On a very hot Saturday, thirteen rifle enthusiasts spent the day in the oppressive heat working to improve on their skills with the "modern sporting rifle." The class was the Minuteman Rifle class taught by John Murphy of FPF Training. Most of my experience with the AR-15 has been shooting at shotgun clays at 25 yards, so I was looking forward to the class and getting some practical lessons. This event was for me a family affair as Colleen and our son also took the class. Our friend and frequent shooting partner, "Checkered Flag" also came along.
When we signed up for the class last January, the heat of August came into discussion, but little did we expect we'd be in the midst of major heat wave. With temperatures near 100°, and the heat index topping 110°, the weather was downright brutal. But we braved it, to a point.
The Minuteman Rifle class is intended to be an intro class covering basic safety, manipulation and marksmanship skills. At the start John covered safety and nomenclature, followed by weapon manipulation. We then spent some time using dummy rounds and working on remedial action drills. Then it was time for live fire.
Four shooting positions were covered in the class; prone, kneeling, seated and standing. We started out at the 25 yard line shooting prone, to make sure everyone's weapons were hitting paper. After that we moved to the 50 yard line and shot a few groups. Between each group, John checked the targets and made adjustments to sights as needed. Once he was satisfied, we moved on the next shooting position, shooting from a kneeling position. We repeated the process as before, shooting a group from 25 yards, followed by moving to the 50 yard line and repeating process a few times.
After we moved through the sitting and standing shooting positions, we combined the positions into a single string. We were using targets with four bullseyes stacked vertically. We shot groups of five on each circle from each position — standing, kneeling, seated and prone. The goal was accuracy, not speed. After each string, targets were reviewed and corrective advise given. Throughout the day, John and his assistant Gary watched us and offered suggestions for fixing problems, as well as occasional praise or pejorative as warranted.
For the latter part of the course, once we were all getting decent hits from all four positions, the targets were switched to a photo-realistic target and we repeated the drills. This time the goal was to put four center of mass and one head shot on the target from each position. At 50 yards, the size of the target head behind iron sights is quite small. I was pleased to make most of those tight shots.
We ended the day shooting at steel at 75 yards. The original intent had been to shoot at 100 yards, but the range had to be shortened as by then we had several folks recuperating in their air conditioned cars, which were parked at the side of the range.
Throughout the day, we took frequent breaks and close attention was paid to the affects of the extreme heat. A few folks took themselves out of the action as the afternoon progressed. In deference to safety, John modified the curriculum and shorted the day a bit. I had hit my own limit by the end, if the class had gone much longer I would have likely called it quits myself.
Despite the heat and modified schedule I found the class to be extremely beneficial. Except for some degradation from exhaustion at the end of the day, I saw improvements as the day progressed. My trigger pull got smoother and my hold on the gun was more stable, with the associated improvements in accuracy. John reminded us that his class is a gateway for more advanced classes. Before I consider that option, I intend to work on improving on what I learned this weekend. If you're looking for a good basic class to learn to shoot the AR-15, I can heartily recommend this offering from FPF Training, perhaps a spring or fall scheduled class rather than mid-August.
It's also good to know that my family has competency with the AR — one never knows when that will come in handy.