Whenever I have the chance to take a class with a reputable instructor I’ve never trained with, that’s a priority for me. I think there are a lot of great instructors out there, and getting a different perspective on how to solve a problem with a firearm is pretty valuable to me. I had been hearing good things about Matt Watson over at Tactical Operations Consulting (TOC) for a little while, so when a spot opened in my schedule to take an intermediate carbine class with him, I jumped on it.
Read on for my review of the class!
Class Title: Tactical Carbine II
Class Description: From the website:
This one day course is designed to take carbine rifle skills to a tactical level. Students will learn how to engage multiple targets with a carbine and shooting from behind cover. The goal of the course is to make the students more confident in their ability to shoot their carbine rifle and challenge their abilities. The topics that will be covered include:
- Multiple target engagements
- Shooting from cover
- Rapid engagements
- Alternate shooting positions
- Transition drills
Instructors: The lead instructor was Matt Watson. You can see his bio on the website. The website undersells him somewhat; he’s doing more interesting things in terms of security and counter-terrorism than it may indicate. There was a single AI named “Rusty” with a LEO SWAT background. He seemed pretty competent.
Both of them were funny, congenial instructors who seemed to have a great deal of expertise in what they were teaching. They had no problems demonstrating what they taught, and had real-world reasoning for why they taught things the way they did.
Location/Date: July 19, 2020, 9-4:15PM. There was a ~30-45 minute lunch break in the middle at noon.
The class took place on the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office range in West Virginia. This is not necessarily as majestic a facility as you might imagine, but it was adequate for the class. Google Maps led me slightly astray, but the big banner by the entrance set me straight. The range is basically a 50yd five lane, one-way range on black top, in the midst of a small berm valley (which provided shade, at least in the morning). I heard there was a 270yd range next door, but we did not use it.
The only other thing that comes to mind about the range was the large number of butterflies everywhere. For whatever reason, these guys seemed super interested in watching a shooting class and were fluttering around constantly.
Weather: 95f, and what felt like 200% humidity. The heat index was > 100f. There are classes where it’s a bit hot and you tough it through the heat; this class had to actively manage around it. We also had a nice torrential downpour at about 12:10PM; thankfully, we were all eating lunch, but there was some scrambling to get things covered up. (There was no mud; it was so hot out that the rain basically converted straight to steam).
Equipment Details: My rifle was an Adams Arms 5.45×39 piston upper on a generic lower with a “somewhat better than milspec” NiB trigger. Muzzle device was an ASR brake; this was not appreciated by many of the people around me. The optic was a C-More C3 1-6x LPVO backed by Magpul MBUS Pros. (This rifle was the same one I used in that review.)
I ran Golden Tiger 59gr ammo with this rifle. SGAmmo has dire warnings about this ammo maybe not working in AR-15s, but mine ate it without a hitch. I’d guesstimate I shot about 300 rounds. Some of the ammo expenditure was discretionary, but even 5.45×39 isn’t cheap enough for me to justify mag dumps any more.
I switched between a Glock with Holosun 507C and my Sig P320 X5 Legion with DPP. I suffered the embarassing “your GLS holster didn’t really lock” failure (holster was in locked position without gun inserted, so gun didn’t lock in when I holstered it), and my P320 fell out during a running drill. Thankfully, no round was in the chamber, so it was just some scratches. I need to check zero on it, I suppose. Ammo was my 147gr reloads. Pistol ammo use total was probably about 50 rounds or so.
Preparation Drills: I’ve been a little lazy about pistol practice lately, but have been putting in some reps on my carbine. I do practice my pistol transitions fairly frequently.
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 was all guys, but was otherwise a pretty diverse age and race mix. There were a few guys who had taken multiple classes from him, which is always a good sign. We had one younger guy there (late high school or early college?) who ran his gun damned well, and I was fortunate enough to partner with on some drills. In fact, the entire class was quite competent with their rifles, which was a nice change from most “level II” classes I attend, where there’s always that one guy who really shouldn’t be there.
Most people were running ARs, but I did see a couple PCCs from time to time – people felt free to swap their guns during the class, and some of them took advantage of it. There were even a couple of automatic weapons (a UMP and M16). Not a lot of call for full-auto during class, but if you’ve got ’em, why not?
No guns went down hard. There were a couple of them that had problematic magazines that needed to be culled out.
TD1 (morning): Disclaimer up front: I may have gotten some of these drills out of order, simply because the heat scrambled my brain. I do think it covers what we learned adequately.
I got there at about 8:55AM, signed the waiver, and hauled my stuff out. This was an intermediate class, and it seemed like everyone had a pretty good idea of how to get their guns out safely. A rifle rack was provided so you had a place to put your guns while you performed administrative tasks or took a breather to hydrate, which I thought was a nice touch. Tents were also provided, and appreciated, because it was crazy hot outside (see the weather section for more details!).
When 9:00AM rolled around, Matt introduced himself and Rusty, the class introduced themselves, and we had the safety and medical brief. I thought both of these were delivered pretty well. As noted, this was an existing law enforcement range, so the medical side of things was squared away really well.
Class kicked off with a height over bore exercise at about 7yds. This was the usual “shoot, figure it out, and then do some singles and pairs to get the hang of it”. This is a pretty basic exercise, but it’s necessary info, and it gave the instructors an early opportunity to tune your stance.
After this, we did a variant on the Baer Solutions drill with 5 rds left side, rounds right side, bolt-lock reload, and then 3 rounds into the small circle. We were individually timed on these, and I topped the class (I think) with a 10.94 clean run. I attribute this to Mike Green beating me over the head about how to do efficient AR-15 reloads. (Someone pulled off an 8.XX at the end of class, but they did it with a PCC, so it doesn’t count in my book.)
We practiced some rifle-to-pistol transitions. These came in the form of shooting one rifle round, going to bolt lock, and then dumping it for your pistol. For once, I was running a two point sling, so this was a pretty easy drill for me. I tried to keep it real by checking the rifle’s ejection port first before dropping it and pulling my pistol.
There were some move-and-shoot drills. We went forwards and backwards. I don’t get to do a lot of backwards movement in other classes, so it was a good experience to experiment with that. As Matt noted later in the class, people know how to walk just fine when they don’t have a rifle in their hands, but apparently totally forget how to use their legs the second you give them a gun. He is not wrong.
At this point, we broke for lunch. This was good timing, because we got nailed by a brief torrential rainstorm about 15 minutes later.
TD1 (afternoon): After lunch and associated rainstorm, the heat went from “mostly tolerable” to “horrific” due to the massive increase in humidity and the cloud cover going away. Still, we persevered and picked up some blue guns for a brief lesson in two-man room clearing.
Matt and Rusty taped off some “glass room” areas with a single entrance. Using the power of imagination, we used these “rooms” to practice two-man room clearing. We tried both “door” and “no door” variants on this. I really enjoyed this portion of class; team CQB was something I had never done before in any fashion. We also had a run at solo room clearing; this was something I was a little better at due to my previous class in doing this.
Unsurprisingly, my footwork was a little rusty.
At this point, we broke out the barricades. Frequent readers will recall my undying love of barricade drills, and this class delivered them. The first drill was a “mad minute” – you had to shoot steel at barricade A, run to barricade B, shoot the steel there, and then repeat until you wanted to die of heat exhaustion, or one minute was up. I think I did five reps; the best was seven. The idea was to practice shooting with your heart rate way up – mission accomplished.
The second drill was what I think of as a “figure-8” drill – we had a series of short barricades, with targets on the right and left sides down range. We weaved through the barricades, engaging targets as they presented… forwards and backwards.
You can judge for yourself how well it went for me. If you ran dry on ammo, you were supposed to transition to your pistol. I gave this a try by not loading up a fresh mag on a second try. Trying to time your transition and reloads to your weaving proved to be a fun challenge.
Now that we had proven we could move and shoot, the next drills were team room-clearing (live-fire edition) and bounding overwatch.
Team room-clearing with live fire is a little nerve wracking in premise, especially when you’re training with random people. But I had seen that the people in the class were generally pretty competent and safe, so I wasn’t overly worried. We did both “virtual door” and “no door” iterations. You can see how that worked in this video.
It was interesting to see people not engaging as they moved in, and taking a position in the corner before shooting. I tried to be a little more aggressive.
Following this, we had some bounding overwatch drills. These were fairly constrained in the sense that there were only six positions between the two shooters, but it was enough to communicate the concepts well enough. What I thought made it a really good learning experience was not when it ran smoothly, but when it did not run smoothly. You or your buddy might get sucked in to shooting his steel targets and miss a command, or they might need to reload, or they might have a jam… the possibilities are endless, and having to keep shooting while my buddy fixed his rifle before moving was eye-opening. It is one of the few drills I’ve ever done thus far where communication and ammo management is genuinely essential.
At this point, we re-ran the Baer Drill variant. I brain-farted and only put 4 rounds on the left side target, but was basically on track for the same time as before. I assume other people had real improvements, albeit I don’t know if the heat was hurting other people’s cognitive functions.
Finally, the shooting concluded with a class man-on-man competition, with the winner getting a TOC morale patch. You had to shoot steel twice from each side of a barricade (~35yds), and then run to a center barricade and pop a clay target (~10yds). I managed to come in second (aka, first loser), not quite nailing the clay popper before my opponent. I was exhausted from the heat, so my pistol shooting had gone pretty much straight to hell, nevermind that my P320’s zero might not have been as awesome as it had been. Oh well, maybe next time.
We unloaded our guns and tore down the various barricades, targets, tents, and so on. I am gonna be honest, I was not as helpful as I could have been… it’s hard being fat and out of shape! I guess I should be happy we didn’t have to do brass policing.
Class Debrief: We gathered around, talked about what we learned, and then got some information about upcoming classes.
After Class: Nothing I’m aware of. Everyone was pretty much destroyed from the crazy heat and humidity.
Conclusions: This was a great class, even with the terrible heat. I loved the emphasis on two-man drills in the afternoon, and it was really a solid set of exercises throughout the day. It was a somewhat different spin on the subject area than other classes I’ve attended, which is what I like. The instructor feedback was constant, and I learned quite a lot. As I noted above, Matt is a good guy and easy to learn from, and he can walk the talk as much as I’d expect.
I highly recommend the class, and if it’s indicative of the general quality of TOC’s offerings, I think they’re a very worthy choice as a training vendor. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of Sunday classes going on, so I probably won’t be attending a lot of their classes in general, but if you have the chance, I’d encourage you to do so.