Saturday, February 11, 2012

Revew: Magpul Art of the Tactical Carbine I

I looks like it's been more than a month since the last time I posted.  Time got away from me, I guess.  Here's a review that I've been working on for a while.

The Trainers
The Magpul DVD series are sort of documentaries on training courses.  “Stars of the show” are Chris Costa and Travis Haley.  Costa sometimes sounds like an angry boot camp drill instructor, but he’s actually the joker of the pair.  Haley is the more easy going of the two.  Costa and Haley do things a little bit different, so you get to see things done a little bit differently in the same DVD set.

According to the bio on Costa’s facebook page, he was involved with counter-drug actions and “special missions in Europe, the Middle East, and South America” with the Coasties.  After this, he worked for Applied Marine Technologies, Inc., working with the Homeland Security Risk Management Division, specializing in teaching Police Assault Operations.  It also says that he provided Red Team Vulnerability Assessments on U.S. Government infrastructures, which makes me wonder if he’s one of the characters in my favorite Rogue Warrior book.  Costa left Magpul Dynamics to start up his own training company, Costa Ludus.

Travis Haley was a Force Recon Marine.  Haley also left Magpul to start up his own training, product consulting, and marketing company, Haley Strategic Partners, LLC.  According to the about page of Haley Strategic, Haley served in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia in his 15 years with the Force Recon Marines, and then worked in the private sector as a special operations and security contractor before joining up with Magpul Dynamics.

Production Quality
Production quality of the videos is really good actually.  There’s no music left over from a 1995 Cozumel travel video; something you sometimes get with lowest-bidder production companies.  Menu graphics are pretty decent, and I like the Japanese-themed DVD case covers.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the training, but it’s nice anyway.

So you put in the disk and press play, and there’s 3 or 4 minutes of lawyer B.S. about how training with firearms is potentially lethal, and all that.  You have to wait through all this crap every time you put a disk in, unless your player allows you to pick up where you left off.  You can not skip past it.  It gets really annoying.

Disk 1 – Fundamentals [and Equipment]

A lot of this will be a little boring to some of you who have been shooting for a couple years or more.  They cover sighting in.  Administrative loading, and a few different methods of press checking are covered.  Emergency and tactical reloads are explained and demonstrated.  They show how to work the AR-15s, both with the Magpul BAD extended bolt catch and the standard “ping-pong paddle” bolt catch.

Hold offs for close-range carbine shooting are shown and explained.  Perhaps useful if you’ve only used rifles at 50 and 100 yards.

Getting into some stuff that you may not have seen at your local gun club, Travis and Costa discuss the aggressive stance, grip, and recoil control that are useful for shooting a carbine rapid fire.

There are some basic malfunction drills, including S.P.O.R.T.S. and tap-rack-bang.  There's a little bit more in Disk 2, but that’s about the extent of if for this series.  There’s much more in the Magpul Carbine II DVD set.

Towards the end of Disk 1, they’re starting to get into more advanced drills, including shooting on the move, shooting from positions other than standing, and working with a partner.  Then there is a Final Exercise, which is most of the drills all put together, and shot by the students in pairs.

Disk 1 Special Features – There is some discussion of optics, back-up iron sights (BUIS), slings, mag pouches and tactical vests.

Disk 2 – Advanced Skills
For some reason Travis is not on Disk 2 or Disk 3, so it’s all Costa from now on.

Pistols are introduced into the mix, and they work on transitioning from carbine to pistol a little bit.  There is some basic training on malfunction and failure drills.

“Check drills,” a method of calling out for a reload when working with a partner, are explained and practiced.  Using this method, it increases the odds that one member of the team is always capable of returning fire.

Costa shows how you can get pretty decent hits with the red dots turned off, without flipping up back-up sights.  In the event that the battery dies or the sight is damaged, this could be quite useful.

Continuing with sighting, a method of holding the front sight above the rear aperture is explained for use at close range.

There are some advanced shooting on the move drills followed by barricade drills.  The students practice shooting from either side of the barricades, and then work the barricades in pairs.  After the folding table barricades, which simulate building (or hallway) corners or doorways, they move onto barricades with a variety of firing ports.  There is some working the carbine with the left hand, but much more is covered in Magpul Carbine II.  Finally, they move into a range set-up with vehicles, and in pairs, they shoot at targets in and around the vehicles.

Disk 3 – Drills [and Miscellany]
The third disks a quick reference of all the drills covered in disks 1 and 2.  The drills are done at full speed and slow-motion, and are shown from multiple camera angles.

Disk 3 also gets into some detailed information on weapon accessories, disassembly/cleaning/maintenance of the AR-15/M4/M-16 weapons system, and some information on traveling with firearms.

Costa explains why he prefers single point slings. . . although you can see that he uses 2 and 3-point slings in various points in disks 1 and 2.  Disk 3 is the only place, in this set, that you see any shoulder transitions.  They don’t get into shoulder transition drills until The Art of the Tactical Carbine II.

So, In Conclusion
Although not a real substitute for a real training course, you can learn some stuff from DVDs, and combined with live-fire and dry-fire practice, you can make some real progress.  Unfortunately not everyone can afford a high-end class, the travel, and the housing.

The DVDs really only concentrate on the AR-15 platform.  Although there was an AK-47 type rifle in Disk 1, and an AK-74 type rifle in Disk 2, I would have liked to see more on the use of the Kalashnikov rifles.  There’s also nothing to help you shoot better beyond about 75 yards – nothing on using a 2-point sling as an added support for shooting.

For less than $40 the set is a pretty fantastic deal.  I really like that Travis and Costa lead by example, rather than just by dictation.  I learn a few few things, and I now understand the fascination with single-point slings.

Valhalla Tactical Supply has the best prices that I've seen on the Magpul DVDs.  They also have pretty good deals on other Magpul stuff, black rifle parts, and gear.  I have Art of the Tactical Carbine, and Art of the Dynamic Handgun also, but you'll have to give me time to go through them again, take better notes, and do the write-ups.

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