Recently I traveled to Searsboro Iowa to participate in a few courses offered by Rob Pincus and his I.C.E. Training Company. The first class I participated in was the one day version of the Combat Focus Carbine course. The context of the course would be a home defense scenario where the need to shoot was established. I brought two different rifles to this class, because one is none and two is one as the saying goes. My first was my Stag Arms Model 2. This is just a plain Jane AR-15 platform that I bought right after the Sandy Hook "they are coming for our guns" scare. This would be my back up choice.
My primary weapon was an AR-15 I had recently built. This AR had a Palmetto State Armory cold forged barrel and upper receiver with a Palmetto State Armory nickel boron BCG and bolt. The lower parts kit and stock were from Brownells. The trigger assembly was a Rock River 2 stage trigger and it was in an Anderson manufacturing lower receiver. The optic was a Strike Fire Vortex with back up Magpul sights. I had shot only about 100 rounds out of this weapon prior to the class.
Rob spent about an hour at the beginning talking about concepts that were familiar to me as an I.C.E Defensive Firearms Coach. I talked about that experience here -http://www.mikemac356.blogspot.com/2015/03/defensive-firearms-coaches-course.html . He first talked about Safety,Comfort and Competency. How safety was his responsibility as the instructor. He talked about how comfort was a shared responsibility and how it was up to him to make us intellectual comfortable by explaining the "why" and the reasons behind the drills we would perform today. No BS answers, more tools for our toolbox or that's they way we have always done it. The "why" would be backed up with examples and empirical data. It was up to us to be physically comfortable and to let him know if we needed any accommodations with our gear or physical limitations to attain that physical comfort. Competency was an individual and subjective trait that was the shooters responsibility. We were not competing against each other but against ourselves. Our goal would be to leave the class a better defensive carbine shooter than when we arrived. Rob talked effectiveness vs efficiency and how something could be effective without being efficient. He talked about psychological stops to an attack vs physiological stops. You actions could psychologically stop an attack by making the attacker run away but our goal was to physiologically stop it by engaging the threat in the "high center chest". Lastly before we started firing Rob went over the three safety rules.
#1. Keep your trigger finger somewhere other than the trigger
#2. Point your rifle in a generally safe direction as much as possible. ( Rob designated this direction as down range or at the ground.)
#3. Remember you are in control of a firearm any discharge whether negligent or intentional could cause serious injury or death to you or others.
This is the "big picture" rule. It encapsulates for me the I.C.E. training philosophy and why I like the companies methodology. They give you facts and research to back up what they teach. But first and foremost they expect you to act like an adult. They are not there to babysit you because firearms and the use of them for self defense is very serious business, not a game or a hobby. Once safety was established we moved to the line at about a distance of 7-10 feet. All the training would be at self defense distances within the context of the course. I don't think we shot more than 30-40 feet away from the targets at most.
Anyway I got an epiphany during the very first drill. Rob talked about body mechanics and position. He talked about how we should be able to hit what we where aiming at using our body position and not need to use the sights at self defense ranges. We conducted a raise,touch,press drill where we raised the rifle to our shoulder, touched the trigger on his command and then smoothly pressed the trigger to the rear. We were not using sights or optics. In fact my sights were down and the dust cover was closed on my optic. My first shot was high and left about 12 inches from the intended target. I thought that was weird but my second shot was in the same general area. So based on Rob's advice I brought the stock up higher on my cheek lowering my point of aim. Viola!!! I was hitting right where I needed to be. This is where the epiphany happened. I have shot hundreds of thousands of rounds out of the AR15/M16/M4 platform in my life. It is probably the weapon I am most familiar with. But I had been doing it all wrong!!! I had been taking the time to acquire the target through my sights and unconsciously adjusting my point of aim all these years. I had wasted precious seconds as I cleared rooms during my military career. Seconds that mattered. It was a lesson I will not forget.
After our body positions were squared away we moved in to "up" drills where we conducted the raise,touch press commands on our own at each command of "up!!" Single and multiple targets were engaged with 3-5 rounds. Rob talked about malfunction procedures as they presented themselves and emphasized not looking as you resolved the issue and keeping your control hand on the rifle. We then moved our optics to match our body position and briefly zeroed them to the distances we were working at. My zero had been the 25m/300m zero that I was used to from the military. I had to move my point impact about 1/4 inch left at self defense distances. We then moved on to the Balance of Speed and Precision Drill. This drill is the bread and butter of every I.C.E. training course. The concept is that the target dictates the need for precision. The shooter should go as fast as possible while still getting the needed hits. On the "up" command the shooter moves laterally and either engages the high center chest area with multiple shots or one of the 3 inch numbered circles with a single shot if a number is called out. Rob encourages each individual to push themselves. If the shots start to stray outside the boundaries of the box the shooter needs to slow down, if the shooter is shooting 1 inch groups they need to speed up. The high center chest box should be filled with bullet holes, pretty much equally throughout, and the single shots can hit anywhere in the circles.
After this drill we moved on to shooting from different positions. Sitting,kneeling,squatting. The precise position was not emphasized but getting a good solid shooting platform in each position was. For instance due to my reduced mobility (old guy issues) I had my feet in front of me in the seated position rather than shooting from a cross legged position as I was taught years ago. However the important thing was to keep elbows off of knees. Putting them either on the thigh muscle or the knees in the tricep so a muscle to bone platform was utilized and not a bone to bone connection which might be less than stable.
Once we shot from all positions we conducted flow drills. We would randomly move from position to position and at the "up" command we would shoot from the position we were in or the next position we had been moving to. Tactical Yoga!! We then moved on to the lap drill. We were to hit each circle at our own pace, being accountable for each shot. This drill emphasized the need for precision vs the perceived penalty. One lap had us utilizing only one shot per circle for a total of 6 rounds. Then we were allowed to take as many rounds as needed to hit each target but had to hit each target once, finally told to use 6 rounds but we were not allowed to move on until we hit the previous target. All these instructions carried different penalties vs perceived benefits and required varying degrees of precision. However Rob made the point that the need for precision for each target never changed but our perception did.
The next drill was the "sprint" drill. There were 3 lines at approximately 7 feet, 15 feet and 25 feet. We were told there would be 3 different commands. First command was a movement command telling us to move to a particular line, the second command was a firing command and would be the "up" command or a number as we had been experiencing. The third command was a safety command and that command was "stop!!" Anyone could give this command but only Rob could give the first two. One last clarification was that any command superseded the preceding command. So went through this drill only once as it was a fairly physical drill as we moved swiftly between lines and reacted to the commands. The heat was taking its toil on some of the participants. They probably learned the importance of fitness in self defense. Finally we shot from varying degrees of cover and around vehicles.
Finally the day was complete. Rob conducted a very thorough debrief in which each participant was required to ask a question, make a comment or talk about an issue closely related to the days training. Everyone was required to participate and Rob answered using science,examples and logical reasoning. As all I.C.E courses are this course was enjoyable and motivating. I left feeling i had more knowledge and that I had achieved the goal of leaving a better shooter than when I stepped on the range.