absolutely should, multiple times). Instead, I will endeavor to capture the immersive spirit of the class by describing how it helped broaden and solidify my perspectives. Anyone can teach methods, but to broaden a pupil’s worldview is the mark of a true master.

So what sort of pupil was I? A millennial, for starters, who made Eagle Scout before the Boy Scouts went awry and who spends much of his spare time reading medieval/military history, playing historical strategy games, or singing the Modern Major-General’s song from “Pirates of Penzance.” I was medically disqualified from ROTC in college, and the closest I’ve ever come to the sensation of battle is a WWI reenactment group in Pennsylvania. Among the reenactors, many of them veterans, the loving attention to history is paired harmoniously with camaraderie, paternal leadership from the old hands, and the discovery that firing rifle blanks (which are quieter than live rounds) next to one’s comrades without ear protection is a bad idea. I had plenty of time behind the trigger at rifle ranges, and even attended a 2-gun event, but always preferred the shotgun. I’d known about Max for years, and had taken his pistol class and HEAT 0.5 before attending. I highly recommend the latter, as it smoothed out enormously the transition to the 4-day class.

So what was the class like? Having attended HEAT 0.5 before, the first two days were the familiar square range: safe, controlled, straightforward. There, we got to meet our instructors and practice zeroing our rifles without a bench rest. This is also the time when the newest members realize that they should’ve brought a spare parts kit, including batteries for electronics, front post sight adjusters for iron sights, and a second rifle in the event he brought a FrankenGun. Whilst deliberately causing some rather unpleasant jams in our guns before clearing them, some rifles had to be taken off the firing line completely- the results were unambiguous. Instructor Scott (alias First Sergeant) possesses some truly intimate knowledge on how an AR-15 can malfunction, and seems to know every possible way to jam, break, foul, or fix them. The alumni retaking the class also know to carry extra spare parts for the newer students, and when these make an honest mistake the former are the first to volunteer their aid. At times, the alumni can feel like older siblings, and can occasionally help take the burden off of the instructors.

On both the square range and woodland lanes, the most common activity besides reloading magazines is reconfiguring gear. Lots of newcomers arrive sporting far too much of it, and the training quickly helps shed nonessentials. I myself showed up with a minimalistic amount of kit, arriving in ALICE gear, woodland BDUs, and carrying a full-length rifle from JP Rifles rather than a carbine from Colt. This ensemble (apart from the rifle) was comparatively cheap, very quick to put on or take off, and earned me the nickname “80s guy” because of how much I stood apart from the Velcro and frontal magazines. Once again, Instructor Scott provided numerous pearls of wisdom on what works and what doesn’t. Everything he and Max tell us has some grounding in real life, which not only helps persuade, but also makes it more memorable. There isn’t any rattling off of dry checklists, or abstract concepts without an anchor; the experience is more like learning a ballad or an epic poem. The second most-frequently encountered problem on both square and woodland ranges is learning to walk in a straight line. Having 12 men with different paces, stride lengths, and attention spans all together at once ensured that our attempts to walk “on line” mostly ended up with us advancing in echelon. At least our flanks were [theoretically] protected…?

Being an under-30 millennial, I did not have knee problems and thus had different issues on the woodland portion of the site. For starters, my long legs made it easy to overshoot my partner when performing tactical movements forward or backwards. Also, repeatedly kneeling on anything other than a flat square range is a heck of a quad-burner and ankle-stretcher. The second biggest problem is being able to balance paying attention to one’s surroundings, while also paying attention to one’s teammate(s). This is an essential skill, but definitely not a natural behavior in today’s world. Even when the targets were in seemingly obvious places, they were still easy to somehow miss/overlook. That was embarrassing, but it helped impart a sense of perspective on how much training can do in just 4 days. If we excelled, it showed us where we were and where to go next. When we failed, it gave us a starting point for improvement. Did we get yelled at? Absolutely- otherwise we wouldn’t be able to hear each other over the sound of gunfire. When multiple rifles are going off within 5 yards of each other, nobody can hear himself talk. Yelling without straining vocal cords was best accomplished by dropping the jaw and making our vowels vertical- opera singers use this technique, and it cuts through gunfire surprisingly well. As for Max and his fellow instructors, they never yelled when the gunfire stopped; they didn’t need to. The logic in their critiques was irrefutable, ego was nonexistent, and they all know how to emphasize an important point without pointlessly going ballistic.

In contrast to the confusion and noise of the firing lines, when we were on breaks the atmosphere was relaxed and sociable. Max was often away during this time for administrative purposes, but the alumni and Instructor Scott had plenty of stories to tell over water and magazine reloading. Conversation was intelligent and engaging, and reminded me a lot of the previously mentioned reenactment group. When driving to and from the tactical ranges, we carpooled (due to limited parking space at our destinations) and had many good chats enroute. Most of the students went to local hotels when the day was done, but one student and I stayed at Max’s relatively new cabin (I also, coincidentally, had made the mistake of driving on rough West Virginia dirt roads in a Ford Focus that lacked 4WD…). His cabin was spacious and had a coffee maker which enabled me to boil water for preparing dehydrated backpacker food. Max really has gone the extra mile for convenience, and he goes about caring for his students everywhere on his property with a quiet, unflashy demeanor that is both humble and selfless.

So what comes next? HEAT 2.0? A repeat of HEAT 0.5 or HEAT 1.0? Yes. The most important lesson to be taken away from this excellent class is that it should be retaken regularly. Professional soldiers spend 4 months training before they are even considered deployable, and so 4 days won’t get you there (unless you’re a Mary Sue). About one third of this class were alumni who had taken it multiple times before, and some even did it on an annual basis. This is the most important perspective: seeing that warfighting is not a one-and-done event. It takes commitment over a long period of time, and a truly honest man will recognize that he is not a professional because he did it once. True professionals are nothing more than those who have mastered the basics. Max’s class teaches us students how hard the basics really are, and gave us a handrail to begin our ascent. He is not a teacher churning out graduates; he is a master teaching apprentices. And that is why you should train under him.

We have a rather short notice HEAT 1 class coming up on October 15-18. There is space.

After that, the December class is, at this time, full.

Beyond that, maybe Sectarian Violence……? Who knows…?


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