AAR Rob Tackett’s “Building a Rifleman” Class
In todays’ world, we are inundated with YouTube warriors that honed their weapon skills by playing Call of Duty, with no real-world experience. Or worse, they took a class or two from a reputable trainer and have now started their own company, regurgitating what they learned, but with their own questionable “improvements.” Well, Rob Tackett, of Critical Carry Training, falls into none of those categories. Rob came up under Pat Goodale and has extensive experience in running effective training. I recently attended his “Building a Rifleman” class and I have one complaint, it should be longer!
In the form I attended the class, it is a 1.5 day class. Friday night is held at a local sporting goods store. Here, Rob runs the administrative portion of the class. He provides a comprehensive introduction to himself, the philosophy behind the class and the class itself. He also inspected the various rifles to make sure they were adequate to the class.
We had nine students in the class; six local people, two New Yorkers and me, who drove in from the Washington, DC area. We also had a mix of rifles, with four Ruger Gunsite Scouts, including mine. A Mossberg MVP patrol, two AR platforms and one Howa 1500 in .223 Remington. The Howa was a pawn shop find by Rob, and became the focus of the classroom.
As an aside, including Rob’s Steyr Scout, there were five scout rifles. Other than Andy’s slings, none of the rifles were configured the same way. No one had the same stock, finish or scope.
The majority of Friday night was spent with Rob demonstrating how to set up a new or used rifle. He used the Howa and demonstrated and explained inspecting it, fitting a scope, and cleaning the rifle. The level of detail Rob provided was such that even an experienced rifle user would get some valuable information from this instruction. I have been cleaning rifles for far longer than I want to admit, and even in some comprehensive military schools, I was not taught the method of cleaning that Rob demonstrated.
At the end of the Friday night portion, Rob had taken the pawn shop find Howa, an old scope from his gun case, and a hundred dollars in parts (rings, bases, sling and swivels) and set up a usable rifle. Rob also allowed us to check through our rifles the way he demonstrated in class. One rifle, the Mossberg, had bolts that turned freely and easily. This was a new rifle with less than 50 round through it at the time, and needed every bolt that joins the action and the stock tightened. The lesson? Check over that brand new rifle, too.
Saturday morning, we went to the private farm used as a training facility. We spent some time milling about, drinking camp stove coffee, and getting the range, the rifles, and the shooters ready to go. In an active refutation of the stereotype, the only bit of camo in the entire class was my Kuiu ballcap. One notable thing Rob did, is that prior to a single round being fired, we prepared a written emergency plan, in which each person was assigned a specific role, should there be a medical or other emergency. We also got some really nice swag from The Scout Rifle magazine, and a really nice scope adjusting tool. Andy even donated some Scout Rifle stickers and one of his excellent slings as a prize.
We started with a 25 yard, prone to confirm the zero on the rifles. After Rob’s efforts at setting up the Howa, it was dialed in fairly quickly with just a few rounds. We then moved on to positional drills. For each position, Rob demonstrated the position, pointing out common mistakes and how to avoid them. We moved through standing, standing snap shots, moving with the rifle, sitting, kneeling, and squatting.
With each evolution, we were coached through the drills by Rob and his assistant instructor, Levi, who in addition to being a trauma nurse, is also a former Army Ranger from 2/75. Both Rob and Levi monitored our performance and provided valuable advice on correcting our mistakes, which we all made.
We finished up the morning with a competition. Each shooter had to sprint to the firing line and fire at a steel target, transitioning from standing to kneeling to squatting to sitting, while moving latterly across the firing line. Rob adapted the drill for the participants with mobility issues, and we all shot the course. It always amazes me that even with all my experience in handling weapons and situations in the real word, nothing gets you excited like a friendly competition with all your buddies watching. Chad ended up with the best time from the event.
Lunch was a DIY affair, where you had to combine weapons maintenance with fueling yourself. After putting more than 100 rounds through the rifle, it needed a good cleaning. I brought a cooler full of food and drinks, because there was no time to go anywhere and make it back. Besides, lunch gave us time to talk over the morning’s activities. We covered the gamut of ages and experiences, and had some great conversations over lunch.
After lunch was over, we moved to the top of a hill and started out with a 100 yard prone to confirm a hard zero. Rob had each shooter fire individually and he provided sight adjustments. He also encouraged rapid follow-up shots in this exercise, reinforcing the rifle handling skills from the morning.
We then moved to a very effective drill. Three steel targets were set approximately 125 yards away. Each shooter had to fire 5 shots from standing, kneeling and sitting, and had to re-load at least once. A classmate, looking through a spotting scope, was coaching the shooter on their aim and body position. We did this drill for a while. Not only was it fun to crack off the rounds, with almost instant feedback from the targets, but the multiple repetitions of the exercise helped build consistency and muscle memory for the shooting positions.
Rob and Levi demonstrating the 125 yard exercise.
We then practiced barricade shooting. I had forgotten to reposition one of the locking nuts for my removable scope, so I ended up with a pretty bad hot spot on my hand from the nut. Learn from my mistake and set up your equipment properly.
Up on the hill was a large tree that had fallen, with a large portion of the trunk hanging freely off of the ground. Rob demonstrated shoot from this unsteady rest and explained several strategies for how to make your position more stable. In his explanation, Rob made a point to remind us that even though this was not an ideal rest, it was better than not using any kind of rest. When hunting, you might not always have the “perfect” spot for your shot, and this exercise was to give us the tools to take maximum advantage of the situation.
Class then had to take a little break, as the local Sherriff responded. Apparently, a neighbor was having an outdoor event and was disturbed by the all the gunshots. I feel compelled to point out that the person with the MVP was shooting hand-loaded, depleted uranium rounds that were quite loud. Though, we had all fired at least a hundred rounds at that point. Rob implemented a modified emergency plan and had us all unload and ground our weapons, while he spoke with the deputies.
While it took some time, Rob was able to sort out the situation with neighbor and we moved on to the last exercise for the day, 225 yard shots. Everyone took a turn, with everyone watching, and demonstrated the skills developed by the day’s class. After a class photo, because the two guys from New York had a ten hour drive ahead of them and had to get on the road, we fired one last evolution, 225 standing shots.
Rob had a shooting saddle designed to hold a rifle steady while mounted on a tripod. We all then took turns making the shots using on of Rob’s AR rifles. The tripod allowed us to make hits, with an unfamiliar rifle, from standing on a 225 yard silhouette target.
We cleaned up the range and ended the class. The five hour drive precluded me from attending any of the post-class activities. When I attend Rob’s next class, I plan to arrange it so I spend the night after the class locally.
Too often in today’s world, trainers claim to have “the answer” to every situation. I have encountered this in world of martial arts and in the firearms and defensive training world. I can tell you that any trainer that claims to have all the answers and discourages you from attending other classes is not a trainer you should pay good money to. Rob took the time to make this point himself during the wrap up.
If I have one criticism of the class, is that it was too short. Rob discussed several exercises that we did not have time to perform. Rob and Levi did a great job “herding the cats” with keeping the students on track. With a range day that extended into Sunday early afternoon, the class would be even that much better
But, even in the current form, Rob’s class is well worth the time to attend, even if you have to travel for it, it would be a weekend well spent.