We conducted our two day General Defensive Rifle Course in Ravensdale, WA at Cascade Shooting Facilities on June 26 and 27.  This is a great facility that we use for our Intermediate Defensive Rifle course and more advanced handgun courses, but it is the first time we used it for GDR.

Both days we had perfect weather (there is no better place than the Pacific Northwest in the summer).  In the mornings it was slightly cloudy and then sunny in the afternoons with highs in the 70s.

The class was mostly regular folks with one cop and a sailor.  There was a mix of experience and skill.  Some folks were new to defensive rifle work and others came to the course with an excellent foundation of skill.

As always, we started the morning off with a discussion of the Universal Firearms Handling Rules and then moved on to discuss our CQM shooting platform, aiming, and trigger control.  We also covered two of the most common problems in our rifle courses: lubrication and magazines.  Lots of lube and only 28 rounds in the mags!  The magazine issue became a problem for some later.


Additionally, we clarified the intent of the course.  This is not fantasy camp.  Our goal is to provide students with the foundational mindset, tactics, and skills for the defensive use of the carbine/rifle in a violent confrontation.  We keep things simple and weave this theme into all aspects of our training.

We were able to progress very quickly through most of the gun handling and some basic close quarters markmanship in the morning.  After lunch we covered zeroing the rifle and confirmed our zeros at 25 and 50 yards.  We then covered position shooting, pivots, and movement. After day one, we had completed our goal of covering most of the skills and techniques in isolation.  This provides us with a foundation for a successful day two and more complex drills.

The morning of day two we covered pieing corners and delibrate one man clearing of a room.  We then moved to the range and shot around barricades from varying positions.  We continued with more advanced gun handling and marksmanship drills.  We then pushed back to 100 yards and shot varying positions on steel.  In the middle of the afternoon we discussed wound ballistics and terminal effects of rifle cartridges.  We ended the day by covering dynamic movement and combining many of our skills into some pretty fun drills.

Lessons learned:  The skills we teach fit together in a systematic way.  Some of the students found this out the hard way.  Sometimes it is a process of unlearning the old and embracing the new.  Unfortunately some come to class with ingrained ways of running a rifle and it can be a frustrating process trying to unlearn improper procedures and techniques.  Sometimes it is as simple as what direction do your mags face while mounted on your belt and why.  Do you have your gear setup a particular way just because you’ve always done it like that?  Is it because you saw it on TV or a video? Or do you have a reasoned well thought out systematic way of setting up your gear that provides for efficient and consistent techniques.

Overall, the students picked up the material quickly, and we were able to progress through the curriculum a little faster than normal.  Toward the end of day two, a few students who only brought the required minimum were running low on ammo.  In the end there were no issues and we worked through it.  However, keep in mind that you should always consider the listed equipment requirements MINIMUMS.  If I take a course I bring at least 150% of the required ammo and typically 200%.  It is similar with mags.  10 AR mags is a minimum for me and 20 is typical.


We had mostly ARs in the class.  All seemed to run well when lubed, even the piston guns (there’s a first).  There was a SCAR which did not have any problems as expected.  There was one AK.  While this platform can be an excellent defensive rifle, the operator quickly found out many of its short comings regarding ergonomics and gunhandling.  In my mind an AK is a great answer for a cheap detachable magazine semi auto rifle in the $250 to $400 range.  However, if you are going to spend the money for a fancy AK, then you are probably better served buying an AR-15 for $800 if this is your only defensive rifle.  Additionally, it is really heavy, and the weight took a toll on the user.  We had one Sig 556 that did not have any problems.  At this point, for guns I have seen in class the 556 seems to be about 50/50 on whether or not they work well.  In the end, it is just a really heavy and expensive AK.  Some of the ergonomics are improved, but not enough.

We also had an FN FS2000.  This gun is mostly useless.  It is bulky and not ergonomic.  The peculiar design and controls make gun handling difficult.  Some standard procedures need to be abandoned and the operator must adopt some weapon specific techniques.  I have seen a few other FS2000s in class.  Typically, the operator gives up in frustration by the end of day one and happily switches to an AR platform.  Kudos to the operator who ran the gun very well throughout the course.

This was another excellent class. Everyone worked hard and learned a lot.  Thanks to David, Josh, and especially Nick for keeping me on task and making the course run smoothly.  Hopefully next year, we will have the opportunity to run several GDRs at Ravensdale.