I first met Caylen Wojcik at the 2013 Sniper Adventure Challenge, where he and his (shooting, not domestic)Â partner Jon Canipe displayed shooting skills far in excess of the entire field of competitors. For example, of the 26 teams in the competition, only 7 scored a rifle hit on the first shooting stage. Two teams had one hit, four teams (including Paul and I) had two hits, and one team (Ares Armor, I believe) had four hits. Caylen scored seven hits out of ten possible.
So he can definitely shoot, but it’s not surprising that heÂ also has a solid background. He was a Scout Sniper in the Marine Corps, having taken part in Phantom Fury and been an instructor at 1st Marine Division’s Sniper School. He’s also been teaching shooting since he got out of the military, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the quality of his instruction.
I have co-taught a good number of courses at Sniper Country, and at first it was basically a very large open range with steel targets out to 1800 yards. Desert Tech has since put a lot of money in the facility, with new improvements coming on line at a rapid pace. It’s a really awesome place for a shooting class, and Caylen is a pretty awesome guy to take a class from. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking one of these courses.
Now that we have two training courses under our belt, Jim and I have made some further adjustments to the Vuurwapen Concepts course curriculum. The second course incorporated some pistol shooting, and all subsequent courses will expand on that. Most notably, however, we’re moving to a three-day course format (with an optional fourth day at the beginning for refreshing fundamentals). This will allow for additional training and evaluation time over the two-day format, although the course fee remains relatively low at $450. We’ve scheduled courses for October 11-13 and November 8-10, again at Sniper Country in northern Utah.
Also relevant to potential students is that we have added approximately half a dozen instructors, all of whom have special operations experience in military or federal government units or agencies (or both). Their expertise varies from breaching to trauma medicine, although all are extremely proficient with firearms and capable of passing these skills on to others. We’re working on bios and further information, but a lot of these guys are still working in their respective fields, so various security concerns may require that some information be withheld. I know this sounds super secret squirrel, but trust me, these guys are really impressive. Their expertise is also very relevant to the courses we’re teaching (including the concealed carry portion of the class), and will allow for expanded course options in the future.
We will have at least three and most likely four instructors at each course. This will allow us to move from course module to course module smoothly while providing as much one-on-one instruction as possible.
Soon I will also share the Vuurwapen Concepts website and other cool stuff. Things are moving along quickly and I’m excited for what the future holds.
I wear flip flops almost every day and have done so for nearly my entire life. Therefore, I wear flip flops while shooting. This seems to upset some people when I post photos or videos online, so I’ll take a moment to explain further.
Train How You Fight
I have said this a few times lately, but it really is important to “train how you fight.” A long time ago, I was working on the “Lifesaving” merit badge. I had the fastest rescue time in part due to my ability to kick off flip flops much faster than the other kids could remove their shoes. Someone complained to a counselor, who said, “Andrew always wears flip flops, so he should wear them here, too.” The same principle applies to concealed carry.
When I go to the range to practice drawing from concealment, I use the exact belt, holster, pistol, and clothing setups that I use for everyday concealed carry. Most people seem to agree with this sentiment – after all, it’s pretty silly to do all of your shooting practice with a 1911 from the low ready if you carry a .38 snubnose in an ankle holster. I simply extend the concept to include my footwear.
While many people see flip flops as a detriment or drawback, I see them as comfy and easy to put on/take off. Did I mention comfy? I live in an area where triple digit temperatures are common, but even when I lived in Alaska I wore them during the summer.
There are occasions during which I wear shoes or boots: when I’m riding a motorcycle, when I’m on a long hike or walk, and some of the time when I work on cars, motorcycles, or airplanes. I will therefore sometimes wear shoes while shooting. For example, if I ride my motorcycle to the range, it would make sense that the shooting that day would include shoes.
Most of the time, however, I wear flip flops… so I wear flip flops while shooting. There are a number of reasons why people find this objectionable – here are the more common criticisms.
“But You’ll Get Hot Brass Between Your Toes And Then Shoot Someone”
There are a number of arguments against shooting while wearing flip flops, and one of the least valid (to me, at least) is the “hot brass” argument. I can simply say from experience – shooting three or four times per week, every week for years on end, wearing flip flops at least 60% of the time, that I have only had hot brass land on my feet or between my toes a few times. For me, it is a non-issue. I have no problems maintaining bearing and muzzle discipline while I make a minor movement to rid myself of the troublesome case, whether it lands inside my shirt or between my toes. However, I have a higher pain tolerance than most people seem to have, at least in this regard.
“But You’ll Lose A Flip Flop And Then Shoot Someone”
If you take a look at the above photo, you’ll see that my right foot is curved in an odd manner and my little toe is sticking out somewhat. This is due to how I run while wearing flip flops: I curve my feet so as to keep the footwear attached. Yes, I (used to, before I hurt my knee) occasionally run while wearing flip flops. My all-time best mile run while wearing flip flops and carrying a 30lb backpack is 8:16. It is almost entirely avoidable to lose a flip flop while running, if proper methods are used.
I do sometimes have a flip flop fall off of a foot while I am moving backwards or stepping over or near obstacles – the back edge of the footwear will catch on something and be propelled off my foot. To avoid this, I keep my heels high if I am backing up or stepping over obstacles while wearing flip flops. Unlike keeping them on while running forward, this is not entirely avoidable. However, like the brass hitting my toes, it has almost no discernible effect on my shooting. I will simply finish whatever the string of fire may be and then retrieve my errant footwear.
“But You’ll Hurt Your Foot And Then Shoot Someone”
Because I wear flip flops every day, I am rather used to stubbing my toes or people stepping on my toes or getting splinters or cactus spines stuck in my feet and so on. I even had a toenail ripped out once. Therefore, it is not a big deal when these same things happen while I am shooting. As I said before, it is not a problem to maintain muzzle discipline when something unexpected happens. If it is hard for you to not dance around pointing a gun at people with your finger on the trigger when a minor problem occurs, maybe you should not own or use guns.
Valid Reasons To Not Wear Flip Flops While Shooting
I can think of two valid reasons to not wear flip flops while shooting:
– My feet get really dirty if I’m shooting all day
– It doesn’t look entirely professional
So in the future when I’m teaching a class, I might avoid wearing flip flops, simply because it might not present the professional image someone might expect when they pay good money for training. However, for day-to-day practice, I will continue to use whatever footwear I happen to be wearing when I leave for the range.
Last weekend was the first of what will hopefully be many firearm training courses taught by myself and Jim Staley of Deliberate Dynamics. Writing about it wholly from my perspective would be a bit self-serving, so I’ll share some photos/video and the feedback I solicited from the 14 students who attended the course. If you’re interested in attending our next course, scheduled for July 27/28, you may sign up here.
I asked for their honest opinions, and will summarize/compile them here in the interests of brevity. If any students wish to comment on this post, they are welcome to do so (some already have).
The stuff everyone liked:
– Taking high speed video of each student on the range and reviewing it in front of the whole class back at the lodge really helped everyone improve their manipulation and understanding of the firearm. Here’s a sample of most of the group, although each student was filmed individually as well.
– Chronographing each rifle/ammo combination, as well as taking photos of the muzzle flash of each, was educational/useful/enlightening.
– Many students had no idea that they were capable of shooting as far as they ended up doing so (depending on rifle, ammo, and shooter, 500 to 900 yards). Everyone was shooting an AR-15 in 5.56/.223.
– Shooter/spotter drills with the target unknown until the timer buzzed were very useful.
– Reloading and target transition portions of the course greatly improved the shooters’ efficiency with the firearm.
– Everyone seemed to love the range and the lodge.
– The group was great and everyone got along swimmingly.
The recommendations for improvement:
– There was a lot of downtime, especially on the first day. Some of this couldn’t be helped, as we only had one high speed video camera and one chronograph. However, we’ll definitely be cutting down on this in the future, organizing the curriculum so that there are multiple training evolutions occurring at once.
– Including items such as a shooting mat or binoculars on the recommended gear list would be nice.
– Incorporate a more rigorous final test/drill/competition/exam/feedback. This was originally planned, but would have resulted in a lot more downtime as our planned course could only have been used by one shooter at a time. We will, however, be incorporating this into the curriculum in the future.
– We had some technical difficulties with vehicles, although they did not present a major obstacle to the course or to the shooters getting range time.
If I may, here are a few accolades from students:
– “I felt like it was a good use of my time, I learned a LOT and I enjoyed myself.”
– “Overall I know I learned a lot more about myself as a shooter. And your high speed video definitely helped everyone diagnose issues they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Nice job.”
– “I want to say thanks for putting on such a great course. I’ve been through a good number of schools and classes in the military that were just miserable. Yours was a good balance of seriousness and relaxation to make it very enjoyable.”
– “I had a great time shooting with you guys. The drive was long as all hell, but I loved the location and learned that my shooting platform while standing sucks and my reloads are inefficient and full of fail.”
– “They gave us practical information throughout the course, with explanations of the positive and negative of why something is done. Both Jim and Andrew have a wealth of knowledge and an ability to teach.”
– “(I) learned an enormous amount in a very short period of time.”
– “I really enjoyed the class. Â I thought you guys did a great job especially for it being the first time you put this together. It was educational, challenging, and it was also a good time.”
I was an FMF Corpsman (8404) and deployed to Anbar province for essentially all of 2006. I have treated injuries ranging from those caused by knives to those caused by multiple artillery shells, and many things in between. I have taken part in mounted as well as dismounted patrols in varying terrain (rural, suburban, urban) and participated in training and security activities at small fixed bases far from higher levels of care or support. During this and other times, I or the units to which I was attached were the target of direct and indirect fire, IEDs, complex ambush, and near ambush attacks. I also co-wrote an SOP (standard operating procedure) on the treatment of injuries sustained during convoy operations. Okay, moving on…
What many people do not understand about “tactical” medicine, or care under fire, is that time can be as valuable as treatment. “Hey!” you say. “In the photograph above, time seems to be taken seriously! That one guy is seriously injured and needs to be treated right away, so the the other guy is treating him while the woman covers them.”
Well, that’s exactly the problem. In a combat situation – also known as anywhere bullets are flying in two directions – the immediate treatment of casualties needs to take a back seat to the suppression/elimination of the enemy. That’s because fire superiority wins fights, and winning the fight allows you to safely evacuate your casualties to a higher level of care. And in this example, we have three people being taught by at least one instructor that it’s okay for two out of three shooters to be voluntarily taken out of the fight while the third shoots at what appears to be multiple attackers. The attackers are also apparently from the Revolutionary War, because they’ve dressed and covered themselves in a neat row from which to attack.
Having one shooter maintain a static position and empty multiple magazines at the bad guys – while shooting from a position and location that opens a large portion of her body open to injury – is a good way to lose a fight. Once that lone defender goes down (and with multiple opponents, that’s a matter of probability), the remaining attackers are free to move around both sides of the vehicle and kill the first responder as well as finish off the injured guy, neither of which is maintaining control of their carbines.
Not only could the man providing aid be working with the woman to shoot the bad guys, but the injured guy (who probably got shot because he was wearing his drop leg holster too low), if conscious, could also be shooting while he either waits for or receives treatment. It really doesn’t matter what his injury is. At the very least, the uninjured man could put direct pressure on the wound while providing covering fire or looking at the front of the vehicle for bad guys trying to sneak around the front, which the woman cannot see or defend against from her position.
This would double or triple the volume of fire directed at the bad guys, and also provide additional angles from which bullets could be placed on target. The net result would be a more rapid movement of that casualty from the battlefield to a higher level of care. This point seems to be missed by the instructors, although it is somewhat possible that my interpretation of the photo is entirely wrong. I would like to know things such as “why didn’t they drive away?” and “how far away are the bad guys?” but those questions are not readily answered by the photo.
My job as a Corpsman was “to keep as many men at as many guns for as many days as possible,” because that serves multiple purposes. It helps achieves the mission, which is, after all, why the military unit is there in the first place. It limits the amount of time additional forces may be required to take part, thus keeping them from being exposed to enemy fire. And it allows for the most effective and rapid evacuation of those casualties in immediate need of a higher level of care. Which is why I found the Field Medical Service School admonishment “fire superiority is the best medicine on the battlefield” to be eerily accurate.
It’d be best to fly in to Salt Lake City on Friday evening, we should be able to pick everyone up from the airport. The range location is about 15 miles north of Tremonton, Utah. It’s pretty remote and the whole range is approximately 55,000 acres. This will let us do a lot of really interesting shooting.
Breakfast on Saturday will be at 0730, class starts at 0830. We will do some shooting at night on Saturday, but there will be a number of breaks throughout the day. We plan to wrap up Sunday late afternoon, but we’ll be around Sunday night in case anyone wants extra instructional portions or more one-on-one coaching.
The cost of the class is $300. Lodging is available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, up to you as to when you stay there, it’ll just be $50 per night to cover lodging and food. The rooms have bunk beds, so you’ll probably have a roommate.
Payment can be by check or credit card – we’ll be setting up a “product” on the Deliberate Dynamics webpage that can be purchased, if you’d like to pay by CC.
As for equipment, it’s pretty simple:
Rifle with sling
3 magazines and one magazine pouch
Flashlight (weapon mounted preferred)
Eye/ear protection (day and night lenses)
Bag, backpack, OR bipod (bipod not required)
Sturdy clothing appropriate for outdoor use in potentially inclement weather
Kneepads/elbowpads might come in handy
At least two and preferably three sets of footwear are recommended (boots, shoes, and flip flops or shower shoes for the lodge)
All experience levels are welcome. We have a curriculum that new and seasoned shooters will learn a lot from. As long as you can handle firearms safely, you’ll be most welcome at the class.
Next month – over Memorial Day Weekend, May 25/26 – I will be teaching a class which will largely relate to the AR-15 platform. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and a fantastic opportunity has presented itself. Sniper Country in northern Utah offers a phenomenal environment for shooting – with a known-distance range out to 1800 yards – as well as a lodge which students may stay in as well as use for classroom portions.
The course has been designed to fill gaps left by other training courses that do not or cannot address certain skills and types of knowledge relating to the AR-15 rifle. The unique environment in which this class is held will allow the student to push themselves and their firearm beyond what they might have thought possible.
There will be an emphasis on making the time and ammunition invested by the student count. Students will receive a significant amount of classroom instruction which will be reinforced by range time tailored establish the skills discussed in the classroom. Marksmanship will take precedence over a high volume of fire, but the skills learned during the class may be applied to all aspects of shooting with an AR-15.Â Unique evaluation and feedback methods will be used to ensure that every student is learning and developing as much as possible throughout the course.
Classroom time will also be devoted to helping the student gain a higher understanding of the rifle â seeing it as a system, not as an assembly of discrete components. Through this process, the student will move from basic manipulation of the rifle’s controls to a thorough understanding of how and why the rifle functions â and malfunctions – as it does. The ultimate goal of the class is to enable the student to use their rifle in a variety of environments and situations with maximum effectiveness.
Because education is a primary consideration, two instructors will ensure that each student receives the instruction they need to develop necessary skills and knowledge. Jim Staley and I will be teaching the class. Jim was a Scout/Sniper in 1st Force Recon. My bio may be found at the “about” link on this blog.
The roundÂ countÂ will be under 400 of centerfire rifle (.223/5.56/5.45 recommended). Price is $300 plus $50 per night for food/lodging (optional, but considering location, it’s a pretty good deal).
I have met a number of instructors in the, for lack of a better term, “tactical” world. I have the benefits of being a constant shooter and several years’ experience teaching in classroom settings to form opinions of instruction and training for real-world firearms use. And I have had the opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of various instructional techniques with professional military and law enforcement individuals who were willing to speak frankly and did not hold anything back in their assessments.
All of this has led me to the conclusion that Mike Pannone is one of the most effective and well-rounded firearm instructors in the world. Why?
- He has an extremely impressive military background, one which has given him a level of experience found in only a few modern instructors;
- He has studied kinesiology (the scientific study of human movement) at the collegiate level;
- He has experience as an instructor for federal law enforcement, namely being the head range instructor at the Federal Air Marshals Service school;
- He is very low key – mostly because he does not feel the need to impress anyone;
- He is not a “stick-in-the-mud” – he is always looking to develop new and more effective shooting techniques.
So he knows what is and is not relevant to real-world applications, he can explain in a scientific manner why a certain technique is effective or ineffective, he has the ability to impart this experience and knowledge to students, he does not showboat during classes, and he keeps an open mind about how he does all of this.
Mike Pannone with a fancy handgun
When I have occasion to discuss the merits of Mike’s instruction with individuals who shoot guns for a living, they express universal praise and admiration. They have no time for BS and while they often receive training from Mike as well as other instructors through work, they also pay for Mike’s classes out of their own pockets.
His training is in constant demand from actual military and law enforcement units. We hear this so often from various instructors that it becomes background noise – Mike actually tries to make this part of his life background noise. He teaches high-speed military and law enforcement units but never, ever talks about it publicly.
It’s almost weird – it would be easy for him to cultivate a following based on personality, but he doesn’t bother with such things. He’s so self-effacing that I feel a constant need to write about him. Part of it is that I consider him to be a friend, sure. The other part is that he is an intellectual and a true badass. That is a rare combination indeed.
I shoot a lot – probably too much at times. This shooting includes various disciplines, from smallbore rifle shooting to service pistol and carbine training to hunting – mostly unicorns and kittens.
My first exposure to high volume training was under the guidance of a USMC SNCO who had just come from SOTG. For those who were lost at USMC, this means that my platoon leader was an experienced sergeant – not a commissioned officer – who had recently been an instructor at the Marine Corps’ Special Operations Training Group, which is both cooler and not nearly as cool as it sounds. We shot a lot, to the point that I would run and hide whenever the subject of “going to the range” was brought up. I don’t know exactly how much we shot, but I think the first day was over 1000 rounds through the M4, and some pistol as well.
Since that time, I have had many, many days (and nights) during which I have fired more than 1000 rounds. I have noticed that on days when I shoot more than 500 rounds – give or take – my performance starts to decline, both in terms of speed and accuracy, and I see little point to continuing to dump rounds into the dirt if I’m not accomplishing anything. Other days, it’s 20-60 shots of slow fire rifle, and I’m done (for the last year or so, the bulk of my range trips have been work related – once that work is done, I have little appetite to stick around and “play”).
There can be real value in high volume carbine/pistol/shotgun shooting over a short period of time, but too often it is done with the objective of a certain round count in mind, not the attainment of any particular goal or mastery of any particular skill. This goes for both shooting as an individual and shooting in organized classes.
I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the few times when I have taken very big steps forward as a shooter, none have resulted from hurriedly loading magazines, running to the line, shooting a lot, then running back to load mags again. They’ve all come as a result of good instruction/observation/feedback, either watching myself on high speed video, or with a good instructor, with a certain – limited – amount of shooting after the “epiphany” to drive the point home.
On a slightly related note, the concept of the “DumpEx” – when military personnel go cyclic to get rid of excess ammunition after training – is incredibly stupid. They then deploy with (and, as a result, entrust their lives to) those same weapons that they abused. It would be the equivalent of a race car driver lapping the track after a race at redline in first gear, just so he wouldn’t have to account for any extra gasoline after the race.
I guess what I’m getting at is that you should think long and hard about how your skills have progressed on high round count days in the past before you decide to shoot 1000-1500 rounds of 5.56 or 9mm in a day. Is this the best way to spend your money and time? Is the accelerated wear on your weapon(s) from maintaining high component temperatures worth it?
In many situations, I would say that the answer is no.
As with a previous article on training, I sent this to Mike Pannone for his thoughts. Here is what he had to say:
I love to shoot and it is a rare day I donât feel like going to the range so for me the overtraining obsession was a problem. Iâve seen that for years and still do, sometimes by well-known units, departments and civilian trainers and it comes from a lack of understanding of performance management and sports psychology. I over trained on the range in the Corps and the Army at times until I took the time to properly educated myself via inquiry. While in JSOC I was fortunate to train under and shoot with some of the best soldiers I have known and the biggest names in action shooting. When given the opportunity I asked each of them how much do you shoot each session and the two most influential sport shooters on me, Rob Leatham and Mike Voigt, said about the same thing. To paraphrase it was âuntil my performance peaks.â When I pressed further with an extremely competent unit member who was also a very accomplished IPSC and 3-gunner, he said it was all about setting training objectives prior and then it sunk in. In the military we did that in everything else but shooting at an individual level I didnât. Â
For instance, when I go to the range on a bullâs-eye pistol day I will decide on a course of fire or training regimen, allocate a certain number of rounds and a desired training objective and stick to it. I will record my times and scores most of the time to track performance. If I am shooting the 25 yard B8 target for slow fire score I will allocate 50 rounds to the session. My goal is a perfect score of 100 and if I shoot that in 10 rounds then I clear my gun, bag it and go home. Conversely if I donât shoot it in all 50 rounds and 5 strings, I again clear it, bag it and go home. Iâve found that my scores have gone up, my ammunition consumption has gone down tremendously, I feel more confident in my on demand skills and I have a lot more time in my day to do other things. If I am doing training on paper, I tape targets religiously which does two things: shows me where my shots went (obvious) and slows down my training pace (more subtle benefit). On days I shoot steel I will only load a certain number of magazines beforehand to keep me from shooting too much too fast and getting sloppy and worst of all reinforcing sloppy. I will also repaint often for the same reasons I tape paper targets.
Consistently go to the range with a plan, shoot to the training objective or plan and then call it a day. Once you make that a habit youâll get better and spend less time and money.