We had a really good weekend in the end but it started pretty rough.
Initial equipment check went well, only a couple of loose screws and everyone’s equipment was definitely of the sort we recommend: Scopes known for solid tracking, rifles with heavy profile barrels, no semi-autos, suppressors in use, good quality rings and bipods, etc… Some guns were factory Savage and Remington others were full or semi-custom. People with pieces of kit that weren’t vetted properly as field ready definitely found out but those were few and far between with one glaring exception.
Optics, optics, optics. You know even the best optics have little niggly problems or complete failures occasionally. That’s manufacturing in the modern age. That makes our recommendations for more affordable optics something we take very seriously. Folks with funding limits that are not orbit level high get legitimately pissed off when we point at something reasonably priced and they buy it and it fails right out of the gate. Same goes for those with more substantial reserves of disposable cash. I’ll omit for now spilling the beans on the details of which scopes failed and/or how they failed with one funny exception because we’re working with the manufacturers to verify the issue sources so they can take any steps necessary without needlessly harming their brand. Often the way a manufacturer finds out about an issue even existing is through feedback and we’re giving it to them constructively.
So, what kinds of failures did we see? Turret tracking consistency issues on high and low end optics that were definitely not due to loose turret caps, over torqued cap screws or other simple issues were the most infuriating. Failure to hold zero was another. Click value discrepancies were another that was more common than last time and I attribute that to the very wide assortment of optics this time around. The first class was extremely heavy with top end IOR Valdada Crusader and Recon models, this time there was everything you could think of on the line. More sample variety means we see more performance variety.
We were able to take care of all of the problems in one way or another. If we could get a good zero we’d shift the shooter to using hold-off aiming instead of dialing which works extremely well within the confines of 1000yrds. For the cases of shifting/wandering zero we simply replaced the optic or the entire weapon system. One failure, on my own Dodger Dog Gun, was particularly frustrating and is pretty funny in hindsight given that I’m the one that checked out my own rifle. One of the little pinch screws that holds the windage turret cap to the center post so clicks register had decided to go walkabout and I didn’t notice. That led to a comedy of errors of sorts.
I did notice that I couldn’t get a zero that was useful. Part of that though was the ammo I tossed together for this was meant for me to use for fireforming the last of my .243win to .243Ackley, not for a student to use. Well, a student needed it and couldn’t get enough of any one kind of ammo at WalMart to do the class meaning they needed what I brought. So, I dutifully loaned it and they complained that it didn’t shoot right. I tried but the best group I could get was over 5 inches at 100yrds. 55 grain Varmageddon pills at 3800fps from an 8 twist barrel I guess was a little much on the spin and they were going everywhere. So, Dodger Dog Gun got pulled back and my brand new US Optics B-17 was the butt of many jokes. I replaced the B-17 with a spare SWFA 16x42mm SS but zeroing was a non-starter since it wouldn’t group. I got home and looked at my B-17 and noticed the missing screw right away, grabbed a spare from my box of spare shit and it’s working fine now. Dammit. Sorry about that Shinobi. I really wanted you to be able to use that gun.
Beyond the equipment issues we really put the psychological, intellectual and physical pressure on for this group of students. The last group did so well that we didn’t think we were challenging people quite enough so we stepped it up just one notch. A little less time and a little more drill complexity and difficulty. We got what we wanted. Students were under just enough pressure that they’d start gradually losing the fundamentals with predictable results and we’d have to re-focus them. It got continuously easier for them to self-diagnose and correct for their glitches though. So it worked. They really internalized things and by the third day when we were in full on testing mode they performed beyond any reasonable expectation. Day 1 was a lot of grinding through bigger form and equipment issues at 100yrds to get their groups tight enough that long range would work. Day 2 refined their form and got them focusing against distractions and using DOPE properly so long range hits were in the 60% zone but most misses were wind call related. Day 3 was super high pressure and despite that hits during the most challenging drills were over 80% with misses being wind calls mostly with a very few form issues which students immediately identified, copped to and corrected. They all went from a mix of confidence on the surface with an unsure center to knowing that they were field viable marksmen (Ok Xena, and markswoman) who didn’t need our help anymore to hit 1000yrds. Them chickadees done left the nest.
These students really expected a lot of themselves and you could totally sense the frustration when they didn’t perform to their expectations right off the bat or even after a good whack of instruction. Folks have to realize, expectations need to be aligned with universal reality. You don’t attend training to show me or you how good you are. You come there for me to show you how much you have to learn that I have to teach and then for me to go ahead and teach you as much of that material as I can as thoroughly as possible in the time available.
I see a lot of folks online saying they need to train before coming to one of our classes. That’s simply insane. You need to get your gear in order, twist your expectations knob to “don’t know shit but ready to learn” and come to a course and watch your skill set bloom. We’ll teach you to shoot groups if you need to learn that. We’ll teach you trigger control if you need to learn that. We’ll teach you whatever you need to know to become a viable rifle marksman and nobody’s going to point or look down on you. They’ll probably look at you with admiration. Showing up knowing squat and having the courage to be taught and to learn under pressure is something we all actually find pretty inspiring. Anyone looking askance at such an act of courage probably lacks that courage themselves.
Class 002: You were all amazing and impressive. I couldn’t be happier with every single shooter out there. Some of you have contacted me lamenting your performance. I can’t imagine thinking like that being sane because I’m personally impressed with every single one of you. I know how challenging that training was and I don’t think I’d have done any better than any of you. That was exactly the point of it, to be extremely challenging. If it’s a real challenge for me as an experienced long range and competitive shooter then it’s going to be serious training for you, not piddle farting around burning a buck-fifty with each trigger pull for nothing. If it’s easy for me then it’s just rehearsing which does nothing to improve performance. I would feel pretty guilty about providing training to people for money that I wouldn’t want to personally spend my time and hard earned money doing.
As an aside: Some of the students reported being a tad unnerved by being physically touched and having appendages and body parts moved around by someone else to get them into a correct position. Well, think of it this way: Those that were so treated had already completely failed at figuring it out after being shown a number of times without physical contact. Continuing to teach those students that way would be like teaching a pig to sing. It’d waste my time and annoy the pig. So, the odd person being unnerved once means they didn’t want us to have to do it a second time and so started to manage their body position and alignment properly from then on. For those people: You’re welcome for burning that into your head and if it unnerved you: Suck it up buttercup. Being gentle with you, dancing around your personal hangups and generally molly coddling you in any way won’t make you a better shooter. If I wanted you to be in your comfort zone I would have done a video and not stepped into the field with you. You don’t learn to change you while you are in your comfort zone. If body position matters and you’re screwing it up then sometimes your instructors need to alter your body position, which means they’ll have to touch you. They’re not molesting you so deal with it like a big kid and move on. The reason our students progress so far so fast is that we train you like grown ups. This isn’t Disneyland, it’s a rifle range. We’re not building happy places, we’re building viable rifleman.
If you don’t think you’re ready, you are. If you think you’re ready, you need to reset your mindset to learn from demonstrate. If you’re not an alumnus or haven’t signed up for training: What the hell are you waiting for?
Have you ever looked at something and said, “Man, that’s just more expensive than it’s worth.”? Well, you might have that reaction to Vectronix products. Vectronix is one arm of Leica which is world renowned for the quality and precision of their optics. Vectronix takes that a little further biasing toward the military end of the market. The military’s of the world don’t have the kind of budget concerns that we mere mortals do so they often use kit that’s got price tags that look like serial numbers. That also means they have some of the most awesome and rugged bits and bobs to be had in their inventory and the manufacturers that sell to them will mostly sell the same stuff to civilians. So, if you’re in the rare air of long range precision shooting and you need serious kit, check out the military suppliers and the stuff they make.
For example some people shoot to several hundred yards and they might get away with a golfers laser rangefinder. Some people shoot to over one thousand yards and they really need something like a Terrapin or a Sig Kilo2200MR or Leica 1200 and so on. Those are much more expensive. Then there are cretins like David Tubb and Charlie Melton and George Banke that make extreme range shots just for the seeming sake of making sure the rest of us know we’re not that good. They shoot well over 2000 yards and often quite a bit further. There’s nothing short of military level kit that’s going to do that reliably. This is why distance costs so much money. It’s an order of magnitude.
Look at Kilo2200MR’s, they’re like 400 bucks. No big. Vectronix Terrapins are 1800 bucks used and they don’t make them anymore. If you want something equally capable then you’re looking at stuff like PLRF15 and similar and the prices go way way way way up into multiple thousands of dollars immediately.
What if you need to lase a field of grass 12km away? Well here’s what you’d use. I personally ranged a dry grass hillside with the sun facing me at 10km. I couldn’t get farther because there’s nothing farther from me. 10km is about as far as you can see anything here, especially now with all the wildfires polluting the air. I lased a cow at 5km, a house at 11km, and on and on.
What’s the downside? Well, I picked this set up for about $8,000 and it weighs an absolute ton. We’re talking over 5lbs of optics with a heart stopping price tag.
How about the optics? The glass is as clear as any top shelf rifle scope, if not better. It’s stupid clear and the reticle in the view just helps that much more.
You can connect a data cable to military GPS units to it, mount it to a tripod and use it for ultra precise work at the extreme distance it’s capable of. It takes 6volt Lithium Ion batteries in pairs which seem to keep it working forever.
The 10x magnifier attachment screws right on and off and even seals so you don’t get water vapor or dirt between the magnifier and the binocular unit. The capabilities are just stunning too. It has a compass so it knows what direction you’re pointed. It also knows what elevation it’s pointed at so it can do a nifty thing. You can lase one target, then another and it’ll give you the slope distance between the two. You can range a target relative to another asset on the ground. Talk about sniper fuel.
From here on I’m going to leave you with some curiosity and a few pictures. Keep in mind that the unit I tested is actually the property of one of my long range students, not mine. I’m not that wealthy or that determined.
Retail price of something like a Vector 21 Nite is around $18,000-20,000 after all is said and done and there are export restrictions up the wazoo.