It is a glorious Arizona Spring Sunday morning and MCSO and I are attending the church of the rifle. The temps are in the low 50's and we are overlooking the rifle range to our West with great sunlight illuminating the hills from behind us. I have just finished sketching out a new range card. The previous night the instructors moved many of the steel targets around, painted some different colors, and opted to shift our shooting position back about 35 yards and up about 5 or 6 yards. That isn't that far, but the whole facility suddenly looks different.

MCSO is on the rifle and I am scanning for targets. that one? It looks like a dark greyish green blob surrounded by slightly lighter grey green stuff way out in the distance, but a closer examination shows a couple of sharp straight lines and the color just doesn't quite match its surroundings. We have a target. I talk MCSO into the right area...we are staring down a narrow shooting lane with a hard stone wall on one side and a big bushy tree on the other. The target is there, but it is partially obscured by a large rock that covers the bottom 1/3rd to 1/2 of the steel. It won't be an easy shot given we have agreed to only shooting one round per target - they must all be first round hits...

MCSO slowly swaps position with me. This gives him a marginally better view of the target, but more importantly allows him to naturally align behind his rifle in the prone position. He is using his rucksack as a rifle rest. He tells me he is now on target and asks "any idea how far that is?". I tell him it is 263 yards. As he adjusts his elevation a bit, I silently think that my purchase of the pocket laser range finder may turn out to be one of my best purchases of 2015. MCSO settles in and I watch his breathing become regular. He looks like he could stay in that position forever. He whispers "On Glass", I get behind my rifle and will spot for him using my scope. I let him know that I'm "On Glass" as well. He then tells me he is "On Trigger". I whisper "Send it" and the shot rings out less than a second later. I see a splotch appear on the target perfectly centered at the junction of head and torso. It was the first target of this exercise and he center punched it at 263 yards. This process would be repeated again and again throughout the day and from other shooting positions. In one instance, MCSO would make a first round hit on a 12" square target at 340 yards.

What a day of worship at the church of the rifle

MCSO and I were privileged enough to attend SI's Recce/DMR school this past weekend. The course was outstanding and far exceeded expectations. This is a bit surprising since I have very high expectations of all SI courses. I expect expert teaching. I expect challenging courses of fire. I expect a low student to instructor ratio......I expect a lot of things. As I said, this course far exceeded those expectations. I'll elaborate on each of these expectations in kind:

1. I expect expert teaching - The course was taught by Gabe Suarez who was assisted by Jeromy Hasenkamp. Both of these individuals have Law Enforcement experience (Kamp's still being ongoing) with both having attended multiple sniper schools and have served in a police sniper capacity. They were knowledgeable about conducting precision shooting, the equipment needed to make precision shots at distance, and were articulate in conveying that knowledge to an eager group of students.

2. I expect challenging courses of fire - This was a precision rifle course. All of the students and instructors had full 'rifles' with magnified optics sitting on top. Many of these rifles had bipods. They were not tactical carbines optimized for CQB. That said, we were expected to snap shoot at 7, 10, 15, and 25 yard increments (CQB range) from ready positions with the expectation set that we would only make face shots. We were expected to 'get off the x' in reactive situations and center mass punch adversaries while moving off both the left and right shoulder. Minutes later, the expectation was that we would put 5 shots onto a 7/8ths inch orange dot at 100 yards. Oh yes, it was challenging. The expectation is that we would employ our rifles in any scenario that the SI team could think up from nearly spitting distance out to 350 yards. We were expected to be reactive, point shooting targets in one breath while making absolute precision shots at distance in the next. While definitely challenging, we had the instruction to allow us to do it successfully.

3. I expect a low student to instructor ratio - SI has always provided a low student to instructor ratio. The largest SI class I have ever attended had 20 students with 4 instructors. However, what could be better than that? This course was basically a 'private lesson'. Due to some last minute cancellations, there were only three true students attending the course. Combine this with two instructors and you have an unparalleled student to instructor ratio. Most schools would simply cancel the course and state that you can take it at another time. SI didn't do that. Instead, Gabe and team ran the course and 'filled in' the 'students' with employees. Therefore, we ended up with six students overall, as Mike Hekathorn, Bryan Miller and Josh (ShopMonkey) joined the course. It was awesome to get to know more of the SI team - they can all shoot.

In this course, we covered the following core items:

  • Position Shooting (Prone, Sitting, Kneeling, Squatting, Standing, Partner Supported)
  • Fundamentals of Precision Shooting (Breathing, Body Position, Trigger Manipulation, Sight Alignment, Follow Through)
  • Equipment for Precision Shooting (Barrels, Triggers, Stocks, Optics, Slings, Rangefinders, Rucksacks, Bags, Wind Meters)
  • Reactive Shooting for CQB Distances (Snap Shooting, Shooting while getting off the X)
  • How to be a Good Spotter
  • Command Fire
  • Target Scanning and Identification
  • Making Range Cards

I'm sure that we did quite a bit more. For me, it was the perfect way to blend the knowledge acquired at last year's carbine camp with new knowledge about precision shooting and then be tasked with employing both.

Being such a small class, we moved very quickly. At the end of the first day, (which we all decided to call it 2 hours early as the AZ sun was doing its best to kill us) we had already completed all of the day 1 curriculum and half of the day 2 curriculum. Gabe would then reach out into the sniper curriculum in order to keep things moving and cover all three days. We also ended up shooting quite a bit more than we had planned. The original course design was around 200 rounds. We fired nearly that the first day. By the end of the course, each of us were at + or - 50 rounds from 500. For me, it was a great opportunity to get to know a rifle that had only been sighted in prior to start of class.

A Note on Rifles: The three 'true students' (non SI employees) all were using rifles built by SI or upper receivers built by SI. These rifles proved to be sub MOA accurate with multiple types of ammunition. In the case of MCSO, his rifle shot sub MOA with 62 grn M855 'green tip', 69 grn Federal Gold Medal Match, and 77 grn Gorilla Match Ammunition. His rifle is the Suarez Mk12. My rifle shot near MOA with all of the same ammunition types (I suspect that it wasn't always sub MOA due to me and not the rifle). Mine was a Suarez Super Recce. These rifles can shoot!

Overall it was an outstanding class and an outstanding value to get so much time and attention for the low price. I consider this to have been a great learning experience and 'tune up' for the Guerrilla Sniper courses taking place in Oregon later this year (if you have not signed should do so is nearly full). I want to thank the SI team for, once again, making me more dangerous.