Thunder Beast Arms Practical Field Rifle 101: Day 1/2 Recap

Posted on October 6, 2011

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As I mentioned in my first post I’ve been shooting seriously for about a decade. Competition and serious training have been major parts of my shooting career.  I’ve trained with Chuck Taylor, Front Sight, USA Academy, ITTS, and a few other groups, all of those classes have been either Carbine, Pistol, or Submachine Gun. Although I fired hundreds of accurate rounds at the  4″ 10-ring at 200 yards in High Power, the farthest I’ve “reached out and touched something” was about 275 yards in the Nevada Desert.  That definitely changed today.

The basic curriculum of PFR 101 is presumably quite similar to that of other long range classes. Heavy emphasis on good technique and modern precision rifle technique.  The instructor’s, Ray Sanchez and Shane Coppinger are both extremely experienced instructors. One factor that sets the class apart is the integration of insights gained from the competitive sports. Some instructors I’ve trained with have such a “tactical” mindset that they recommend gear such as the Remington Police Special in 308 topped with a Leupold mk4 as the end all and be all of “precision rifle” when that’s clearly a dated recommendation. Unlike several instructors I’ve trained with, they don’t have the “my way or the highway” attitude. If they see a student doing something “wrong” they will offer their suggestion, if the student heeds their advice and improves, that’s great. If they don’t, but the student can show that their way is better for them, that’s fine too.

The backstory of the TBAC training side is pretty interesting. Zak, Ray, and Shane have all taught one aspect of shooting or another for many years. Once they formed TBAC it made sense to bring their training under one roof. Now Ray and Shane make suppressors, win matches with their suppressors, and teach novices using the suppressors, it’s a very effective marketing technique.

Day 1

The first morning we rendezvoused in the lodge, ate a good breakfast then spent the morning going over the basics:. Sights, Stock Adjustment, Prone, Marksmanship.

Ray discussing parallax on the AI AW “loaner” that I used for the duration of the class:

From 2011_10_11

Ray breaking out the Barrett MRAD in 338 Lapua Mag:

The MRAD is fancy
From 2011_10_11

Shane lectures over the MRAD:

From 2011_10_11

Ray demonstrating the prone position:

From 2011_10_11

Shane demonstrates using a bipod on a pack to demonstrate shooting targets on a steep hill:

From 2011_10_11

After lunch we traveled to the “KD” or “Known Distance” Range where we could verify our Zeroes, and find the elevation corrections at range. Since I was borrowing a gun, much of this was done for me. Shooting Federal Gold Medal Match 308 with a 175 gr Sierra Match King I was about a centimeter low at 100 yards. The AI AW, even shooting factory ammo was very accurate… I fired 6 rounds at 100 yards. Two 3-shot groups. Both were “one large hole” type groups. The next shots were on 350 yard steel diamonds. Zak left me with a dope sheet that was good enough to hit dead on at 350 yards. I was pretty pleased that my first time firing 300+ yards, I was able to nail the plate on the first shot. After I was comfortable there, I moved out to 700 yards. There I still got hits but they were far less consistent. It wasn’t a mechanical accuracy issue either, as the gun and I were capable of hitting the plates 10 for 10, the issue was wind. Anyone who understands long range, understands that a minor change in wind velocity can have a big effect on the point of impact. Unfortunately for us, our class was the “trial run” using the Big K’s range, and it’s still has some “teething pains.” Surrounding the steel plates were wooden shelters made of railroad ties. While this has the nice ability to contain most of the lead being sent down range, it meant that the effect of any near-miss was impossible for a spotter to call. Normally when you shoot at range, if you miss by two inches, the bullet sends up a puff of dirt or dust that the spotter (or shooter with the right gear) can use to call out a correction. With the impact event obscured, calling corrections was nigh impossible. Without feedback, it could be very frustrating. Someone would get a hit, so you’d ask him for his wind-correction, you’d try it, hit it, shoot again, miss… courtesy of the other problem, rapidly changing fishtailing winds. Oh well, valuable learning experience.

Zak and Ray’s rifles on the line:

From 2011_10_11

Zak’s AI AW I borrowed for the class:

From 2011_10_11

Ray’s rifle shot very well:

From 2011_10_11

P let me try out her TRG in 260 Rem:

From 2011_10_11

Taking Aim:

From 2011_10_11

Day 2:

After working through some of the challenges on Day 1 (I probably also should have mentioned the pouring rain for the majority of the afternoon), we were eager to hit the range on Day 2. Day 2 featured a field course setup with a lot of steel of varying sizes anywhere from 325 to 560 yards away. After confirming my Elevation data, the AI and I did very well in the morning. Ray and Shane conducted drills which added time pressure. I held up pretty well under time pressure, going 4 for 4 on one of the more “competitive” strings. My glory was short lived when we played a miniature “stage.” I stupidly didn’t have my binos when they were calling out the targets and distances during a “stage” that involved two shooting positions separated by 30 meters and time pressure. As a result I had no idea about the wind-hold, and I used the wrong come-ups on the wrong targets…epic fail. The rain today was intermittent, fortunately I wore good rain gear so it really didn’t bother me.

Later in the afternoon we traveled back to the KD range to try our luck on the long steel. Despite encountering similar visibility issues as day 1, I learned a pretty good technique that enabled me to hit the 970 yard steel plate. Instead of aiming at the steel plate, I aimed about two feet below it in some sand-colored dirt. Because I was using a heavy 308 with a suppressor I was easily able to spot my own shots (the time of flight to 1k is about 1.25 seconds). By noting how many feet the bullet was deflected by the wind, I could hold the same amount left and hit the plate.  That felt good.

Me taking aim at a 970 yard steel plate:

From 2011_10_11

P trying out the AI AW with her TRG 22 in 260 Remington in the background.

From 2011_10_11

Typical Distances seen on Day Two:

From 2011_10_11

Alright, it’s midnight. Still have another day on the range tomorrow.

TheNouveauJäger

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Posted in: Training