ARPC Intermediate Action Shooting Class AAR

As the DC-MD-VA area slowly opens back up from COVID-19, the number of training classes available has slowly increased. While I try to be cautious and only take outdoor classes, wear my mask, etc., it has been nice to get back into shooting more heavily again.

One class that was supposed to happen in April, but got delayed to June, was the Intermediate Action Shooting Class that Arlington RPC was putting on at AGC for the newer Givati RPC. Having not done a class with the instructor or at AGC, I thought this was a great opportunity to get out of the house and do some shooting.

Class Title: “Intermediate Action Shooting Class”

Class Description: “This is a great opportunity to work on moving and shooting, split times, rapid target acquisition, transitioning between stations and targets etc.”

This was basically pitched to me as “the instructor is great” and we’re gonna do some cool carbine and pistol stuff. I’m always up for that, and a trusted friend vouched for the instructor. Plus it was only a hundred bucks. The sponsoring club of the event was Arlington [MD] Rifle and Pistol Club (ARPC), which is the primary driver of most action shooting at AGC.

Instructors: Paul Casale. Paul is a 20 year Army vet, and had a lengthy stint in the support function of Asymmetric Warfare Group.  I actually had met him at previous AGC multi-gun matches, where he proved to be an extremely competent shooter. There was no AI, but we did have an assistant safety officer.

Location/Date: June 7, 2020, 8AM-4PM at the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore range. Location matters; some of the way we did things in class were driven by AGC’s rules.

Weather: Sunny and hot (85-90). Shooting positions were NOT covered. Hydration management was a real consideration, and we took more frequent breaks than usual to jam mags and get some water in us. Sunscreen was definitely a must.

Equipment Details: Gear-wise, I was running a Bladetech double belt with Ghost USA mag pistol mag pouches, a couple assorted AR mag pouches, and a Safariland GLS holster in a drop offset hanger.

In terms of rifles, I had The Katana, and my class SBR. The class SBR is a DD M4V7S upper riding a billet lower, with a Sig Romeo6T/Juliet4 optics combo riding the top. I used the Katana most of the class, but when I started running into gas/function issues with my 55gr Wolf, I swapped over to my class SBR. I had actually lent out the SBR for most of the class to someone who had their rifle go down hard, and it performed quite well for them.

For my pistol, I was using a Glock 17 frame topped with a Swenson FF3 slide… with the FF3 8MOA, of course. It kicked ass the entire class.

Ammo was my 9mm reloads (124gr, hot-ish) plus an unholy mix of Wolf Gold, Wolf 62gr range-safe, and some new ly-arrived Wolf 55gr range-safe. As it turns out, the 55gr was loaded lightly enough that the Katana had some serious functioning issues with it. Tweaking the gas helped somewhat, but it still wouldn’t lock open and would have the occasional failure to eject. The same ammo ran just fine in my class SBR, which should tell you a bit about the dangers of running highly-tuned AR actions in times of ammo scarcity.

Preparation Drills: Since I had been working on some optic and rifle reviews (not posted yet!), I had been spending more time than usual with my rifles doing dry-fire, especially transitions. On the downside, I was doing a little less structured dry-fire with my pistols – just enough to maintain my index, but my reloads need some work.

Author’s Previous Experience: Civilian with no military or LEO background. Have shot some competition, but no accomplishments worth bragging about. Training junkie since April 2018, and have averaged a class a month since then. I am OK with a carbine, pretty good with a pistol, and just average with a shotgun.

Class Demographics: The class of ten students was pretty much a bunch of white guys of varying ages, many Jewish (since the class was originally requested by Givati Rifle and Pistol Club). All the rifles were ARs; I believe all of the pistols were striker-fired, perhaps excepting one. One dude had a P365XL, which I thought was a pretty interesting choice for the class. (But not horrible, assuming he had sourced the 15rd mags from out of state.)

lot of rifles went down hard with optics failures, function problems, and other such issues. Even the Katana didn’t like some of the ammo I tried to feed it. I would say that of student ten rifles out there, three or four were loaners at varying points. This is the first time in a while I had seen that level of gun failure in a class, but it also looked like there was a lot of BCA/PSA/etc. going around, along with some cheaper optics. On the plus side, I didn’t see any spectacular gear failures, so that was good. (I did see some bad decisions, but everyone goes through that.)

The skill level of the participants was uneven. The best of them shot as well as me, perhaps even a bit better in certain situations, but the majority of the class was at the “mature beginner level”. One student got overwhelmed enough that they left early; I was disappointed, because I thought he wasn’t doing that badly. 

TD1 (morning): I arrived at AGC at about 8AM. You can’t start shooting at AGC until 9AM, so we spent the time doing the instructor intro, student introductions, safety/medical/COVID-19, and setting up steel in a couple of the action shooting bays. 

Paul is a personable, funny guy who has a great combination of competitive multi-gun and military experience. Much to my surprise given the name of the class (“action shooting”), the class was not competition-focused or “home defense”, and was much more military/tactical in nature. This isn’t a critique, it was actually somewhat refreshing to be able to dispense with the whole “home defense paradigm” and just focus on pure performance. Paul used the usual “tell, show, do” paradigm of instruction, and it worked well.  He very competently demo’d all drills.

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All of our shooting was done on steel targets, of which AGC now has quite a selection. Steel isn’t going to teach you precision (for the most part), but it WILL teach you to shoot fast and make hits, which is a not-inconsequential skill. It’s easy to get sucked into shooting paper and seeing exactly where you hit, or not knowing if you hit at all (depending on distance and magnification). Steel simply gives you the feedback that you hit, and now it’s time to move on.

The class POI wasn’t set in stone up in front. I think Paul had an idea of where we needed to go, and was playing it by ear how we would get there. Given how well the class turned out, I think it worked for him.

Once it was 9AM, it was time to do a little work from the holster on steel at 10yds or so. We did some controlled pairs and reloads, too. This is a pretty standard drill because instructors need to assess whether students can safely draw and fire a gun. I found myself surprised at how much faster I was than my classmates on the draw; I had been fairly lazy about dry-fire, but was still frequently cranking out both of my shots before I heard anyone else even fired. My reloads needed some work; I had some trouble quite nailing the magwell angle.

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First bay: forward targets are the pistol targets; rear targets are for rifle.

One minor annoyance was that AGC’s range rules disallowed holstering a hot gun in the middle of a drill. You could load it, put it back in your holster, pull it and fire, but if you had rounds left in your mag, you couldn’t put your pistol back in the holster. This is a somewhat inexplicable safety measure (like, couldn’t I shoot myself after initially holstering my gun when going hot?), and I hope they reconsider this, because it slowed down class quite a bit. Paul did a great job of working around this as much as he could, but it’s not a great situation.

After getting our bearings, we began to do pistol target transitions. Transitions are great to work on, and I really pushed myself to try to speed things up to the point of failure. 

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Once we were satisfied with our pistol work, we switched to rifles. Rifles are also fun, and it was a good refresher on shooting offhand at ~75yds. I was initially worried that the Razor Gen3’s 5.5MOA aiming dot at 1x would obscure too much of the targets, but it was not a problem with the size of the steel targets we were using. I believe we also did some transition and reloading work as well.

We broke for lunch at this point. It was pretty quick.

TD1 (afternoon): After lunch, we went to the next bay, which had some barricades and a few rifle targets. I shot the targets, only to discover that 55gr Wolf and my multi-gun rifle really did not like each other. I spent 15-20 minutes in the next bay attempting to adjust my gas to make it function reliably. It got to about 95%, but it still led to some frustrating ejection failures from time to time. On some timed drills, I used some of my precious Wolf Gold to ensure reliability on the timer. When my class SBR freed up from its loaned-out usage, I shot the final drills of the class with that.

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The afternoon was kind of a haze of barricade drills. I will probably get some of this wrong because I didn’t write it down, but it communicates what we did well enough.

We started off with just shooting, and then shooting and reloading, and then moving from barricade to barricade. After we got good (for small values of good) at the rifle drills, we practiced shooting some steel with our pistols around a big blue barrel. Then we tied it all together!

Administrative gun handling care was a big deal throughout the day. If we were moving, we had to be on safe. If we were reloading, we had to be on safe. I am not sloppy per se about safe’ing my rifle, but having it constantly reinforced was good for me.  Some of this was due to AGC concerns, but Paul clearly considered it the start of building some good habits. He’s not wrong.

Much as I infamously love shooting around barricades – it seems like an important skill! – my footwork always sucks on them, and Paul kept me honest about how I could improve that. I would say I did not receive as much feedback as some other people, but I also probably didn’t need as much.

Later, after doing the barricades, we did a couple quick drills of movement and fire. These incorporated transitions; in fact, one evolution of these drills even had us starting with a rifle, transitioning to a pistol, shooting the pistol empty (five rounds or so), and then transitioning back to our rifle.  This sounds simple, but there’s a lot of safety manipulation that has to be done between rifle transitions.

Finally, we had the capstone drill that tied it all together. For your viewing pleasure, I have my 55 second run below. Keep in mind it was run with my class SBR, which is a very reliable and accurate rifle, but lacks the very effective brake/comp on the Katana.

Paul’s time was ~46s, and the lowest student time was 52s, so I felt pretty good about my run, especially since I was not using my highest performance rifle.

Class Debrief: We went range cold, brought all the steel back to the shed, moved our stuff to our cars, and then had a discussion about what we liked and didn’t like about the class. I complained about AGC’s dumb rules, but I thought the class on the whole was great. There was some discussion of perhaps doing a follow-on class that involved some team exercises… I’ll have to bring a buddy I trust, I guess.

After Class: Nothing. Everyone drove home, because they were exhausted from running around in the heat for eight hours, and the restaurants aren’t really open around here yet.

Conclusions: Walking into the class, I didn’t really know what to expect. But Paul delivered a really good intermediate-level class with heavy emphasis on things I was not used to emphasizing. He runs classes at AGC once in a while, and if you see him offer one, I’d advise getting in on it. It’s cheap compared to most other options, but the quality of instruction is very high, and you get access to the full AGC steel and barricades, which makes for very interesting courses of fire.

I recommend the class. You’ll walk out of this course being a better pistol and rifle shooter, and be much more comfortable with handling both weapons at once. As a multi-gun shooter, I’m really used to dumping my rifle in a barrel before moving to my pistol. But if I had to retain it slung, which is how real life works, I have a lot more comfort doing so now. It’s also made me rethink my position on slings (I am a big one-point sling guy, but I am seeing the advantages in two point slings now!). 

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