Red Oktober 2022 AAR

WGW was an official sponsor for Red Oktober 2022. This AAR is only a reflectance from my point of view as a competitor. WGW’s status as a sponsor does not affect Duke’s or my own perception of the competition; conversely, the opinions reflected in my article are Duke’s and my own respectively when noted, not to be taken as word on behalf of the company or its associates.

The Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championship (ROKC) got its start in St. George, Utah back in 2016. Its inception came about at a time where popularity of the AK platform was something not as widely acknowledged in the general gun culture at the time. The rifle/carbine/multigun competition scene here in the States generally swerved away from the AK platform for one reason or another. Thus, Red Oktober was born as a “celebration” of the AK platform. Nowadays, it is widely regarded as one of, if not the most, well-known AK-centric events in the country.

Given the amount of shooters that attended the match, creative measures were in place in order to ensure a smooth event for all competitors. Range staff and Range Safety Officers (RSOs) shot on Thursday and Friday in order to manage the event on Saturday and Sunday, when the other competitors would be split up into “squad blocks” for the weekend.

Duke and I were participants on the competition side of this event. His input in the article will be italicized.

WGW’s Team Shanghai Noon. Duke on the left, Chau on the right

I was registered in the “Light Open” division with my Arsenal SLR106 with an Aimpoint T-2. Light Open dictated any rifle that shot lighter than 7.62(usually 5.45 or 5.56) while being “open” to the kind of attachments and optics the user can run. Because I also opted for the “trooper” category, I was required to wear additional gear such as a helmet, plates, knife, spare magazines and water.

Duke was registered in the “Peashooter” division with his Kalashnikov USA KP9 SBR. The “Peashooter” division entails all pistol caliber carbines. There is no limitation as to what kind of attachments the carbine can have. In his case, his KP9 was equipped with a Sig Romeo 5 and SiCo Omega45K, and shot Freedom Munitions HUSH 9×19 147grn subsonics for the event.

Match Breakdown

Originally there were ten stages total, but two were omitted from final scoring due to weather (Stage 8) and at the discretion of the match director/range masters (Stage 10) respectively on the final day of the event. In the end, the match was scored based on eight stages.

Stage 1 “A Better Gun?”

The stage began with (5) rounds shot from the designated stage gun (a prototype FM Mike-47) into a downrange B8 (Time Bonus awarded but hits are not required). Competitors then dragged a sled (approx. 100-150lbs) to the second position, where they picked up their personal firearm and shot (5) rounds into the second B8 target (hits also not required) before making it into the final shooting area. Here, they were to hit the rest of the targets as they saw them. Steel popper plates only required one hit to be knocked down and neutralized.

Stage 2 “Take Down”

From the crouched seat of the stage Crown Vic, the shooter had to get out of the vehicle, load their rifle, and engage targets as they saw them. The HVT “Rojas” (red steel target) had to be knocked down (not just shot). Steel required three hits to neutralize.

Stage 3 “Desert Tranquility”

From the start position, each shooter had to score two hits on two pieces of steel down range. Upon neutralizing them, the shooter then had to throw a kettlebell to the next firing position and engage the steel targets in the same manner. This was repeated until reaching and firing at the steel from the final shooting position.

Stage 4 “Attack On VTAC”

This stage was comprised of two half-VTAC barricades on the left and right sides of the bay. Shooters could choose to start from either side – they would engage the two steel downrange from one barricade, then engage additional targets (as seen) as they moved to their final position. Shooters ended at this final position by engaging steel.

Stage 5 “Party Like Its 1895”

The stage began from a tank trap, with the shooter holding the stage prop (a simulated Maxim gun). From here, they could either run and “mount” the prop to its stand at the end of the stage before returning to retrieve their rifle, or take the prop with them as they engaged targets. It was required that the prop be mounted before the last shot could be fired to end the stage.

Stage 6 “Raise The Banner”

From a start position of their choosing, the shooter had to engage the steel target on that side with two hits. After neutralizing it, they then had to pick up the “flagpole” and move it to the next position before repeating the same engagement process. The shooter then had to move the flagpole to the final staging point and engage the remaining targets as they saw them.

Stage 7 “Close Quarters”

At the start buzzer, shooters had to fire one round from the stage gun (a snub nose revolver) at the present target. The shooter then had to retrieve their personal weapon and engage the rest of the targets in the stage as they saw them.

Stage 9 “Break Your Money Maker”

From the side of their choosing, the shooter had to engage a steel target with one round in the chamber. Regardless of hit or miss, they had to then carry the prop dummy “Lt. Dan” (approx. 70ish lbs) to the opposite side of the stage. If they missed the first shot, shooters had to re-engage the steel from this position; if they missed again, they had to continue on with the stage.

Bonus Stage

With the stage gun (an IWI Jericho 941), shooters had to engage two targets in the “Mozambique” pattern (2 chest, 1 head) as fast as possible from low ready, with the manual safety engaged.

The Good

This event, at its core, is most certainly true to its AK/Com-Bloc theme. Competitors were encouraged to use all manner of Com-Bloc or Com-Bloc adjacent weaponry. While it was possible to run the match with any other type of rifle, that score wouldn’t be tallied and officially recorded for standings. That being said, just about every variant or sub-variant of 7.62×39, 5.45, 5.56 and 9mm AK platform were on display. Some of the more eccentric rifles on display included everything from DP-28s to SKSs, which were a joy to see in use.

Stage Design

The stages were varied in layout, skills used, obstacles, and engagement ranges. Scoring was essentially “any two will do” with headshots and armor zones coming into play in some stages. Self-healing Infinity Targets were used as opposed to cardboard, meaning resetting for a new stage was a quick run of spray paint. Each stage also had suitably funny briefings, including engagements against 30-50 wild boars, and defending your honor against a pack of crazed rapists. I enjoyed each stage that I shot, as they all had different levels of pre-planning, and tested a mix of applicable skills and disciplines. Going from “long” distance shots to clearing targets at indoor-distances was a common theme, and kept the runs from being tedious.

Each stage definitely had its charms and challenges, highlighting strengths and weaknesses in our shooting. Learning points in stage planning, vision, and fundamental marksmanship were highlighted.

Open Squadding

Open squadding was the primary method for cycling competitors in and out of stages. The way it worked was that specific groups would shoot a certain set of stages at differing times of the day. For example, Duke and I registered in a “squad block” that shot stages 1-5 Saturday morning and had the rest of the day off to check out vendors and the such. We would then pick up stages 6-10 Sunday afternoon. We had “shooter cards” with our names written on it that we would hang on a line of nylon cord when we reached a stage. This helped ROs determine the shooting order without having to wait on certain people or remember who was in which squad. Upon completion, we would collect our equipment and cards and repeat the process on the next stage of our choosing, which was usually whichever one had the shortest line.

In short, the system did well for such a large attendance-competition(with approximately 300+ competitors). Open squadding and stage blocks made sure that not one stage was overpacked with shooters and kept the flow of the event going, while allowing competitors to see the other parts of the event outside of stages. However, this system also came with its flaws.

The Bad

While the event itself ran smoothly, there were still negative factors. However I must preface that a large amount of these cons were no direct fault of the match directors or range masters themselves, but rather it was a product of the match environment, both literally and figuratively.


On Day 1, the venue experienced strong winds that persisted throughout the day. By noon, winds reached up to 30 miles per hour with gusts as strong as 50 miles per hour. The overpowering winds moreso had an effect on vendor tents and the stages. Through the night, these winds were strong enough to knock down stage 8. Despite the best efforts of the range staff, the stage was unable to be restored.

Open Squadding

Some cons that came with the nature of open squadding is usually between people cutting in line or delays in queue due to a shooter not being present when their name is called. At worst, this resulted in delays that came close to up to half a. hour just to reinstate someone that showed up late into the shooting order, figuring out reasonable reshoots, or arguments determining who was originally where in the queue. RSOs between stages handled this matter at different levels on a case-by-case basis. Duke and I circumvented this by just moving ourselves to stages with less activity that we haven’t shot yet.

Vendors, Demos, and the rest of the event

The other half of ROKC is essentially a celebration or small festival centered around the Kalashnikov rifle. There were several vendors present, such as Century Arms, IWI, HuxWrx, Dead Air, BlueForce Gear, and several others. M13 Industries had a host of select-fire gats to unload for a nominal fee, such as the M4, AKM, M1A1 Thompson, M3 Grease Gun, and AK-12. I personally shot the AK-12, which shot as nicely as any 5.45 does, with a bit of extra swag. We can get into it’s inherent flaws some other time, it was still super fun.

The suppressor manufacturers were offering demos on their products. The guys with HuxWrx and Dead Air were super friendly, and let us rattle off a few rounds with multiple suppressors and platforms. IWI let us shoot some full auto Galil ACEs in various calibers (I went with 5.45) and Century had a POF Mp5K with suppressor that we popped a few through.

Several booths were giving out little swag pieces commemorating the event. I also ended up buying a BlueForce Gear shirt with ROKC theme, and managed to badger the rep into giving me a handful of the famous BFG Lip Balm. I’m pretty sure I saw Beez Combat Systems giving away helmet scrims, but I didn’t manage to nab one. There were also a few food vendors, BBQ and Mexican food, to keep you going through the day.

Conclusion/Special Thanks

To wrap this up, Red Oktober was definitely an event that we enjoyed. No matter if you were a competitor or spectator (who had free admission to the event), there was always something to do.

If you are thinking of applying to shoot the competition side of this event, I would highly recommend it if possible. Admission to compete is steep compared to a local club match, but given the size of the event its not surprising. From what I noticed, what prevents a sizeable amount of interested competitors is the possibly intimidating match atmosphere. Between Duke and myself, we did not sense that at all during our time there. Instead, a majority of people we shot with had a welcoming attitude and the RSOs were clear in communication. Overall, it is a fun match to participate in at least once, and maybe the catalyst for some to compete on their free time afterwards.

Special thanks to Rifle Dynamics and Pro Gun Vegas for running such a large event, despite the factors that were within and out of their control. Both of us are most definitely looking forward to the next year.

Of course, this goes without saying, but special thanks to the Weapons Grade Waifus family for instigating this trip idea in the first place. Events like these may be fun, but are that much more memorable with a group of friends.

The WGW crew present at the event. It is believed that roughly 89.2% of all Spotify plays for “I Really Wanna Stay at Your House” occurred during ROKC weekend

LMS Defense Benchmark Drill

The LMS Defense Benchmark Drill has been described by Lead Instructor Josh Jackson as the result of “locking all of our instructors at the time in a room for a day, and not letting them out until they figured out a course of fire that would: address core shooting skills, be accomplished with minimal round count, and provide data points that could be tracked for future improvement.”

The Benchmark Drill is comprised of three courses of fire using a total of (10) rounds, which can be shot either with a handgun (at 7 yards) or rifle (at 15 yards).

It is meant to provide a shooter with the following:
– (3) presentation/draw reps
– (1) emergency reload
– (3) target transitions
– (3) controlled pairs
– (2) headshots

Each course of fire also gives data points that can be recorded and tracked for improvement: Three first round split times from the holster or the low ready (carbine), one emergency reload split time and one multiple-target engagement overall time.

2 x USPSA target with chest A-zone divided in two (upper half is scoring zone), 1yd lateral spacing

Distance: 7 yards (handgun) / 15 yards (carbine)

Round Count:
(1) round in chamber
(1) round in starter magazine
(8) rounds in spare magazine
TOTAL: (10) rounds

Course of Fire

String 1: Single Shot Presentation

The first course of fire is a single-shot draw, from the holster, to the upper chest scoring zone. This gives a first-round split data point.

String 2: 1-Reload-2

The second course of fire begins with another single-shot draw, followed by emergency reload, then an additional (2) rounds to followup – all to the upper chest scoring zone.

String 3: Box Drill

The third course of fire consists of a box drill. From the draw, the shooter begins with (2) rounds in the upper chest scoring zone on target #1, transitions to the upper chest scoring zone target #2 for an additional (2) rounds, then transition to a head shot on target #2 followed by a head shot on target #1. Heads shots being to the credit card sized head box.

According to Josh,

“All three courses of fire provide a first round split time; the second, the reload split time and a follow-up shot, with the third round for consistency of follow through; and the final course of fire, multiple target engagement and target-to-target transitions.

Rapid, accurate first-round hits, keeping the gun up and running (reloads) and multiple target engagements are key aspects of weapons handling and this drill addresses all of them. The data points provide a benchmark for your performance, hence, ‘The Benchmark Drill.’”

This simple shooting test fills a few roles – first and foremost, as Josh mentions, it serves as a “blank slate” metric that shooters can use to track their performance over time. As such, there are no designated par times for this drill. It can also work as a warmup prior to range sessions, as it provides reps for fundamental gunhandling and marksmanship. Lastly, I use the LMS Benchmark when shooting with people for the first time – this allows me to see what the group’s skill level is at, and tailor the content/goals of the range session accordingly.

Give the LMS Benchmark Drill a shot the next time you’re on the line and let us know how it works out for you. Don’t forget to record your time and misses per each string – be sure to tag us and let us know how you did on Instagram at @wgw_blog and down below in the comments!

WGW Blog Staff Times/Misses

Here are the last recorded Benchmark Drill scores of some of our staff members:

Single Shot Presentation: 1.73 clean
1-Reload-2: 5.56 clean
Box Drill: 4.89, (2) misses
Total: 12.18 overall, (2) misses

Single Shot Presentation: 2.53 clean
1-Reload-2: 6.15, (1) miss
Box Drill: 5.28, (1) misses
Total: 13.96, (2) misses

Single Shot Presentation: 2.02, (1) miss
1-Reload-2: 6.52 clean
Box Drill: 7.11, (2) misses
Total: 15.65, (3) misses

So You Want to Take a Training Class? – Instructor Selection

For every instructor pushing good TTPs, there’s an asshat peddling snake oil to less-than-knowledgeable shooters.

So, as somebody who wants to invest more into their knowledge instead of their hardware, 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲’𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁?

There’s a huge amount of logistical consideration that goes into pursuing education on your own – especially when it comes to firearms training.

Since the breakout of the Floyd Wars and Chinese Virus in 2020, a lot of Americans who had never touched a gun in their lives quickly became firearms owners almost overnight. This had a direct effect on the training market – citizens wanted to learn how to use their new tools effectively and they sought instruction. A lot of dudes stepped in or stepped up to meet the demand but, as with all things in life, a big enough sample size will bring a ton of bullshit along with the good. For every instructor pushing good TTPs, there’s an asshat peddling snake oil to less-than-knowledgeable shooters.

So, as somebody who wants to invest more into their knowledge instead of their hardware, where’s the best place to start?

There’s a huge amount of consideration that goes into pursuing education on your own – especially when it comes to firearms training. There’s a time commitment, as most open enrollment classes are at least 1-2 days in length; a travel commitment, especially if the class venue is not in your immediate area; and finally, a financial commitment, as ammunition, food, transport and lodging all add up. For the most part, these logistical factors can be planned around and prepared for.

The first part of this series will help to answer the question that must be addressed before any other planning even begins to happen: who do you even train with in the first place?

What Do You Want To Learn?
The first step in picking an instructor is to determine what subject matter you want to learn. There are tons of instructors out there – some good, and some VERY shitty – teaching everything from basic handgun to urban E&E, and all points in between.

Some training schools offers a wide spectrum of coursework. A sampling of LMS Defense’s class calendar for Q1/Q2 of 2022

Most importantly: you gotta be realistic about your expectations. If you’ve had little to no formal instruction, you really shouldn’t be concerned with coursework in Practical Night Vision Employment or Precision Rifle – you would be better served by a 1-day Fundamental Handgun to get a feel for where your skills are, and to see how you should progress when it comes to future training. On the other hand, if you can pass the 700-Point Agg or are scoring well at your local USPSA matches, it’s safe to say that you can dial back a bit on the weapons marksmanship/manipulation piece and start looking for courses that don’t necessarily involve shooting. These will help support and give meaning to your solid fundamentals: medical, vehicles, CQB, or intermediate distance shooting are great places to continue your education.

LMS Defense instructor Brian teaching wound packing at TECC class

Also consider that while all skills are perishable, some degrade faster than others. I take as many handgun courses as my time and money will allow, but try to only take “basic” rifle courses once every twelve months as long guns are easier (for me) to pick up on after some time cold. “Ballistic Masturbation” is a term I was introduced to early in my shooting days, and one that is still very relevant – it refers to dudes who pull the trigger a shitload but don’t really get anything meaningful out of it. If you can clean the Redback One Operator Readiness standards and you’re absolutely skating through your third Carbine 1 of the year, guess what? All you’re doing is jackin’ it, except now every stroke is costing .45 cents to a dollar, depending on what caliber you shoot.

Who Do You Want To Learn It From?
Once you’ve figured out the curriculum you want, it’s time to narrow the search for an instructor. As mentioned previously – there are a ton of instructors on the market with varying levels of experience and relevance. Usually, you can separate them into one of three categories: Military, Law Enforcement and Competitive/Civilian. In some cases, an instructor will have experience in two or all three of these fields – and will be able to parse what material works for each lane, and what doesn’t. The specifics of what you want to learn will influence which background you’d be seeking in instructors, as each field brings its own unique experiences and TTPs.

Top to bottom: Chuck from Presscheck Consulting, Josh from LMS Defense, and James from T3 Pros – all excellent instructors with varying backgrounds (middle photo c/o Strayed Concepts)

As an example, consider the different aspects of pistol shooting: You might learn laser-focused accuracy on B8 bullseyes at 25 yards from a former GS dude, concealed carry and retention/ground fighting techniques from an LEO guy, or how to go really, really fast without letting the wheels fall off from the Carry Optics Master at your local range. All of these are essential knowledge for anybody that owns or carries pistol, so shop around, take classes, and pull what you need from each different instructor that you train under.

Northern Red cadre. Their military career paths make them more suited to teaching handgun shooting than any other MOS.

Furthermore: be absolutely sure the instructor you end up choosing has relevant experience within their background as well – for example, it’s better to take handgun curriculum from a former SMU guy than from the next “just ETS’d!” 11B/0311 who decides to start his own shooting school after getting out of the military. The former definitely has hundreds of thousands of pistol reps and high-level performance training tied directly to their resumè; depending on what unit they came from, the latter may or may not have that same level of experience.

Experienced and vetted civilian shooting instructors are gaining traction across the US; that being said, like the “McDojo” craze of the 1980’s martial arts world, an extra layer of caution is needed when parsing through these instructors. In the absence of professional experience or certifications, look for things like competition rankings and proof of continuing education through vetted schools; all good instructors should be putting this information on display, regardless of background. All good instructors will also be happy to point you in the right direction of other trainers they recommend; this kind of referral is super valuable.

How Much Are You Willing to Pay?
And now for the topic that is probably troubling many of you: course tuition. Paying out several hundred dollars for a training session is the factor that steers most people away from attending, but there are certain elements you can game out to ensure that your training cost stays within your budget. In most cases, the course tuition will be influenced by three factors that affect instructors:

1.) Length of the class. Most open enrollment classes are 1-2 days in length; some schools will offer a mix of these to cater to a wider variety of student availability. Obviously, shorter classes will cost less than longer ones. Remember – besides the instructor’s knowledge, you are paying for their time. Even just eight hours with a stellar instructor will have a great return-on-investment.

2.) Geographic range of instructor – are they local or traveling? Instructors that teach at different venues away from their “home” facility will have to recoup their own transport/lodging/range fees, and the prices will reflect that. In most cases, classes taught by local instructors at area facilities will be among the cheapest, but be careful – it’s easy to find bullshit salesmen at this level. Choose wisely; if the cost is too good to be true, it probably is. My first training class ever was $90 and it was an absolute shitshow, but there are some gems floating around there in the $75-$150 range.

3.) Pedigree of the instructor. Depending on where their professional experience took them, some instructors might feel it appropriate to charge more or less for tuition. Definitely keep the instructor’s background in mind if cost is a concern to you. A lot of these instructors have paid their dues, attending thousands of hours of specialized schools or earning their curriculum on the street or in combat; in most cases, the increased cost is worth it for the knowledge they bring to the table. Be wary, however, of instructors who use the prestige of their former workplaces as marketing tools – more often than not the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, and many of them offer more of “train with a SOF guy!” experience than any meaningful skill development. The loudest, most publicized ones are typically the worst offenders, while so-called “quiet professionals” are usually just that.

Carefully analyzing these factors will allow you to pick and choose the right timing and instructor for both your training goals and your budget.

Once you’ve locked down what you want to learn and who you want to teach it to you, hit that registration button and make it happen; the (mentally) hardest part is out of the way! In the next installment in this series, I’ll cover the steps I take for preparation in the timeframe leading up to a class – hope you can join us!

D-Boys And Their Toys

So what’s the big deal? A 14.5″ with a red dot and a light? I have three of those in my safe right now, and a 13.7″, and a Recce Rifle with the latest peepeepoopoo LPVO. This rifle doesn’t even have an ambi controls or a BAD Lever!

PART ONE – A historical primer on the “CAR-15

Hey gang.

Today, I want to talk to you guys about a particular military M16 variant with an understated, yet pivotal role in the development of the modern infantry carbine as we know it today, over 30 years later. Hitting the scene in the late 1980’s was the Colt Model 723, otherwise known simply as the CAR-15 by the men who wielded them.

The Colt Model 723 is known today by several names. Commando, 723, SCUD Hunter, Delta Carbine, the list goes on. For consistency in today’s conversation, and attention to various idiosyncrasies, I will be referring to the 723 and related rifles as the “CAR-15”. I’ll probably use “rifle” and “carbine” interchangeably because the distinction is pedantic at best, fuck you.

I’ll do my best to keep this informative and concise but please bear with me, as I am not Mr. McCollum, nor anywhere near his caliber in matters such as these.

If you’re around my age or older, and you are reading this article, you’ve probably seen the films Black Hawk Down and Blood Diamond, or played Half Life, all of which introduced me to this particular family of carbines back in the day. This carbine can be mostly boiled down to three major features:

  • Fixed carry handle
  • Aimpoint optic
  • Weapon light

So what’s the big deal? A 14.5″ with a red dot and a light? I have three of those in my safe right now, and a 13.7″, and a Recce Rifle with the latest peepeepoopoo LPVO. This rifle doesn’t even have an ambi controls or a BAD Lever!

Yeah, I get it, just bear with me. The end result is incredibly similar to what we’d now consider a bog-standard M4, but that’s kinda the point.

Modelo Time

In the 1980’s, the most modern service rifle issued to the fighting men of the US military was the Colt and/or FN M16A2 rifle. This rifle featured a 20″ barrel, fixed carry handle rear with updated rear sight, featured semi and burst fire modes, and weighed a little over 8 lbs. The only accessory of note would be the basic two-point sling issued with the rifle.

In 1988, a 25-year old Larry Vickers checked in to the Operator Training Course, one of the newest members of 1st SFOD-D, or “Delta Force”. Vickers was issued a brand new Colt rifle, fresh in the cardboard box , with a cardboard dowel still in the barrel. It, too, had “M16A2″ rollmarked on the lower receiver, but it was… different. This model had a 14.5” barrel with an M203 cut, a two-position collapsing stock, and the old-style M16A1 carry handle. It also featured a safe-semi-auto selector, instead of the A2’s derided burst fire mode. The Colt catalogue referred to this configuration as the “Model 723”; the D-Boys called it “CAR-15”.

This compact M16 sibling was able to bring the majority of the M16’s firepower and accuracy into a smaller footprint, while still maintaining its reliability, something earlier M16-based carbines were not well-known for. The majority of US SOF at the time were using the H&K MP5 submachine gun for CQB/assaulter duties. While the MP5 has been a highly-effective and respected weapon since it was introduced, it is chambered in the 9×19 Parabellum handgun cartridge. This inherently limits its effective range and lethality in a modern conflict zone, where most of the bad guys are likely rolling with AKM variants, H&K G3s, FN FALs, and so on. The CAR-15 bridged the gap between the “musket” and the 9-mil subgun, and Delta was quick to embrace it.

As far as I am aware, the earliest high-profile use of the CAR-15 by Delta Operators was in 1989 during Operation Acid Gambit, in Panama. This mission resulted in the rescue of American intelligence asset Kurt Muse from the Cárcel Modelo prison in Panama City. Shortly after this, in the Desert Shield/Storm days, Delta would find themselves hunting Iraqi SCUD missiles behind enemy lines while carrying these same carbines.

Oddly enough, however the most iconic portrayal of this rifle doesn’t come from the Gulf War, Iraq, WMD hunting or counter-terrorist action.

The Five-Yard Line

On October 3rd, 1993, a humanitarian mission in Somalia punctuated with low-intensity conflict between Coalition forces and local militia members erupted into what is now known as “The Battle Of Mogadishu” to westerners, and “The Day Of The Rangers” to others. As part of the still-ongoing Somali Civil War, this battle featured the most intense close-quarters fighting seen by US Forces since the Vietnam War. The main US troops involved in the fight were the men of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, and the 160th SOAR.

A one-hour snatch and grab turned into an extremely bloody day-long gunfight in the streets of Mogadishu. By the end of the day, 100 Americans had been wounded, 16 were killed in action, and one was taken as a prisoner. The violent firefight and heroic deeds of of the Rangers, Delta, and UN personnel were later documented in the novel Black Hawk Down by journalist Mark Bowden, which was famously adapted into a film of the same name in 2001 by director Ridley Scott.

Reality vs Film

The CAR-15 in actual Delta service at this time was less of a set-in-stone spec, and more of a proof of concept that grew over time. Minor differences have been seen from one issued CAR-15 to another. A good example is the fact that many of them came with standard Government-Profile barrels (with M203 cut) and some came with “pencil” profile barrels. Either of these configurations could be considered to be the same catalogue item, the Model 723. The 723 was considered an “M16A2 Carbine”, but it featured a transitional upper receiver setup between the A1 and A2 we now colloquially refer to as the “C7” upper, first made by Diemaco/Colt Canada. It’s basically an A1 upper with a brass deflector and forward assist.

The optics at the time would usually be either the Aimpoint models 2000 and 3000 which were, at the time, mainly considered “sporting” optics with 1″ tubes and 4 MOA dots. You’ll see a few different weapon light setups from the time. Of most note would be the conversion of the Underwater Kinetics model QXL Scuba Flashlight. These would be modified in-house by Delta armorers and commo dudes to be painted black, covered in black inner tubing, set up with remote switches and affixed to the plastic handguard by hose clamps.

On the other hand, the film armorers used components that were easier to acquire at the time to assemble several screen-ready rifles, but still captured the idea of the CAR-15 authentically. There are, however, a few major differences of note. The film rifles feature A2 uppers, as opposed to the period-correct C7; technically, they would be considered the Colt Model 727. Attached to the upper’s were carry handle Weaver mounts (I’m not sure the make) with Aimpoint Comp M2s. These rifles also featured barrel clamp-mounted Surefire 6P or 660 flashlights, which was the preferred white light after the time of the Modelo-style QXL Scuba Flashlight.

You may have also noticed that the rifles seen on-camera were slightly tweaked and re-used for the film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio. A byproduct of both films sharing the same prop/armorer company, Bapty & Co, these rifles were wielded by the mercenaries seen in film, and for a brief scene at the films climax by Danny Archer. Does it ultimately make that much sense that a bunch of South African mercs in 1999 are rolling the same primary as literally Delta Force? Probably not, but it illustrates that they are well equipped and trained, and for characterization of the group, it fits well enough. It’s still a cool rifle, and it’s got a different paint scheme this time. It kinda makes me wish we got a rifle like this in Far Cry 2 instead of the fucked up not-quite-an-AR we did get.

Cyclical, Like The Terminator

On the initial glance, and even after some use, your impression of this rifle is probably going to be something like “it’s dated”, and “the red dot is really high up there” and you’d be right. However, consider the concepts that drive this build.

The M4 SOPMOD program in the 90’s and 2000’s was a direct evolution of this rifle due to its versatility and overall performance, but with a recognized need for more extensive accessory solutions. The most basic SOPMOD Block I rifles had flat top uppers with Aimpoints mounted lower to the gun to allow co-witnessing iron sights. They also featured the KAC RAS quad-railed handguard for easy accessory management for lights, lasers, and foregrips. The Block II rifles refined this package somewhat with updated optics, improved quad-rail, and other accessories, but the concept was still the same.

This M4 bears typical SOPMOD Block I accessories. Of note is the Aimpoint Comp M2.

Fast forward to now. Micro red dots on 1.93″ mounts with MLOK handguards are among the most popular setups in CQB-oriented rifles. The high mounted red dot allows for a more “heads-up” shooting stance, improving situational awareness and comfort. The slick MLOK handguards replacing quad-rails cut unneeded weight on the front end.

Wait… tall red dot, slick front ends? Haven’t we done this before?

Really makes you think. Turns out we had it mostly figured out 30 years ago. Not to say improvements haven’t been made in the past few decades (this setup would not be quite so nice under NODs as modern solutions) but it is extremely interesting to see these old setups be completely justifiable in the modern age, after going through so many iterations. If I was told right now I had to give up my currently issued patrol rifle, I would not feel any worse off with my CAR-15. It is extremely rare for a “historic” design to also qualify as a practical one.

If you aren’t used to this “heads up” style, it’s gonna feel a little alien learning it on the CAR-15. The FiberLite style stock is very thin, so your cheek/chin weld is gonna have less engagement than say, an LMT SOPMOD stock. Rep it through a bit, and you’ll be back to blastin’ in no time. While you’re rolling this build, I think you’re gonna be surprised at the lightweight nature of this gun. Turns out the AR can be really fuckin’ light, we just need to stop throwing so much shit on them. Or do more pushups, whatever.

To be clear, I’m not advocating that you drop whatever your current primary is and commit to the bit of the CAR-15. I simply suggest that you might be surprised how much a “dated” build like this can hold its own in the current year. At the end of the day, fun things are fun. LARP your heart out.

My CAR-15. Build guide coming very soon.

There are many reasons I decided to do this build, and eventually this article. It’s a cool rifle. It’s an effective and simple rifle. It’s a peek into “how dad did it”. With all that being said, it’s important to remember the men responsible for getting this wheel rolling to begin with.

In the words of Larry Vickers:

SOF in general has been a catalyst for improving and reinventing things that were set in stone. SOF legend Major Richard Meadows, the man I consider to be the first Delta Operator, was involved with not only MACV SOG but was a team leader on the Son Tay Prison Raid, arguably one of the most influential SOF missions in history. Delta Force grew from that kind of outside-the-box thinking.

It was the Son Tay Raiders who first fielded a red dot sighted weapon system, and it was Delta who picked up the ball with Aimpoint sighted CAR-15s. Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Citizen who uses a tricked out M4 style carbine today owes a debt of gratitude to individuals like Major Meadows, the Son Tay raiders and the Operators of the Delta Force for pushing the limits of the AR style carbine into one the most successful fighting weapons in the history of the US Military.

Larry Vickers, 2013

The CAR-15 is ultimately a product of its time, driven and further developed by the men who wielded it, and the world they operated in. This rifle exemplifies the “get shit done” attitude of the guys who have been there and done that and wanted to do it even better. The knowledge today we take for granted when we build out any AR was gained only through experience, and often paid in blood.

Gothic Serpent was just one footnote on the military history of the United States, and the lessons learned in Somalia, Panama, and earlier in Grenada, Iran, and Vietnam, defined the dawn and growth of what’s now considered standard in special forces operations, and the use of the fighting rifle in general across the globe.

Take a moment to reflect on that knowledge, and know that at the end of the day, the ingenuity and experiences of a few hundred real people is what brought us here. I feel that this rifle is a fitting tribute to those men.

Delta Operator escorting General Norman Schwarzkopf as part of his PSD Team.

This article grew into something far larger than I initially intended, but it’s gonna be a good thing when it’s all shaken out. You can look forward to my build guide coming soon in Part 2.

Thank you all very much for reading, stay safe, and listen to Calliope Mori’s new album Sinderella on Spotify.


Further Reading;
Larry Vickers – The SCUD Hunter Carbine
Larry’s Delta CAR-15
Forgotten Weapons Ft. Larry Vickers Delta Force Colt 723 Carbine

T3 Pros Pistol Principles 2 AAR

This kind of class is something that everyone should take part in, regardless of intended application.⁣ James, our instructor, reiterated that being able to shoot fast and accurately was a net positive for both competition and defensive purposes, and brought a performance-focused mindset to his shooting methodology.

Date: 26 JUNE 2020
Location: Richmond, CA
Instructor: James Yeom, lead instructor at T3 – USPSA Master-class and former SWAT officer.
Round Count: ~300 pistol
Pre-Requisites: Pistol Principles 1, passed MIL/LE qual within last 12 months, certificate of training for PP1 equivalent, or USPSA C Class/IDPA SS or higher classification

Objectives: Most of my handgun coursework in the past couple years has been repeat Pistol 1/Fundamentals (LMS Defense Pistol 1) or accuracy-focused (Presscheck No-Fail Pistol). For Pistol Principles 2, I wanted to focus on pushing my speed both in terms of manipulations (draw, driving the gun) and shooting (faster splits with acceptable hits) – this objective was definitely met throughout the course.

Class Details: 12 students, most shooting striker-fired handguns with a couple 1911s thrown in. Most were graduates of T3 Pros PP1 or equivalent shooting courses. Targets consisted of USPSA Metric targets, with B8 repair centers, 1-inch circles, and 6-inch circles used for certain drills. 8-inch steel targets were utilized for movement portions. Shooting took place from as close as 3 yards to as far as 25 yards.

Summary: I was invited to this class by a friend of mine who wanted to get some training in after taking some time off from shooting. Having been cold myself for a couple of months, I was a little hesitant to show up – especially since the course description seemed a little daunting in terms of pre-reqs and recommended skill level for students – but I decided to take the class to break the rust and see where I stood with my current level of handgun maintenance. PP2 was definitely challenging in all the right ways, with our instructor James providing easy-to-digest lecture and relevant courses of fire to validate what we had learned.

TD1: As every firearms class should, we started off with the safety brief/medical & evac plan then hopped into student and shooter introductions, with James providing a handy cheat sheet for us to answer. I really appreciated the fact that he took notes on all of our responses, and further continued those notes throughout the day by recording the students’ times and scores.

The live-fire portion began with a simple walk-back course of fire, with students shooting three rounds each from 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards at the upper A-zone with no time limit. If a student missed all shots outside of the scoring zone at any yard line, they were asked to step off and this was recorded as a baseline for student ability.

The next course of fire was similar, but in reverse: from the 25 back to the 5, students were to fire two rounds from each distance with the goal being A-zone hits. James assessed the hits at each distance, and let our impacts tell us what we needed to do: namely, both hits stacked too close together meant that our marksmanship fundamentals were good and we should be pushing our speed instead. I learned that I could get away with being fast at farther distances than I originally thought.

After this initial assessment we hit the ground running, mostly working from 15 yards and in, on different paper targets meant to isolate specific shooting mechanics. These included target transitions, quicker follow up shots, acceptable sight picture at varying distances, etc. After letting students get used to the concepts via live fire warmups, James had us run a variety of drills to test those concepts.

Throughout each string of fire, James would spend time with each student in order to provide personal guidance and remind us of some of the key concepts learned during class – namely, to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and to break our preconceived notion of what “good hits” were in the name of balancing speed and accuracy. As a final validation before lunch, we all shot the Advanced Super Test for score. This course of fire required proper application of the mechanics we had worked on in the morning in order to get a passing score.

The last part of the day dealt with a small classroom block on the proper techniques for shooting on the move, followed by live fire while advancing on, and while moving laterally, to the targets. The final course of fire was a single-elimination competition involving lateral movement and multiple-target engagement on steel targets.

After that, we brassed the range, broke down targets, and got together for a short AAR and James handed out certs, along with a “goodest shooter award” that came with a stocked IFAK as a prize.

Final Round of the shooting competition – Frank is a long time shooter and Modern Samurai Project alum, shit wasn’t easy!

Key Takeaways: My biggest takeaway from this class was “throttle control” and its proper application dependent on the distance to – and difficulty of – the target. Getting too sucked into “tactical” marksmanship has led to some less-than-stellar times at matches, and a lot of the tips and tricks that James passed on has definitely led to a lightbulb moment for me.

Equipment wise, the Glock 34/RMR combo continues to allow me to be an absolute asshole about dry practice (aka, not do it). This is not an endorsement of skipping out on your dry fire, but more of a testament to how the equipment you choose can definitely be a factor in your shooting performance. I was able to pull off a 280/300 on the Advanced Super Test and win the final competition, both without having touched a handgun in months – I attribute this to both the shootability of the G34 and the ease of use of the RMR.

Goodest Shooter award 😂

Closing Thoughts: I got a ton of Frank Proctor-style vibes from T3 Pro’s coursework/James’ teaching style, and it was a great change of pace from the pistol instruction I’ve had recently. This kind of class is something that everyone should take part in, regardless of intended application.⁣ James reiterated that being able to shoot fast and accurately was a net positive for both competition and defensive purposes, and brought a performance-focused mindset to his shooting methodology.

While I’m still a fan of taking a shitload of Pistol 1s and refining through practice, competition and more accuracy-based coursework, I’ve been sorely lacking in the “let it do” side of the house and it was cool to see what I could pull off in that sweet gray zone between no-fail accuracy and letting the wheels fall off.⁣

The tuition spent was well worth it, and I have since taken PP1 multiple times in the past year – James is a great instructor and you can expect an AAR for that course as well.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Match Mentality As a New Competitive Shooter

“Soon” is the keyword: The “sooner” I see my target, the “sooner” my dot gets where I want the hits to be, the “sooner” I shoot, the “sooner” I get to the next position, the “sooner” I finish up this stage. One leads to another, and paired with an acceptance to push the envelope just a tick each time, all of a sudden I develop a weird sense of calm…and a weird sense of comfortably aggressive flow.

As a disclaimer, this blog post only serves to highlight noted observations I have as a novice level USPSA shooter. You, the reader, may be at a different skill level or different stage of your shooting journey. Thus, the lessons learned I will present should be taken with a grain of salt.

When I started shooting, my only exposure to competency was found through level 1 and 2 classes of instructors I found off of Instagram, and the local community I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through these instructors. One thing led to another and I found myself getting mixed up in an intro to competitive shooting class taught by Sean Burrows, a 3-gun shooter. After this class, I was able to get a feel for competitions in the outlaw matches hosted at a local range; however, I suffered a period of burnout where shooting was simply not as enjoyable as I once found it to be.

After some much needed self-assessment, I decided to bite the bullet and give USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) a try. My so-far 9 month journey has led me from being classified as a D-Class to a C-Class shooter. This progression is not necessarily amazing – maybe even slow, for some –  but that is where I currently am. During that time frame, however, I have found a much better understanding of shooting competency and marksmanship I only dreamed of previously.

The decision to learn more about match mentality was mainly because these “self-fulfilling prophecies” have hampered my performance at some of the local club matches I have shot; not only can they potentially set back skill advancement, but may also accelerate burnout. Other local shooters, also new to competition, have expressed that they encountered these same roadblocks, so I feel there is cause for concern for these as things that would turn someone away from the sport or prevent them from trying altogether.

What is Match Mentality

The term “match mentality” is something I encountered browsing through Ben Stoeger’s collection of practical shooting books. Ben, a world-renowned IPSC shooter, explains match mentality through an analogy where he equates the mental game to a computer’s operating system (OS):

The mental game is the OS through which we apply everything we know and do in practical shooting. Everything is tied into and runs through this mental matrix, including our technical skills and abilities, our learning style and practice methodologies, our memories, our emotions, our decisions, our motor skills, and our judgments. You can’t stop it and you can’t “solve” it. Everything in life affects it. But you can manage it, and you can use it to your benefit.

-Ben Stoeger

For those that may have come from a sports background, this OS mentality concept may seem familiar. Practical shooting is a sport and the shooters that participate are varying levels of athlete depending on their investment in the sport. In the USPSA-specific sense, facets of match mentality include the mental aspects that Ben described above, and other factors like equipment and weather.

I will focus primarily on the emotional and judgment aspects of my mentality that I have experienced, and how they manifested themselves in a match. While I have not been in this game long enough, some of the sentiments I have stem from these aspects and have been observed to be reflected among some other newer shooters I have shot with.


I define these “prophecies” as thoughts, feelings, or comments that I’ve heard or said myself at one point in my USPSA journey, and have had a subtle influence on my overall performance as a shooter. This is not an encompassing list, but rather highlights of ones that stuck out the most or others have said as well. I will divide them into three categories: pre-stage (coming to a new stage/walkthrough/before a run), mid-stage (during the run), and post-stage (after the run/walking to the next stage).

  • Pre-Stage
    1. “Wow, I hope I don’t get DQ’d (get disqualified) on this stage”
    2. “Oh man, I hope I suck less on this stage”
    3. “I’m just here to help tape targets and run the tablet”
  • Mid-Stage
    1. “Gotta go fast because others are fast” or “Gotta go slow and get my hits”
    2. “*slide locks back* Oh shit, I forgot to reload earlier”
    3. “Messed up the plan, got nothing to lose now”
  • Post-Stage
    1. “Well, that went worse than I thought it would”
    2. “I totally bombed that partial/no shoot, damn I suck”
    3. “Oh man, I hope I suck less on the next stage”
You can sense where it starts going downhill 

Personal Cues

Over time, I identified some of these prophecies and how they connect to an underlying problem in regards to my confidence and my attitude in shooting a match. They bring unnecessary baggage to a stage and occupy precious mental bandwidth when it’s time to perform. The following cues have helped reduce the white noise and keep my head in the game:

Experience breeds confidence. New experiences take time to learn and understand. The more you shoot matches, the more you understand what your capability as a shooter is. That does not mean signing up and shooting literally every match on Practiscore, but participating in matches along with supplemental dryfire/live fire can help develop a deeper understanding of what you can/cannot do and what to work on. This feeds into a cycle that would help cultivate a healthy learning mindset and better deal with adversity.

Each stage is a fresh start. Not one stage in a match is ever the same. To me, this helps address the issue of carrying baggage into a stage. Let us say that a match is a whole pizza. Yes, each stage is a piece of the whole pie; subsequently, your match standing does depend on your performance on a cumulative score of all stages. However, it is extremely difficult to eat the whole pizza pie in one go. Rather, taking it piece by piece is the more logical and viable route. In comparison, treating each stage separately can help keep your focus in the present, not the past or future.

“It’s not the plane. It’s the pilot.” This is a quote that comes up regularly when you watch Top Gun: Maverick or see the promos for it. However, it is true to a certain degree. When I started out, I was worried about everyone else’s performances, no matter their skill level. I placed an exacerbated amount of pressure to prove myself because someone was a certain class and/or ran certain equipment. No matter the equipment, the class, the stage plan –  it is all up to the shooter to make their hits.

“Comfortable aggression”

This seems like an oxymoron, but this phrase was something that came up when I was talking to Matt Chua, a local Carry Optics Grandmaster (GM), after I registered for my first Level II major match (which is in late September, write up to follow). I was throwing out some self-deprecating jokes and said something along the lines of “as long as I’m in the top 50%, I’ll be happy.” However, Matt brought it back to the ground quickly, stating that my goal should be “…to perform the best you can get, with hits as accurately as you can make them while being comfortably aggressive.”

At first I didn’t understand what he meant, and that last part sounded especially weird. Then the realization hit me when I was reviewing some of my match footage: because of a bad experience of “outrunning my headlights” in an Outlaw match, I was afraid of pushing the pace. Mentally, I had been equating a faster pace to crashing and burning.  If I didn’t get a hit or miss a reload, I froze up; I found myself walking to positions to hit things on the move to minimize red dot movement. I was overthinking way too much because I was afraid of messing up and not getting my hits.

My interpretation, which reflects my current mindset, is that I want to hit these targets as soon as I can see them. “Soon” is the keyword: The “sooner” I see my target, the “sooner” my dot gets where I want the hits to be, the “sooner” I shoot, the “sooner” I get to the next position, the “sooner” I finish up this stage. One leads to another, and paired with an acceptance to push the envelope just a tick each time, all of a sudden I develop a weird sense of calm…and a weird sense of comfortably aggressive flow.

Not too shabby, but still much to fix

Load and make ready!

Hopefully, I have provided some value to anyone that is looking into the practical shooting scene or to those such as myself that may decide they want to invest a bit more into the sport. It must be reiterated that your mileage may vary. Match mentality weighs an individual’s qualities heavily, so it is up to yourself as a shooter to know yourself and your equipment. You will probably be at a higher skill level, utilize different equipment, or some combination in the future that will force your match mentality to grow with you. Welcome the growing pains, don’t try to fight them.

Of course there is a lot more that goes into the practical shooting sport aside from mindset. I hope to share more of my journey with you all and am eager to hear more about everyone’s experiences in this pretty fun sport. See you all out on the range.

Additional Resources

Here is a short list of podcasts, books, and other resources that have helped me in my USPSA journey so far. It’s not a complete list, but it’s a start:

Zoomer Fudd, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Glock

I imagine where I’d be today if in 2016 I would’ve just bought a fucking G19. It’s cool to have fun and cool guns. I love my 1911, my Makarov, and even my S&W Model 64 revolver. Just try not to get caught up in your own meme. At the end of the day, irrefutably, fun things are fun.


Seems like it was a really long time ago.

I was sworn in as a Reserve Officer in a very small town in the PNW on July 8th. This was the day after an active shooter in Dallas, Texas shot fourteen Dallas PD officers, killing five, before being BTFO’d by a resourceful Dallas PD Bomb Tech and half an M112 brick. This doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the article, but I feel that it is an important detail in how I perceived the very start of my career.

Jumping back a bit, I had been working at a local FFL/indoor gun range for a couple years, with a friend, Doc, who was already a reserve officer at this same agency. I was in school for a Criminal Justice degree (lol) and the FFL job left me decent amount of time to study, but also work in a field I had already long considered a hobby since I had been a teenager.

This led to me being exposed to just about every type of commercially available firearm out there. Prior to being employed there, the only handguns in my possession were a Rock Island Armory 1911 and a Bulgarian Makarov. Both of these were gifts, as I was only about 20 years old. A week or two before landing the FFL gig, Doc sold me a S&W M&P9 privately for a really good deal. I asked him why he was getting rid of it and he told me he had just bought a Glock 17.

I started carrying the M&P at work, and shot it whenever I got the chance. I liked that Doc had already installed an Apex flat-faced trigger, as I was already a big 1911 fan. I was never very confident in my M&P as time went on, and I felt like I had a higher-than-acceptable rate of light primer strikes. This ended up unfairly coloring how I viewed striker guns for a longer-than-acceptable period of time. A single sample: a well used, modified M&P.

Not too long after, on my 21st birthday, I bought myself an Israeli police surplus Jericho 941F. I had just watched all of Cowboy Bebop for the first time, and I was ecstatic to have a blaster close to the one Spike carried.

As time went on, I carried and shot the M&P less and less. I also ended up buying a Springfield Milspec 1911 to replace my RIA, and sold off my M&P not too long after, as I viewed it as untrustworthy. My main rotation was my new 1911 and my Jericho. These I viewed as “good” and “based”, unlike the M&P which I thought was “lame” and “cringe”. Thus began my true fudd arc.

At some point, Doc introduced me to the Chief of his agency, who I’ll simply refer to as “Chief”. I was encouraged to apply, so I did. After a testing and interview process, not terribly long later I was offered the position of Reserve Police Officer. I would say I was “hired” but in most places, Reserve Officers are entirely volunteer.

Chief sat me down and told me how the start of the process would go, when I would attend a regional reserve academy, provided me with policy material, and so-on. Eventually the conversation turned to equipment. It was up to me to provide my own firearm. Chief saw I was a “gun guy”, and informed me the choice was mine as long as the gun was from a reputable manufacturer, and retention holsters were readily available for it…

Which was just enough rope for me to strangle myself with.

I knew that I liked the single-action trigger that the 1911 provided, and I didn’t mind the cock-and-lock carry method. I did not like the idea of having 8-round magazines in a duty gun. The choice was obvious.

Hi-Power, Hi-Class, Hi-Drag

Browning Hi-Power MkIII

Yeah, this isn’t a joke. In the year 2016 of our Lord, my first service pistol was a fucking Browning Hi-Power. I had clearly taken the 90’s FBI HRT and SAS videos to heart. I even asked Larry Vickers in a livestream he did if it was a good idea and he said “It doesn’t do anything a Glock can’t do.”

Let’s go over the BHP a bit.

Pretty simply, you can think of the BHP essentially as an “improved” 1911 design. It’s a single-action-only setup with a frame mounted safety, just like any 1911. The BHP does not use a 1911 trigger, however, and this is an important distinction. Rather than the flat-moving trigger iconic to the 1911 with a roughly 5lb. pull, it has a more traditional hinge-type trigger, with about an 8lb. pull. The trigger has a gritty feel to it due to the presence of a magazine safety. The BHP also has a much more modern and painless takedown process, doing away with the fiddling about with bushings and barrel links. The slide and barrel fitment feels smooth and glassy.

The standard magazine capacity is 13 rounds, but Mec-Gar makes 15-round magazines for it that don’t really drop free, since they omit the springy bit on the genuine magazines which throws them out so hard its like they never wanted to be there in the first place – then again, maybe they didn’t. A full-size steel gun with 13-round mags is basically like polishing the brass on the Titanic. Looks real nice, but how much use is it?

Issues arose immediately that I willfully ignored. Right out the gate, this gun cost me $1100. Yeah. That was before adding Trijicon HD tritium sights since there’s no way to mount a weapon light. At this time, for some reason, I was super fucked-up about the concept of a weapon light and using said light in a manner that may be unsafe due to it being attached to a firearm. Naturally, since I was so smart and all, instead of actually seeking out knowledge and training, I made the decision to deprive myself of the option altogether.

The Mec-Gar 15-round magazines had a tendency to not lock the slide open on the last round, so much so that the Range Officer at my initial quals asked me if my gun “was okay”.

The MkIII version of the Hi-Power has a painted-on black finish on the slide and frame, and a stainless steel barrel. On one of my first nights on patrol, I remember looking for a fleeing suspect in a heavy rain. I had forgotten my Gore-Tex at home (rookie mistake) and was thoroughly soaked. When I got home, I stripped my gear and didn’t think much of it. The next morning, my BHP’s barrel was absolutely dusted in rust. To this day I can point out imperfections from this one lax maintenance moment.

Browning Hi-Power Mk III

  • PROS
    1. It’s a 9-mil
    2. Reliable
    3. Very well manufactured
  • CONS
    1. Weight
    2. Capacity
    3. Magazine Disconnect safety (also affects trigger)
    4. No way to mount accessories such as WML
    5. Stainless is not a good option for certain climates

I moved on from the BHP maybe six months later. I saw the value in being able to mount a light, and realized the trigger was not good enough to excuse any of its other shortcomings. Let’s see what’s behind Door #2.

Guns Of The Patriots

Springfield MC Operator (Non-I.D. Tagged)

You ever play Metal Gear Solid 4?

I fully regressed and went back to the 1911, but realized I needed one with modern features and the Springfield MC Operator fit that bill for me. The Operator ships with Trijicon HD sights, and distinctly was the first 1911 design I came across that featured a railed dust cover back in the day: Now THIS was a gun. I also got myself a Surefire X300 and a grip of Wilson Combat 87D magazines for it. I remember I had a triple mag pouch on my duty belt and a double mag pouch on my vest, for a total of six magazines with the one riding in the gun. This totals to a whopping 49 total rounds carried. But hey, the 230-grain Winchester Ranger T .45ACP expanded to 1″ in ballistic gel! What choice did I have, really? I don’t wanna mention how many guns I traded in just to afford this one.

At this point, I was the only person in my academy class not carrying a Glock or M&P; I also ended up winning the Top Shooter award for that year, which further cemented me in this ego buy. I did shoot this gun very well, but so does anyone who shoots a 1911. What this gun did is hide my lack in practical shooting skill by way of throwing money at the problem. I carried this for most of my remaining time at that agency. Guys from other agencies would see me on calls, and I can remember them pointing out and saying stuff like “Dude, he’s carrying a 1911” and that made me feel like a cool guy. Sheeeeeesh.

Springfield is my go-to for anything 1911, as I’m not in the realm of buying “custom-shop” pistols. The Operators have hand-fit slides to barrels and frames, which is a good value add considering these guns hover around the $1000 mark. The triggers are as good as you’d expect, and the guns are very accurate. I had some initial reliability hiccups in the first 200 or so rounds, but after that it was mostly smooth sailing, even with a regular diet of Federal or Winchester JHPs.

I never fired this gun “in harms way”, but it instilled a confidence in me. It was nice at the time, but moving on I realized that’s not how the weapon/wielder relationship is supposed to work.

This gun also made me VERY familiar with its inner workings, as maintenance with any regularly-run duty or competition 1911 is a constant. This doesn’t just mean keeping it clean and lubed, this means checking and replacing several different springs, extractors, etc. I simply cannot recommend a 1911 as a patrol officer/deputy’s sidearm due to this reason alone.

The much more egregious reason is the limited capacity. 8 rounds is not enough, and it cannot be argued against in good faith. I’ve heard the 1911 described as a “Two bad-guy gun in a three bad-guy world.”

Running a 1911 will get you pretty good at mandatory reloads, though.

Springfield MC Operator 1911

  • PROS
    1. 1911 Trigger/”Buying Accuracy”
    2. 1913 Rail
    3. .45 ACP
  • CONS
    1. Weight
    2. Capacity
    3. High-demand maintenance cycle
    4. Stainless, again
    5. .45 ACP

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this is still one of my favorite guns, and even moreso if I didn’t mention this is still in my off-duty rotation. It’s a very nice-shooting gun, and the slim profile means I can carry it IWB very comfortably. Still, I eventually realized I needed to make a change. Carrying five spare mags and field stripping my gun after every shift got super fucking old. I’m not gonna get into another decades-old internet argument but .45 ACP and 9×19 are about as good as getting dudes to buy the 6×3 farm as any other service pistol caliber (Yeah, even .40 S&W) so it makes sense to run the one that holds more ammo and shoots softer.

Third gun just might be the charm.

James Reeves Moment

Glock 19 Gen 4

Fucking finally.

I remember the day I got this gun in my hands. I felt like I had committed some great sin. This was one of the “FS” models that came with metal iron sights and slide serrations on the front end of the slide. I distinctly remember shooting this gun low-left for a good bit, and I could not figure out why. I had been carrying a gun for a few years at this point, and I was shooting low and left with a Glock 19 at fifteen yards.

What was my excuse? I didn’t have one. I let my 1911 carry me through my bad habits with its super short traveling trigger. The G19 made me take a step back and really re-assess where I thought I was in development of my handgun skills. No gimmicks, no steel frames, no slick trigger to carry me.

I started forcing myself to carry this off-duty before it became my duty gun, but it was easily scalable for both uses. I sorted mine with a set of Haley Strategic TH1RTE3N sights, a MagPul magwell, and the X300 I bought with my Operator.

Managing this gun was a breeze. 15 rounds of 9×19 in a standard capacity mag, with 19-round mags in reserve was a game-changer compared to what I had been doing. In three magazines I carried 54 rounds, more than I carried in twice as many 1911 magazines. 147gr. JHP was very pleasantly recoiling and easy to manage, and ball ammo was cheaper to buy to make sure I could keep practicing. This was essential to my growth with this gun. I ended up taking refresher private instruction, and re-committing to range time. The Glock, practically, is no less accurate than your 1911, it just doesn’t let you cheat.

All of these benefits over my past guns and you’d think there’d be a trade-off; some kind of “equalizer” that brought the sum of its parts in line with the other guns. This simply isn’t the case. This gun can do all of this, all while running for literally thousands of rounds without a cleaning or re-application of lubricant. As Todoki Hawado likes to put it, “It just works, desu ne.” Even when it does need a cleaning or a parts swap, it’s unlikely it will be more than a five minute affair. This is what you should expect out of any gun you select for a duty role.

Oh yeah, and this gun cost me $550.

It is literally insane to me to think that instead of buying a Glock 19 in 2016, I went through about $2500 in suboptimal guns due to my ego and willful ignorance rather than just give the “boring, soulless” Glock a fair shake. I let a bad experience with one gun color my view for years. I shittalked Glock dudes for ages from behind the FFL counter. Would you believe I even shoot Glocks for fun now? Holy shit.

What else is there to be said? As of now, Glocks (particularly in 9×19) still absolutely dominate the handgun market in the civilian and LE spheres. I can’t think of any other family of pistols that has even half of the aftermarket support, and economy of scale benefits as the 9mm Glock does. You will never go to a gun store and not see Glock magazines, holsters, and other gear. There are entire companies who purely make their living by selling aftermarket Glock mods.

Glock 19/17/34/19x/45

  • PROS
    1. Capacity (15 rounds being the lowest)
    2. Weight
    3. Absolute reliability
    4. Market share / components and accessory availability
    5. User-level customization
    6. Value
  • CONS
    1. MuH gRiP aNgLe shut the fuck up

Touch Grass, Go Shoot

This was a bit of a mess, as it’s literally the first time I’ve ever written anything with the intention of it to actually be read by others. The root point of this article is to dump your ego and emotional attachment when it comes to running your guns. I’m not saying you HAVE to run a 9-mil Glock for duty/defense, but if you haven’t at least taken a hard look at it, you are only limiting yourself. There are great duty gun options from other companies like H&K, Sig-Sauer, and Smith & Wesson. I guess you could even carry a CZ or a Walther, but I’d keep that to yourself.

I found myself caught up in the over-analyzing of everything from behind the counter without much in the way of actual experience. I find many internet folk tend to have a similar issue depending on their tenure as a shooter. I imagine where I’d be today if in 2016 I would’ve just bought a fucking G19.

It’s cool to have fun and cool guns. I love my 1911, my Makarov, and even my S&W Model 64 revolver. Just try not to get caught up in your own meme. At the end of the day, irrefutably, fun things are fun.

It’s worth mentioning that a few years ago when I got hired on at a new agency as a full-time LEO, I was issued a stock G17 Gen 4 with TLR-1, and this simple setup has been my main workhorse ever since. My off-duty Glock is a G45 with slidework from Jagerwerks to mount a Trijicon RMR. In the future, I hope to be able to implement pistol optics for my guys at an agency level, but that’s a topic for another day.

Thanks for your time guys, stay dangerous.

(Misato is best girl.)


Believe it or not, even Glocks can be fun.

Make Your Hits!

Have you ever seen a twig or blade of grass deflect a 5.56 round enough to miss a reduced C-zone at 50 yards? If not, you probably will at Practical Carbine. From having to go into rollover prone to shoot through a gap created by crisscrossing fallen trees, to breaking shots while in defilade, stretching up in order to see above the tall grass – students can expect to problem solve constantly.

An Exploration of LMS Defense’s Practical Carbine Course

DISCLAIMER: I consider the folks at LMS Defense to be good friends of mine. While I have been compensated on several occasions with course credit in exchange for gathering and organizing students as the class host, they have never offered me range time in exchange for positive reviews. Of the (5) class iterations mentioned in this article, I have paid for (3) of them and been comp’d a seat for organizing (2).

Many shooting schools, both at the local and national level, typically have a variety of “speciality” classes in addition to basic weapons manipulation curriculum. Depending on the experience and qualifications of the instructors, these courses can range from CQB, to working around vehicles, to force-on-force and night vision employment.

FUDDs and the uninitiated will typically brush this training off as “mall ninja” or “fantasy camp,” but what they’re not getting is that many of these classes help to break the square range programming while introducing and reinforcing valuable skills. These apply to common environments – for example, regular civilians live in structures and drive cars every day, which is where CQB- and vehicle-oriented classes come into play.

Welcome to the Ranch

In 2014, LMS Defense debuted a specialty course of their own titled “Practical Carbine,” held at their “Ranch” location in the hills of Central California. It was billed as a rural experience involving a lot of foot movement and distance shooting – a little fantasy camp-ish to me at the time, since austere foot patrols were (and still are) a little outside of my wheelhouse, but I was new to the AR game with a couple of flat-range classes under my belt. I was excited to see what Practical Carbine could offer.

Since then, I’ve been to Practical Carbine on five separate occasions. While initially intended to be structured roughly the same, each iteration has played out with small differences based on the skill level and desired focus of the students present. Since no Practical Carbine has been exactly the same, this will be a little different than a typical AAR you’ll find on this blog: I’ll be exploring the common curriculum that drives each Practical Carbine to give an idea of what the course hopes to accomplish.

Josh briefs students on the upcoming weekend

Right off the bat, lead instructor Josh Jackson usually makes clear during each introductory brief: this is not a learning course in the traditional sense. Sure, you might learn what holds to use at a certain distance with your chosen optic and ammo, or that maybe walking around for a couple miles with Level IV plates isn’t really as cool as you thought it would be …but if you’re expecting somebody to tell you how to solve each problem presented to you? Yeah, that ain’t happening.

Thinking of Practical Carbine as more of a skills lab than a “class” would be accurate – it’s an opportunity to apply skills you already have in situations that aren’t possible on the flat range. The instructor-to-student knowledge transfer comes through courses-of-fire that are carefully designed to teach specific concepts, along with real-time advice from a cadre with actual experience in austere environments.

Students are advised to run the class with the same guns, and in the same gear, that they would use “for real.” Through this experiential approach, students gain a more complete understanding of their current, on-demand capabilities in a safe and structured environment.

Ballistic Problem Solving

Mark and Jon of WGW running a 2-man positional shooting exercise

I believe the the biggest focus of Practical Carbine is non-standard shooting. The prescribed round count is low – somewhere in the ballpark of 300-400 rounds – but each course of fire is set up to make you work for each hit. With the exception of a small flat-range skill check at the beginning of the weekend, most shots are taken against the natural backdrop of the Ranch’s many hills, valleys, creeks and plateaus… and the considerations that come with them.

Have you ever seen a twig or blade of grass deflect a 5.56 round enough to miss a reduced C-zone at 50 yards? If not, you probably will at Practical Carbine. From having to go into rollover prone to shoot through a gap created by crisscrossing fallen trees, to breaking shots while in defilade, stretching up in order to see above the tall grass – students can expect to problem solve constantly. High-angle and low-angle shots are also not uncommon, and supported shooting is encouraged. In many cases, it’s necessary, forcing students to use whatever terrain they can – I’ve had to dump my hydration pack to use as a rest for my rifle, just to hit the targets we were shooting at.

Targets are positioned anywhere from muzzle distance out to 500 yards, with the majority of most shots being in the 100-150 yard envelope… if you can identify them. Visual processing and target discrimination at all distances are required for the class – is that a gun in the target’s hand? Is that even a target? You can’t shoot what you can’t see, and during Practical Carbine seeing is half the battle. LPVO’s and magnified optics are easy money for longer range ID and engagement, but I recommend taking the course with a red dot to really see where you’re at. Being able to tag targets at 550+ yards with an Aimpoint was an eye-opening experience for me.

Throughout all of this, the only instructions are to “Make your hits!” Josh and the other cadre won’t say how, though – that’s on you to figure out, which is a huge part of the curriculum. Problem solving and “making it work” are the primary focuses of the class: Do whatever you need to do to get the desired results.

Night Time is the Right Time, or Something

Staging up for the night shoot

Additionally, Practical Carbine always has a dedicated night time block held on the evening of TD1. Shooting at night is a rarity for most ranges, and especially so in California – the opportunity to run low-/no-light gear is always good to have. When the sun goes down at the Ranch, weapon lights and NODs come out to play. Students are given the choice to run the courses of fire in either the visible or IR spectrum and, like the day time, these consist of both longer engagements and ones closer than you’ll expect.

At the Ranch, the vastness of the property and the totality of the darkness work together to make even a 1,000 lumen weapon light feel underpowered. Beneath heavy tree cover, NODs become useless without a supplemental IR illuminator; the thick shrubbery closer to the ground teaches lessons in candela, mockingly refracting lights with less ass and obscuring targets positioned only a few yards behind. While it may be an interesting experimental process for us city-dwellers, putting low-/no-light equipment to the test is an absolute must for those living or working out in the sticks.

You Can Shoot, but Can You Get There?

Every shooter has to get into position to make the shot, and I don’t mean dropping to the kneeling or prone – I mean physically being in the right place at the right time in order to put rounds on target. The network of roads, walking paths and game trails on The Ranch provides a unique opportunity to include extended movement both during and before shooting.

Jungle lanes have been an integral part of Practical Carbine since the first time I took the class – they involve moving along a set path while scanning for and engaging targets. This kind of exercise introduces discomfort regardless of experience, forcing students to balance safe weapons handling and target identification while negotiating unfamiliar – and at times treacherous – terrain. Practical Carbine alumni are well acquainted with the slippery rocks and thick brush of The Creek, which is an obstacle that is presented both during the day and when the sun has gone down.

Night time walk, 1/4 mile left to go

While jungle lanes are relatively short in most cases, the size of the property also allows for more extended movements to reach firing points. One of the more memorable moments from my first Practical Carbine was a mile-long hike to reach a 440 yard high angle shot – at the most recent iteration, we covered the same distance in complete darkness before a multi-position no-light shooting lane, with a simulated casualty treatment and extraction at the end. The physical exertion is an equalizer – students unfamiliar with applying the fundamentals under physical activity will find it much more difficult to hit the target than those with better fitness, better shooting ability, or both.

Physical ability and gear setup become important thinking points both during and after a weekend of Practical Carbine. What sounds good on paper – or looks good on Instagram – suddenly becomes much less sexy after some hard movement, forcing students to reevaluate their load and their physical training regimen.

Make Holes, Plug Holes

LMS Defense draws from a cadre pool of varying military, law enforcement, and first responder backgrounds. Depending on the assistant instructor (AI) that Josh has with him, different bonus instruction blocks are offered with each Practical Carbine class that aren’t necessarily shooting-focused; from a former 18D sharing hard-earned medical knowledge to a Recon Marine teaching how to move in and visually process your environment, these are valuable tools for the box no matter the application.

Most of the Practical Carbine courses that I’ve been to have allotted a few hours to a small block of basic trauma care instruction. Baseline topics included the MARCH-E algorithm, wound packing and proper tourniquet staging and application, with more sensitive subjects like improvised medical touched on for the more experienced groups. Both self and buddy aid were covered, and students were expected to be able to apply a tourniquet within seconds.

After the initial medical block was given, the instructors would “TQ check” us at random throughout the rest of the weekend, where a notionally-injured limb was specified during a course of fire. We had to treat it as a real-world wound as best we could – specifically, seek proper cover or concealment, apply a tourniquet to their “wounded” limb, and finish the drill without the use of that limb. This circles right back around to the shooting aspect of the course: 100-200 yard shots are easy money on the flat range, but with one arm down and shooting from the side of a small creek, you are forced out of your comfort zone in order to make your hits.

In Conclusion…

Hanging out by the fire after class (DISCLAIMER: WGW does not condone purchasing or using “Chinese-quality dumbass weeb vaporware jackets because you saw it in a drawing once,” even if our friends might. We recommend outerwear from reputed brands like Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, Beyond, etc.)

It’s a little hard to really convey just how much you can get out of this class. On the surface Practical Carbine seems like only a “fun” experience – the kind that shooters who are too poor to afford tuition or ammo will say is “not needed for an ordinary citizen,” or LARPing. While the environment and courses of fire may have an immediate benefit for a more specific set of professional applications, the concepts relayed and lessons-learned can be brought back to all walks of life – civilian, military or law enforcement. It has become one of my favorite course offerings from LMS Defense not only for its challenging and insightful curriculum, but also simply because it’s a damn good time and an opportunity to connect with like-minded shooters.

Practical Carbine class photo 2021NOV


LMS Defense’s upcoming classes can be found HERE

Weapons Grade Waifus’ shooting and training group can be found HERE

(Photos courtesy of Josh J., Rob C., Mark S., Jon B.)