Basic Rifle Class: Some Lessons Are Tough Lessons

I have taken several basic rifle courses from a few folks, and many from Erik Pakieser over at QSI Training. Yesterday I had the privilege of taking Erik’s first basic rifle class of the season.

I took this opportunity to run my AR15 pistol chambered in 300 Blackout. In addition to wanting to practice my fundamentals, I wanted to test the durability and accuracy of my build, as well as my handloaded 300 Blackout ammunition.

My 6.75″ barrel is from Ice Arms, and there was quite a debate on the build quality and accuracy of their barrels. They do not have a good reputation in the 5.56 community, but so far everyone I know who has purchased their 300 Blackout barrels has been pleased.

I am happy to write that the barrel and my build worked flawlessly.

My handloads, however, were almost a total disaster.

The Ammunition


I experienced about 40 of these out of ~200 – 225 rounds fired. The rounds wouldn’t fire despite a very hard primer strike. If I rechambered these rounds they would fire. However, this many malfunctions was a major pain in the ass during class. I had a string of about eight in a row during my final drill of the day — with all of the other students watching.

All primers were the same (CCI #400) and all of the cases were once-fired Lake City blank brass trimmed down to .300 Blackout. I don’t blame the primers, and although some of these look a little deep, I am more inclined to blame my case length than the seating depth.

I had read on the 300 Blackout Talk forums that longer cartridges were having problems feeding in AR15 magazines. A few folks were trimming their cases down to 1.355″ instead of the more common 1.360″ length. Some folks even ran to maximum overall case length to make sure the bullet got as close to their barrel’s lands as possible. However, since I was only going to fire my .300 out of an AR15 platform I opted for the shorter option.

I think the shorter case size put the primer just out of reach some of the times.

The other interesting thing about the short barrel is that follow-up shots ignited unburnt powder in the super-short 6.75″ barrel. Here’s a good example of the blast:


Night shooting later this year is going to be interesting.

Despite using a barrel that was almost ten inches shorter than the average barrel in the class I was still able to consistently hit targets at ranges up to 90 meters. The barrel was more than enough to do the job, and even with my inconsistently-sized M80 pulls and on-again, off-again handload performance I had better hit percentages than most of the other students in class. Interestingly, the weird M80 sizes didn’t cause a problem with accuracy as I expected.

The Class

The class itself was outstanding. The class covered:

  • how to properly mount and hold a rifle
  • how to safely verify the rifle was unloaded or loaded
  • working with a sling
  • reloading while moving
  • moving and shooting
  • clearing malfunctions while moving
  • a 3-magazine continuous move-and-shoot drill that tested our rifles and exposed weaknesses in several rifles
  • shooting from kneeling, crouching, and various prone positions
  • shooting at various angles from behind concealment using a VTAC style barricade
  • moving and shooting at half-man-sized targets at ranges from 25 to 90 meters while avoiding “no shoot” targets

In addition, it rained. A shit ton. We didn’t pause the class, and by the end of the day the everyone and everything was covered in mud and soaked in water. After class several of us reported water inside of our magazines, and one person had water inside his AR15’s buffer tube. I immediately field stripped our firearms when we got home. I spent two hours the next day cleaning and lubricating everything.


Our training area was a flooded, muddy mess. This is about 2″ from where I put my face during our prone shooting drills.

I loved training in the rain. It was good to push ourselves and our equipment. Moisture and grit took their toll on a few rifles. By the end of the day I was soaked through and through, tired, and a little frustrated. However, I didn’t quit, my AR15 pistol held up, and the techniques I’d learned worked.

So, I learned some tough lessons on Saturday, but they were valuable lessons to learn. I’m going to do some extensive measurements on the unfired ammunition I kept vs some of the spent cases that fired without a hitch. I have a bullet puller die on order from Brownells and will try to salvage as many components as possible.

Thanks again to QSI Training for leading a great class.

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.

7 Comments on "Basic Rifle Class: Some Lessons Are Tough Lessons"

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  1. Charles says:

    I cannot stress enough the importance of a product like the Sheridan Engineering Ammunition Gauge , especially for a roll-your-own caliber like .300 Blackout.

  2. Phillip says:

    I really wanted to go to that QSI class on Saturday, but I had other obligations. I have an AR15 in 300Blk that I would have loved to put through its paces. Thanks for the report.

    As a side note on your reloading, case length should not effect bullet position unless the error is silly huge (case oal 1.376+) or the chamber is out of spec. The headspace for 300 Blk is off of the case shoulder, and not the mouth (like 9mm) or off of the rim (like 44Mag). If the loaded shell sits too far into the chamber, either the chamber is over-sized or the brass has been sized too small. You can use the Wilson chamber gage (the most miss-understood and falsely maligned gage in the 300 Blk community…) to set your resizing die to your gun’s chamber. Note also that where you set your resizing die for reforming 556 and where you set it for reloading already formed brass may be different.
    Another possibility is that you had primers that were mostly but not fully seated. I use a primer pocket truing tool to insure that the primer seats squarely and doesn’t hang up on its way in.
    I live in the minneapolis area so if you ever want to meet up at a range and shoot some 300Blk, just respond to this or look up on (user name: pj-schmidt).


    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hi there! Thanks for the information. I am pretty sure my problems exist from trimming the case too short. I went through all of my reloading equipment yesterday and measured a bunch of reformed brass and it appears that my Accutrimmer set screw came loose over time and trimmed the cases from 1.357″ where I set it initially down to 1.340″ — way way way too short.

      Would have loved to meet you at the QSI basic rifle class, but there’s another one this fall! We’ll both be there, hope to see you then.

  3. Dan says:

    As I am a huge fan of the 300 Blackout, owning three, I liked your report about the basic rifle course and on your 300 Blackout. The information you provided with your reloads, I think can only help others who reload especially those who will be using their loads for self defense purposes. Make sure they work 100%.

    I am also pleased to hear of your success with the Ice Arms barrel. As you mentioned in your article, they are not highly regarded which may be that they are like the new kid on the block and not as the snobs call “tier 1” equipment.

  4. DJ says:

    Training is the only way to find the true value of one’s equipment. Whether the experience is good or bad, one will always learn something useful. I’m taking a fighting rifle class later this year. Hopefully all of my gear will come through with flying colors.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Good for you for taking a fight-focused class with your rifle! Every class there are several folks who realize something about their weapon or their gear that needs adjustment.

      Taking even just one fight-focused rifle class this year will put you far ahead of most civilian gun owners, and also many officers on local police departments.

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