AIM Precision Advanced Carbine Class Review

| October 13, 2014 | 5 Comments

On Saturday the She Shepherd and I took the advanced carbine class from AIM Precision. I took a handgun fundamentals class from them earlier in the year, and liked what I saw enough to take a more advanced class. The level 2 class was for people with familiarity with rifles and wanted to learn more about using cover, movement, and shooting with either hand. I had a very good time at the class. I am eager to watch the instructor’s styles evolve over time as they teach more civilians and fewer current / former military.

AIM Precision is made up of three men who are in, or were recently in, the Marines or Navy.

Topics covered

  • Shooting with your left or right hand
  • Use of a sling
  • Breath regulation
  • Shooting from kneeling, military prone, and “face-down” prone (they called it “Brokeback” prone)
  • Using cover / concealment
  • Moving
  • Partner fire and support
  • Moving a wounded partner

It doesn’t seem like a long list, but it was a lot to absorb — especially for some of the students who had never taken a professional firearms course before. Some of the topics had mini-topics in them, such as assessing the situation every time you transition from one shooting position to the next. The movement section also included a cadence drill so you knew when to take cover or go flat if you were in the open.

The Students

There were nine students: one female, the rest all male. I was glad to see three AK pattern rifles in the class. There was one AR10 in the class. I had the only .300 Blackout.

One student was over 55, two were over 40, I may have been the only person in his (late) 30s, everyone else was probably under 30.

There was a wide range of aptitude and experience among the students. I was surprised at how many students had never taken a fight-focused class before that were in an “advanced” class. Many of these students were good shooters, but hadn’t trained in an environment with as many safety concerns, dynamic shooting situations, or instructors calling out drills. I think these students would have been better served with a pre-requisite basic class.

High level observations

I really liked the dynamic aspects of the class. We started out the day by sprinting 40 yards and back again. This was to educate us on how quickly people could cover ground. 80 yards might seem far away, but at a full sprint I crossed it more quickly than I expected.

This also helped demonstrate the different body types, physical aptitude, and conditioning of the students. Many of us are not as spry as we used to be, and the physical nature of the class was a good reminder for me not to skip our workouts. Whether we like it or not, self-defense is a physical activity, and when training properly your physical limits should be tested.

I was very grateful that this class concentrated on using cover. It’s something I need to do more of, and I learned a lot about myself and some bad habits.

For example, the instructors noted that I was acquiring my red dot sight after I left cover. This resulted in more exposure and a slower initial shot. As the day progressed I attempted to “find” my sights and then roll out. I definitely need to work more on that. The instructors also noted that I would “peek” out from cover to see what was going on. This isn’t helpful — I need to be ready to shoot any time I expose myself from behind cover or concealment.

Another thing I learned is that I look down too much. Apparently I do this reflexively when I’m trying to “get small,” and I also do it when I’m reloading. The latter will be overcome with more familiarity with the AR weapon system; the former is just dumb and I need to stop doing it.

AIM Precision teaches to stay an arm’s-length away from your cover for several reasons. One is to avoid ricochets from rounds that skim off of walls, another is to allow yourself maximum mobility, a third reason is to avoid exposing your position and possibly getting your weapon taken away from you by someone on the other side of the object.

If you watch my video about the class you’ll also see me constantly struggling to back away from my cover. My instinct is to get as close to the barrier as possible.

It was also very, very valuable to take a class with another training group. There can be similarities and vast differences between techniques and philosophies. For example, AIM Precision ran a (mostly) cold-range, which meant that students unloaded their weapons after each drill. This changed by the end of the day, but I am used to “hot” ranges where the firearms get loaded and stay loaded.

This was my first fight-focused class that had a cold range, and as predicted by the different firearms instructors I’ve studied under over the years, this led to unsafe and relaxed gun handling. For example, a student put his rifle on the table with the muzzle pointed at a group of seated students. If this was a “hot” class the student (hopefully) wouldn’t have done that.

AIM also teaches people to engage the safety when they are not shooting. In retrospect, this was probably for the best given the classes’s experience level, but it screwed me up all day. The other entities I train with teach us to disengage the safety when we put our hands on the weapon, and to re-engage the safety right before we sling. Otherwise the safety is off — and stays off. You can see me make a huge mistake in my video.

Running the charging handle was also a point of contention. AIM teaches to use the bolt release on the AR system, which is similar to people who teach using the slide stop on a pistol to release the slide. In most cases (especially on an AR with a BAD lever), hitting the bolt release is faster. However, I have watched students attempt to release the bolt on an empty chamber when the bolt is already forward. This obviously Not Good™. Using the slide stop / bolt catch is a very debated topic, but for consistency and reliability I run the charging handle when I reload.

AIM also prefers two-point slings over one-point slings. I started my training with a two-point sling and transitioned to a one-point sling. It was interesting and educational to hear why AIM preferred a two-point. Some were the same reasons given when I first started my training, some were new to me.

Are any of these differences right or wrong? Not necessarily, but being exposed to these differences are invaluable for students. I encourage all of you to go outside of your usual training circles to see what other people are teaching.

Footage

I usually run a head-mounted action camera when I attend classes. I also use a camera on an extendable pole to record other students, or people follow me with the pole to record myself from a different perspective. I only ran the head-mounted camera this class, and I also set my camera to “picture” mode most of the day. I didn’t get a lot of footage, and I also apologize that you won’t be able to see all of the things I did right or wrong from the “first person” perspective.

Teaching style

When I did the write-up of AIM’s basic class I was curious if their slow, explanatory style would carry over into their other courses. It was interesting to find out, and the short answer was “no.”

Two of the instructors currently or previously trained other military personnel on how to shoot. Their techniques, style, and vocabulary reflects this. While some of AIM’s students may also be former or current military, they are now teaching a predominantly civilian audience. To my knowledge, there was one veteran among the students; everyone else came from a civilian background.

The military acronyms and jargon were difficult to follow. I think this is a habit from talking to other military personnel for so long.

For example, AIM kept talking about establishing BZO. By context I knew this meant “zeroing the rifle,” but given the predominance of civilian students I think it would be best to just say, “zeroing the rifle.” This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it adds up and has the potential to alienate students or unnecessarily frustrate them.

I like “mixed” feedback. Tell people what they did well, and what they did wrong. It’s a technique that I use successfully when critiquing ideas or performances at my day job. You can’t tell a VP at a national bank that their idea is completely stupid. You can’t tell an executive at a major big box retailer that putting a flashing unicorn on a Web page is terrible. They want you to be there, and they can also choose to make you go away. An effective way to help someone learn is to give them a mix of positive and critical feedback.

“Hey Shepherd, your safety procedures are great, and so are your transitions from right- to left-handed shooting. However, you are still too close to your cover and you are looking down all the time. Keep your head up.”

The AIM instructors don’t have to do this when teaching in the military. Those folk have to be there, and giving mixed feedback may take too much time. Here’s what’s wrong, fix it.

However, we’re not in the military. Students can choose to go elsewhere for their next class, or even in the middle of the class. I once watched a student pack up and leave in the middle of a class because they were made to feel stupid. Yes, the student needed to learn the things the instructor was trying to tell them. Yes, there are other ways of delivering criticism and instruction.

Conclusion

If you’re in the Minnesota / Wisconsin area, I recommend AIM Precision. You’ll benefit from their military perspective and experience, as well as the more physical nature of their class.

I look forward to taking more classes from AIM Precision next season. The weather turns angry in a few weeks, and we won’t be able to shoot outside until around April. Over the “season break,” I intend to work on some things.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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5 Comments on "AIM Precision Advanced Carbine Class Review"

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  1. P. Wolfe says:

    “AIM also prefers two-point slings over one-point slings. I started my training with a two-point sling and transitioned to a one-point sling. It was interesting and educational to hear why AIM preferred a two-point. Some were the same reasons given when I first started my training, some were new to me.”

    Can you go into more detail on this? What were their reasons for preferring a two-point, and why do you prefer a one-point?

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hi there! From what I recall, some of the benefits to the particular two-point slings the instructors were using were:
      – Similar to what they trained with
      – Were easily shortened and lengthened to allow for mobility when switching hands, tightening the sling around the supporting arm for additional support, and for stowing the weapon away from the body so you can accomplish other tasks, such as dragging a wounded buddy, etc.

      Additionally, I learned to use a two-point sling differently, wherein we didn’t put any part of the sling around our bodies. The thinking there was that you wouldn’t be tied to your long gun, especially during a struggle. We practiced letting go of the firearm, moving, and shooting with a handgun.

      I transitioned to single-point slings because I carried shorter and shorter weapons. It’s easy for me to let a vSBR swing on a single point sling because it won’t hit me in the crotch. I can also easily sweep it to my right or left side and it’s essentially in a muzzle-down shoulder holster position.

      Maybe one of the AIM instructors will chime in with some more reasons they like 2-points.

    • Anthony says:

      Mainly for the reasons listed above.

      For myself 2 point adjustable allows better options for performing first aid, climbing, going hands on with an individual, using it for added support in various shooting positions. Wearing it like a necklace allows you the same options for transitioning.

      Weighting the options there are more uses with the adjustable 2 point over a single point sling.

      Anthony

  2. Cymond says:

    I keep thinking about the issue of using the charging handle vs the bolt catch/release.

    If I were planning to use the charging handle instead of the bolt release, I think I would disable the last-round bolt-hold-open. I tried releasing the bolt with the charging handle, and it just feels really weird to pull the handle back without resistance. Also, I’ve seen videos of a ‘Magpul technique’ that checks the chamber before reloading, to check for a malfunction. Without a LRBHO, you know that if you don’t feel the bolt close, then it must be a malfunction instead of the bolt-catch.

    FWIW, cutting off the “finger” would disable the LRBHO but still allow the bolt to be locked back manually. I’m not saying it’s a great idea, just an idea to consider.

  3. Adam says:

    The “brokeback” position also allows for faster mobility when moving positions and gives you a much greater view of your environment. The “urban prone” limits your view because of your limited neck mobility in that position. Laying on your side is also much slower to get up and move from rather than just coming up off of your knees.

    – Adam

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