One of our students (Gary C.) wrote very detailed review of our AK Bootcamp class. Details below! Thank you Gary for great feedback and pics!
AK Bootcamp AK Operators Union, Local 47-74 June 25th-26th, 2016
Instructors: Rob Ski and Paul Minder
Class host: Steel Ops Location: Colorado (About an hour east of Fort Collins) Pawnee Sportsman Center.
Me: 27 year old dude, very new to tactical rifle shooting, little less new to pistol shooting, no military experience, firefighter in CO.
I have attended Way of the Pistol with Tactical Response, a two day pistol and two day rifle at Front Sight in Nevada, and this course. I shoot as often as I can, dry practice at home randomly (I am currently working on making it more consistent) and I try to take at least one class a year (I would do more, but money is tight). I was using a Rifle Dynamics RD-M with a Primary Arms Micro Dot MD-ADS mounted to a Ultimak Tube with an American Defense QD Mount. Also mounted on the Ultimak is a Haley Strategic Thorntail light mount and a SureFire G2x Tactical flashlight. I had a SOE 1 to 2 point bungie sling (used exclusively as a 2 point sling in this class) and US Palm magazines. Pre class I just happened to be browsing their course schedule and got in on the class before it filled up (which seems to happen fast). Sign up was easy, got confirmation soon after that I was in. About a month out for the class Rob emailed us all to check in, remind us of the class, gave us the address/class times, as well as a hotel list. He also wanted to see if we had any questions etc. He also contacted everyone a few days out to check in, give everyone a weather update. There was a very short gear list: AK, eye and ear pro, weapon lube and tools, water, sun screen, and seasonally appropriate clothing. We only ended up needing four magazines total for this class. I pocketed mine, some people had chest rigs, and some people did both. I had no issues googling the address, and was staying about an hour away from the range at a buddies house. Some people camped near by, most stayed at hotels or their homes.
Check in was at 0830 (everyone showed up a bit early), we signed waivers (for the range) and had 50$ cash for the range owners (This was separate from the class tuition). Rob handed each student an AK Bootcamp booklet. I laughed as I had just purchased this about two months before. The booklet is awesome, tons of reference material for the AK, shooting the AK, sighting in,
shooting positions etc. As well as several pages to record data when you take the AK out to the range. I saved the new book so I had a clean copy, and used my book I had already scribbled in. The range was out in the plains of colorado, grass field that sloped up slowly from a small drainage with trees in it. There were steel targets up on the far ridge of the range, and numbered paper targets at 25 yards. We ate lunch under the trees, but most of the day was spent out in the sun. There were 20 students total. They said this was the largest they ever did, and they preferred smaller classes, 16 or so was their ideal size. One attendee showed up even though he was only on the waiting list, and lucky for him there was one no show so he got to join. Apparently we were the first class to actually all show up and start on time, so kudos to us for being able to read. Out of the 20 of us, 2 or 3 had 545, one had 556, and the rest of us had 7.62. People from all over the area and a few from out of state, wide variance of ages, backgrounds and fitness levels. Rob and Paul introduced them selves, had a brief safety talk and medical plan, and then went right into an overview of the AK and its operation. Rob also went over a few tips and tricks for different styles of AK’s, and discussed several of the students rifles.
First shooting we did was at 25 yards to zero. We shot a group, checked the group, talked about fundamentals of marksmanship/fundamentals of prone/different things to do to improve, then shot another group. We repeated this a total of 8 times, each time building on the last group with different things to focus on.
Breathing, body position, trigger control etc. Rob has a perfect way of complimenting everyone, and also letting us know that we all suck at the same time. We were warned that we were only at 25 yards and that we wouldn’t have it that easy for the rest of class. Several good shooters were there, but even they improved noticeably during the zero drill. I learned a lot about my not so good eyesight, and things I could do to improve, both positionally, mentally and visually.
We moved the targets out, and shot from prone at 100 yards, but with no ground/bag to magazine support. It took me a while to find that perfect spot where I could make consistent shots. We moved to the squat position at 50 yards. I had seen this in their videos, and was worried about it being difficult having bad knees and a randomly bad back, but it was very comfortable once I found
my groove, and surprisingly stable to shoot from. I actually made better groups squatting than I did kneeling. Speaking of which, after squatting we worked on kneeling, after that we worked on shooting from standing. Post each group we would talk briefly, Rob would answer questions and give pointers, we would reload, and the nextposition would be explained and demonstrated. At some point in these drills we broke for a 45 minute lunch, I don’t exactly remember when. Steel ops provided sandwiches and we hung out and shot the shit in the shade.
The next drill we would shoot from standing, shoot from a squat, then go to a kneel and shoot. Always trying to keep tight groups. The last drill of the day we ran 50 ish yards, then shot standing, squatting, kneeling. I loved this drill. We did this a few times, then debriefed the day.
Class ended at 1600. Rob reminded us all that class started on the line at 0900 tomorrow, to drink lots of water and Gatorade, not to go out drinking, to drive safe and have a good meal tonight. I loaded up and wrote down as many notes as I could about the day. There was almost no down time throughout the day with the exception of lunch, we were either loading and talking about the next drill, shooting, or debriefing the previous drill.
The down time we did have it was great to hang out with everyone, Rob was a very down to earth guy, approachable, and showed an interest in everyone/where people came from/how everyone was doing. Super knowledgeable and humble instructor. Sadly Paul was always on the other end of the line from me, so I didn’t get to speak with him much. When I did he was very helpful. In general on the first day I seemed to swing between decent shooting (for me) and not so good. I was on target, but my groups would open up. It’s amazing how much pressure you put on your self trying to shoot fast so you aren’t the last one shooting. What I should have been using this time for was finding that perfect position and being able to go back to it immediately, because the pace was only going to get faster.
There was some wind and clouds, so it wasn’t overly hot, but you still got warm and I got sunburnt (I never burn, and wore sunscreen, but the length of time in the sun counteracted that). I had a camelback and large water bottle, but I wish I had brought a cooler with more water and Gatorade. Even thought there was very little running around as far as drills went, I was tired. And even though I was drinking constantly, I was still pissing yellow. I stopped at a gas station and got water and Gatorade, picked up dinner, and took it easy for the rest of the night.
Most of us were at the range between 0800-0830, one guy had let the instructors know he wouldn’t be returning for day two due to knee issues. At 20 seconds past 0900 the last guy showed up. So close to starting on time both days. 🙂 We talked briefly, but I can’t remember what about. We then shot in pairs at the steel targets at 200 yards, one shooter watching and listening for hits, one shooting. The targets were 24”x12”. There is just nothing quite like shooting at steel, it’s badass. I did ok in the prone, made maybe 80% of my shots.
We moved to kneeling, and strangely I made 100% of my shots. Then, as I’m sure you can guess we moved to the squat (at 100 yards). At this point we went over what tactical response refers to as FAST, though, they didn’t give it a name. We would shoot, assess the target, check our action briefly and scan around us for our partner/badguys/cover etc. After doing this a few times they would interrupt us with a command that meant we needed to reengage the target. Once again at some point we had lunch, but apparently my note taking sucked balls and I don’t remember when. Rob checked on everyone, we had sandwiches, and Rob asked about why everyone started shooting AK’s, spoke about his love for AK’s and AR’s, and how he thought everyone should own and learn both, as well as several other things.
We then moved on to reloading. They demonstrated their preferred method of using the off hand thumb while holding the new magazine, and told us to try it out and give it a fair shake, but if you didn’t like it feel free to use what you use normally. We did several reload drills, then checked the targets. Everyones groups sucked, as we were all focused on other things, and we were reminded that every shot should be a good one. We did more reload drills, but were told to kneel or squat while reloading. Ideally we would be behind cover while reloading, but if it wasn’t available the next best thing was to move and get low.
Next we worked on moving several steps to the left and to the right, incorporating the reloading, our scans, and random shooting positions. We also worked on shooting from what I called backwards kneeling or the wrong knee, where as a right handed shooter, I have my right knee up and left knee down. The reason for working on this was, shit happens, and you may have to shoot from an abnormal position. So this off knee position was worked into the drills from then on.
The last drill incorporated everything. We paired up again, and one instructor would run with the pair and call commands. Run, left, right, stand, squat, kneel, other knee, prone and so on. Reloads and scans, always reloading from a low position. Staring at about 200 yards and getting closer as we went on. I loved this drill. I made a lot of good hits from weird positions with my heart rate up at further distances than I was comfortable shooting at all before the class started. I wasn’t confident at 200 yards, on a bench, with my scoped hunting rifle before the class. Now I was doing it running around a field with a partner, communicating and ringing steel with a red dot.
Once again I got a critique of, good job, good shooting, but you can do better. I was inspired. I was already planning out how I was going to continue training on my own to get ready for my next class. We debriefed, Rob and Paul handed out class certificates and shook everyones hands, and we started cleaning up the range. People took photos and had some quick chats with people they had met and the instructors.
Steel Ops not only hosted but also provided brand new steel targets for the class. They then sold the targets we used at a 50% discount to anyone who wanted them, which was awesome. Sadly Rob and Paul had to catch a plane that night, I would have loved to grab dinner with everyone and them. I packed up, said goodbye to everyone, sat in my car writing notes, and drove home with my slightly used steel target, and a lot of things to work on.
Wonderful class. I loved that the focus was on marksmanship. I think everyone, from the brand new shooters to the badass ones learned something and improved a lot over the two days. We could have sat at 5 yards for most of the class, shooting fast and having tiny groups and feeling like badasses, but we didn’t. With the exception of the 25 yard zero, nothing was closer than 50 yards. Even though it was an AK class, and we learned a lot about operating an AK, the skills we worked on are applicable to any rifle, and you will be a better shooter regardless of what you pick up after this class. No matter how fast the drills or how many things they through into them, there was always an expectation of making good hits on your target. They also held everyone to reasonable level, and pushed people individually depending on their skill and experience. Some pairs ran faster, some just at a jog, some people got harder critiques, some more encouragement. Very good and individual instruction for everyone. I don’t really have any critiques for the class it’s self, more on us as students. I was sad to hear that they almost never started on time regardless of where they hosted. And I have this weird tick about walking slowly between drills or reloading slowly, it bothers me a lot. I want to get through the in between stuff faster so we can shoot more and run more drills. I always bring extra ammo in case we can shoot more. If the class calls for 700 rounds, I bring 1000. Thanks to Jame’s videos about what to do before training, I showed up with all my ammo in one box, unpackaged, with loaded mags, while several other people had to open up 20 round boxes to load up between drills, even on the second day when you would have thought they would have figured it out. People talking while the instructors trying to talk. People asking questions that aren’t really questions, or aren’t applicable to what we are talking about. Or people just dragging ass between getting water and our next drill. All of this ate up training time. I’m sure I may have held someone up, but I feel like if we all made more of an effort, we would get more training in. All of these things were few and far between, and all in all there were a bunch of great people at the class, lots of good questions asked, lots of good effort. Another note is the fitter you are the better you will shoot. Regardless of how fit you are now, the better you get, the less tired you will get, the lower your heart rate will stay, the longer you will be able to shoot and shoot well. I am used to being hot, tired and carrying a lot of weight around. I’m used to having to think and act in stressful environments. None of that mattered. Standing all day, being in a dry hot sun all day. Learning something new. My body still broke down and my performance suffered as the days went on. So wherever you are with your fitness, get a little better in preparation for your next class, and life in general.
I will absolutely be training with the Ak Operators Union the next chance I get. I’m excited for their “level 2” class, but would be perfectly happy repeating the bootcamp class if that iswhat was available. I’m glad I got to meet the great guys from the Union and I’m glad they came to Colorado. They said it was their first time in the state but there was a large market for training and for AK users, and that they would be trying to come back next year. I may just be missing them, but I don’t see a lot of the people I want to train with come to Colorado often, and we need more well trained gun owners in this state, or they will continue to attempt to restrict my and my families rights. All the gear worked well, but I had some malfunctions. I’m currently trying to diagnose if it’s the cheap ass ammo I got, my rifle, me, or a combination. I will update when I get it worked out.
– Gary C.