ARPC Advanced Action Shooting Class AAR

When Givati Rifle and Pistol Club announced that they were going to sponsor another class delivered by Paul Casale of Arlington Rifle and Pistol Club, I was quick to get in on it. A hundred bucks for five hours of advanced rifle/pistol training? That’s a steal. I had a great time at the last class, and I was expecting even better things out of this one.

Read on for my impressions after the break.

Disclaimers of Sources of Bias: None that are obvious. I received no discounts.

Class Title: Advanced Action Shooting Class

Class Description: There really wasn’t one. I signed up because I enjoyed the last class I took with Paul.

Cost: $100

Round Count: The class requirements noted we’d use 300 pistol and 300 carbine. I think I used about 150-175 9mm and 225 5.56 rounds by the end.

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: October 25, 2020, at the Associated Gun Clubs Range near Baltimore. The class ran from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM. AGC is not too far from me, and they built out a bunch of action bays a couple years ago that are perfect for this sort of training.

Weather: Horrid. It was about 40 degrees and rained the entire time. The rain wasn’t super heavy, but it was moderate and steady. There was no cover on the line. Suffice it to say, we all got soaked pretty good. While I personally don’t enjoy getting rained on, I will say that it was interesting to see how guns and optics held up in it.

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

In terms of rifles, I had my SU-16D9, and my class SBR. The class SBR is a DD M4V7S upper riding a billet lower, with a Sig Romeo6T/Juliet4 optics combo on the top. I started off the class with my SU-16D9, but found the zero (or my shooting?) to be off enough that I decided to pull it and use my usual class carbine. Ammo was basically was some unholy mix of 55gr Tula Range-Safe and 62gr Barnaul.

For my pistol, I was using a Sig P320 X5 Legion with a DPP on top. No complaints; I was able to do some fantastic shooting with it.

Ammo was my 9mm 147gr reloads plus an unholy mix of 55gr Tula Range-Safe and 62gr Barnaul. Zero problems with any of it through class; I learned my lesson from last time.

I am really not sure what happened with the SU-16. From a pure performance standpoint, I didn’t think it was a bad gun, but getting consistent hits with it at 75yds proved troublesome. I think it is POSSIBLE that putting the VG6 CAGE on it may have caused a slight zero shift, and combined with the ammo, that might have been enough to make it wonky at 75yds. Even if I didn’t have a zero issue with the SU-16D9, it’s just not a great gun for a carbine class due to the cross-bolt safety making it annoying to get on/off quickly. I’d really like to see Kel-Tec just bite the bullet and introduce a version of the SU-16 lower that took AR parts… there’s no obvious reason it couldn’t be done, really.

I also learned my lesson and brought a two point sling this time.

Preparation Drills: Not a whole lot in terms of carbine other than some standard up-and-transition drills (zero reloads). I did continue to do some pistol dry-fire on a regular basis.

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 sponsored by the Givati Rifle and Pistol Club (but run under the auspices of Arlington Rifle and Pistol Club), so there was a heavy Jewish guy contingent there. Experience levels were mixed. There were no rank newbies and everyone operated their rifle mostly safely, but I think my definition of “advanced” is somewhat different than other people’s. A couple students left early because I think the class was a bit too much for them.

It was an average-guy kinda class, so there were a lot of tier-3 rifles, so-so gear setups, and so on. I saw no fewer than three rifles have failures to extract that had to be cleared through mortaring. I probably shouldn’t be too harsh; everyone came zeroed, and no one’s rifle went down hard.

TD1 (morning): We started the day off at 9:30 AM with a safety and medical brief. This was an advanced class, so Paul didn’t really want to waste too much time up front with talking.

You may recall that in my previous AAR, we had some semi-absurd restrictions about having hot pistols holstered. Thankfully, that problem was resolved, and the drills went much more smoothly as a result.

The target setup for the class remained basically the same throughout the day; a line of pistol targets at 7yds, and a line of rifle targets at about 50yds (I didn’t have my rangefinder on me to check). This is easy shooting with a reflex sight, so the emphasis was more on weapons handling skills than raw accuracy. This is a common theme from the intermediate class, and I think it’s a good thing.

Another common class theme was drills building upon each other. You’ll see this throughout the AAR, but the drills we practiced frequently were combined for more complex drills as the day went on. Sometimes the wheels fell off a bit, but that’s to be expected when you’re pushing skills hard.

We jumped in with a basic pistol-to-rifle transition live-fire drill (“2-transition-2”); this gave Paul an opportunity to look for gross deficiencies in our technique. This was then developed into a pistol-to-rifle-to-pistol transition drill (“2-transition-2-transition-2”).

I had some misses here. Not big ones, but more than I’d prefer. Even after switching rifles, I found my carbine accuracy through the day wasn’t as perfect as I was expecting. The rain really did put a dent in my shooting abilities (or perhaps I was more rusty than I’m admitting).

We broke at this point to discuss stance and grip. No big surprises here. Paul did a really good job of explaining the fundamentals. I didn’t get a lot out of it, but also didn’t really feel like I was the target audience.

After this, we went into the reloads portion of the morning. As with all the other drills, Paul did the tell-show-do routine, explaining how to angle your gun’s magazine well and keep the gun high, as well as using your thumb to hit the AR’s bolt catch. This was followed by some 2-reload-2 drills.

Where it got interesting was putting it all together for a complex 2-reload-2-transition-2-reload-2 drill, going from pistol to rifle. I will note that one possible improvement for these drills might be starting from the rifle; the usual use case for this kind of thing is transitioning to a secondary weapon after your rifle goes down. However, I do support doing it both ways if there’s time.

At this point, we switched gears and started doing some work from cover and barriers. We began with cover, and did a simple drill with shooting an array of 50yd targets from the side of a barrier while kneeling. Paul demonstrated the usual kneeling position and showed how to support the appropriate arm with your knee. This seems simple, but I have seen other shooters get this backwards when teaching it to others.

This led into a simple competition where two people would race against each other on their own barriers to shoot an array of five targets at 50yds, and then put a pistol round into a stop plate at 7yds. The idea was that you would support your rifle using the barrier, perhaps kneeling.

Being a horrible gamer at heart, I smoked my opponent by simply running to the barricade, getting behind the tall part, and shooting all the targets offhand. This is what I like to think of as the Chuck Pressburg solution to problems, based on what I’ve heard him talk about on the P&S podcast.

This is probably a good time to talk about Paul. This isn’t my first rodeo with Paul, as either an instructor or as a fellow competitor. Paul is a great instructor, a likable guy, and I enjoyed his approach to the subject matter. Drawing on his background with AWG and his experience as a competition shooter, he did a nice job of blending a military approach to the subject matter with the stress of being on the shot timer. He also was able to show-tell-do on every drill better than everyone in the class, which I think is the key to being a competent instructor.

TD1 (afternoon): There was no formal break for lunch; we individually grabbed a bit to eat while other people were working a timed port drill with our rifles. I will note that one of my weaknesses at classes and matches is that I tend to not snack very much and start slowing down a bit. While I’m definitely a proponent of eating lightly for lunch (some sort of non-milk protein), getting a few carbs in can really improve my performance and morale.

I really love port drills, so this was right up my alley. The ports in this case weren’t all that small, but you did have to position your body a bit to use them, which is good practice. I also felt like the timer added that additional bit of stress that made you hustle a little faster than maybe you otherwise would.

Paul is big into proper gun handling, and we had to safe our rifle between ports. I will admit I didn’t always do this, and I didn’t feel particularly bad about it. I was very careful throughout class to safe my rifle while moving and transitioning, though, so I think this is something I’ll need to work on more.

The class shifted into full competition mode after the port drills. Paul set up a small stage with 10 rifle targets and 6 pistol targets that we had to engage through three different positions, using cover, ports, transitions, and the various other skills we had learned throughout the day. I did pretty well; I don’t know if I had the best time in the class, but it was a time I felt good about it.

We followed this with a simplified El Prez man-on-man competition (“3-reload-3” across 3 targets, no turns required). I did pretty well on this, too, and even tied the instructor when we went head-to-head. I practice transitions frequently, so I was not super surprised I performed effectively, but it’s a nice morale boost.

After that was a drill which involved a pistol target at 7yds, and a rifle target at 25yds. You had to do a 6-reload-6 on the rifle target, and then transition to do a 6-reload-6 on the pistol target. I turned in another reasonable performance on this; I think it was about 19 seconds. In a “hold my beer moment” – my readers know I love those – I turned in a 14 second time using just my pistol, doing a reload instead of a transition.

The last official drill of the class was a “transitions par time” drill. You’ve probably seen this before if you’ve been to enough pistol classes; there’s two targets, you have five seconds, and you need to shoot them alternating as many times as you can. I managed a score of eight, which I think was the high score of the day. This is a really trivial drill with a red dot pistol if you are good with moving your eyes to the next target quickly; I learned the trick of doing it when I was at an MSP class once (we were moving forward, too!), so I admit I was coming in with something of an advantage.

When Paul queried the class if there was anything else they wanted to explore, one person wanted to do some movement, so we did a very simple “move forward and shoot some steel” drill with a 5s par time. I hot-dogged it and added some transitions in when it was my turn, which other students tried as well afterwards.

Class Debrief: Most of the class had left by the time we hit the debrief. It was of the usual “what did you like, what could we do different next time” variety.

After Class: We had the range for a bit, so we did a bit of a SPENDEX and blew some ammo on steel, which is always fun. I couldn’t stick around TOO long, as I had an event immediately following, but I did nail the entire 12 target 50yd array in 13 shots with my pistol, and give my Silencerco Hybrid a try across an array to determine if offset was going to be a big problem at 50yds (it was not).

Conclusions: I liked the class quite a bit. I didn’t learn all that much in the way of truly new things – I’ve been around the block a few times class-wise – but for those of us in suburban/urban areas, the opportunity to practice doing this stuff outside of a match context is pretty few and far between. Properly run classes give you that opportunity, and I think it’s worth paying for. In this, it was $100 for about five hours, which is below the usual rate I’m paying, so I’d count it as a pretty great deal.

I have high expectations for intermediate and advanced classes. I think those expectations were mostly met. We didn’t waste time on simple “up” drills, and the complexity increased at a steady rate. There were a couple points where I was wishing we had access to a longer range to make shooting from supported positions feel like more of a worthwhile endeavor, but I suspect it would have caused heartburn for some of the weaker shooters in the class.

What I also walked away with – and I think this is vitally important – is what I’m weak on. And, really, that’s glaringly rifle reloads. I don’t practice them, and I don’t really use them in matches. I was just a little slower to hit the release button than I wanted. I also felt like maybe I could use more time on the hundred yard range just banging steel at 1x while standing. I had a couple misses that I really should not have had, and while I know it was raining and I was soaked, real-life is not always going to be sunny 70f weather, either.

If you see Paul at AGC and you have a chance to get into his class, I’d absolutely recommend you do so. It’s one of the few classes I’ve seen that forces you to work both your pistol and rifle in the same drill, and it provides some much needed training in that area.

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