Monday, August 22, 2011

Vickers Tactical Advanced Carbine and Handgun 3 day class review

This review is written concerning the Vickers Tactical three day Advanced Carbine and Handgun class conducted at Myock, North Carolina June 17-19th, 2011 conducted by Larry Vickers, a retired Delta Force operator.

My background:

  I am a civilian with eight years of experience as an infantry Marine.  I have attended handgun and carbine courses from Larry Vickers, Todd Green, and Kyle Defoor.  I have additional long range rifle training from my brother who is an combat veteran 8541 and 8542 (Marine Scout Sniper).

Equipment used:

  Pistol:  Gen4 Glock 19 with "04" marked recoil spring assembly, White Sound Defense H.R.E.D upgraded depressor spring assembly, Gen3 smooth face trigger, Vickers Tactical slide release, and Warren Tactical 2 dot tritium night sights.  Pistol ammo used was 115 grain ball WWB (Winchester White Box).  This pistol had about 4200 rds through it at the time of this class.  At about 3500 rds, it started stovepiping regularly.  A call to Glock was made and they sent the 04 marked recoil spring assembly.  An additional stovepipe made me decide to try out the H.R.E.D depressor spring upgrade.  I have had no malfunctions since installing the H.R.E.D. and recommend it to owners of problematic Gen4 9mm Glock owners.  That being said, I will note that it is sad that I have to work on a 9mm Glock to make it run as my other Gen3 Glock 19 does.  Weapon was not cleaned for the duration of the class and was lubed with Triflo bicycle chain lubricant.  Weapon was carried concealed AIWB (Appendix Inside Waist Band) in a  Custom Carry Concepts Shaggy for the entire class.  Unless safety concerns present themselves, I will always train carrying my pistol concealed in the same manner I do day to day.

   This Glock was equipped with Todd Green's "Gadget" for the last two days of the class.  The "gadget" did not effect operation of the Glock one whit and it took no time at all to keep my strong side thumb on the "gadget" as I reholstered, thereby ensuring complete safety as I reholstered.  Larry weighed in on the "gadget" and said that he thinks it is good for those that carry appendix but he reserves full judgement until he's seen more long term data on it.  Myself, now I've taken it to an Vickers advanced class and carried concealed with it installed a month, I find it absolutely indispensable.  It does not effect operation of the pistol whatsoever and provides a seemingly foolproof way to counteract unwelcome happenings while reholstering such as clothing getting caught in the trigger guard.  Any movement of the trigger is instantly detected and readily counteracted by your thumb on the "gadget."  This is the first time this device has been used in a Vickers Tactical class.  Over 400  trouble free rds were put through my Glock 19 while equipped with the "gadget."

  I do not recommend Gen4 9mm Glocks for purchase because of my experiences with my Gen4 G19 and my Gen4 G17.  Larry Vickers does not either after observing them in classes.

Rifle:  S&W M&P15R in 5.45x39mm.  This rifle is on its second barrel and is absolutely a high performing, reliable and capable weapon, even at 14k+ rds (barrel was replaced at about 11k rds after being shot out).  It is a 16" barreled M4 pattern carbine with Magpul MOE stock and handgrip.  Magpul XTM panels allow me to use my weak hand to grasp the nice, cheap YHM lightweight rail without gloves.  A Surefire G2 incan (need an LED upgrade, I know!) is attached at about 10 o'clock using a VTAC polymer mount.  A Blue Force Gear Vickers padded sling is my slign choice and it performed perfectly with me giving thanks for having the forethought to opt for the padded model.  My trusty Aimpoint Micro H1 on a LaRue QD mount is my optic with the standard front sight tower and a YHM rear sight for the iron sights.  The entire package performed perfectly; both in reliability and accuracy, and never once let me down, even using the much maligned C Products 5.45x39mm magazines.   This was my first time training with a carbine equipped with the LaRue Handstop and the piece worked as advertised, giving me a firm index point that worked perfectly.  Ammo used was 80's era Soviet surplus 53 grain 5.45x39mm.  Triflo lube was also used on this rifle.  The rifle was not cleaned for the duration of the class.  I used Kytex mag carriers and was very favorably impressed with them.  Positive retention and easy to slip on and off your belt when say, going to lunch.


  In order to lay the foundation for the rest of the class, Larry devoted TD1 to pistol shooting.  Following a tried and true Vickers theme, no matter if the class is Basic or Advanced, you started off with the basics of marksmanship focusing on trigger control.  With a pistol, trigger control is paramount with sight picture a close second.  We paired up and worked on smooth trigger presses on an empty pistol while making sure not to knock the empty casing balanced on the front sight.  After that, we moved onto command ball and dummy.  Your partner hands you a pistol that may or may not be loaded.  You apply the fundamentals and fire at the target.  If you snatch the trigger and/or flinch, you dry fire properly five times.

  After the rehashing of the fundamentals, we were off and running in a very advanced day of pistol shooting.  We started working on speed and accuracy drills with emphasis of course being given to the latter as per Larry's philosophy developed after years of experience as a trigger puller and trainer for Delta.  The class was formed into teams for competitive drills.  Individual and team drills rounded out every lesson with "sleeper" competitors in every team.  In other words, it was a hihgly competitive environment with highly skilled fellow students sprinkled throughout the entire class.

  One drill that was 10 shots at 10 yards 5 seconds (I think that was the distance, maybe a fellow student could help?) I was certain I had won it and then a mysterious quiet fella beat me by a few fractions of a second which illustrates the caliber of the students at this class.  As TD1 progressed, a familiar feeling made itself known.  That feeling being "Holy hell, every drill we just ran today was at a longer distance than I normally shoot and I'm doing fine".  That being said, we didn't notice we were being pushed by our instructor. Everyone continued to perform well.  We ran a modified version of the "Humbler" with fellow student ShawnL winning the event and the Rudy Project glasses offered as a prize.  Shawn was way ahead of the rest of the class and used a nicely setup Glock 17 set up with an RTF2 frame and an older slide with straight cocking grooves and an X300 (I think) attached.

  Another Vickers constant was the targets and scoring.  To put it simply, accuracy is the final determination.  Hits on target count.  In this class, hits in the black count with scoring preference being given in some drills to the hits in the 10 ring.  Don't show up to a Vickers class not ready to push yourself to keep all of the rounds in the black.  Larry teaches that under stress, your group size will double hence the need to hold yourself to high standards when training.

  One of my "aha!" moments of training from my Vickers Advanced Handgun three day class was taught again; this being Larry's explanantion of the "wobble zone."  Basically, shooters whether moving or not but especially while shooting on the move get wrapped up in and discombobulated by watching the sight wobble over the target and spend too logn trying to and never achieving the "perfect" sight picture instead of taking the shot as the sight picture momentarily appears.  Learning at what distances you can shoot at what speed is important.  Obviously you can shoot faster at 10 yards than 25 yards if you know your zero and how you and your weapon perform at varying speed and distances.  There's no better way to learn this than from the instructor who will teach the concept and push you.

  Shooting on the move helped reinforce the "wobble" lesson.  A walkback drill drove home the lesson that at Vickers advancedc classes, you never know who is going to outshoot you.  It also helped me see that my rear sights needed to be adjusted right.  Luckily fellow student Stoney/Paragon6 had a Glock sight pusher on hand.

  Shooting steel both static and moving gave instant and authoritative feedback to the students.


  Today was the start of the carbine training.  We zeroed at 100 yards from the prone.  Larry pointed out that he does not see the need for magnified optics on a carbine 100 yards and in.  Aimpoints on ARs were the rule with two Eotechs malfunctioning throughout the class as Larry predicted they would.  After doing a qualifier that consisted of prone at 100, sitting at 75, kneeling at 50, and standing at 25 yard, we spent the rest of the class shooting from 50 yards and in.  Individual drills were conducted that coalesced into team drills.  One lesson learned is that a 100 yard zero quickly becomes very low at 25 yards.  Bracketing the bullseye by a good 6" or half again of the black portion of the target got hits in the center for my team (Team Short Bus!).

  Weak handed shooting and transtioning from strong hand to weak hand was taught and with the help of Larry and Stoney (fellow student and VSM instructor), I fixed my technique that needed work on.  Switching forward hands, exaggerating the downward orientation of the muzzle got the sling out of my way and made switching shoulders second nature to me.  Of course having a red dot sight made weak handed shooting far easier.  Larry firmly drove home the fact that backup iron sights should be already deployed in case of optic failure.  He advocates a 1/3 cowitness.

  This was a grueling day becuase of the heat and humidity.  I switched to some cargo shorts and running shoes from my cargo pants and hiking boots and immediately felt better.  After lunch, we got a treat in that the class got to watch the upcoming Tactical TV episode on Larry's torture test of a Daniel Defense M4.  I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it but let's just say it was impressive to say the least.  As always, Larry was absolutely honest about the techniques and methodology used.  If you don't want to know the answer, don't ask Larry because no matter what the question is (even about the products he endorses), he will tell you the honest truth as he sees it.  The new Glock commercial with Gunny Ermey had us laughing out loud and applauding.  Folks were pushing themselves hard on this day due to the aforementioned heat.  Gatorade and salting your food is strongly recommended.

  Transition to secondary weapon (pistol) was taught today.  This was covered in a safe yet speedy method, helped immensely by a proper sling.  If at 50 yards and in or directly engaging with a carbine and you experiences a malfunction or run out of ammo, immediate transition to secondary is the fastest and best way to stay in the fight.  I will note that unlike another widely publicized training company's practice, Vickers runs this drill safely in that you practice transitioning to your pistol after your rifle is out of ammo and not ready to fire.  That negates the chance of a negligent discharge unlike a student of another training company found out.....the hard way (shot himself, is fine).

  Reloads were covered along with Larry's excellent techniques concerning malfunction clearing.  I can only hope that the US military is using a variant of this after comparing it to the SPORTS technique I was taught in Marine Corps Boot Camp circa 1995.

  An unexpected surprise was Larry showing us his full auto dealer sample HK MP7.  The entire class shot it.  About halfway through, the weapon was getting too hot to hold on the handguards.  As a testament to HK engineering and QC, Larry cooled the weapon with a bottle of water that literally boiled out of the weapon's various openings.  No lube was added and the weapon was back in students' hands, firing full auto with nary a malfunction.

  As on TD1, we shot on paper and moving and static steel.


  Today was the logical extension of everything we had learned in the past two days.  A great deal of shooting the move with a carbine and shooting a carbine from behind barricades was taught.  As always thoughout this class, the instructor showed us all how it was done and his groups were indeed humbling.  Unfortunately, I missed out on the latter half of this training day as I had to drive home and see my brother off to overseas.  The last part of this day was spent doing shooting from a moving vehicle.

Lessons learned:

  • I need to work on bending my knees while shooting on the move.  I diagnosed this from seeing    pictures of myself during the class.  
  •  As mentioned earlier, swinging the carbine's muzzle down in an exaggerated manner when   transitioning shoulders clears the sling very effectively.
  •  "Drive the dot" (front sight of the pistol) when shooting at speed!  I found out that I need to worry a  little less about the rear sight and concentrate on this.  Larry's lecture on the "wobble zone" helped immensely.  The "wobble zone" is that area of acceptable accuracy when the sight is on target while your weapon is wobbling in different directions.
  • Know your carbine and pistol's zero at both standard and close distances.  Pick one distance for each and at least know the zero for both. 
  • Aimpoints rule the day.  You are far, far less likely to have problems with an Aimpoint than an Eotech. 
  • Padded slings are a must for your neck.
  • One doesn't need load carrying gear, multicam, and drop holsters to be competitive.  I made a point of using a minimal amount of gear and shooting from concealment and my times and accuracy never suffered.  That being said, if you are LEO or military, classes like these are an excellent opportunity to push yourself in the gear your rely upon every day.  As always, safety overrrides gear every time.  
  • Using the "Gadget" makes AIWB reholstering less of a "going to take this extra slow to avoid losing  my wedding tackle or shooting my femoral artery" exercise.  I'm sold.
  • There really is nothing comparable to learning from combat vets like Vickers.  The class is deceivingly simple in how he lays the foundations and before you know it, you hammering out  groups at distances you never have shot so well at before.
  • Searching and assessing with the weapon and having your eyes behind the sights works better for me than simply doing a visual scan.  When doing an search and assess in a training or crowded environment, Larry recommends going into a SUL position to avoid flagging innocents with muzzle.
  • You are an absolute fool if you consider yourself a shooter and do not seek out training from people like this.

No comments:

Post a Comment