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.
Targets: 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:
Mark Single Shot Presentation: 1.73 clean 1-Reload-2: 5.56 clean Box Drill: 4.89, (2) misses Total: 12.18 overall, (2) misses
Chau Single Shot Presentation: 2.53 clean 1-Reload-2: 6.15, (1) miss Box Drill: 5.28, (1) misses Total: 13.96, (2) misses
Duke Single Shot Presentation: 2.02, (1) miss 1-Reload-2: 6.52 clean Box Drill: 7.11, (2) misses Total: 15.65, (3) misses
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.