So I had a convo today that set me thinking to day & dreaming about the good ole days.  The convo was normal enough, a guy mentioned shooting steel case ammo.  I thought about how I shot a bunch of steel case in a class long ago.

Once upon a time, back in the heart of the GWOT, I was a young Swat officer looking for good training.  I found a course a couple hours away I wanted to take badly.  There was a retired police sniper who ran a really nice facility that had an 8 year contract with the Feds to train contractor SDMs and snipers going over seas, lots of which came from a little company called Triple Canopy.

At the time I was an entry team guy and really wanted to get better with my issued M4 and Eotech holosight.  I signed up for a week long Tactical Carbine Employment class.  The training budget at work was tight so I ended up footing a lot of the cost myself, but I was single and Gung Ho as they came at the time.  I did however balk a bit at the required round count.  It was shockingly high.  So to save some pennies I bought a couple thousand Hornady Steel case 5.56.  

It was dirty burning ammo but shot surprisingly well for its intended purpose in that 14.5” Colt.  At the course I ended up being buddies with a stocky, friendly Hispanic guy from some OGA/contract company with a lot of initials in it.  He had some really nice kit but a couple days in his rifle optic started giving him some issues which surprised me.  Tony explained that he had flown in and the rifle was actually a loaner pulled from the armory at Fed headquarters in Dallas.  Tony could flat burn it down in CQB stuff though.  I couldn’t keep up.  But talking to him, CQB and working the “Narco Belt” in South America was his area of expertise.  He came hoping to work on his long range before his next trip. 

We got the chance mid week.  There was a 6 story tower on the range overlooking a UKD area that went at least 1200 yards with a mock town and cut outs of tanks and technicals with insurgent targets scattered about.  (Cool shit right?) 

It was on that tower that events occurred that would ripple through my shooting for years to come.

We were up there engaging targets out to 500 yards.  Even though I was shooting steel case through a hand me down & pretty stock 14.5” Colt M4 with an old N battery Eotech & resting my 30 round mag on the deck, I was wearing targets out at distance.  I figured out my holds pretty quick, I turned the brightness level as low as I could stand it to minimize dot bloom and get the smallest 1moa center dot I could and just went to slaying steel on demand.

The instructor saw this and pulled me to the side.  He told the other guys to continue with something or other but he and I moved over to get a direct line on some real distance.  He set up his spotting scope, pulled up a chair and said “I want to try something.  You see that torso target on the tree line?”  I strained a bit to peer out where he pointed.  There was indeed a grayish white spec on the horizon at the base of the trees.  He said he wanted me to shoot it.  I thought he was crazy.  It was waaaay out there.  He gave me a SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) on where to hold that amounted to “3/4 of the way up such and such tree is a funky branch, start there.”  I sent a round or 2, he gave me a correction or 2 and before you know it he called “impact”. Then “reengage” and once again “impact.”  He nudged my foot and I looked back.  He was a very serious dude of pretty few words but he was smiling pretty big.  After that he told me some stuff about how even tough the setup I had wasn’t designed for that distance, it was more about the Indian than the bow.  That was a proud moment for me, and to this day I carry an affinity for accurate gas guns and shooting farther with them than is commonly thought possible.  That’s far from the only thing I picked up in that class but it was a big one.

Funny thing was several years later I got to return.  This time as part of my team’s pair of Snipers in an advanced sniper course.  There had also been a couple admin changes at my department.  My new Chief and that retired Sniper had worked at the same agency many years before.  I could tell there was some water under that bridge but a lingering professional respect was present.  When I got back to my agency I got called in the Chief’s office.  (That’s a lot like being called in the principal’s office at school.  You start wondering what you’re going to get chewed out for as soon as your name is called).   

So I walked in a little anxious.  The Chief looked up and said “I got an email about you” (ohhh shit, here we go) 

But instead of the ass chewing I was expecting he said the email called my partner and I real assets to the department and some of, if not the best, police snipers that had ever come through there.  

I figured we’d done alright, we passed every qual he could come up with on the first attempt (which he said was rare) and my partner had shot something like a 198/200 on the Long range qual with me helping call wind for him.  If we had one, I’d say our weakness was the stalks.  I wish I’d trained on that more.

So what course has had the biggest effect on you?


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