AAR: Center Mass Combat Tactics, “Carbine I”, Darlington, MD, 4/5-4/6, 2014

This Carbine One class was taught by the training cadre of Center Mass Combat Tactics. Day One was held in a classroom at the Darlington, Maryland firehouse, a stone’s throw from the Susquehanna River. Day Two, our range day, was held at an undisclosed location nearby. Located where they are, they are easily accessible to potential students in southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and even northern Virginia and eastern West Virginia.


Their website isn’t bad, but they tend to be a little slow on the response times to emailed questions. This is probably just indicative of their busy schedules (see below). They also have a low-key Facebook presence.

I have no affiliation with CMCT other than as a paying customer. This was my first class with CMCT. Cost of the class was $300.

I guess I will start by saying that I really liked this class. What follows are the impressions of one guy.

I’m sure I’ll get a few details wrong, but Center Mass Combat Tactics is basically a sideline business that features 6-8 guys from various Law Enforcement/Military backgrounds. For example, Tommy, the lead instructor, is the lead sniper on a local police SWAT team. Scotty is a Diplomatic Security Service agent. I believe Adam is former LE/Military and now works for a ballistics company (I’m not sure if they develop things to penetrate armor or if they develop armor that resists penetration, or both). Because this is a sideline business for these guys, they do not offer many classes per year. For example, in 2014 only 3-4 classes were offered, as it is just difficult to get their schedules to jive.

We were learning our up-close offsets here.
We were learning our up-close offsets here.

A few things separate this course from most other schools. One is the fact that there is a classroom day followed by a range day. Personally, I think this is a fantastic model. Why? Well, in many classes (my own experience and talking to friends), you might spend both days at the range. This means that you might be all kitted up and ready to go shoot some stuff. But it also means that you are probably huddled around a picnic table under a corrugated metal roof, suffering through the elements like rain, wind, cold, blazing heat and humidity, etc., while an instructor draws a diagram of a ballistic trajectory on the back of a Q target. With this class, the instructors used PowerPoint, animated videos, and other visual aids in the comfort of a classroom. We covered topics like Boyd’s OODA Loop, Interior, Exterior, and Terminal Ballistics, the history of the AR-15 platform, how to interact with police post-shooting, and more. At one point they passed around cutaway versions of different 5.56 rounds, including the standard 55 grain M193, the 62 grain M855 Green Tip, and some true armor-piercing black-tip ammunition. Each student received a 3 ring binder with most of the PowerPoint slides inside, and everything was professionally done and well-organized. Without 14-20 guys loaded down with ARs and magazines ready to rock and roll, no one felt rushed, which allowed plenty of time for questions and comments from the students.

I will note here that everyone brought some version of an AR-15 to the class, which is what the course syllabus suggests. We got to practice field stripping them, lubrication points and other items of interest were noted, then we got to reassemble them. Snap caps were handed out, and we practiced reloads and malfunction drills in the classroom, so on range day the instructors would not have to spend time “instructing” us in these manipulations, only some remediation.

Lots of gear!
Lots of gear!

This brings me to my second “good”. Speaking as a guy who holds a Masters Degree in Education and has 15 years of teaching under his belt, I can say with absolute confidence that these guys are great TEACHERS. What I mean is that, if we remove the variable of the content itself, these guys were solid in their teaching techniques. In the classroom, they moved around a lot, varied their inflection, switched up who was speaking as they changed topics, called on people at random, used a variety of visual aids, used modeling, offered incentives (cash!), used humor, and were, in general, rock solid. Day Two, on the range, offered more of the same. At times, they could be hard-asses, but at other times, not at all. They were always able to demonstrate the wrong AND right ways to do things, debunk a few myths, etc. In short, these guys had, as far as I am concerned, the equivalent of Masters Degrees in teaching with Doctorates in their subject areas.

The 25 yard range, morning of Day Two.
The 25 yard range, morning of Day Two.

This brings me to good point number three. In the classroom, we had 3-4 instructors, and much of the time on the range there were even more. The class had 20 students on range day (There were 14 on the classroom day. It is CMCT policy that, if a class isn’t filled, then past students can pay a reduced price and show up just for range day), so the number of instructors allowed us to crank through the material at incredible speed. If a student had an issue, an instructor could address it without slowing down the rest of the class. It also allowed them, at times, to break the class up into different groups so one group could cover one thing while the other did something else, and then flip-flop, again allowing for the quicker coverage of material.

Good point number four is safety. We got to run and gun and do some things I never thought would be included in a Carbine I course because again, with the number of instructors, there would always be someone RIGHT on you to keep everyone safe.

I could add more good points but I think, if you have read this far, that you get the impression that I was impressed.

A few tidbits without divulging too much and ruining surprises for future generations of their classes:

  1. We shot from 3-25 yards on the one range, and from 100, 200, and 300 yards on the sniper range. I had never before shot beyond 200 yards, so it was awesome to shoot from 300, and the fact that I was ringing steel standing, unsupported, at that distance is testimony to their instruction.
  2. If you take a CMCT class, you will be expected to perform some PT. Though PT evolutions were sometimes presented as “punishments”, in reality they were set up to get our heart going and our hands shaking a bit to see how we would perform. There were a couple of students who were older/lacked any real level of fitness who chose not to do the runs, burpees, and other things that the rest of us did. They were assisted with doing whatever type of physical activity they could in order to get the desired outcome of an elevated heartrate, etc. Personally, I found the PT fun but challenging, especially with all of my gear.

3.  I can see how some people might be put off by the sort of “gung-ho” attitude of the instructors, especially Tommy, the lead instructor. He was quite profane at times and just full of “spirit”, for lack of a better term. Personally, I found him and the other instructors quite amusing.

For those interested, my gear:

My carbine was a Spikes Tactical AR-15 with mid-length gas system on a Spikes lower that I built with a PSA MOE lower parts kit. All Magpul MOE furniture, with a Surefire G2 in an IWC Mount-n-Slot mounted at 11 o’clock. I had no failures of any kind with this carbine, except those that were deliberately induced for various failure drills we ran.

My optic was a Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25 x 4 variable power scope in a Larue QD mount. I would say a red dot is probably a much better choice for this class, given the distances at which we worked. So then why did I use a variable? Well, I have three other long guns with red dots, and I have this on my AR as more of a do-to it-all setup. I wanted to test myself and push myself to see how well the variable would work up close, at speed, in unconventional shooting positions, etc. I did well with it, overall. But I was definitely slower with it as compared with a red dot at the closer distances, mainly due to issues of eye relief.

My handgun was an OD Gen 3 Glock 17 with a TLR 1 mounted. The gun is stock except for Meprolight night sights and a Vickers slidelock/release.

The Glock rode in a tan Safariland drop leg holster. My other gear included 2 HSGI tacos (1 pistol and 1 rifle mag each) and an HSGI MagNet dump pouch on my belt. I also wore my custom chest rig made by 762Tactical (http://762tactical.com/), which held my blow out kit, 3 carbine magazines, 2 Glock magazines, Leatherman MUT multitool, and small flashlight. This was overkill to a degree, but I wanted to try it all out in a class, and I didn’t feel hindered by it at all shooting or doing PT. Running with it all went fine….no “yard sale” of dropped gear appeared behind me, unlike some of my classmates, and I was always at or near the front of the pack on runs (I ran a half marathon in October, so this was an area of relative strength for me).

Training to fight from unfortunate positions.
Training to fight from unfortunate positions.

I did a round count after Day Two. This is not exact, because it is based on the number I brought with me minus what I brought back, but I know that I ejected some live rounds for a few drills but also picked up a few. Using this method, my round count was 351 5.56 rounds (Federal M193) and 21 9mm (Winchester 115 grain). I am sure others shot considerably more. Some were shooting 7 rounds at a target that I might shoot twice. I had brought over 600 rounds with me, so being frugal didn’t really enter my mind. I just didn’t burn through it as fast.

One final note: when the day was nearly over and we were all feeling good about our progress, we entered our final drill. At ANY/EVERY other school I have ever heard of, the last thing you do is usually something that brings everything together in a fun way. That was the case with this class, except for ONE thing: that final drill was pretty much designed for us all to fail. I will not divulge anything about it, but it completely humbled me and showed me where I REALLY stand in terms of my OVERALL fighting skills. In short, it left me wanting A) a do-over and B) more instruction. And I think that’s the point, because in a real life or death struggle, there are NO do-overs.

Hats off to the instructors from CMCT and also to my classmates, who, as best I could tell, did an awesome job. Combine everything we did in class with the super-competitive price-point, and we have a winner.

Barring my unexpected demise, I will train with CMCT again.

2 thoughts on “AAR: Center Mass Combat Tactics, “Carbine I”, Darlington, MD, 4/5-4/6, 2014

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