In terms of production value (videography, editing, etc.) The Art Of The Tactical Carbine is easily one of the best shooting instructional DVDs I’ve seen. Chris Costa and Travis Haley are knowledgeable and charismatic, giving a wealth of useful info on tactical/dynamic/fighting/combat/real-world/practical/[choose your descriptor] carbine shooting.
For anyone interested in tactical carbine shooting, all the ideas and skills presented in this program are important. If you’ve never taken a class or studied this material before, The Art Of The Tactical Carbine is a good program to get.
The Not So Good
Advanced technique is nothing more than an advanced application of the basics. This truism is oft-repeated in both combat and competition circles. Unfortunately, as this video demonstrates, too often tactical trainees and trainers are merely paying it lip service.
Let’s start at the beginning. Slow fire group shooting and zeroing is the most basic way to address fundamental marksmanship and the instructors started there. After some brief tips on position and trigger control and alluding to natural point of aim (without ever calling it that), they’re zeroing at 25 yards. So far so good, other than a goofy misstatement (touching the magazine to the ground does NOT induce stoppages in AR-15 rifles!) the basics are being practiced.
Unfortunately, a number of the students had serious problems with fundamentals and the instructors never fixed them.
If that sounds like a harsh criticism, consider the one-inch circle being used as an aim point is a full four MOA at their 25 yard distance. A good shot with a rack-grade M16A2 and ball ammo can typically get two MOA and most of the trainees in this video had high speed ARs, yet, some of the groups were much worse. A number didn’t even come close to the US Marine Corp and US Army’s generous six MOA (4 cm/1.5 inch) grouping standard. By the book, a raw recruit in basic training shooting that poorly should be given remedial training to fix fundamental errors as attempting to obtain a zero with such lousy shooting, to say nothing of working on high speed shooting, is iffy. After all, poor shooting in slow fire from prone clearly indicates a problem with basic fundamentals. In this video, the students were cranking sights and moving on anyway.
After getting a “nearo” on their iron sights (sort of) the students then shot at 50 yards for POA-POI on a B-16 (NRA 25 yard Slow Fire pistol target) with optics. This is a good target for this exercise as the 10 ring is about three MOA and the bull (seven ring) just over 5 inches (about 10 MOA) big. Some of the shooters were still displaying novice-level fundamental marksmanship errors in position and trigger control during this zero exercise too. That’s OK. A good instructor to help fix problems is why you take a class. Having just watched a student fling two shots of three with five MOA of shooter-induced error during a slow fire zero exercise (out in the seven ring at nine o’clock), Chris Costa commented, “you may as well just taken two rounds out of the magazine and threw them on the ground.” I was curious to see how these problems would ultimately be fixed.
Instead, the video transitioned to Travis Haley: “OK, guys. We’ve done our BZO now…”
No, you didn’t! You just saw a number of serious problems, didn’t address them, and you’re calling it good? With less than 15 minutes of on-camera discussion of fundamentals and zeroing – the most basic of the fundamentals – and identified problems we’re moving into speed/dynamic shooting.
Expenditure does not equal training. In fact, just shooting more without addressing fundamentals first can make problems worse. About 43 minutes into the second DVD (Day 2) there is a demo of this.
During a moving and transition drill a student had a pile of complete misses. It was probably the first time this sort of error was noticed because missing steel is apparent, unlike a cardboard target being hosed by six people and saturated with a mess of holes as used in most of the previous exercises.
“Even out to 15-20 yards…” the target in question was HUGE (a full size IPSC steel silhouette) and the student was simply unable to just hit it, forcing Costa to work a basic trigger drill with him. I can only imagine how many hundreds of rounds he had fired in that course by this point and he was still displaying low level novice errors with basic fundamentals. Rather than address and improve a now-known fundamental marksmanship error, we jump back into the fray with more flinch training and trigger jerk practice, er, I mean tactical training.
I’m not picking on the students as I’ve certainly made every error discussed here and then some. The difference is, when I find a problem I work slow fire fundamentals until actual measured improvement is made. Of course, as a competition shooter, every shot I fire for record is measured and scored so I really care about knowing exactly where they all go.
Ask that sort of student and the class reviews of this type of training will be glowing. Lots of ammo expended and all the cool guy stuff. Never mind that the only truly honest assessment of shooting was the few initial (and, in this video, sometimes awful) groups during zero.
Shooting huge numbers of rounds that can’t be accounted for makes it difficult to measure skill and nearly impossible to track improvement.
Of course, you probably won’t find these folks at a shooting competition or in anything where every shot is actually counted for rather than sprayed into a mess along with a pile of holes from a half dozen other people. After all, “games’ll getcha killed.” You won’t find them divulging any sort of empirical skill measure. This entire DVD set did not state one measurable standard to assess your skill with any of the presented techniques. Not one!
Let me say that again. In this entire, very extensive multi-DVD program there was not a single skill performance standard given. Demonstrations never gave a target, distance or time standard, not even in the Quick Reference Drills section. I guess they’re too tactical for that.