wpid-20150823_154537.jpgThose who have been following my Facebook page for more than a few weeks know that I have recently ventured into the land of AR-style rifles. For our ten-year wedding anniversary my husband had an LMT custom built for me. It was a total surprise but it became evident that I would need some training to go with this rifle. While I can take them apart and put them back together and handle one well enough to fake my way around a range, I’d never had a single day of real training on the AR15 and like kind.

Through a series of events arranged through my husband that I can’t quite put together I found myself set up to go to a Tactical Rifle 1 class hosted by Controlled Chaos Arms (CCA) and taught by Rick Largesse. CCA has been good to us over the years, doing numerous firearms transfers and even building my rifle. Many of our close friends do business with CCA with great results but despite all of that this was the first time I’d ever taken any of their classes. I’d never had the privilege of meeting Rick before even though we’d been friends on Facebook for some time.

I looked at the prerequisites for the class and realized that I had not attended their basic rifle class. When I questioned whether or not that would be a problem I was assured I would be okay.

I’m not one who attempts to cut corners. I know how much a student can slow down a class by not attending prerequisite training. Knowing that I was attending a “step 2” class without having taken “step 1” was a real source of anxiety for me. Not only was I going to be working on a rifle I’d never seriously worked with before, but now I would be expected to keep up with people who had more training than I did and I’m also pretty aware of how little and generally weak I am.

I was nervous.

But I went.

Day 1

I arrived on the range and took a look around and was not at all surprised to find that I would be the only female. We had SWAT officers, former military personnel, a gun store owner, a school teacher, a doctor and an analyst.  Seems they all had something I didn’t have, however: experience!

wpid-20150822_131236.jpgRight out of the gate I was setting the tone for my weekend when I failed, twice, to rip a simple piece of tape and then had issues getting my sling on my rifle. Arranging all my gear on my tiny belt was a task in and of itself and by the time we made it to the first drill I was wondering how many people were wishing I had not showed up.

The very first drill of the first day was shooting a group for accuracy on a 3×5 card at 100 yards.

Everyone else got down in the prone position and so I did, too. Not because I knew how to shoot prone but because when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

I had gone out and zeroed my rifle to the best of my ability with a friend of mine but when we were told we could make adjustments I was pretty sure I’d only end up screwing it up so I left my rifle as it was getting a palm-size group at 100 yards, hitting a bit high. I’m confident my rifle could do better. It just needs a better operator.

Next we moved up and did a drill wherein you were to take 5 shots from standing, kneeling and prone and time how long it takes you to do that. When Rick walked up to me, indicating I’d be the first student to do the drill I was mortified. I couldn’t even watch the other students and copy them. I winged it and then watched the others and saw some of my errors. Rick also gave me a few pointers and the next time it was my turn I did significantly better.

And so the day continued like that. I would watch and copy and Rick would give me a few pointers.

The tempo for the day started to pick up and a pattern emerged. We would do a drill together as a group and then Rick would walk by and we would do each drill individually on a timer.

20150822_104525We worked through speed, magazine reloads, tac reloads, and a slew of other drills at varying distances within 25 yards. The point of Tac rifle is to be more mobile and up close but also accurate and I began to enjoy the rifle quite a bit despite it still feeling a little awkward. As with every other firearm I handle, I did well, but was slow. I also found a few things I would like to change on the set up of my rifle, particularly in regards to the foregrip.

Because firearms, in general, are not new to me I was a quick study and was able to keep up for the most part once the jitters wore off. If I had any issue it was remembering to use my safety consistently and a few times the magazine wasn’t as well seated as I thought it was.

Day 2

The second day started with the same 100 yard accuracy drill of the first day and then we moved into using cover and concealment and started shooting at steel targets set up some 75 yards away. And this is where it got really fun!

And if I were honest, I would say it was pretty darned easy. No matter what position I was forced to take, be it kneeling or bent upside down over my rifle or laying prone, all I had to do was put my little red dot over the steel, press the trigger and, PING! The shot would hit steel. I could have done that all day.

My overall handling of the rifle got better and as we started introducing more complex maneuvers I felt more confident in my handling, even if I was still a little slower than most of the others.

wpid-20150823_094237.jpgCover and concealment was also made more complicated by adding multiple-hit targets and other rules like only engaging certain targets from certain pieces of cover and then moving back and forth. Some friendly competition broke out and we were allowed to run a few drills multiple times to try to out perform one another as well as get more comfortable moving through the scenarios more quickly. Being pressed for time made me move more efficiently and think ahead as well as push myself to work a little harder.

When we finally got to the point where we were working transitions from rifle to pistol I was pretty happy. I know my way around a pistol and found it a lot more comfortable to have that in my hand than the rifle. It was a strange experience switching between the two, however, and something I will have to work more.

The pattern of individually timed drills after group practice repeated itself and the friendly competition got light-hearted but aggressive. We eventually got to the point where it was declared I was “one of the guys,” and my nickname changed from “she who can’t rip tape” to “Gingerier.”

As with any group of people you are handling firearms around, it’s nice to feel like you belong.

My husband showed up at the end of the day to take me on a date and we were allowed to run one drill against one another which I would have won had I not had yet another issue with not seating my magazine all the way.

Either way, we had a fun time that ended with me feeling far more confident with my rifle and excited to keep finding new ways to push myself with it. I stepped way out of my comfort zone with this class and I was glad I did it.

Rick Largesse

wpid-20150823_160223.jpgRick, himself, was probably one of the funnest instructors I’ve ever worked with. He has a great sense of humor but is also calm and observant. He knows his way around rifles, too. I greatly enjoyed the ease which he instructed, neither taking things too seriously nor allowing us to get too out of hand. He kept us all safe while also allowing us to have real fun. He didn’t micromanage but didn’t let someone like me get away with bigger errors, he’d be right there to scold me for not using my safety or for snatching my pistol back too quickly after engagement but didn’t get too worked up about the unique way I ran my bolt that worked better for me than the way the rest of the class ran theirs.

He was encouraging and helpful. I could see myself working with him in the future.

The Rifle

As for my rifle? Well, that ran flawlessly. If we didn’t force a malfunction in the way of learning malfunction clearing, or when I didn’t seat the magazine all the way, the thing ran and ran and ran.

Having looked around at how the other participants were able to hold and work with their rifles it’s very clear to me that we are pretty mismatched size-wise but as Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs) are illegal in our great state, I guess I won’t be getting one of those any time soon and the only complaint I had was the massive bruise on the top of my left thigh from the foregrip slamming into it when I walked or dropped the rifle. Even my shoulder fared pretty well after two days and almost 1,000 rounds.

I don’t know how much more rifle I’ll do in the future. I hope I can continue to learn and develop this new skill. Perhaps I’ll take a precision rifle class to learn more about being accurate at distances and see what might come down in the way of more practical applications for the rifle.

All-in-all, it was a good time and a great learning experience and if people in the central Iowa area are looking for some instruction on rifles, give CCA a look.