Since there is interest, here is the AAR I did for the class back in 2010:
I just finished taking/hosting Randy Cain’s three day practical rifle class. There are a lot of misconceptions about what this class is and what you learn, which I heard about first hand when I started advertising it. I would say the best description of the class I can give is that you learn the foundations to run your bolt action rifle (in most cases your hunting rifle) hard and fast and slow and precise, and you do it with one rifle a general rifle if you will. The old adage of beware the man with one rifle comes to mind. I will start off by saying I learned a bunch. However, I think the one thing that stands out most in my mind is that I spent 3 days running my bolt gun hard. I put a lot of ammunition through it and lived with it for three full days. One of the best things about a class is the fact that you get to ring your gear out and see how it really works. At least two folks went into the course with rifles they loved, but they are probably already for sale (I will let them speak up if they want). When it came down to it they just didn’t work as advertised. Is this the type of thing that you learn in a couple of low round count range trips or even using them for hunting? I don’t think so, or at least I don’t. We averaged about 150+ rounds a day. I have done that on range trips with multiple guns and semis and a .22 when I was a kid, but I can’t really ever remember running that many rounds through one bolt gun on one range trip or even several outside of a class.
I would break the class into two main components that where then brought back together at the end. Those would be the precision component and the dynamic component. Half of each day was dedicated to one type of shooting. Each morning we spent shooting positions for groups. On Friday we spent time at 50yds, Saturday 100yds and then Sunday 200yds. We learned and worked on prone, sitting, squatting, and braced kneeling primarily. Off hand was taught a bit, but we really only worked off hand in the afternoons. No cheaters where allowed everything was done in the position and sling use wasn’t allowed until the second day. So no slings (to start), no sandbags, no sticks, no packs, etc… I am a big guy and some of these positions where hard or just didn’t work for me for longer shot strings, but I learned them well enough to do well in the final class shoot off, which required quick single round hits from all the different positions. I also spent enough time in the various positions that I learned tweaks that make them work for me. For instance in the prone, once I figured out hold, I was consistently hitting a 6” plate at 300 yards. Averaging 3-4 hits per every 5 shots. I am pretty sure I couldn’t have done that on Thursday of last week. As it took me a lot of time to figure out how to get in a prone position that worked for me. When I say a lot of time I mean several hours. I guess you would call this the hunting part of the class.
In the afternoon, it was all about making quick hits and keeping the gun loaded. I guess you would call this the fighting part of the class. We shot on the move. Did team drills with cover while reloading. We shot at night to learn to use a flashlight. We did rolling thunder drills. Etc…. Ranges for this where from about 15’ out to 80’. I had a lot of people scoff at the idea of needing to fight with their hunting rifle because as one guy put it “yeah because I get attacked by elk all the time” when I was advertising this class. This might be true, but I guarantee that loading and firing your rifle 400+ times in three days and unloading sure means that you are more familiar with your rifle. I am guessing that fumbling a load or unload while you are cold or tired on a hunt will be less likely and at least be smoother. Unless your gun doesn’t allow it, which one guy learned was the case.
The last half of Sunday we brought everything back together. It was all dynamic shooting, but it was at 80’+ and required the use of all of the different positions, keeping the guns loaded, working from the sling, communication with a partner, etc… A lot of fun and I think very very applicable to hunting as in a lot of cases it was about one quick hit. Think hunting in timber where you have a finite window to make a shot.
As to equipment:
Optics: I ran a 2-7 scout scope for half the class then ran a 1.5-5 conventional scope for the other half. For the longer range work I definitely prefer the conventional scope, but at closer ranges I prefer the scout scope. However, I am not sure that I was giving up any accuracy at long range with the scout scope or any speed at shorter ranges with the conventional scope. Each was just better for their particular niche. I will have to visit the range and spend some time with both scopes a shot timer and some targets at 15 and 200 before I decide which stays on the rifle full time. I feel I have the luxury of that decision because of box magazines, but more on that latter. The final thing that I like about the scout setup is that it allows you so much access to the action. Those that had more accessed seemed to have an easier time of loading and unloading in general. Once positions got dialed in one of the scout scope guys was in the top three for accuracy at range generally and he wasn’t shooting any better with conventional scopes when rifles where switched.
Action types: The class was pretty evenly split as to types of rifles. There were 4 Model 70s, 1 Mauser, 1 Kimber Montana, 2 Remington Model 7s, 1 Steyr Scout, 1 1903a3, 1 standard 700, and my custom 700. Two folks where shooting 243, one 223, and the rest where split between 308 and 3006. The only issue that I had was that my bolt got a bit hard to work when the gun was a bit warm, and we got them smoking hot literally a few times. I will let others address their rifles, but I will say that there are several rifles I will never consider buying having seen them on the line. I also confirmed at least in my mind that most folks are better off with a middle weight rifle and that lightweights are a handicap especially in heavier calibers. This was proved at least in part by people switching rifles and in most cases (I think all) they shot better with the middle weight rifles than they did with their own lightweights. This doesn’t mean that the lightweights can’t be shot accurately, so un-bunch your panties, it means that it is easier to make shots. And one of the things Randy drummed into us was that the point of shooting is hitting, which is a duh kind of thing, but think about it for a minute the point of carrying a rifle is hitting. So why would you handicap that ability to hit? The peanut gallery will probably chime in about why don’t you just carry a 15lb sniper rifle than. My answer is that it is relative and I think that the middleweight strikes the perfect balance between portability and shoot ability, and both are critical components.
Feeding: On the line we had two guys running detachable box magazines (dbm), one running strippers, and the rest where the standard configurations. After watching the ease with which folks loaded, unloaded, and topped off not under pressure I was sold on a dbm. After watching people doing it under pressure I was really really sold on dbm. Strippers would be a second choice only followed by conventional loading. The two guys running dbm where always ready to go faster than anyone else whether it was getting loaded or unloaded. It is flat out simpler and you also aren’t dealing with a bunch of loose ammo shoved in your pocket to fall out into the dirt, or be dropped or not get pulled out of your pocket facing the wrong way, etc. By the end of the weekend most where adept enough that those issued didn’t affect them, but I am a guy who likes to keep it simple. The final point is that at least in my opinion a dbm is easier to work with and makes things more economical in motions and I don’t really see a downside if the magazines are reliable other than cost.
Slings: I am not completely sold on the ching sling. I didn’t find it fast to get into at all, and I don’t think it is any more stable than a hasty sling. I also found that unless I was using it for a position it was constantly in the way. I have a fix for that problem I believe, but I will see. I need to spend some time comparing the hasty sling I grew up with and the ching and see how I feel, again this requires range time and a shot timer. I did find that sling made me steadier in all positions.
Lights: If there is even the hint that you will need to use any gun in the dark put a light on that gun. There is enough to do shooting without messing around with a dang light in your hand. I guess that is why pretty much every gun I have has a light on it or at least a mount.
Now for the final discussion, and first the disclaimer: The views expressed are mine only. The bolt gun is not just as good as a carbine, and I don’t think anyone will argue that, but I also don’t feel that you aren’t giving up that much with a standard style hunting rifle. My rifle takes 20 rd magazines (Robar conversion to take M14 mags, and no they no longer offer it). I can stay in the fight a long time. That allows me to focus on other things. The advantages of that became very obvious to me during the rolling thunders, and cover drills, and such. I am not sure that with my set up I am giving up enough to a semi that I would willing to carry the extra weight of a fal for instance. Unless I KNEW I was in a combat situation. The advantage of the fal over my setup is not necessarily speed of shots, although I am sure that it is a bit faster, but the fact that with the bolt gun you have added in an extra set of manipulations (working the bolt) while with the fal as soon as you make one shot you are concentrating on making another shot and your shooting hand never leaves the gun. The semi also allows you to run a foregrip and pistol grip which are easier to run dynamically in my opinion. So my final analysis, is that with my setup if I had to pick it up and go fight with it I wouldn’t feel like I was screwed, and I can ran a 5 or 10 rd magazine just as easy as I can a 20.
The lower capacity dbm rifle featured a lot of the same advantages, but he did have to do more mag changes and the pinch style of mag changes wasn’t as fast. My second choice would be a stripper clip feed gun with a capacity of greater than 5 rds, which would allow you to top off with stripper clips on a regular basis. The guy who was using strippers was only able to use strippers if he was completely empty, but at the same time using a stripper was a lot faster in my opinion than topping off just one or two shells. If it where me I would be darn tempted to just run the gun empty and top off with a stripper as the gun is out of action if you are reloading anyway, but that is back to the economy of motion thing and I haven’t spent a ton of time with it so I can’t really say. However, it was kind of obvious to me that something like an Enfield or Brockman’s extended magazine was a better mousetrap because it allowed more frequent stripper clip reloads and also allows you to have more rounds in the gun to start with, provided you are running a scout scope. As to those loading a conventional hunting rifle under a conventional scope, my personal observation is that I don’t want to have to do it under stress, but I will let others address that.
My final conclusion is that the class was money well spent. I came away with a ton more familiarity with my bolt gun. I have a lot more confidence about making quick shots and precise shots. I am a lot more familiar with positions and their use, and I have a better understanding of the capabilities of my system and its limitations. I need to tweak a few things with a bit more range time, but if I had to head out the door with my rifle now it wouldn’t be a problem. In the end there is a lot to be said for the ability to fight with my hunting rifle and hunt with a decent fighting rifle.