On the days of August 2nd and 3rd, 2014; I attended EAG Tactical’s Basic Carbine Class at Echo Valley Training Center in West Virginia. Presented as a “Two Day, Low to Moderate Intensity class with the emphasis on the basics of marksmanship and manipulation,” made my non tactical, cake eating ears perk up and I decided to go as “slick” as possible with regards to gear choices. More on that later. The class had military veterans, law enforcement, federal employees, and active duty military attending.
Fog dissipating from the range as we convoyed in. Weather was excellent for both days.
Gear and weapons choices:
Training Day One (TD1):
One thing that immediately stands out about my EAG class experience is the level of professionalism involved. That means class starts on time, a course schedule with room for evolving with the shooters is adhered to, attention is paid to students’ health and well being during the training evolution, targets are inspected by the instructor after each string of fire, and most importantly; a safe training evolution occurs. Constant, short lectures with real life examples of WHY? are given. Pat makes sure that you understand WHY? before DOING.
We received a very good and humorous safety brief along with an individual carbine inspection by Pat. When inspecting our carbines, he didn’t engage in brand name snobbery (“that brand will get you killed on the street, son!”) but rather just checked for any immediate problems that would impede training. He also inspected personal gear selection with an eye for safety and student welfare (hydration, knee pads for the gravel, etc).
A fifty yard zeroing exercise was then confirmed. I shot well except with a bit of vertical stringing I couldn’t explain but blamed on myself until I physically inspected my carbine towards the end of the day. Happily, fellow student Martina had the right tool
to tighten up my LaRue Aimpoint Micro mount
(which has never gotten loose in six years before this) and my groups tightened up noticeably. This was my bust and I should have checked it a long time ago. I’m buying one of those Combat Optic Tools ASAP……
We then moved onto offset and optics choices. Nothing was really preached as gospel (Pat is open to new pieces of gear and techniques) but hard won lessons are imparted for your benefit. This is not an NRA High Power class but rather a class oriented on “how to fight with a carbine.” Therefore, all training is conducted from the fifty yard line to the three yard line. An outstanding class (with hilarious examples from the real world as usual) was taught on that crucial two inches or so of sight offset on the AR-15 rifle. Single shot, hammer pair, controlled pair, Mozambique/Failure to Stop, and NSR (Non Standard Response; seven rounds rapid fire to the center mass) drills were taught and drilled over and over again. We also learned the basic firing stances:
- Standing. Don’t overthink this! You need to negate recoil by getting into a basic fighting stance but you don’t need to over exaggerate this (crouching way too far forward, sticking your ass out).
- Kneeling (a few variations were taught). The basic kneeling or as Pat calls it, the Monica, and the familiar to me as taught by the USMC; the kneeling with elbow support.
- Prone; two variants were taught with the emphasis of using what works best for you. Using the magazine as a monopod is strongly encouraged. I saw some students using a magwell hold in the prone, I myself did not do so.
Malfunction clearance was taught and in a safe manner. We actually drilled the different types of malfunction clearances and a few times, by the numbers. Shit happens and you should know how to deal with it. Multiple target engagement was taught with an emphasis on hitting each target as quickly as possible and then delivering more shots as needed AKA the “Box Drill.” This drill was thrown as us quite a bit.
Learning points for me from TD1:
- The sight offset really kicks in at about fifteen yards. Example: you’re shooting from the fifty yard line to the three yard line and your shots are all exactly where they should be until you start shooting at fifteen yards and in at which point they’re too low. That’s the time you need to start aiming roughly two inches higher.
- The basics matter. A lot. Without knowing your zero and holds for various distances, what good is your expensive kit? With Pat’s training, a new carbine shooter shooting next to me was looking like a rock start on the target and drill times. However, said new shooter brought….a positive attitude.
Training Day Two (TD2):
We started with a quick confirmation as zero. Pat teaches that “your zero is a living thing; check it often.” The MEU/SOC and Mod Navy drills were taught, ran for familiarization and then time. Drills were broken up with shooting on the move and Pat did his best to make sure that students didn’t overthink shooting on the move (SOM).
- Try to time your shots when you’re landing on one foot specifically
- Don’t game SOM by stopping to shoot during advancing to the target or waiting to shoot once you’re stopped and cannot advance anymore
- Take the shot when it appears. The shot you have may not be the best sight picture you will get but you have a finite amount of time and this isn’t an NRA High Power class but a class on “how to fight with your rifle.”
- Remember that offset; it’s always there and waiting to strike.
- This relates to taking the shot when it appears but know what’s acceptable and what is not. The longer you take to make a shot, the less time you have.
Tactical reloads were taught and WHY?
to do so was elucidated on. As with every EAG lesson, it was hammered home firmly with multiple dry and live repetitions. The day ended with scored and timed iterations of the MEU/SOC and Mod Navy qualifications. During TD2, a former EAG student
texted me; asking me to say hello to Pat for him (Pat trained said buddy while said buddy was in Force Recon and pat was training Force Recon Marines as civilian contractor) and giving me good natured shit about my upcoming performance on the MEU/SOC qual. Naturally,
I did worse than I should have; forgetting to flip the safety off until I pressed the trigger. Pat admonished me that I knew better afterwards and I did make the qualifying time but not to the best of my ability. Learning occurred.
The S&W 5.45x39mm AR15 shooting Soviet military surplus ammo shot amazingly well as usual, note the two shots in one hole
Pat making sure that SOM drills are conducted safely
Gear learning points:
- $7 Walmart kneepads suck but nowhere near as much as no knee pads.
- A Magpul CTR will impact your quick detach sling loop on a Daniel Defense sling mount and cause the quick detach to….quickly detach and to make carbine embrace gravity. I removed about a quarter inch of plastic from the CTR and PROBLEM SOLVED PROBLEM STAYING SOLVED (Please note that the comparable Noveske unit is thin enough that this isn’t a problem with it)
- Everyone always says that lube choice doesn’t matter, just run it wet. Well, try that with 5.45x39mm Soviet surplus ammo. The corrosive salts in the primers make you quickly realize that all weapons lubes are not created equal and despite hot water rinses at the end of each training day, weapons lube choice can matter. So far, Fireclean or Slip2000 EWL work best for me.
- Elbow pads. Apparently, I need to find out what these are and get a pair as I left the class on TD2 with blood literally running down both arms from my elbows.
- Mag carriers. Problematic when used a lot. Good for one-two mag changes but you run out of belt space. I need a chest rig….
- The Safariland GLS is the OWB (Outside Waist Band) holster with retention to have and it impressed everyone who got a demonstration of its innovative retention design. I will be reviewing this holster on its own soon.
Gratuitous “filthy rifle” pictures. The rifle was not cleaned between training days. Weapon ran flawlessly as usual.
The training venue is excellent. There was not one aspect of the Echo Valley Training Center that impeded training. However, the location is remote
. Bring your food and plenty of snacks. This being an EAG class, Camelbak sponsorship was there and very generously provided Camelbak Elixir
in the form of all you could drink from a ten gallon container and full retail sized tubes of the tablets. I really can’t say enough about this stuff nor the support. Being a former infantry Marine who remembers the days of canteens and then getting screamed at for daring to buy and use a Camelbak when they first came out; the notion of a tablet of energy drink (with or without caffeine or “energy” as Camelbak calls it) that you simply drop into your Camelbak and it self mixes and doesn’t turn your Camelbak into a self aware bacteria experiment truly amazed me. I went home with two tubes pressed upon me by the generous Martine (who also shot very well during the class) and promptly bought more. “No mixing at all,” yeah I can get used to that. Truly, an amazing
product. I need to get a Camelbak suitable for training use now…… Of course, Pat calls this stuff “Camelcrack” and it is like crack that keeps the students going.
Be on time. Have your magazines loaded if possible. Have ammo. Don’t slow down the rest of the class. Have your range fees in the correct amount, ready for collection. Do everyone a favor and be ready to help out with targets and take your trash home if possible at the end of the day as this is a remote location and trash has to be separated and burned.
Be ready for Uncle Pat’s bags o’ goodies. Apparently, EAG Tactical has strong relationships with much of the shooting industry and therefore, each and every student got a bag of gear from LaRue Tactical
and one from Bravo Company
along with PMAGs from Magpul
. As an accounting of Pat’s personality; I witnessed Pat attempt to help out one small town cop with extra magazines (many kudos from me for ponying up your hard earned pay to travel to Virginia in order to get training your department doesn’t offer nor pay for!).
. Pat is a Vietnam combat vet, retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer, and
a retired NYPD Sergeant. I do realize that much of the online gun forum community believes that you need at least SOF or better yet, Tier One experience to teach marksmanship but I assure you, Uncle Pat does the job quite well. Pat imbues his class with an infectious positive energy coupled with personal stories illustrating the point he is trying to make sans “let me tell you about my own awesomeness.”
Humble and side splittingly hilarious, Pat never has a bad word for anyone, be they student or fellow instructors in the training industry. His skills as an actual diagnostician are unparalleled, to wit:
I’m shooting a string from the kneeling. I was sloppy about it and could have done better. As I was recovering to the standing, Pat asked me “how did that feel.” My answer: “Sloppy.” Him: “yup, you could have done better.”
That is how EAG classes go. If you mess up after having been instructed like say, not keeping your weapon topped off with ammo; you get humorously chided but not castigated. Points are driven home using real world examples and one on one instruction and diagnosis occur continuously throughout the day. Targets are personally inspected by Pat. He also “walks the walk” and demonstrates each drill as a matter of course. You will be held accountable according to your level of skill. If you are a basic skill level carbine shooter, Pat will make sure your fundamentals are being practiced and you understand HOW? to shoot that drill better. If you’re more advanced in your skillset; your groups better be tight and you’d better make the par time or you will be reminded that you can do better and given a tip on what you might have done wrong.
My bottom line:
I wish I’d taken training from EAG years ago. The positive energy Pat exudes along with his (literally for you Archer fans) generations of experience training civilians, military, and law enforcement makes it impossible not to take an EAG class and not come away a better shooter. Strongly recommended. I’ll be at the very next EAG Carbine Operator’s course in October.
Pictures of the author at the class