Buck on the Apache LT

Prologue

This is my first training review on the blog. For the last few years I have been reviewing training nationwide for Harris Publications. Like all things in the magazine world, interest ebbs and flows. The last year there has been a noticeable lull in interest in straight up training reviews. When a weapon of interest can be used I am able to provide moderate coverage in the gun review, but it is minimal. It is one of the reasons this blog was started, to provide a more detailed review a reader can access before deciding to attend training.

It has always been my practice to interject as little of my “opinion” as possible in training reviews. There are plenty of “personalities” out there, it is not my intention to add myself to that list. I am not selling anyone’s training. The idea is to tell you what occurs, what methodology is used, and describe the overall training philosophy. I will try and bring the training to you providing the information needed to determine your willingness to attend that school. Having been involved in firearms training for a couple decades now not everything is for everyone, and just because it is old, new, different, or the same makes it neither useful, or useless. So, read on, and follow the link at the bottom to a video I put together, as well as some more photographs on my Facebook page.

Introduction

It was close to 15 years ago I had the privilege of spending considerable quality time with Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch Texas. A local arrangement with a TR staff member (at the time) allowed me to attend frequently. Working at the time as a SWAT and Patrol sergeant, and in charge of department firearms training it was invaluable. It shaped what became our department training until my retirement. A former Marine, Clint keeps thing simple, straightforward, and practical. At the heart of his philosophy was the need to Shoot, Move, and Communicate. Hearing Buck Doyle from Follow Through Consulting express the same philosophy brought a smile to my face almost immediately. This was going to be fun!

Follow Through Consulting / Buck Doyle

Buck on the range

Buck Doyle is a retired Force Recon Marine with over 20 years of experience. Retiring as a Master Sergeant with 17 years as a Force Recon Marine he has pretty much done it all when it comes to combat as a Marine. He has several combat tours under his belt, along with decades of time training Marines. He is a contractor working high risk environments, and has trained officers, contractors, foreign troops, and just about anyone that carries a weapon. Buck is a decorated Marine, no made up credentials here, he has all the “been there done that” you can get and remain alive. Looking at credibility, it just does not get any better.

Buck’s training philosophy was perfectly aligned with the Clint Smith of my day, and my career as an instructor. He is all about mastering the fundamentals, developing the appropriate mindset, and above all practical application. While he certainly may do well in a competitive environment, he is a warrior, and his philosophy revolves around the application of the fundamentals in the real world. He clearly recognizes the value of competition and competitive shooters, especially as it pertains to the 3-gun world, but his focus remains application in the environment you operate in. Its all about taking the best of whats out there and applying it where you live. For officers that is the streets, especially with a rifle, for non-sworn it is your home, property, or work environment. I would boil his basic philosophy down to learning how to master your weapon system, then spending your time applying it in practice.

The primary focus of training in his training is to Shoot, Move, and Communicate. Shooting was all about mastering the fundamentals. Learn how to run the gun on the square range, then start moving. This methodology emphasizes that static targets are easy to hit, so don’t stand there and shoot. You need to move, and recognize that your opponent will also. Once you can adequately operate your weapon system, start moving. Communication to Buck is not about screaming on the range. It is about knowing where you are and communicating (verbally or non-verbally) to those around you. There was lots of emphasis on situational awareness and communicating with your partners, team mates, or even those amidst the fight. Another strong focus of Bucks training is the lack of a “conventional” position in a gunfight. His entire course of fire involved shooting in, around, over, and through barricades. This requires shooting from altered positions on your knees, side, back, and squatting where you can. The idea is to deal with what you have the best you can while getting hits on target. Lastly, Buck uses movement to various positions to increase heart rate. There was very little standing in place to shoot. Once the basics were established you ran(or jogged in my case) between positions to increase your heart rate. Buck allowed you to move at your now pace, just so long as you were moving and getting your heart rate up. He also recognized that each of us carry our own baggage (excess weight, injuries, or limitations). That’s life, so work around them, and he helped you get into what ever position you could given those limitations.

Carbine I Practical Application

Facility: This was a two day class taught in the mountain / university town of Logan Utah. Although a public facility, the range we used was exclusive to us, with no benches in the way, or obstructions out to 100 yards. Buck keeps his classes limited to 15 shooters, and there was plenty of room. A large garage doubled as a classroom and place to get out of the sun and relax a bit. The facilities were excellent, clean, well kept, and conducive to an enjoyable training experience. Parking was available right next to the range. Logan is a good sized town with tons of food, lodging and entertainment. Unless you are there during a festival lodging should be plentiful and reasonable. It is a common place for people in the valley to go and escape the heat. There is tons of mountain biking, hiking, and sight seeing in the area, along with plenty of shopping if you are traveling in. All the sights of Salt Lake City are within an hour and a half drive.

Picture _14.
Day One:

If you are looking for a school that spends as much time talking as shooting, this is NOT it. Buck spent about an hour in the classroom covering basics and philosophy. After a short break for water we were off to the range. Buck prefers to do his teaching on the range where possible. Range time started with simple operation skills followed by checking rifles for zero. Different zeroing ranges were covered, and you picked the one you preferred, or in the case of most of us confirmed the one you had. This is not a precision class, the idea was to make certain you could get consistent hits out to 100 yards, both on the move and under stress.

Once the zero was established we did a bit of square range covering stance, how you hold the weapon, and basic skill sets required to get hits. When it comes to holds, Buck is an advocate of the now common off hand grip extending to the limits of the rail. Common in the 3 gun world it emphasizes “driving” the rifle between multiple targets. This hold provides a very solid grasp of the rifle, controls muzzle rise, and recoil control considerably. While he prefers rolling over the top of the forend, he also uses a more thumbs forward position – but the emphasis on extension of the off hand remains. My position lies somewhere in the middle. Using my Red Creek Tactical Apache LT (Light Tactical) my arm extends as far as comfortable allowing for a bend in the elbow and an unobscured view from that side. Given most of the class were officers, most on tactical teams with short rifles their holds were similar. Most of my time is spent on a Tavor making the extended position impossible so it remains thumbs forward, just a bit shorter. It is important to be clear, Buck is not dogmatic about this, he just prefers it and explains why. You are free to use whatever position you prefer, he will just make you better at using it.

The second half of the day began with some reload training. Buck did not beat this to death like many schools. He covered reloads with the rifle “in your workspace”, and in the pocket. Little time was spent on tactical loads beyond the basic concept and how to accomplish the task. Like many, he believes this is a skill best mastered during dry fire. There was no expectation you complete a tac-load other than when you wanted to, not at every break in the drill. Type one malfunctions (Tap, Rack, Assess) were covered, essentially all you you need to keep your gun running. From this point forward most shooting was done either on the move, or having moved from one barricade to the other. We started working from the top of the barricades, then the sides, and finally through the “port holes” in the center. Targets at this point were primarily steel, with ranges from 50 to 100 yards. Larue knockdowns were used, as well as some lollipops and IPSC silhouette steel. It prepped us for shooting with an elevated heart rate, and for day two.

Day Two:

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We started with a confirmation of zero, and a few minutes trying to shoot some groups. Mostly to insure zeroes had not shifted, or equipment come loose. But we also confirmed bullet impact when lying in the roll over prone position. Doing so places the rifle sideways, changing where you need to hold to get hits. Depending on your zero, optic, or red dot, and how you hold the rifle it will change. Shooting at 25, 50, and 100 yards you were able to pretty well know where to hold when on your side making sure you can get hits no matter where you ended up during the remaining drills.

Then it was time to start moving. In the real world you need to get to your firing position, or get to cover, or both. That is not always in front of you. You need to identify where to go, figure out how to get there, then move quickly. It is best known to me as situational awareness. Its too easy to get “sucked into the gun” and focus just on the rifle. You need to focus on your surroundings. We started by simply running from one position to the other, slowing to a stop, then engaging the targets. Moving from 100 yards in we stopped at positions along the way engaging either the center of the target, or the head based on Bucks command. Its a great drill for you to see how difficult it is to get hits on small targets after running, even at 50 yards. You also have to be aware, and thinking all the time. You are slowing, then stopping, at the same time bringing the rifle into position, identifying possible targets, then hitting where you need, checking where you are, and moving again – it makes you stay plugged in.

Next we started shooting on the move. It is something many never get a chance to do with a rifle, even in police departments. These drills began walking in from the 25 yard line and engaging targets as directed. It really shows how hard it can be to get hits on small targets while moving. Once that was down, we ran into the position, then moved and engaged targets. Buck intermixed running into a position, slowing, then stopping, followed by shooting on the move. He also had us sprint into a position, slow, then shoot on the move. Ending the morning session we added turning from various positions to engage the targets, an briefly covered double feeds and more serious malfunctions. By the end of the morning everyone was moving pretty well, and prepped for the afternoon.

The afternoon put all this together. Starting from barricades we moved to cones placed at various areas on the range. Initially you engaged steel at 50 yards, identified your next position (a cone at ten yards) ran there and engaged the paper targets. Once everyone was moving well you began moving in just about every direction. You may move sideways to a cone, turn and engage, then either forward or rearward to another cone, turn and engage. It was all about thinking about where you are, where you need to go, finding the best position, finding the threat, getting in position, taking the shots, then moving to the next spot. The last drill of the day involved doing this starting from 100 yards and moving to various positions engaging both the steel and paper targets. Class ended with a confirmation of zero. It allowed you to leave the range confident of exactly where your rifle shoots.

Overall Impressions:

This was an excellent class, different than most. Much of the training these days is more about the instructor than the student with more dogma than training. You either drill ad-nasuam, or are bored to death with war stories. Movement seldom occurs beyond walking to the next range line. If it does, it is completely focussed on competing with all the emphasis on things that win matches, not gunfights. Focus is often on the doctrine, not the application. Far too often you are learning what the instructor thinks, with application all but absent.

Buck Doyle is exactly the opposite. For a man that could spend days telling real war stories they are few and always relevant. Incessant drilling is replaced with just enough practice to perform the skill, then you move on to applying that skill. Dogma is all but non-existent, as is time wasted bad mouthing other training. As soon as you are able to apply the rifle, you are, from that point forward you are training in application under more real conditions. Movement is 360 degrees, done safely, and accommodates just about any shooter. Class size is purposely kept small so downtime is minimized and personal time enhanced. It moves at a steady but not too brisk pace allowing you to learn at your level. Buck is very professional, and the class was run in a professional and organized manner.

So Who should go?:

There is no prerequisite required, one of the shooters had only used an AR a few times and he did just great. By the end of the class he was holding his own with the rest of the group. Remaining students ranged from officers with little training beyond qualification, to highly experienced trainers and tactical officers. All learned a great deal, all were better at the end of the class, and many had never performed drills like that in their carriers. So, it really works well for just about anyone without regard to experience. For me, it was an enjoyable return to what I taught my officers for a decade.

That being said, you will get more if you already know the basics. Trainers can only move at the speed of the slowest student. If you have yet to pick up an AR I would suggest attending his one day class, or another class that gets you the basic operational skills. Starting from there you will move quickly into movement and drills that many outside the police world will seldom see. The more you put into that aspect of the training the better you will be at the end.

Final Thoughts:

The venue is safe, clean, well kept, with ample parking for the class size. There is shade in the classroom and a place to safely store your gear. Logan has plenty of lodging, restaurants, and shops putting you 5-10 minutes from the range making it convenient. Lodging is reasonable, plentiful (as a rule) and ranges from comfortable to palatial, with plenty to do if you turn it into a bit of a vacation.

Buck is an excellent instructor, calm, controlled, passionate about what he believes and does. His techniques are proven, sound, and solid. While there is lots of movement, you do not need to be some fitness nut. You move at your own pace and Buck is very good at pushing you just enough to make sure you learn. The class is well paced, lots to learn, and lots of trigger time. Round count was 600 for two days, but you can extend that if you like, most were closer to the 700-750 mark.

I would not hesitate a second to return, in fact I likely will. More importantly I will probably have my wife train with him, and that says a ton.

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