Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gunsite 499 Advanced Pistol - Day 4

By Dave Dargo

Another day that started at 8:00, broke from 4:00 to 6:45 and then the night shoot until 9:30. Another very long day with a lot going on.

We went through about 325 rounds of ball and 50 rounds of frangible with two indoor and two outdoor simulators; one set during the day and one at night. The daytime indoor simulator, though, did require the use of a flashlight and one student learned why you need two flashlights instead of one as his batteries went out at that critical moment.

We started out with the 499 school drills again to get us warmed up and ready to go. We then concentrated on the distance shots: 25 yards standing, 35 yards kneeling and 50 yards prone. Those positions are worth 40% of our marksmanship score and it's important to get those distances down. Everyone seems to be struggling to hit the eight-inch circle at the 35 and 50 yard distances. It's a combination of sight picture and trigger control and everyone seems to get one wrong when the other is right. However, it appears that everyone is starting to zero in on the right combination. The pressure is completely self-generated but there's something about knowing that target is going to turn away at any moment that causes people to quicken their shot. At 35 yards we have four seconds to go from standing still to drawn from the holster, kneeling and placing two shots in that circle. It's not a difficult exercise until we start to put pressure on ourselves.

Shortly after the drills started I was off to the indoor simulator. This simulator was much more complex than yesterday's and we have to continue to repeat to ourselves, "Look Everywhere!" We need to move smoothly, pay attention and solve each of the problems presented. We also better remember how to do one-handed pistol manipulation and malfunction clearances. Most importantly, the exercise isn't over until it is over and that point is not so obvious to everyone.

I did fairly well in the indoor exercise and was immediately off to the outdoor simulator.

I did a lot better than yesterday but not nearly as well as I need to. I'm still much more comfortable with the indoor simulators and its nice cozy compartments vs. all that openness.

Once I got back from the simulators it was back to ball ammunition and more school drills practice.

That completed the morning and it was good to have a lunch break.

Once back from lunch we broke into three groups to perform demi-presidente drills, 100-yard shots and to engage a remotely controlled free-wheeling target.

The demi-presidente is a drill where we start facing the instructor up-range. When he believes we're ready he signals the start. We turn to three targets down-range, place two center-of-mass shots to each of three targets 10 yards away, speed reload and then place a single head-shot in each of the targets. Par time is 10 seconds with a par score of 45. For every second over 10 we lose 5 points and for every second under 10 seconds we gain 5 points. Each shot in the center-of-mass circle or head-plate is 5 points, any shot outside those perimeters but on the silhouette is worth 2 points. My score was a consistent 42; I finished in 10 seconds and typically had one of the 9 shots on the silhouette but outside the marked zones. I was pleased. The most important component is smoothness. Firing those six shots at the three targets should have a cadence that sounds as if one is firing at a single target.

The 100-yard shots were very interesting as a 20 mph wind had picked up. We were to fire standing, kneeling and in prone. I went to the line and hit the steel with my first standing shot and like an idiot at a carnival I decided to go again. I ending up hitting the 100-yard target about 25% of the time in each position. Perhaps if I was fresher or there was less wind pushing us around I could have done better.

The robotic free-wheeling target is a little more interesting. Here is a target with two faces: one side presents a no-shoot and the other side presents a threat. The instructor drives the target around in front of us and it occasionally comes towards us with no threat and at other times it comes at us as a threat. We certainly can't take our firearm out and aim it at the no-shoot but need to quickly react when it becomes a threat. That moving target shows how difficult it really is to make a head shot. On the other hand it also shows how many shots can be fired center-of-mass and how effective stepping off the line of attack can be.

It was an incredibly full day and it was a relief when we broke for dinner. Of course, that gave us time to consider the night-time simulators that awaited us.

When we returned for the night-shoot it was starting to get overcast. It was pretty clear that we weren't going to get any help from the moon or any of the stars.

The indoor simulator moved quickly and was shorter than the daytime simulator, though still quite challenging. One of the refrains we continue to hear is, "Come on guys, this is 499." The goal is to deliver challenges that are complex enough that allow mistakes to happen. I certainly remember the effect of a mistake much longer than easy runs through a simulator.

The outdoor simulator, on the other hand, went from open-space to very-closed space with lots of vegetation. Vegetation significantly changes the strategy one has to deploy when using a flashlight to find hidden opponents. The vegetation will cause certain areas to appear "washed out" because of the light back-scatter and one has to carefully illuminate areas multiple times from multiple angles in order to determine if a threat is present. The challenges that came with tonight's outdoor simulator left me invigorated and ready for even more. One student described it as an e-ticket ride and I couldn't agree more.

In both the indoor and outdoor simulators one has to judiciously deploy the light with movement in order to prevent oneself from becoming the target. Getting the right combination of light-on, light-off, move and target engagement takes quite a bit of practice. In the case of the simulators we're working with static targets and it gets even more complex with live targets.

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