AAR: Viking Tactics Nightfighter 1-3 December, Lakeland, FL

I spent the last three days at Southern Exposure Training in Lakeland, FL completing the Viking Tactics Nightfighter course.  Southern Exposure is a training only range run by Irv and Watfa. I consider both personal friends, but even if we weren't, it would still be the best place to take a class I've ever been.  Irv's been to over 250 courses himself, and knows good trainers from bad. He doesn't invite the bad. Watfa takes care of Irv and the logistics. It leaves the trainers free to train and the students free to learn.  It is my first choice for training, and not only because it's an hour from my house.  Their website is http://www.southernexposuretraining.com/ and well worth your time to visit.

Viking Tactics is run by Kyle Lamb, who retired from the highest level of the U.S. Army's special mission units with combat service in some famous battles and shitty places.  Kyle was the primary instructor, aided by "Chili", who retired from the same unit as Kyle did and also has a lot of combat experience.  Both are not only warriors of the highest caliber, they're also excellent instructors. Just because a guy can fight doesn't mean he can teach.  Kyle and Chili can do both, and I am lucky to have been able to train with them.

Nightfighter is a capstone class, in that you have to have completed both Viking Tactics Carbine 1.5 and Viking Tactics Streetfighter to be able to enroll in the class.  If you look hard enough, I have completed multiple AAR's on each course. Kyle explains it as Carbine 1.5 teaches you the positions, Streetfighter makes you apply them using vehicles, and Nightfighter makes you do everything you learned in the dark.  I have been taking Viking Tactics classes for six years and this is the first time Nightfighter was offered.  It was worth the wait.

TD1 was broken into two parts-a daylight session to get zeroed, discuss some theory, and run a few basic warm up drills. and the evening session. During these drills, Kyle stressed activating the light to get used to it.  The night session involved running the same drills, in the dark, focusing on accuracy and light manipulation.  You found out real quick if your shit worked or not, and both Kyle and Chili would offer advice on what had worked for them and what had not. I won't repeat the entire program of instruction, but we did a good amount of shooting.  We used both hand-held and weapon lights.

TD2 was another two part day. For that, we were joined by Don and Sam of TNVC, a company that sells night vision equipment. We were treated to a discussion of how night vision worked, what options were available, and how it was integrated into equipment and used in the field. Don and Sam also brought sample equipment that the student could try for themselves.   Vehicles were introduced into the scenarios and we shot on steel and paper, both handgun and carbine. 

TD3 was the final two part day, where we worked into the vehicles, shooting through windows, and generally going through different scenarios involving shooting through vehicles, out of vehicles, utilizing as much cover as possible, and trying to get hits in the dark, using a light, while trying to make yourself as small as possible.  Each day ran from 1200-2100 for shooting, and then there was a debrief after the shooting stopped before going home.

Gear wise, I used my issued Sig M400 11.5 with a SigRomeo4 optic in the Sig mount.  My optic mount failed on TD2 and would not stay locked in, so I replaced it with an Aimpoint CompM4 I had in the safe. The optic itself worked fine, as did the rifle.  I shot a couple of Glock 19's with modifications by Boresight Solutions and RMR's.  I had match barrels in the Glocks that did not work particularly well with the Magtech ball I was using.  I suspect a little Flitz and a judicious use of a drill will clear that up for me.  I had not shot much with RMR's before, but became sold on them after this class. Once I figured out the ammunition issue, the pistols performed flawlessly.   I was okay with my performance. I have lost weight and my movements are better.  However, I can still completely shit the bed on a moment's notice by doing things such as using my handheld light to backlight my RMR sight to try to see the target (pro tip: that doesn't work) or trying to will bullets to hit instead of using sights.  I am hoping to be able to shoot more of that type of work prior to the next class.

I had previously shot with every other student except one guy who was Kyle's army buddy from the 82nd Airborne who drove in from Louisiana. Some of the cast of characters present were lawdogX, Ben from Boresight Solutions, Old Fred, Ricardo, Mike from Rampart Coatings, Carl, Steffon, & Andrew from Ft. Lauderdale, Josh from Homestead, Andrew, Jack, Johnny, and several others.  Everyone was safe. Everyone was switched on, and I enjoyed seeing my friends almost as much as the shooting. There wasn't a bad one in the bunch.

In sum, it's a journey to get to this class. The journey is well worth taking for its own sake, but the class was a culmination of what I had learned over the years. I strongly encourage anyone who can take these classes to do so if you care about being a better shooter and more aware of how to do work around vehicles and in the dark. I would like to thank Kyle, Chili, Irv, Watfa, and my fellow students.  This was the most fun I've had in a while, and I learned a lot as well. Can't wait to shoot with all of you again.

-edited to correct the acronym for Tactical Night Vision Company

"Hold my beer and watch this"

Original Post

KOAM

 

Another great class from Kyle, Chili and Viking Tactics.  So different from the normal night classes because of the shooting around and through vehicles plus the addition of smoke bombs, night vision and Flir.  Everyone I spoke to loved the class and because of the previous Viking Tactics classes attended like Streetfighter and Carbine 1.5 everyone was safe and all shot very well.  What a great learning experience under the tutelage of Kyle, Chili, and Sam who have used the techniques and equipment in their day jobs.  We are very lucky to have this caliber of instructors to instruct the civilians and LEOs in the class so they can succeed under similar conditions if necessary.

I think all were impressed with Sam’s night vision especially the new white tubes which never tire out your eyes and are much brighter than the gen 3 green tube.  That is a great instrument to own although expensive.

 Thanks for the kind words but students attend classes at Southern Exposure because of the quality of instructors that do classes there.

BTW you have lost weight and your moving faster, it’s vey noticeable, your also shooting better which should help with your LEO job.

See you next Viking Tactics class.

 

irv

Great AAR KOAM.  Let me start by echoing your comments about Southern Exposure and Irv and Watfa.  Southern Exposure is a first class training facility in Lakeland, Florida.  The ranges and shoot house are exceptionally well kept, and the trainers are the best in the biz (like Randy Cain and Kyle Lamb).  However, the secret sauce in the training experience is the guy who posted just above me.  Irv exhaustively vets the students in each class to assure everyone is safe, sane, and possesses the requisite skill level for the given class.  It's the only place I've trained where I've never been swept with a muzzle, never witnesses an ND, never worried about a tin-foil-hat wearer shooting next to me, and never endured an inexperienced shooter overestimating his abilities and slowing a class down.  It's the most enjoyable place to train and learn that I know of, and that's thanks to Irv.  

KOAM went through the nuts and bolts of Nightfighter, so below are a few thoughts and takeaways after wringing myself and my gear out over 3 days and nights:

1.  One of the great benefits of training classes is that they're a laboratory for gear.  This was a class with very experienced shooters, so nobody had inferior firearms.  The issues that were encountered were illumination issues.  Shooting in, over, under, around, and through cars at night exposed a lot of weaknesses.  Several shooters found their light locations didn't work (6 o'clock was a particular problem).  Others found the size of their lights was problematic (I ran a Fury in a VTAC mount and there were barricade positions I just couldn't make work).  Several guys ran lights that had multiple levels (click once for low, twice for high, etc.) and they worked very poorly.  Whatever the situation they always seemed to be on the wrong level.  Another common problem was switchology.  Tailcap switches worked far better than tape switches at preventing negligent light discharge.  Finally, throwy beam patterns worked far better than floody for what we were doing.

2.  Speaking of switchology, I had a bear of a time shutting my light off consistently, both with pistol and rifle.  It's easy enough to do reliably at the range, but when you're moving from position to position, exiting and moving around vehicles, as well as reloading and transitioning (sometimes under a car), turning your light off repeatedly and consistently after each target became like Chinese algebra.  I was caught several times leaving my pistol light on during a reload, or leaving my rifle light on during a transition.  It took three days just to start making a habit of turning my light off reliably after each target engagement.

3.  An entirely different problem arose with the red dots.  The day classes were bright and sunny, and I cranked the rifle and pistol optics up to near full power.  At night, I would adjust my dots to a much lower setting to accommodate shooting with a white light in the dark.  Then, when we got to train with night vision, I would crank both optics down to the very lowest settings.  The problem arose when moving from one environment to another.  For example, I shot a course of fire under NVG with the rifle and pistol dots on VERY low settings, then rolled right into a white light pistol evolution that started in a vehicle.  My RMR was still on NVG setting, and when Kyle yelled "contact," I drew the pistol and had no red dot.  I fumbled for too-long a period of time before just running with my BUIS.  Another lesson learned.  

4.  Finally, training with the latest in night vision gear was an absolute hoot.  Red dot pistol + NVG = cheating.  It was insanely easy to make ridiculous precision shots in complete darkness.  Sam and Don from TNVC were on hand with tips and instruction, and I was amazed at how quickly we became proficient.  We used NVG with both rifle and pistol, and around cars and barricades.

Many thanks to Kyle and Chili for an awesome class, and to Irv and Watfa for hosting and putting together a great group of students.  It always feels like a reunion with friends.

____________________
The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war

I’ll echo the sentiment of the posters above about Southern, Irv and Watfa. I’ve known Irv for over 20 years and he and Watfa are good people. They do what they do for the love of the sport and offer trainers they’ve personally vetted.

Unlike many other Schools, and as as stated by others, Irv vets his students. By vetting the students Irv fosters an environment conducive to learning and retention. Everyone in class will be safe and therefore students are free to focus on the task at hand. Furthermore Irv is master at picking personalities that mix well. Students can be joking one second and taking training seriously the next. When you consider long training days and tons of information thrown your way being surrounded by good, knowledgeable, friendly, safe, and helpful students makes the experience. I’ve heard from several of my fellow students who've trained at other facilities that Southern Exposure is the place they prefer to train.

 

The guys above left great AAR’s so I’ll try and not repeat what they’ve posted. I was reticent about posting because I don’t frequent forums, am not LE and basically have no street cred. (Zero ) I decided to post because I have different needs than most of the guys in the class and Southern isn’t limited to LE & military. While most are LE and served I happen to be a civilian with no military training. (Though I’ve watched every Chuck Norris move ever made.) One great thing about the classes at Southern is that instructors take this into account. It’s not a gear race with expectations that you come in kitted up. I’m most likely to have one spare pistol mag in my pocket or belt and if I can get to a carbine 1 spare AR mag in my pocket when I grab the carbine. The instructors are tolerant of my circumstances and encourage the “train as you’d fight” philosophy.

 

As lawdogx mentioned these classes are where you bring your gear to test. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve come to believe that unless gear can survive a class I wouldn’t consider fielding it.

 

Kyle and Chili are top notch instructors. It’s impressive how well they work together. Kyle is a master at identifying a weakness, pointing it out and helping you work past it. He’s also incredible at setting up stages and forcing you to think about workarounds. With all the different gear, student heights, experience and builds a single stage can have half dozen+ different solves. Kyle is right there watching how you get shots on target and offers advice when he feels there is a more efficient solution. As soon as Kyle see’s you’re comfortable he finds a new way to challenge you. Chili is right there each stage catching everything and offing tips on everything from shooting to movement to gear placement. After every class I leave with tons of food for thought, ideas to try out and things to work on.

 

For this class students have had Carbine 1.5, Pistol 1.5, and Street Fighter as mandatory prerequisites and most of the class has taken Designated Marksman as well. Night fighter is Street Fighter at night. Don’t let that fool you though. Darkness may seem like one extra dimension but dozens of things come into play that are non factors during the day. More often than not weapon mounted wide beam lights are more of a liability than an asset when fighting from cover. I can’t count the times I blinded myself under the car because the surefire lit up the bottom of the car or barricade too much and the target not enough. Shooting carbine with a mini scout on TD1 when there was no wind left me unable to see targets in odd positions (Such as broke back or shooting under the car). Add contact lenses and astigmatism to the mix and challenges mount.

 

Another big takeaway is how much fighting with a handheld sucks for me. It’s awkward. I’ve yet to try Kyle's bungee method so I can’t comment to that but without that bungee a light is next to useless in my hand for a night fight. I can’t believe I never tried to work different positions with a handheld and pistol. I get that I’m not LE and exposed to that under normal conditions but there is no reason to not have tried it out to see what it felt like.

 

All in all I’ve learned a ton and look forward to the next class and seeing the guys again.

 

One last bit of advice for civilians considering classes at Southern. Don’t run out and buy a ton of accoutrements. Go to the classes with what you have and see what everyone is running. Ask to shoot their guns and test the gear. Ask why they chose the gear they chose. Then decide what you need and what will work for you in your life.

 

Hope my civilian perspective was of some insight to someone out there looking for a good, safe, friendly place to learn. I can’t recommend Southern Exposure, Randy Cain, and Kyle/Chili enough.

Mano

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