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Posted: 5/21/2009 7:40:04 AM EST
Dynamic Carbine 1
May 16-17, 2009
Nappanee Conservation Club
Nappanee, IN

Raw photos here:
(hi-res versions available to my fellow students upon request)

Magpul Dynamics has only existed as a company for a few years, but its instructors bring a wealth of real-world experience to the table when it comes to teaching military, law enforcement and citizens the mindset and skills required to prevail in dynamic, stressful shooting situations. The core values that guide all of Magpul Dynamics' training courses are reality, efficiency and consistency - the tactics and techniques they teach must be reality-based (as opposed to theoretical or untested), maximize efficiency, and allow consistent application across a variety of users, situations and platforms.

I had read AARs of other Magpul Dynamics courses on various internet forums and found their "Art of the Tactical Carbine" DVD set to be interesting, useful and very well executed. I had also decided to diversify my tactical training regimen in 2009, and seek out courses from instructors with whom I hadn't previously trained. When Jeff Tinsley (Tinman on http://www.ingunowners.com) expressed interest in hosting a Magpul course at the Nappanee Conservation Club in northern Indiana, I jumped at the chance. My buddy Aaron, one of my usual partners in crime for this sort of thing, signed up as well.

The lead instructor for this course was Chris Costa, Magpul Dynamics' Director of Training. Costa served 12 years with the US Coast Guard, taking part in law enforcement and special operations missions in South America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Prior to joining Magpul Dynamics, he spent several years with a private company conducting SWAT team training and infrastructure vulnerability assessments on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Risk Management Division. Costa was assisted by Mike Lamb, a veteran of military special operations and a relatively recent addition to the Magpul Dynamics training staff.

We started the course with 21 students, but that dropped to 20 on day 2 because one of the students got food poisoning from dinner Saturday night and was too sick to participate on Sunday. Student backgrounds ran the usual gamut of prior and current military, law enforcement, and regular guys and gals, and I was glad to see several familiar faces from other training courses I'd been to. Pretty much everyone seemed to have had some kind of prior training and a pretty good skill foundation coming in; this would allow us to push farther and faster than we might have been able to had there been complete novices in our ranks. While experience and skill levels varied, no one slowed the class down disproportionately or exhibited unsafe behavior – "That Guy" was noticeably absent.

Pretty much everyone ran an AR variant of some sort; I spotted a few LWRCI piston-driven guns, several registered SBRs of various lengths and configurations, and an S&W M&P-15R chambered in 5.45x39 Russian, in addition to the usual variety of 16" carbines. The non-AR platforms consisted of an AK-74 and one SWAT cop's issued select-fire HK53. A majority of the students ran optics on their carbines, and a majority of those were Aimpoints; one student used an EOTech (which, surprisingly enough, held up OK), and another used a Trijicon TR21 1.5-4x scope. I shot my 5.56 SBR featuring a 10.5" LMT upper topped with an Aimpoint COMP-ML2.

Load carrying equipment varied from simple belt-mounted mag pouches, to chest rigs, to full combat-type gear. I wore the same Eagle Industries MOLLE plate carrier w/ cummerbund setup that I have been running for the past year or so, with the addition of soft armor inserts and hard plates front and back. An ATS MOLLE belt held the Safariland ALS holster for my Glock 17, as well as a medical kit, dump pouch, a couple Glock mags, and an extra AR mag.

The first day started off cool and wet; it had rained pretty steadily for a couple days prior to our arrival, and would continue to do so off and on through the afternoon. After we turned in the necessary paperwork and got our gear staged, Chris Costa began the course by briefly introducing himself and his assistant instructor, Mike Lamb. We then reviewed the four basic rules of firearm safety, and designated primary and secondary medics and transport in the event of an emergency. From there, Costa moved into an explanation of Magpul Dynamics' core values of reality, efficiency and consistency, and how those values shaped the shooting techniques we would be learning. Costa said his goal was to give us a set of basic techniques that we could use in a defensive shooting encounter; he likened it to a martial artist having a half dozen moves that he relied on for most situations, and to keeping our most-referenced information in the first folder in the top drawer of a file cabinet. The shooting position taught by Magpul Dynamics is designed to work with the body's natural alarm reaction. It is generally similar to the aggressive, forward-leaning stance I had previously been taught, with a couple key differences. The Magpul stance emphasizes using upper body mechanics to stabilize the gun and mitigate recoil, and is characterized by an extended support-side arm, and a thumb-forward grip on the carbine's handguard. It is basically the Modern Isoceles pistol stance, stretched out to accommodate a long gun.

After this discussion, we grabbed our carbines and moved onto the range to begin our live-fire exercises by shooting 2- and 4-round strings at 5 and 10 yards, to evaluate and perfect our use of the Magpul stance. After Costa and Mike had gotten to watch all of us shoot and made any necessary adjustments to our basic position, we proceeded right into a demonstration of the speed or combat kneeling technique. The instructors emphasized that this was a "hasty" technique that was quick to get into and out of, and thus did not involve sitting back on the strong side leg or bracing the support side elbow against the support side knee for additional stability. After dropping to kneeling and shooting strings of 2 and 5 rounds, we progressed quickly to the prone position, which was identical to that taught by EAG, Defensive Edge and others with whom I had previously trained. Once we had the prone position covered, we combined all three shooting positions, firing 5 rounds standing, 5 kneeling and 5 prone from 50 yards, on the clock. We finished up the morning practicing tactical and speed reloads and going over magazine placement and order of access, then broke for lunch.

By the time we got back out on the range, the rain had stopped and the clouds were starting to break up. Of course the ground wasn't any drier, but it was an improvement. We got out to the 25 yard line and practiced 90- and 180-degree turns. These weren't the deliberate, "by the numbers" dance-lesson-like turns I was used to; the instructors opined that under stress, one would naturally and quickly turn toward a threat, so that's what we did. We practiced turning 90 degrees left/right and 180 degrees to shoot, as well as turning, immediately dropping into kneeling or prone, then shooting. That done, the instructors took us through more positional work, starting with 10 rounds standing from the 25 yard line, then running to the 5-yard line and firing 10 rounds, then running back to the 25 and firing 5 rounds standing, 5 kneeling and 5 prone. We then slowed things down a bit by working through some malfunction clearance drills. We were taught to first cant the gun slightly to the left and look at the ejection port to identify the problem. If the bolt was closed, we would tap-rack-bang; if it was open, we would initiate a double-feed clearance. Taking an extra fraction of a second on the front end to identify the problem is intended to save the time and effort of non-diagnostically applying solutions in situations that do not call for them. After that, it was time to get our heart rates up with some more movement. We practiced moving forward, backward, left and right off the line of attack prior to engaging our target, then ended the day by with multiple-shooter/multiple-target relays. We divided up into two stacks, the lead person of which would engage a series of 4 targets with 2 rounds each before peeling off to the back of the line and letting the next shooter take a turn. We then progressed to engaging series of 8 targets from the inside out, then peeling off to the other line and enaging 8 more targets from the outside in. It was a good drill not only for practicing multiple target engagement, but also for safely moving around with a loaded weapon in proximity to other people. After concluding for the day, several of us got together at a local steakhouse for a fabulous dinner (well, everything but the chicken, evidently) and got to know the instructors and our fellow students a little better.

The morning began cool and sunny, with temperatures rapidly climbing into the "comfortable" realm. We hit the ground running with Magpul Dynamics' Balance of Speed and Accuracy (BSA) drill, which consisted of firing 4 rounds in 2 seconds from 5 to 25 yards, dropping to kneeling and firing 2 rounds in 4 seconds at 50 yards, and dropping to prone and firing 2 rounds in 5 seconds at 50 yards, with a goal of keeping all rounds in the 8" center circle of an IDPA target. These targets were scored, and the top 5 shooters (of which I was one) won kydex PMAG holders from Raven Concealment. After that, we slowed things down a bit by working out of the Urban Prone position on our left and right side, both statically (settling into position) and dynamically (dropping quickly into position, either using our support hand to break our fall, or going down on our leg, thigh, hip and side in a kind of modified parachute landing fall). We even practiced shooting the carbine from the supine position (flat on our backs), using sling tension to help stabilize the gun. THAT was certainly different!

To end the morning, we set up some 2-man team movement/communication drills. A more involved version of the peel drills we had performed the day before, these involved a chevron-shaped firing line with 5 shooting stations - the center station had 3 targets, while the 2 left and 2 right stations each had a pair of targets. The two shooters would start at the far left station, and on a signal from the instructor, each shooter would engage both targets. Whichever shooter finished first would call "MOVING," to which his partner would respond "MOVE" when he was ready. Then together, both shooters would run to the next firing station and repeat the process. Partners also had to communicate other status issues ("LOADING" or "HOLD"), as well as maintain situational awareness (what is my partner doing, where are the other teams in the relay, are we clear to move to the next station, etc). Once all the shooting stations were occupied, you did have folks shooting from behind you, but the offsets between the firing points were big enough and the students' skill sets were advanced enough that I felt completely comfortable running the drill (of course, wearing armor gave a little peace of mind, as well). After hitting the last station of the relay, we cleared our weapons and broke for lunch.

We began the afternoon session with some pistol work - this was the first time we had gotten our handguns out all weekend. First up was simply shooting singles and pairs at 3 yards, so the instructors could evaluate our grip and stance. Magpul Dynamics advocates the Modern Isoceles pistol technique, with its characteristic straight elbows, rolled shoulders and thumbs-forward grip. I pretty much shoot a version of that already, so it didn't take much adjustment. We then moved on to the pistol drawstroke. Magpul Dynamics does not break the drawstroke down into positions or steps as many other schools do; they emphasize economy of motion, combined with moving quickly where you need to and slowing down where you need to. "Quick to the gun, sure of your grip; quick to the threat, sure of your shot" is their pistol mantra. After working the draw by firing several strings of 4 shots from the holster at 10 yards, we moved into transitioning to the pistol from a non-functioning carbine. From there on out, our pistols would stay on our person and we were expected to transition in the event of a carbine malfunction and solve the problem.

After a short break to load magazines, we moved into multi-position barricade work, which I referred to as "Costa's Funhouse". Each shooter would move through a series of 4 barricades of various heights/shapes, each of which required engaging targets from different positions. First barricade involved shooting from kneeling left/right and standing left/right; second barricade required the shooter to squat and shoot through a port, then flop over into Urban Prone on the right side; third barricade had the shooter fire from Urban Prone on the left side, and the final barricade forced the shooter into a kind of fetal position Urban Prone, as if curled up behind a car tire and shooting under the vehicle.

The final block of instruction covered shooting on the move. All weekend, the instructors explained they do not take the "crawl-walk-run" approach to skill building; they maintain that crawling is different from walking, which is different from running, and they were here to teach us to RUN. Thus, Magpul Dynamics' shooting on the move is not the slow, measured shuffle step or "Groucho walk" commonly encountered at other schools. Costa said that in combat, he never saw anyone do that; they either hauled ass to where they were going and then shot, or delivered fire while moving at speed toward their destination. We practiced advancing toward and retreating from the targets at a fast walk while looking over the sights, then snapping our carbines up and delivering hammer pairs on command. We also engaged targets with constant fire while moving, breaking shots whenever our dots came on target. Many students reported that while shooting on the move using the upper body position we had been taught, their dots didn't move nearly as much as they previously had using other techniques. We then worked on dynamic turns, 90 or 180 degrees right into shooting on the move. One of the instructors would prompt a shooter to turn and start moving, and the rest of the line would follow suit, with each shooter keying on the movement of the guy next to him.

The final exercise of the weekend was the "Dollar Shoot," where everybody put a $1 bill up on their target and engaged it with one round from the prone at 30 yards. We had a full minute to break our shot, and whoever got closest to George Washington's nose would collect everybody's dollar. I fully expected the guy with the Trijicon scope to walk away with this event, but the winner was Pat H, a 60-something-year-old former Marine with whom I had taken EAG's carbine course a couple years ago. He used his LWRCI piston gun topped with an Aimpoint COMP M4 to good effect, creasing the bridge of George's nose. It was *great* shooting. The runner-up, just a few millimeters off the mark, was our sole EOTech user, also shooting a 16" carbine.

After stowing our gear and cleaning up the range, we assembled one more time for a debrief and a few parting words from the instructors. Costa then handed out certificates and gave each student a Magpul window sticker and a one-time 15% discount on Magpul equipment. Cool. I then presented Costa and Mike with "care packages" of INGO swag (hats, stickers, morale patches) that our site admin had asked me to give them on behalf of the forum, as a way of thanking them for making quality training available to Indiana residents.

Total Rounds Fired: 1278 carbine, 141 pistol

My 10.5" SBR was plagued with issues from the get-go. I experienced a number of failures to fire (light strikes), which I attribute to a combination of the JP light hammer spring I'm running and the primers on the Prvi Partizan ammo. I have run the same spring in my 9mm SBR for years now, and in my son's carbine as well, without any problems. I also ran my gun in this configuration at the INGO NFA Day event last year without any issues. I plan to put a standard hammer spring back in and shoot the rest of the Prvi ammo to see if the problem recurs. I also had several double-feeds. I was running brand-new PMAGs most of the time, which would tend to rule out mag-related issues. Additional lubrication reduced but did not eliminate the problem; I will be checking the extractor as well. My Glock 17 ran without incident, although I need about a bazillion more drawstroke reps out of this ALS holster; the light-bearing holsters index differently and require a slightly different motion to bring the gun out than do the non-light-bearing holsters, and I got hung up a couple times.

I accomplished the things I set out to accomplish in this course - I ran both days in full gear and armor and it didn't kick my ass, I learned how to modify my stance and shooting positions to accommodate my gear, I exposed my 10.5" SBR to a fairly intense firing schedule, and I shot just as well with a 10.5" barreled gun than I would have with a 16" carbine.

Magpul Dynamics brings a unique and energetic approach to training with the carbine. While I didn't experience the dramatic increase in performance that some students did, and while I won't be adopting their methods entirely as presented, I most certainly will be taking a number of the things we were taught and incorporating them into my own shooting style and training regimen. I learned a lot, met some good guys and had a great time. I recommend Magpul Dynamics' courses without reservation, and will be seeking out additional training from them in the future.

BIG thanks go to my friend Chris Woodhall for putting us up for the weekend; Jeff Tinsley and the Nappanee Conservation Club for hosting the course; Costa, Mike and the rest of Magpul Dynamics for bringing their program to our fair state, and to Mike from Raven Concealment for the prizes.

Until next time...
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 11:40:48 AM EST
Thanks for the detailed AAR.
I enjoyed the pictures also.
Looks like a great class.
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 1:47:45 PM EST
tag for later reading
Link Posted: 6/12/2009 12:49:42 PM EST
Thanks for the detailed review. AARs like these have been very useful in trying to wade into the training world.

Originally Posted By Shooter521:
The Magpul stance emphasizes using upper body mechanics to stabilize the gun and mitigate recoil, and is characterized by an extended support-side arm, and a thumb-forward grip on the carbine's handguard. It is basically the Modern Isoceles pistol stance, stretched out to accommodate a long gun.

Is this stance compatible with the use of a VFG, or do they advocate not using one?

Link Posted: 6/12/2009 1:13:33 PM EST
Originally Posted By Alric:
Thanks for the detailed review. AARs like these have been very useful in trying to wade into the training world.

Originally Posted By Shooter521:
The Magpul stance emphasizes using upper body mechanics to stabilize the gun and mitigate recoil, and is characterized by an extended support-side arm, and a thumb-forward grip on the carbine's handguard. It is basically the Modern Isoceles pistol stance, stretched out to accommodate a long gun.

Is this stance compatible with the use of a VFG, or do they advocate not using one?

Yes it will work with a VFG. It actually helps as you have something to aid in "pulling" the gun back into your shoulder. Also if you are running lights and lasers it acts as a reference point for your hand. So basically your hand will be in the same spot every time. So that movement you have to do to reach your light will be the same every time building muscle memory. Also when actually running them at night you dont have to feel around for your activation of your light.
Link Posted: 6/16/2009 1:05:37 PM EST
Wow, I read that as a thumb forward grip on the handguard, then looking at the pictures only reinforced that thought. Thanks for the clarification.
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