Last weekend, we conducted our 3 day Intermediate Defensive Rifle course at Cascade Shooting Facilities in Ravensdale, WA. We had three beautiful summer days with overcast skies each morning and sunny afternoons in the 80s.

The course was a mix of people: private citizens, law enforcement, and military. I had several returning students. For a couple students this was their third year in a row. It was a great mix of people and everyone had a positive attitude and worked hard. We had 17 students and then several of our instructors came out to shoot the course. In total, I had 24 shooters.

The purpose of this course is to push students beyond their comfort zone in both close quarters marksmanship and traditional rifleman skills while developing a proper mindset to prevail in a lethal force confrontation. Often times, training devolves into the academic pursuit of skill without remembering that we are training for a gunfight. And when ability, opportunity, and jeopardy are met, we are training to effectively and decisively kill someone. This is a harsh reminder for some, but this is the reality of a lethal force confrontation.

Day 1 started with a fast and furious review of General Defensive Rifle: gunhandling, movement, speed, and accuracy are all emphasized. GDR is a prerequisite for the course. After the first few hours it was obvious why. I could see that some students were already being pushed beyond what they were used to. Much of the artificial and static range etiquette is done away with in IDR. Rather than stress a nice clean and even firing line, I stress muzzle discipline and the application of the Universal Firearms Handling Rules to the real world. The results are drills that push most outside of their comfort zones.

After lunch we discussed trajectory and the zero process. After detailing and demonstrating the importance of natural point of aim and natural respiratory pause with precision shooting, we spent some time zeroing at 25, 50, and 100 yards. We shot steel at distance and then finished the day again working on our close quarters marksmanship.

On day 2, we moved to the 600 yard range and shot groups out to 400 yards. Every year we shatter the accuracy expectation of many with fighting guns and practice ammo. Consistently, we see students and instructors shoot sub MOA groups out of chrome lined barrels with 55 grain practice ammo. This year was no different. We had several 5 round sub MOA groups at 200 and 300 yards. One was at 300 yards with a 16″ LMT barrel and 55 grain PMC Bronze.

In the afternoon, we started with my version of the ½ and ½ drill which is 5 rounds at the 20 yard line in 5 seconds, 5 rounds at the 10 yard line in 2.5 seconds, and 5 rounds at the 5 yard line in 1.25 seconds all in an IPSC A zone. The 5 yard time is pretty difficult. One of the SWAT cops was right around 1.3 seconds. He performed very well on the drill. We then continued with a series of movement drills culminating in a drill I developed called the Dynamic V which incorporates shooting, moving, multiple targets, and multiple shooters all in a coordinated movement that requires the shooter to think under stress to execute the drill correctly.

On day 3, we started again on the 600 yard range where we left off. We shot groups at 500 and 600 yards. Everyone got hits at the 600 yard line. The target was an IPSC silhouette. This is quite the feat when most are shooting irons or a red dot with no magnification. One shooter switched over from 55 grain practice ammo to some 77 grain match ammo. Out of his Colt 6940 with a 1-4x optic he managed a 3.5” group. The only qualifier is that I had students shooting only 3 round groups at 600 yards, but nonetheless this was an impressive result.

We moved back to the short range for a repeat of the ½ and ½ drill. We then worked on reloads and barricades. The highlight for some was two man drills around barricades. Shooters had to work together and communicate as they moved through different shooting positions.  We did some running and rapid assumption of positions between 100 and 200 yards on steel. Then we finished the course with some more movement and speed up close.

This is a physically demanding course and it requires a great amount of mental focus. Everyone in the class was pushed. The students worked hard and maintained a safe environment for all.

Equipment: The ACOG ruled the day at distance. I think it is the best optic for 50 yards on out for a fighting rifle. However, at room combat distance and in awkward shooting positions, the ACOG shows its liabilities. The 3.5x TA11 series seems to be the way to go. It is more forgiving with longer eye relief.

The other optic that I was impressed with was the Eotech 557 with the AR223 (4 dot) reticule combined with a magnifier. This might be the best all around setup. Obviously the Eotech works well at room combat distance. But the shooter was able to get fast accurate hits out to 600 yards with ease.

My favorite optic is still the Aimpoint T-1 because it is light weight, robust, and reliable. However, even with a magnifier the utility of the optic falls off outside of 300 yards.  This is not really an issue for most since it is extremely unlikely that a defensive rifle will need to be used outside of even 200 yards.

We had mostly AR-15s in the course and all gas operated guns. The vast majority were Colts and a few LMTs. About 7 of the rifles were Colt 6940s. Needless to say, all the guns ran without issue for the 1500 or so rounds fired in the course.

We did have two SIG 556s. And once again, the students spent much of the time fighting their equipment rather than learning to fight bad guys. I consistently see students struggle with these guns. They are HEAVY, and all the weight is out front.

Thanks to everyone for coming out to the class. It was a great course and we all learned much (including myself). Thanks to the other instructors (Nick, Benjamin, Jamin, GD, Mike, David, and Greg) for your help and keeping me on task.