For the third time in two years, Jason Falla traveled north to Alaska, braving the cold, to begin Redback One’s two-day Basic Carbine Course. Since we had a full course of 22 shooters, Jason brought with him a new addition to the Redback One training cadre, the larger-than-life Aussie known as ‘Muz’.
Our history with Redback One includes their 2-Day Basic Pistol Course, along with their 2-Day Combat Pistol Course, so now it was time to learn the right way to correctly operate what is currently touted as being Americas most popular firearm, the AR-15/M4 style rifle.
People who know me very well can agree that I’ve been bitten by the ‘AR bug’ badly, and have been fairly passionate in learning about the platform for roughly the past three years. That said, my knowledge and thoughts on the subject surrounding the AR-15 has changed drastically over that time period, but I still lacked quality trigger time with the rifle. I was more than excited to learn the correct way to start using this firearm, before I might have taught myself anymore bad habits. Since I had two previous classes from Jason, I knew his training methodology and had a fairly good idea of what was going to be taught as core fundamentals, but learning the actual ins and outs was going to be a huge stepping stone.
Training day one began with an inch of snow on the ground, making for cold and wet conditions. The previous month in Alaska had record flooding and was generally just yucky. Luck would have it that roughly the first half of day one consisted of classroom time, letting the recently unfamiliar sun come out to help warm the range up and dry things out. One difference between this course and the others is that everyone is shooting the same type of weapon (besides one FN SCAR at the class). This allowed Jason to cover the characteristics of the rifle more in depth and get more specific on the safe handling, operation, carriage and control of the AR-15. The classroom instruction also included proper field stripping and reassembly along with a field function check after the reassembly.
One aspect of the AR-15 that gets discussed ad nauseum is relating to zeroing your rifle. Jason teaches the 50/200 yard zero, and after going into depth on other zeroing techniques, I know that my personal rifles will all be zeroed using his preferred technique.
Compared to previous courses from Redback One, the classroom time felt long, but it was apparent that once we hit the range that it was a good thing we covered as much information as we did, as there were a bunch of very new shooters. It seems that every time Jason comes to Alaska, the administrative side of things has gotten more streamlined and more professional. It is very clear what is expected of the students and they have now instituted a set of safety rules with clear guidelines on how one might break a safety rule and what corrective action would take place if you were to mis-step. Out to the range we went.
With as many students as we had, having Muz on the range alongside Jason was awesome. They both tag-teamed the administrative and instructing very well, both drawing on their own experiences and contributing as necessary. The big Aussie is also a lefty, so myself and another shooter who are left handed really liked seeing both a right and left handed instructor. Before loading the rifles and preparing to shoot, another safety briefing was conducted by Muz and again the types and consequences of safety violations were clearly stated. Much like for the previous pistol course, a plan was set for a medical emergency if one arose with points of contact for EMS, EMT’s on-site, and the like.
We began zeroing our rifles as a group, which took longer than I had expected. Jason said it can be painfully slow sometimes, but during a basic course, he needs to know that everyone is capable of zeroing their rifles before they continue learning other skills. Shooting from the prone position, using the magazine as a monopod, we started at 25 yards and built distance to 50, 100, and 200 yards. With a 4 MOA optic, shooting for accuracy at 200 yards proved to be a bit of a challenge but I was surprised and impressed at how accurately you can shoot with a mil-spec carbine from the prone position without a non-magnified optic.
The day ended with a relay race putting what we learned from that day into use. This put a tiny bit of stress into the mix, just matching yourself up with the other shooters, and was a great way to see just how quickly and accurately you can do things (or the opposite might have been true!).
I would be lying if I said we weren’t cold on the morning of day two. With 23°F temps, I think pretty much everyone was secretly hoping for more running drills. We had a shooter named Layne that flew in from Hawaii and nobody wanted to look cold at least until he started shivering! Another safety briefing refreshed our memories before instruction began. Jason and Muz ran through a demonstration of all the drills we would be performing that morning. This course had a much lower round count than the previous courses, and I think everyone was itching to turn money into noise, but looking back on the course, I feel all the dry fire was great as sometimes doing things dry can be better for new shooters than struggling while running live drills.
Shooting from short-range distances required students to incorporate proper holdovers all while transitioning between numbered points on a target. We covered stoppage/malfunction drills as a group and were also timed on these drills individually. This is also where having a second instructor was key. Both Jason and Muz were able to split up timing each student, speeding things up while also giving more time to the individual shooter if tweaks or further instruction was needed.
Shooting on the move and transitioning from standing, to kneeling, and to prone were covered as well. Continuing the Redback One training gives you a sense of constancy to the program they offer as a whole (at least on the civilian side of things) and you can see many commonalities during the courses, though they might be very different. The Redback One courses are tailored toward students that have a high aptitude for learning and you find yourself constantly absorbing information at a high rate. Like they say, you are ‘drinking information out of a fire hose’. I’ve found myself fairly drained after a training day if nothing more than mentally.
I would echo my buddy, Doug, in saying that I find Redback One courses to be well taught and challenging. Jason admits that he teaches to a high level and expects excellence. He and Muz expect you to listen and perform under pressure. However, they will also answer your questions at any point and expect you to ask them if you are confused.
I’m always curious about, and try to keep track of, gear/equipment failures during courses like this and the three that went belly up this time surprised me, as I would consider all this to be top tier stuff. My buddies Aimpoint Micro T-1 decided to get stubborn while zeroing his rifle and would refuse to make windage or elevation adjustments, regardless of how many turns were made on the knobs. The second breakage was a factory (less than a year old) LMT safety selector. Layne from Hawaii was double checking his safety after clearing and dry-firing his rifle to ensure the selector would not go to safe and it simply broke off! Thankfully in both those scenarios, a donor rifle provided the parts and equipment needed to get the users back up and running. The third failure was a brand new Trijicon TR24 which had an internal lens fail, producing a nine inch shift in POI between 1 and 4 power. Luckily, the optic held zero a one power and the shooter finished the course.
Though the pace of this class seemed a bit slower than the pistol courses, I don’t think it detracted in any way. The courses only seem to get better from these guys, and I’m looking forward to their return to Alaska in May of 2013. Visit their website/facebook page for additional information on how you might be able to take advantage of this type of training locally!
Photography courtesy of Joe Grunditz