Bruce Cartwright (Instructor)
After Action Report
Basic Defensive Carbine Course
SA Consulting, LLC conducted a Basic Defensive Carbine class at the request of 55 Defense over the weekend of 15 and 16-July-2017 at the 55 Defense range facility outside Superior Montana.
The class was populated with ten shooters. Attendees included several law enforcement officers/physicians, a former law enforcement officer, physicians, a member of the Bar, and several retired military members. Experience with the M4 system ranged from those with a basic understanding to very experienced.
Weather was sunny, with a steady breeze, and with temperatures in the high 90s on Training Day 1 (TD1) and in the upper 80s on Training Day 2 (TD2). As part of the medical briefing, attendees were cautioned to hydrate properly. No heat injuries occurred. Proper hydration starts several days before attending a class of this type. Students should always be properly hydrated prior to undertaking classes where physical activity in elevated temperatures is anticipated.
There were a variety of carbines used during this course. Most were variants of the a M4 pattern carbine but a SCAR Lite and Sig MCX were also used. No issues arose with either the Sig or Scar Lite. The Sig was fitted with a folding but fixed length stock. The user found this stock length to be too long and it interfered with his use of the gun. This shooter changed to a collapsing stock on TD 2 and improved significantly. Interestingly, the SCAR was chosen by a law enforcement officer with emergency medical treatment responsibilities. The folding stock allowed the shooter to collapse the stock to attend to patients but still have relatively rapid access to a carbine as opposed to his handgun.
Most of the M4s were of direct gas impingement style, although one shooter used a Ruger piston gun. Manufacturers included Smith and Wesson, LMT, Colt, Rock River and the aforementioned Ruger. Barrel lengths included 10.5, 16, and 20-inch versions. Three shooters ran suppressors. Having been exposed to significant amounts of gunfire over the years, the use of suppressors brings welcome relief when training with carbines. No failures with the suppressors were noted. The range facility had significant amounts of fine dust present. Shooters firing suppressor equipped carbines produced less dust signature when firing prone.
Ammunition varied considerably. Three shooters ran steel cased ammunition. One of these shooters experienced a stuck case. This resulted in a short delay while the weapon was cleared. As a safety note, the M4 was disassembled while on the line (Upper and lower separated) and the shooter sent to a common area to retrieve a cleaning rod to remove the empty case. Thereafter the shooter was directed to reassemble his carbine and proceed. The shooter switched to brass cased ammunition. The gun was a Smith and Wesson Sport model (no ejection port cover). Another shooter experienced significant issues with Winchester ball ammunition. Several rounds displayed deep seated bullets. This shooter was using a Ruger piston gun and had 4 stuck cases. It appears that the ammunition was the culprit and that the rounds this shooter was using were displayed higher than normal pressure. Ammunition quality appears to have gone down in recent years. Mere use of well-known companies’ products does not guarantee satisfactory results. Shooters should test their carry ammunition accordingly.
Optics: Several shooters used iron sights. The use of optical sights has grown significantly in recent years. That said, shooters should maintain their familiarity with iron sights and their use. Optical sights ranged from Aimpoint (which ran fine) to Eo-techs (newer models), and a variable power scope. One of the shooters using the low power variable scope indicated that he had some difficulty in using the scope at close range (15 meters and less). Ranges for this course ranged from 3 to 50 yards.
Slings: Most attendees used some variation of the two-point slings which worked fairly well. One shooter used a single point sling with mixed results. Single point slings have their place but tend to be less than optimal for most uses. The mission you must perform dictates the gear you need to use. The lesson to all was to train with whatever gear you have, discern its weaknesses and either overcome them or replace them.
Zero: Most of the attendees had to adjust zeros. The zero of your carbine needs to be confirmed regularly. The 50 yard zero was used. This zero allows shooters to get hits out to 200 yards on pie plate sized targets.
Miscellaneous: Knee and elbow pads as well as tactical gloves are a good addition to a shooter’s kit especially when attending a course such as this where various positions are used.
Fighting versus Shooting Mindset: This course was a fighting course as opposed to a shooting course. Fighting with a carbine requires shooters pay attention to details that casual shooters need not worry about. The ability to load and confirm the condition of the carbine was stressed. Shooters were instructed in techniques that work in low/no light environments although no low light training was conducted. Situational awareness was stressed. Still many shooters found themselves depressing muzzles during reloads. When asked why, none could explain why. Losing sight of the fight in front of you is generally a bad idea. I suspect that many gun safety programs geared towards beginning shooters may have a bit of responsibility for this trend.
Target Discrimination: A drill which forced shooters to observe various targets and decide which target was to be addressed was included. Not all targets required shooting. All too often, trainers fall into the trap of teaching shooters to fire automatically (i.e. fire when the targets turn as opposed to fire when a threat is presented). This needs to be discouraged. Each round a student fires needs to be the product of a deliberate conscious decision. This drill was well received.
Thanks: Thanks to all the attendees. Thanks also to 55 Defense for hosting this class.