Five years ago, I hopped into a truck with a few buddies and drove four-hours to shoot a combination carbine and precision rifle match. Around 90 shooters showed up. When it was over, I produced mixed results. I placed second in the carbine match, however, I didn’t fair so well on the precision rifle match, placing in the bottom third.
I distinctly remember where it all went wrong. Fire ten-rounds prone from the weak shoulder at 600 yards on the good old USMC “E” target. I was humbled. I was also somewhat surprised that some shooters were able to accomplish this with relative ease. Since then I have tried shooting my bolt guns weak shoulder and have met with little success. I also wondered why anyone would even want to bother shooting a precision rifle from the weak shoulder.
I headed up to Vapor Trail Tactical for their Precision Scoped Rifle 2 class in Saxton, Pennsylvania hoping to up my precision rifle game. Vapor Trail Tactical is owned and operated by Sean Little, a former USMC Scout Sniper, current Law Enforcement firearms instructor and competitive shooter.
I was able to attend the first day of this 2-day course. Unfortunately, my shooting partner succumbed to a nasty virus that went through his house earlier in the week and I had to drive him home. I can honestly say that I learned more about precision rifle shooting during my day of training with Sean (22 hours to be exact) then I had in the past few years. This was in spite of having attended only half of the class.
I brought along a 6.5×47 Lapua built on a Deviant short action (100-012-650) with parts from Brownells. Topped with a Nightforce F1 3-15×50 scope (100-012-583) and pushing the 120 grain Scenar-L bullet (749-015-484) at 2855 feet per second, this rifle shoots flatter, with less wind and recoil then a 308. I’ll be posting an article on how I built the rifle shortly.
The class was fast paced. On the night I arrived, I worked with Sean on low-light shooting with an ANPVS-22 night vision optic. He answered every question I had about the system. He provided excellent feedback and had me squared away in short order. Keep in mind, he isn’t some guy that bought a system, read some internet posts and “taught” me. He learned how to deploy the system in the Marines, qualified with it, used it in combat and then continues to train with it. This is one of those cases, where the instructor’s background is extremely important.
Our class had nine shooters in it. Three were former/current military/LEO (I’m a former Marine) and three were experienced competitive shooters. One student was a new shooter and Sean spent the day before class, working on getting him up to speed. Of the nine rifles, there were six Remington 700s, one Savage, one 308 AR and a Defiance Machine Deviant (my rifle). Seven shooters used 308 Winchesters and two shot 6.5×47 Lapuas. Optics were mostly Nightforce (six), with two Leupolds, one Primer Reticles, and one Steiner. One shooter shot a MOA reticle, the rest shot Mil reticles.
On the morning of the first full day, after a safety briefing and two hours of classroom instruction on a myriad of topics, we hit the firing line to confirm zero on our rifles. Since this was an advanced class, the entire class was confirmed in short order.
Sean demonstrated a series of supported barricade and standing positions using improvised supports including tripods, bungee cords and backpacks. He demonstrated various techniques for each; including low, medium and high, sitting and kneeling, and a few techniques for engaging targets standing with a tripod. Again, he explained the way the Marines teach it, how its used in the field and how he does it in competitions. While half the class cycled through the barricades, firing six rounds strong side and six weak in each position; the other half worked on speed drills. A small head plate at 169 yards and a mini popper at 190 yards were engaged in timed drills with the shooter beginning in the standing position, dropping to prone, loading and firing.
Sean walked up and down the firing line providing feedback to the class. He helped me on a few occasions and his feedback allowed me to tighten up my barricade positions.
After lunch we headed down to the 800-yard line. To me, the “line” looked more like muddy hill at around a 40 percent grade. For a guy like me who normally shoots on a flat range, this was another opportunity to expand my comfort zone. We engaged a series of steel places from 293 to 823 yards in teams. Since the shooting partner I signed up with was keeled over in pain and out of commission, I was paired with an experienced competitive precision rifle shooter.
We spent the afternoon engaging targets by both dialing and using holdovers from both the strong and weak side. We worked on barricade positions and alternate positions with great success. This is where the shooter I was paired with, along with Sean, decided to push me outside my comfort zone. At the end of the day, they suggested I engage the 2/3 IPSC target at 675 yards weak shoulder, from the supported sitting position. I hit it four out of four times. I have never been more pleased with a shot- or a series of shots. In many ways, this was the shot of my life. As early as that morning, I couldn’t have imagined making a shot like that, and I did it repeatedly.
Targets were engaged from 100-823 yards (The class went out to 1,275 yards on the second day). The majority of shots I took were between 487-675 yards. Most were from an alternate position, and nearly a third were from the weak shoulder.
During the time I shot with Sean, I fired around 220 rounds. I learned something with each shot. I became a better, more confident shooter. I appreciated and applied all of the feedback he gave me.
This was a great class and is highly recommended. When looking for an instructor, don’t just look at how well they shoot. Look at how well their students perform. As a former pistol and carbine match director, I’ve seen quite a few shooters perform poorly after attending schools with some big name instructors. Some of these guys make some kick ass videos, but didn’t seem that good at teaching others how to shoot. This experience was different; I can say without a doubt, the nine of us all left better shooters.
I’ve attended two other well known precision rifle schools since I’ve been a writer in this industry and while I have learned at both, they weren’t nearly as good as this one.
In case you were wondering, I figured out why you shoot your bolt gun from the weak shoulder- if you can drill a target from an improvised position, weak shoulder at range- firing from prone is then a piece of cake.
For more information about Vapor Trail Tactical, visit their website. Sean offers a Precision Scoped Rifle 1 course, as well as a Combat Carbine Course.
To build, modify, or outfit your precision rifle, visit Brownells.