Heiho Consulting Two Day Tactical Carbine Course –Eastern WA
Hosted by Okanogan Co Sheriff’s Department
Training conducted at OCSO department range in Okanogan WA
Training conducted Mar 20 1200-2200 hours and Mar 21 0800-1800 hours
In addition to shooting the class, this course was a first for me as a host and the first time that we have brought outside trainers to our department range.
For this AAR, I am going to include comments on my experience as a host and as a student.
This entire process started for this class actually started back in September 09. I was just back off a deployment and made the 500 mile round trip to take LMS Pistol 2 with Kevin Williams. In order to make it to the class on time, I had to leave my house at about 0230 as I worked the night before. I showed up for the class beat which is obviously not optimal for conducting training. I looked at this and the added expense of travel (food, hotel, gas, wear and tear on my car, all the other things that add up) and the extra time that I have to spend away from my family and thought that there had to be a better way.
Out here in the middle of the woods in Washington, we may not have an Applebee’s or Target, but we do have a pretty nice department range. I started contacting a variety of trainers to come out and run some classes on our range.
Paul Howe was one of the trainers I contacted about running a carbine course. I talked to him and was told that he does travel to the West side of the Mississippi. However, he did put me in contact with another trainer named Eric who is also a LE member and trainer from Western WA. Eric is an adjunct instructor for Howe and is authorized to teach his entire syllabus.
In Oct-Nov 09, Eric and I were working on the details of the course. For this class, one of my primary goals was to get some low/no light carbine training in as it is one of the many things that does not get worked on nearly enough. In order to facilitate this, we had to plan the class for after the snow goes away, yet there is a short window before it starts staying light out too long to make this feasible. After deconflicting my schedule, his schedule and days that the range was already tied up we settled on March 20-21 2010.
The other nice thing of running a class format where the first day goes into the night is that it allows for a late start. My intention was that hat the guys who were coming over from the west coast and making the same 500 mile drive I usually make would be able to leave in the morning. Not having to worry about a hotel room for an extra day, or not getting any sleep the night before is a pretty nice perk for someone coming in from out of town.
Early November Eric ended up tearing his ACL while at work and had to back out because he did not think he would be off light duty in time to run the course. He sent me the resumes of two instructors that he highly recommended that were ready to step up to the plate and make the class happen.
One was John Holschen and the other was Mark Renniger.
For my own selfish reasons, I had two different tracks I wanted to go with the course. Having a LE day job and with one of my main goals being to get some outside training for the firearms instructors with local agencies, I was looking for a class with an LE slant. For my weekend job, I am an Infantryman in the National Guard with three trips to Iraq behind me and looking onwards to potential trips to A-Stan, I also wanted training with a military slant.
There is A LOT of crossover when it comes to running a gun with either the LE or .mil sector.
There are also some pretty significant differences though.
I was in the process of talking with both Mark and John about the class. It ended up that I was able to vet John through two guys I work with that have pretty significant professional relationships with him.
Unfortunately, On Nov 26th the decision was made for me on whom to go with when Mark was gunned down in a coffee shop with three fellow officers.
Prior to Eric recommending him, I had never heard of John Holschen. Like I said though, I was able to vet his abilities as a gunfighter and an instructor through two guys that I trust empirically. I also had been sent a copy of his CV to help out with the descion making process.
In Dec-Jan of this winter, I worked out some more of the details of the class with John.
I spent a lot of effort pushing the course with LE agencies throughout Eastern WA over the following months. My timing pretty much sucks though. Looking at department budgets right now, things are not good. For whatever reason, when the money goes away, the training budget generally gets hit first. It is also hard to justify sending an officer to a class with tuition, ammo, overtime, travel, per diem, etc when other officers in the department are being laid off due to lack of funds.
The other big source of bodies that I was talking to fill the slots were with my military contacts.
I was looking at an overall class size of 12-16 students.
As of March 1st, we were had 15 students that had committed to the class. Between the 12th-14th, I had 6 people back out/change their minds. On the 12th, I opened the class up to non-military and LE guys and started putting on a heavy handed recruiting drive. I got three signups in the following week with this and we were sitting pretty at 12 students for the minimum manning. Then Murphy decides to play games with my OODA loop yet again and I have a WSP Trooper and an Army Captain both have to cancel due to last minute work issues. I got their emails at 2200 on the Wed prior to the class. At that point I was prepared to start calling people to tell them the course was canceled if necessary.
Looking back, there were some communication issues on my end that could have gone different. I also assumed (yeah, yeah, I know) that when people I have known and worked with for years said “don’t worry man, I will defiantly be there, I just need to get my wife to open up the purse strings” that they meant they actually intended to be there. I 100% understand that work comes up and on occasion family stuff happens. However, in order to get a real no bullshit assessment, I should have pushed a bit harder on some of the guys to either cough up a deposit or to stop saying they will be there.
The other big issue as far as organizing the course that I ran into was with the money. Never overestimate the intelligence of a department money person. In February, I heard from the Spokane PD that they would be sending SOMEONE. Up until a week ago, that is all I knew. Repeated attempts to find out who was coming, or to get a good email address for them went unanswered.
Despite thinking that I had been pretty clear in my emails on who to cut the checks to, somehow one department was confused and wrote the check out to my department rather than Hieho Consulting.
The important parts of these SNAFU’s were that John was awesome to work with and that I will be much better prepared to make things work for the next classes.
So, that was the run up to the class.
As far as the course itself goes-
We had seven localish LE members (one came from Spokane, a few hundred miles away, but he is still on the Eastern side of the mountains). The departments represented were-
Okanogan Co SO (three attendees)
Colville Tribal PD
Over half of these guys are either department firearms instructors, SWAT dudes, or both.
To round out the class, we had three guys that are non LE. Two of which I had taken at least two classes with in the past and one who I had never met before. One of them made an epic 7 hour drive each way to come up Vancouver WA and the other two came over from the coast to attend.
At no point during the class were we held up by someone. Everyone showed up with a positive, winning attitude and I was impressed with the overall skill of the shooters.
We ran with a noon start on Saturday in order to give the guys coming from the coast some time to get there and because we knew we would be running late into the night. The first two hours of day one were spent in the classroom with lectures on a variety of things. I know I was getting fidgety and ready to get out on the range. John and Nick covered a lot of the basics while in the classroom. Load/unload, safety brief, reload and other topics. One really nice thing about the class is that John is right handed and Nick is left handed. Whenever it came time to demonstrate something for “wrong sided” guys, Nick had his carbines setup for lefties and was able to show how things worked for someone with his affliction.
To me, the most interesting part of the day one lecture to me was the thirty minutes or so where we discussed detailed ballistic charts for the AR-15 and how it related to zeroing. John explained the pluses and minuses of zero’s at 7 meters, 25 meters, 50 meters and 100 meters. The color coded charts that were part of the student packet helped with a visual of what exactly the round is doing in its flight path and confirmed why the zero I have been running is the best choice for me.
One of the strongest attributes that John has an instructor is that he obviously spends a lot of time analyzing the “why” of things. Then he spends a considerable amount of time validating it with either a timer or force-on-force. Despite him knowing what he believes works best, I am not sure I heard him say EVER “don’t do it that way” or “no that is not the way to do it”. It was ALWAYS “this is the way I do it and here is why. I tried to do it that way years ago and this is why I changed the way I do it now."
The entire weekend was interspaced with the “why” of doing something rather than just how to do it.
After that, we went to go zero. We started with our iron sights and moved to our optics for those of us that were running them. Two guys ran irons only, one had a C-More and the rest were a mix of Aimpoints and EO-Techs with everyone running some form of the AR-15 platform. During the zero process, things continued to run a bit slow. There were some weapons that were not zeroed prior to the course. There was also one guy who had some bad ammo from one box out of his case where things were oversize and he kept on getting stuck rounds in the chamber. I saw at least one case of a bolt that had been taken apart to be lubed prior to the class and the firing pin retaining pin was inserted with the firing pin not fully forward. This was quickly identified, diagnosed and fixed while zeroing.
One really neat thing was that John came with some of the most interesting zero targets I have seen.
He had separate types for both a 100m and 50m target. Nine of us chose to go with a 50m zero and one decided to go with a 100m zero. After choosing what your zero was going to be and posting the appropriate target, we went back to the 50m line. The neat thing about these targets is that you use the center aiming point no matter what, but there are three different impact zones. One is calibrated for if you are shooting at 25m, one at 50m and the other at 100m. This allows you to use your offsets to get a good 50m or 100m zero even if you only have a 25m range available. Printed on the side of the target is a chart with adjustment values for a wide variety of popular optics. Aimpoints, EO-Techs, ACOGs, Troy irons, standard irons, ARMS irons and others are represented.
I felt that things continued to move pretty slowly through the zero process and to be honest was getting pretty anxious about if the pace was going to pick up or not. I do not feel that round count is an indicator of the value of a class, but about 4 hours into the class, the only rounds we had fired were zeroing.
Things started to pick up the pace a bit after that and really got rolling on the second day.
For the rest of the day, we shot a variety of drills on both number/shape targets and bad guy targets. For me, the most interesting parts if the training for this period related to how the human eye sees and assesses targets. John quoted the work of some in depth studies on how the human eye “sees” an actual bad guy as opposed to a picture of one on a flat target like you have at most ranges/classes. Everything “clicked” when the targets were crinkled up and puffed out from the backer to present a more 3d appearance. The added difficulty in determining whether it was a shoot/no shoot target as well as identifying aiming points on the target were an eye opener. Another valuable training point was when some black spray paint was used to frost the edges of the bad guy target so you do not has as distinct of a picture as you do with normal targets with a white background. I can see a definite real world application to drill this as bad guys do not walk around backlit with a white back unfortunately. We also worked on properly scanning and assessing multiple targets and how to drive the gun between targets.
At about 1800 hours we took a break for chow and met back up at the range for our night shoot.
We had a classroom discussion on building searching with a weapon light and how to bounce the light around to where it needs to go without flagging anyone with your weapon or violating any of the four firearms safety rules and other subjects.
After dark at about 2000 hours, we hit the range and shot some drills. Some of the most valuable skills to me were-
-Post shoot scanning at night
-During reloads, how to keep the light on the bad guy
-For the unwashed masses that do not run a pistol mounted light (suckers, hehe) how to maintain light on the bad guys after transitioning
-Shooting number/shape targets to force proper scanning and assement skills. This is something that I found me cheating myself on during the day, but at night, you can’t do your scan until your light comes on. Making cheating much more difficult.
-Added difficulty of determining if the target is a threat at night and what to scan for.
-It was also interesting to see the differences in throw and light color between different weapon mounted lights. Quality LED lights seem to be the way to go now.
-I was happy with my Fenix light. A LD OV-2 was represented and put out some very usable light as well as some of the Surefire weapon lights.
-It was the same with being able to see the differences between the different muzzle devices in use.
At about 2200 hours, we finished our first ten hour day and everyone left to get some well earned rest prior to a 0800 start on day two. For those that were staying in hotels, they had a 5-10 minute commute to and from the range. One diehard drove an hour plus to be in the same bed as his girlfriend and some of the us from the local departments got the short end of the stick as far as commutes go. It is tough to complain though with the lack of traffic around here.
The next morning we started fast on the range and picked up speed throughout the day.
We ran a bunch of drills that were designed to balance speed and accuracy. We worked on transitions and did facing movements, positional shooting and a variety of other skills. There was an excellent piece on post shoot verbalizations with what and when to say after using lethal force in a CONUS situation. Some of the most enjoyable drills on day two were when we shot at steel set at about 90 meters from different positions. The most valuable part of day two for me was the hour long mindset lecture in the afternoon. Proper mindset has never really been an issue with me for as long as I have been seriously training with firearms. I found myself nodding along with what he had to say and having memories pop into the back of my mind as different aspects were discussed. Just like everything else that was discussed throughout the course, John and Nick did a great job of explaining the why of an issue.
After the lecture, we went back outside to the range and started gunning again.
Then we worked fairly extensively with barricade shooting and proper use of cover. The obvious focus was presenting the least amount of you to get shot while gunning down the bad guys. One neat trick that was brought up was to staple a 6-9 inch strip of cardboard to the sides of your barricades so that shooters can practice getting their rounds as close to the barricade as possible without worrying about the barricades being shot up when a round accidently gets too close to it. We did get a few visual demonstrations of just how much deflection you can get when you do skim a round off a 2x4 from a barricade.
To build on the barricade shooting, we added buddy team movement and communication to advance your position. Being that in a class like this, there are guys from a bunch of different backgrounds and teams and that there is no standardized verbiage out there, there were some moments when we were stumbling over our words trying to remember to try out what John and nick suggested rather then what was ingrained through our past training. Overall, everyone seemed to be onboard with what everyone else was trying to say and we made the drill work.
We finished out the day with some speed drills firing 10 rounds each at 20, 10 and 5 yards. Interestingly enough, we had one shooter that was able to get a faster time shooting 10 rounds at the 5 yard line out with his semi-auto AR-15, then one of the LE shooters could with his FA M-4.
Policing of the brass and a little BSing was in order before shaking hands with everyone and us all going our separate ways.
In addition to everything that was stated above, some things that I wanted to emphasize. When shooting paper, everyone had their own targets. There was no cross shooting of targets. When it came time to work on driving the gun between targets, we used dot targets that have six dots on them and while you may be shooting at your neighbors target board, you were shooting at your own dots. This made it easy to poke fun at people as we did the walk of shame to tape over targets and ensured I could not blame anyone else with my constant calls of “I need another roll of tape down here.”
It has been said a lot of times before, but it bears out saying again. John did a great job of explaining the “why” of things. He took extra time to tell exactly how he came about his opinions and how he validated them. John also has a very commanding voice and presence. This makes it easy to listen to a lecture. Even when you are sitting in a nice warm room and itching to get out a go shoot. The comment was made by another student that he has the voice of a television announcer.
I have known Nick for many years and he did an excellent job of supporting John, covering left handed weapon manipulations and other blocks of instruction.
I am guessing I went through about 1000 rounds total. 350 on the first day and 650 on the second maybe. There were about 50-100 pistol rounds fired.
The weapon issues I saw were-
-Broken ACLM charging handle
-Rounds getting stuck in chamber
-C-More sight that kept turning off
-GI Mags not locking in weapon even when downloaded
-Vltor Weapon light mount screw backing off and light falling off weapon
-Bolt not reassembled correctly after lubing
There may have been others, but I am not sure.
One other thing that I really appreciated is that the instructors were both very upfront with the fact that they have no LE experience. They were teaching how to run a gun from their considerable experience. They were very clear to take what they taught and to see if it fit within the legal and policy guidelines.
Overall, I was very happy with the conduct of the course and the personalities involved. I defiantly got my money’s worth and recommend training with John if you get the chance.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.
We had someone out there taking a bunch of pictures on the second day. I tried to take some pictures from the night shoot, but was not able to make it work with my point and shoot. At some point in the next week or so I will post some when she gets them to me.
A big thanks goes out to Tait, Michael, Matt, Matt, Rich, Ty, Craig, Justin, John for coming out to train with me. Without you guys, this would not have gotten off the ground.
A special thanks goes out to Nick and John for their hard work and long hours in making the weekend go off without any major hitches.