Review of the Tactical Rifle III Course By TDI
This past weekend, I completed the final course in Tactical Defense Institute’s three-class tactical rifle series – Tactical Rifle III (if you’ve not yet read my reviews of the previous two classes, you can read them HERE and HERE). I’ve taken several classes at TDI this year, and for the most part the weather has been cooperative. But my weather luck ran out the weekend of TR III, and it ended up being cold and rainy the entire weekend.
Sunday was particularly bad – about 40 degrees and steady rain the entire day. Here’s a photo of me in my not-very-tactical inclimate weather gear – sweatshirt, red Columbia water resistant mid-weight jacket, and my water resistance heavy winter coat which I affectionately refer to as my driveway shoveling coat:
So TR III was less fun than the previous two TR classes I’d taken at TDI, and not simply due to the weather. I had the luxury of taking all three of TDI’s Tactical Rifle courses in sequence in the same year, but the courses seem to be designed to accommodate those who spread out the courses over a longer period of time. Due to the expense involved, many people take Tactical Rifle I one year, TR II the next, and so on. In fact, TR III is only offered once every other year. Accounting for that assumed lag between classes (perhaps as much as a year or more), I think that TDI has perhaps designed a strong emphasis on reviewing fundamentals in each course. If you take the courses all in the same year as I have done, all that repetition becomes a bit boring by the time you get to TR III. Day one of TR II varies little from day on of TR III – start with zeroing optics to 100 yards, then practice close quarters shooting, followed by positioned shooting drills from 25, 50, and 100 yards. During TR III, the close quarters drills were made more challenging by the instructors walking around and randomly inducing failures to student rifles, causing them to have to practice failure recovery. And the positioned shooting drills included a lot of strong side to weak side transitions. All good stuff to practice to be sure (in reality, you can never have too much focus and repetition of the fundamentals), but stuff I can practice easily enough at the outdoor range where I live. Thankfully, the rain all but stopped by mid to late morning and the temperature crept up to about 50 degrees. I was able to ditch one of my coats and the class became more enjoyable.
After lunch we shot positioned on steel from 150, 200, and 300 yards – 20 rounds from each position. We had about 25 students in the class, so they broke us up into groups of 8 shooting at a time on the steel targets. Normally I really enjoy shooting on steel, but with so many students shooting simultaneously, it was exceedingly difficult to tell, even with a spotter, if you were hitting or not. The normal auditory feedback from shooting on steel targets was all but drowned out by the other rifles. From 150 and 200 yards you could sometimes make out a white powdery splash as the bullet struck the white painted targets, but 300 yards was simply too far away to see such a visual indication of a hit. So to the degree I found the first half of day one useful if repetitive, the 2nd half was unfortunately not particularly useful.
After dinner, we returned for the evening low-light portion of our training. We first ran through a few drills of sweeping targets with our lights, then coming back up on target, firing our shots, and immediately turning off our lights. We then did some moving and shooting “zig-zag drills” between cones, incorporating the “slashing” motion with our lights, then returning to the target with a quick instant-on of the light, followed by a couple of quick shots, and immediately deactivating the light.
This was great practice and something I don’t ever get to do with my rifle since the outdoor range at which I shoot does not allow shooting at night. From here we did a dry-fire exercise with roped guns in the force on force house, followed by a house clearing exercise in Live Fire House #1. The evening sessions were by far the most beneficial and enjoyable activities of day one. I also learned something very important – my rifles aren’t set up well for cold weather (gloves) night usage, primarily because of my use of the Magpul B.A.D. Lever. Normally, I don’t have to look at the B.A.D. lever to close my bolt, or if I want to hold the bolt open – I just feel for it. If I’m wearing gloves, I don’t have the same level of tactile feedback, and I have to look at it while operating it in some cases, or simply remove my gloves. I came away thinking that if I was going to do be doing a lot of cold, low-light work, I probably wouldn’t use the B.A.D. Lever on my rifle – the standard AR-15 bolt release would be preferable in my opinion.
Day 2 began with more positioned shooting drills, moving back and forth between 25, 50, and 100 yards to warm up. We then moved to demonstrations of partner tactics. The thing to remember when working with a partner is that communication is key.
We did a rudimentary box drill with two man teams. When you ran dry on ammo, you’d yell “RELOAD!” to signal you were doing a magazine change and needed additional cover, to which your partner should respond “COVER!” when the magazine change is complete, you yell “UP!” to indicate your rifle is back up and in the fight. The inside man in the pair would take lead in initiating directions to help keep the team in synch with movement. To begin, I would yell “FORWARD!” and my partner would respond with “MOVING FORWARD!” as we’d move forward while we shot at our targets. When it became time for us to move right, I’d yell “MOVE RIGHT!” to which my partner would respond “MOVING RIGHT!” and so on. When we finished the drill, we did our standard “check 360” scan of our surroundings – I scanned right and yelled “CLEAR RIGHT” while my partner scanned left and yelled “CLEAR LEFT!” Here’s a video of the drill:
After we did the partner tactics drills, we proceeded to break into smaller groups and began the standard exercise rotations which have been done in each of the previous Tactical Rifle classes on Sunday. My group started at the lower range and after lunch did “the wall,” the jungle walk, and both Live Fire House 1 &2. Students were given the option to run several of the drills individually, or as two-man teams to practice your partner tactics. My partner Gerry and I opted to run all of the exercises we could as a team and I’m very glad we did. Running them individually would have largely been a repeat of the same exercises from TR I and TR II without much opportunity to try and learn anything “new.” Running as partners was particularly useful in the jungle run (two sets of eyes searching for targets is better than one) and in the Live Fire Houses.
GEAR CHECK – A LOOK BACK AT MY GEAR AND HOW IT PERFORMED DURING TACTICAL RIFLE I-III
1. I could not have asked for a better performing rifle to use throughout this entire series of courses than my Colt LE6940p. I experienced not a single malfunction with this rifle in the entire roughly 4000 rounds fired during the three tactical rifle classes. My Aimpoint Pro Optic and my Aimpoint 3X Magnifier also were invaluable and highly recommended.
2. Rain or shine, my Voodoo Tactical Premium Deluxe Shooter’s Shooting Matwas a fantastic piece of gear. It’s both a rifle case, and a shooting mat, so it saved space in my car, and made for less to carry. And unlike many “combo” products, it performs both as a rifle case and a shooting mat VERY well.
3. Vickers Padded 2 point Rifle Sling by Blue Force Gear – you spend a LOT of time with that heavy rifle slung around your neck, so spend a little extra and get a rifle sling that’s both comfortable and functional.
4. Clothing – Make sure you get good, comfortable water-proof shoes that you can run in if need be. Merrell Hiking Shoes seem to be a popular choice. I used a pair of 5.11 Tactical Trainer 2.0 shoes with great success. Tactical style pants with lots of pockets designed for rifle magazines are also great. There are many different kinds out there, but I like the pocket layout on the Woolrich Elite Tactical Pants the best out of any I’ve tried. TDI typically schedules the Tactical Rifle classes in the late Summer/early Fall time frame, and the weather is unpredictable that time of year in Ohio. be sure to bring along a good hooded softshell tactical jacket, again with plenty of pockets. One clothing gear item I bought that I was very happy to have during TR III was Tactical Knee Pads. Not that there were many times that my knees hurt during the exercises. Rather, my knee pads did a GREAT job of keeping the knees of my pants dry and mud-free.
As I look back on my experience with Tactical Rifle I-III at Tactical Defense Institute, it’s with great fondness and enthusiasm. I now have a comfort level and proficiency with my rifles that I would not otherwise have – and that’s a great feeling. I hope to return to TDI and re-take TR II or TR III on an annual basis, as I believe either would be an excellent refresher for me in the years that come. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking any or all of these courses.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.