I don’t like how I perform with a carbine. I am not all that bad with a PCC at typical USPSA distances, but I have always felt like I just lacked some of the expertise with a regular old 5.56 rifle. This is why I always try to take intermediate and advanced carbine courses when the opportunity presents; I am hoping some more hands-on instruction will bridge some of that performance gap.
To that end, I took the Green Ops Defensive Carbine II class recently… read on for my thoughts.
Disclaimers of Sources of Bias: I received a slight discount ($37.50) as a returning student and AAR writer. I am also one of the admins on their Facebook alumni group, which is more of a job than a perk, but I suppose has some influence on my perspective.
Class Title: Green Ops Defensive Carbine II Class
Class Description: From the website: This class is a continuation of our defensive carbine series. It includes additional drills, 50-yard qualification course of fire, field firing to 100 yards, and live fire malfunction clearance drills. This class covers the basic defensive use of the carbine (AR platform 5.56/.223). We will begin with a review of the topics and fundamentals of marksmanship from Defensive Carbine I and move into more advanced drills. Students will continue to improve their carbine handling skills while reinforcing the fundamentals of marksmanship. Timed drills will help the student learn the balance between speed and accuracy.
Cost: $250 (but really $212.50)
Round Count: Listed round count was 450. I’d guesstimate we used about 300 rounds. You had some flexibility in how much you used for some drills.
Instructors: The lead instructor was Luke “Brooks” (real last name highly classified). He was ably assisted by Jo’shua Shaw, Brian Christian, and Max Delo. Luke and Josh are competition shooters; Brian and Max are Rangers (active and retired, respectively). I think this was my first class seeing Max at full throttle, and he didn’t disappoint. That guy is something else with a carbine.
Location/Date: The class was held at the Stone Quarry range in Culpeper, VA, from 8AM to about 4:30PM on Sunday 11/7/2021. It’s some privately owned land with a backstop that is an old quarry face. It’s a huge backstop, which is great, but has a tendency to toss chips of stone back at you once in a while. There are some various tables and benches, along with a pair of porta-potties.
Weather: The weather was about 35f when we started out, but went to the mid-50s by the time things wrapped up. The thaw did a great job of softening up the mud which we’d later roll around in… It was cloudy and quite comfortable once the temperature got warmer.
Equipment Details: I’m not gonna sugar-coat it: my gear situation was a bit of a disaster this class. I usually run a DDLES M4V7S upper on a kitted out lower with a Geissele SSA-E, A5H2 buffer system, etc. This is a fantastic gun which is 100% reliable with whatever you feed it due to being crazy over-gassed. Alas, the primary optic on that rifle died horribly a couple weeks prior, which means I had to swap over to some pickier rifles.
The Katana is a cool rifle, but it 1) does not run well with steel-cased ammo and 2) has been suffering from a trigger reset issue. I brought it, but it was not my first choice.
The second gun – intended to be my primary – was the lower from my usual gun paired with a kit-bashed upper using a 16″ fluted Bushmaster HBAR, with a Leupold D-EVO / Vortex Razor RDS optics setup. It still had some problems with steel-cased ammo, unfortunately. It also failed catastrophically part-way through the class, forcing me to switch to the Katana and just live through the trigger reset problems.
Preparation Drills: Not much. I shoot carbine fairly regularly, but I don’t know that I’d say I’ve spent tons and tons of time on it.
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 a good demographic mix, including a couple of women. The equipment on hand was universally AR-15s, with the exception of one AR-308. The AR-308 was less obnoxious than you might have expected, but you could always tell when it was being fired.
I was really quite impressed with the skill level on display. A few people needed some time to warm up, but the high level of basic competency you’d expect at an intermediate class was on display. You don’t always get that at these classes, so that was nice.
TD1 (morning): Class kicked off with a round of instructor and student introductions. Not a lot of surprises here, except that a fair number of the students had barely shot their rifles at all in the past year.
This was followed by a medical and safety brief. These were par for course, but communicated the necessary information as required. When you’re at out of the way ranges like this one, having a plan is even more critical than usual.
Luke introduced the class, along with some objectives. The interesting thing here is that he specifically said they were trying to amp up the difficulty of the class somewhat. This was a fascinating statement, because I had recently had a conversation with another Green Ops alum who was bemoaning to me that the intermediate classes didn’t feel as tough as they should. I doubt this incident was connected to the change, but I was excited to get pushed harder.
Max followed this with an abbreviated presentation on rifle ballistics. This was informative and delivered well, but to be honest, I probably could have done without most of it. The real takeaway, IMHO, is that your point of impact is going to be low before your near zero, high between your near zero and far zero, and low past your far zero. I think it would have been more useful to explore the trade-offs between 25, 36, 50, and 100yd zeros a bit further – after all, defensive carbine usage is often a maximum point blank range affair. I think it was clear that Max knew what he was talking about, but was constrained by the limits of time. This would be a theme for most of the day, given that sunset was around 4:30PM.
This was followed by a zero confirmation exercise at 25yds. I had to dial mine around a bit, but not too much. It would have been mostly usable as-is, but I have to admit that tweaking it to perfection did feel good.
After getting our zeros sorted out, the class split up. Half of us went to dry-fire the rifle patch qual; the other half, including me, did the rifle dot torture drill at 10yds. You can find the target here; it’s a Mike Green creation. I dropped two shots (stupid transitions!), but the more notable event was my rifle failing catastrophically. I was running what I will euphemistically call “a copy of the Radian Raptor”, and it turns out it was not a good copy. The front of the charging handle broke off and jammed up the entire rifle. I swapped over to my backup rifle and completed the drill. Later, I pried open the BCG and unjammed the rifle, but it was still DOA due to the lack of a handle. (If anyone cares, I replaced it with a spare BCM charging handle when I got home.)
The backup rifle was better in that it worked… most of the time. As noted above, the trigger hung up at some inopportune times. The class switched and I went over to do some dry-fire. The dry-fire was good, and was a nice warm-up for the qual. The instructors were aggressive with the timers, which I thought was smart.
When we came together for live-firing the qual, it should surprise no one that I didn’t make the qual times. Not even close. I am slower with an LPVO than I’d like since most of my carbine practice during the year is with a (forgiving) reflex sight. I did wind up down only 3, which wasn’t quite the best in the class, but certainly in the upper echelon. If you’re going to make these times, you’re going to need to dry-fire and live-fire them quite a lot in practice.
This was fairly intense, so we took a bit of a break at this point to jam mags and discuss malfunctions. The malfunctions covered were the usual Type-1 and Type-2 malfunctions. However, something that really stuck with me was the discussion of bolt-override clearing. Bolt override malfunctions are when you basically get a piece of brass (or for extra funsies, a live cartridge) stuck up at the top of your receiver. The way they described how to clear it was novel to me: lock back your bolt (and if this means mortaring, do it), and then just slam the charging handle all the way forward without releasing the bolt. In theory, this should clear your bolt override. Usually there’s all sorts of finagling inside the gun with your fingers, and this seemed a lot more direct. Obviously, this will only work on an AR platform, since most of the others lack the charging handle in quite the same place.
The last drill before lunch (I think? I didn’t write down when lunch was) was practicing shooting during lateral movement. The class broke out into two lines (lateral left, lateral right) and practiced moving while shooting three targets. We reused the paper targets, which I had mixed feelings about. On one hand, it let you shoot closer in, but on the other, you really lacked accountability due to the targets not getting changed out between shooters. Steel would be better, but 223 at even 25yds is hard on steel targets, never mind splash-back concerns. (We also had the guy shooting his 308, which I’m sure would have done quite a number on them at that distance.) In spite of that, as long as you’re really looking through your sights, you’re learning a lot about how you’re doing.
During one of my later run-throughs of this drill, I experimented with switching from my primary optic (the Razor Gen3) to my offset BUIS between targets. This added a nice layer of difficulty and gave me a little extra experience using my BUIS. For what it’s worth, I think they worked quite well with the large aperture, but I felt like getting them lined up well enough with the small aperture just wasn’t fast enough. Practice might make perfect on this, though.
TD1 (afternoon): After lunch, we were right back at it with a “fight to your feet” exercise. The idea is that you start flat on your back, and then you shoot in four different positions: on your back, sitting, kneeling, and then standing. The difficulty isn’t just the shooting, but rather doing it all safely. As you can imagine, things can get real bad fast if you accidentally shoot your foot from the back position. The instructors were very safety conscious, and I know I damn well moved my feet far, far away from my muzzle. I could still feel the blast (the VG6 Gamma brake is quite effective!), which is a rather uncomfortable, but I managed to not shoot off any toes (or worse). I know I was certainly motivated to keep my safety on between positions! Unlike last class, I was able to shoot from the back position, even though I was using an LPVO – jury’s out as to what changed, but I feel comfortable saying it probably wasn’t my waistline.
The next drill was deceptively simple: each student (individually, one at a time) had to run from one shooting position to another ten yards away, shooting a steel target about 10 yards away. The trick was that you only got one shot, and you needed 4-6 hits (depending on which iteration of the drill we were on). Thus, you were making that 10 yard dash repeatedly, with misses punishing you via further unwanted cardio. I had a bit of a slow start on the first iteration with a couple misses, but tightened things up later on and managed a six-shot iteration with zero misses. Some of the students really loved this drill, and I can’t blame them; it forces you to master fundamentals under stress. I bet it would be even more fun with the targets at a hundred yards with a timer pushing you.
We moved on from this to the VTAC barricades. VTAC barricades are a favorite of mine, and we each got a chance to shoot through each port before doing a class man-on-man (woman?) competition. I didn’t do great in the competition due to issues with target ID and my rifle not firing, but I had fun anyways. (Also, winning it would have entailed some major ammo expenditure, so perhaps it worked out.)
I did learn a lot from the experimenting portion before the competition, though, because I forced myself again to try to use my offset irons. These were surprisingly handy on some of the ports, as they allowed me to not contort my body as much as I would have otherwise. I suspect that an offset red dot would have been even faster and more accurate. I was aware of the utility of offset sights for hard leans while shooting around the support side of targets, but using them on weird ports was a new one, and I’m glad I spent the time trying it out.
The final event of the day was the capstone drill, which was prefaced by a really abbreviated explanation of how to shoot around cars. I felt it was so perfunctory I would have just skipped it and said “the car is cover”, but Max demonstrated such a clever way of shooting across the hood without exposing yourself as much to skipped rounds that it really felt worthwhile. Sometimes, it’s really the small details that demonstrate the value of the instructor expertise that you’re paying for, and this felt like another one of those moments.
The capstone drill consisted of engaging targets across multiple positions – the car, the first barricade, and the second barricade. The twist was that the instructors had “teaching sticks”, which were essentially long 1x4s that they would strategically place over your ejection port while you were shooting. This induced malfunctions, which you had to clear while you were dealing with the whole moving and shooting thing. It was suitably crazy, and was a nice way to wrap things up.
Class Debrief: After getting our rifles cleared and stowed, we did some brass policing. Brass policing always sucks, but it sucks a little less when you bring your own bucket and wind up with a ton of 223 brass for reloading.
We concluded by gathering around and giving some feedback and impressions. The other students seemed quite happy with the class, which mirrored my own feelings, and the suggestions for improvements were fairly minor – the usual stuff about reducing downtime and so on.
Conclusions: This was a tough class. Some of that was my own gear not working like it should, but a lot of it was just the class having a somewhat amped difficulty level. That’s a good thing. I felt constantly challenged, and I didn’t always succeed. That’s what I want out of a class: a new understanding of my limits so I can work on pushing them out further.
But it was also fun. The instructors were personable and knowledgeable, and you always felt like they were invested in helping you improve. The demos were all on point and executed very competently. And, perhaps most important of all, safety was always the first priority.
I highly recommend the class. And if I sound like a broken record on that account, I don’t know what to tell you: Green Ops consistently brings top-tier instruction to the table. Some people asked about a level III class, and I’d be the first in line for it.
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