Conclusion and final thoughts.
At times, especially in the beginning, I felt really disappointed in the instruction. I felt like the instructor were knowledgeable snipers, but they didn’t know how to teach to non-military students. Sometimes, we were talking about things that I had already learned on my own over the past 12 months, when I was hoping for more depth. We barely covered some topics, such as urban hides, sling positions, patrolling, these things I paid extra money for, which I felt should have been included.
One of the instructors let slip “In a real sniper course….” at that time I thought to myself: “Well, shit. if this isn’t a real sniper course, give me my money back!” That pretty much sums it up. It is a sniper course, but think of it more as a seminar, to add certifications to your skill set, but it is not a ‘real’ sniper school, in the sense of a military total institution. This is an introduction to the skill necessary, but the practice and perfection is then left to the individual, whereas in a ‘real’ school, there is hazing, PT, and time pressure, and tests, and lack of sleep, and acclimation to suffering, and high failure rate. Here, everyone who paid gets a certificate whether they hit their targets or not.
I guess in one sense this is more like the real world. In theory you have all the skills to live, but what you make of them, how you practice and keep yourself up to date is up to you. There are no tests in the school of life, only life itself to test you.
In the end, I am pretty satisfied, I did in fact learn many things, the people were very nice, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, classes were to the point. I went from shooting 1.5 moa to .5 moa in 1 week, and I now have the skills necessary to continue my training, to practice on my own in the desert with my buddies. I also have the skills necessary to pass on and teach them what I have learned. For all the money spent, I also have a certificate for my resume, should I choose to include it.
The biggest thing I still feel weak on, is judging wind to the target. Their philosophy there did not include any special mathematics or formulas for judging and calculating wind. A fighting philosophy which is fast and fluid, and has hit merits. They gave tips on how to make a good guess, and then adjust from there. I feel confident in my ability to make a good guess at the wind, fire one shot, and then have my spotter adjust for, and walk me on to the next shot, a 2 or 3 round hit, but not a first round hit. Perhaps this is the way things are, that confidence will come with experience, and more years of practice with calling wind.
Their fighting philosophy puts to rest the antiquated man-hunting lone wolf sniper in the jungle or the urban jungle, from Carlos Hathcock’s Marine Sniper in the Vietnam war, to Enemy at the Gates, WW2 on the Russian front. In modern application, the sniper team is almost like a miniature artillery. It takes a few shots to get dialed in, but once locked in, a sniper team with 2 or 3 rifles, esp semi automatics, can lay in rapid and deadly accurate fire, at 1200yards getting off 4-6 shots in the air even before the first round impacts.
My rifle is a Remington m700 PSS detachable mag model. Stainless bull 26″ barrel, on HS precision stock. I had a harris swivel medium height bipod, and a leather m1907 sling. My scope is a Mueller TAC II 3-10×44 Mildot reticule, with target turrets in 1/4moa adjustments, and 95moa internal elevation, on leupold 2 piece bases, with butler creek flip caps.
The rifle was big and black, heavy, and new. Now, it is cut down to 18″ barrel, recrowned, and spray painted. they liked my painting job, and I ended up helping to repaint 4 more rifles, and some other assorted equipment.
The Remington detach mag system sucks. I have 3 extra magazines, but they gave me trouble, in the end, i just left those in the truck. It is simply and much less bulky to just pop out my mag, reload it, and then re insert it, or else simply keep it in and load it like a regular m700. given a choice, i would stay with the regular mag system, or else a very nice, proven badger ord hicap detach mag, or something like that.
After cutting the barrel, I had to give it 1 3 more minutes elevation at 100 yard zero, then 1 more minute for closer ranges, past 500yd or so, add 2 minutes to typicall long barrel dope, and then out at range, add maybe 4 minutes. Compared to my partner, who basically had the barrel of my old rifle, his bullets traveled faster, and needed less adjustment for wind. In the end, a shorter barrel still works, the bullet just flies slower, has a bigger arc, is more affected by wind. The trade off is much more handier, groups actually shrink with shorter barrel, much lighter and easier to carry on the field. Most of the semi auto rifles are 16″, 18″ and 20″ anyways, and they use up gas to cycle, so they are even slower than a 18″ bolt gun, and they’re owners don’t complain of short barrels.
I wore ALICE gear, and used an ALICE rucksack. Everyone else pretty much used camelback brand backpacks, or even more fancy expensive custom packs. Most people did not carry a Load bearing harness or vest, but rather, use their backpacks for all their ammo and water and equipment, accessing it often. ALICE does have its drawbacks, arranging everything perfectly was a challenge, lying on it was uncomfortable at times. While some of the other guys had pistols, I was the only one who carried my pistol holstered the entire time in the field. It would have been lighter and simpler to leave it home since we really didn’t use it at all, it is better to train the way you fight, so I am ready and accustomed to carrying it, and have worked out the bugs with fighting with a bolt action rifle and a pistol only.
All of the students used .308 rifles. two students were on school guns, cut down Remington 700s with Leupold mk4 scopes. Half of the class was on AR10 based semi automatic sniper rifles. One student was using a custom 30 inch bbl savage target rifle. his scope and rifle were poorly set up for ranging targets, firing off hand, and traveling the field. another student, the only other one to have more basic equipment than me was on an off the shelf non-tactical model Remington rifle and hunting scope. His scope was not designed for this type of shooting, and did not have turret adjustments. This course could have been done with a .223 rifle, so long as it has a tight twist and heavy match ammunition. Ammo is cheaper, recoil lighter, lighter gun in general to carry. All the learning and fundamentals would have been the same, and with some work you could still hit the 1200yd targets.
Of 14 students, 2 were using Mil-mil scopes, which is a great system is used with meters, it makes the math incredibly elegant. Everyone else was using moa scopes and mil reticules, with yards and inches. Lots of unit conversions to make, with calculators on hand. A few students brought binoculars, spotting scopes, and laser range finders. These were shared with everyone and made the work much easier.
A leatherman made pulling cholla cactus out of our skin much easier, as well as for clipping vegetation, and in general handiness. Gloves are a must, as are canteens for water (camelbacks were growing mold by the end of the week) It took me forever to source some Rite in the Rain notepad. Bring one, and wood pencils. A calculator is critical, measuring tape is useful. Bring a brimmed hat, earpro that is fast to put in, lightweight, and does not interfere with shooting.