Editor’s note: Isaac is a new contributor to the blog and we would like to wish him a warm welcome. Please see our updated Contributor Bios page to learn more about him. He is the owner of Firearms Training Central and is a like minded individual who values training for the responsible armed citizen. As well, both Robert & I have written a brief series of posts for his website that are in the process of being published. The AAR below is his first contribution to our blog. – John
On the weekend of April 28th and 29th, 2018, I took Defensive Carbine with Defense Techniques Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I set two training priorities for 2018. The first priority was to take my first defensive carbine course. Pete Lanteri, owner and lead instructor, had contacted me last year about Firearms Training Central bringing him up to Colorado to teach a class. The stars finally aligned and we spent the weekend building new skills, gaining new understanding about the platform, and making a whole lot of noise.
This was my first carbine course, but I am not totally inexperienced. At least once a year I spend quite a bit of time running drills and scenarios with some close friends as we challenge each other to perform as best as we can as we compete against each other. In addition, I try to get some reloading drills in at least every few months. I have slowly built a rifle that suits my needs and preferences, and also performs well when I push its limits.
Despite the fact that I feel I get about as much practice that I can squeeze into my hectic schedule, I also recognize the necessity of training. I doubt I will ever get into a gunfight with my carbine, but I consider it my responsibility as the head of my household and as a free human that I learn the skills to fight in any situation. I also love guns, shooting, and learning. To the best of my ability, I make training a priority.
Pete Lanteri, former marine and firearms instructor for eleven years, is the lead instructor of Defense Techniques Academy. He was joined by Carlos Roman, retired US Army MP, active US Border Patrol agent and a firearms instructor for his agency. The company is based in Arizona, but they also conduct regular classes in Texas, Virginia, New Hampshire and New York.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the class. This course is a combination of Defense Technique Academy’s Defensive Carbine 1, 2, and 3 courses. We had 7 students in the class, all experienced shooters but all first time carbine course students. The skill level of the students, particularly around basic firearms safety, helped moved the class through the first phase quickly. Pete led the students through the safety brief, range brief, a quick summary of what the class would be covering, as well as the mission of the company. I’ll say early on that Pete and Carlos are lock step with each other in their commitment to their students. Throughout the class, any time a mistake was being made, it was called out and corrected for the benefit of the student and for the rest of the class.
After we covered the administrative topics, we geared up and got on the firing line. The first 90 minutes or so was spent covering stance, grip, sight picture, follow through, reloads and malfunctions. No rounds were fired during this part of the class, but I learned a lot as we went through each skill several times until we all could repeat each step without mistakes. Personal experience has taught me that a concept will remain just a concept until it is hammered into a skill through repetition.
Most of the remainder of the first day was spent slowly building up from a single round fired from a ready position to hammer pairs, 3 round bursts, and 5 round strings. I say slowly because we went through each skill at a pace that allowed us to learn how to recognize, diagnose and fix our mistakes. Each shot was accounted for between strings. This was essential for the skills we were going to tackle on day two.
We rounded out the end of the day with walking towards our targets while shooting hammer pairs. This seemed like a simple skill in theory, but in practice I could easily see my performance fall apart, particularly my accuracy. I finished the first day realizing that I had a lot more ground to make up than I thought I did. It was very humbling.
Day two started off a lot faster than day one. We started with shooting from behind cover and shooting positions. Pete laid the foundation for the rest of the day by discussing the importance of shooting from cover. I’ve learned about cover in other classes, but I had not had the concepts of getting proficient at finding and using cover explained the way that Pete did. As a student of deadly force encounters, it’s easy to recognize the speed of gun fights as well as the effectiveness of concealment and cover. But practicing it on the range easily demonstrates that finding and using cover is a skill, not just an idea. We learned about types of positions, real life examples of types of cover and where these positions will apply.
Once the shooting started, I was immediately aware of the reasons we spent so much time on the previous day on the basic skills. Every difficulty on day one was magnified on day two. Each run through the drills got faster and more complicated. Each shot was still accounted for. Any time a mistake was made it was called out immediately, and after the drill was over it was reexplained for the benefit of the class.
We progressed to shooting and communicating with a teammate and moving in different directions. Again, it sounds simple until you start trying to do it. It was fun to watch each other struggle with simple commands but it also illustrated how chaotic a situation can get when bullets start flying and gunfire fills your ears.
By the end of the day, every single student was pushed well past their comfort level and we were all humbled by the results we were getting. Every time I take a class, I am reminded of how vital it is to continue with my training. If nothing else, it keeps me honest about my abilities and how much I still have to learn.
If I have one critique of the class, I will say that this level of training is not for the soft hearted. Pete and Carlos are intensely invested in the student, and when mistakes are made, there are no punches pulled. That is not to say that either instructor is rude, mean spirited, or unprofessional. But mistakes that are repeated are mistakes that become habit. There is simply no room for mistakes in a gunfight. The slogan of Defense Techniques Academy is, “Acquire your edge.” Whether it is the speed of your hammer pairs, leaving too much ass hanging out of your cover, or the effectiveness of your communication when you are screaming at your partner, a small mistake can be the difference between whether you walk away from the fight or you don’t. If you don’t like to be corrected when you make a mistake, or if you have a little too much ego invested in your learning, you might find yourself bristling at Pete and Carlos as they speak plainly and directly about what you are doing wrong. Personally I want to know exactly what I am screwing up and why, so that I can correct it quickly and move forward with my skill development.
A word on equipment. First, it’s totally normal for equipment to fail during a training class. In fact, you hope something does fail because it’s better that it happens in training rather than in a fight. I noticed a few issues with my mag carrier, an HSGI V1 Leg Rig, and my WarMachin HAMR sling. Neither piece of gear malfunctioned or failed. But in certain positions, I struggled to access magazines from my mag carrier. I had never shot from these positions before and I doubt there is a single solution that can fix this particular problem for every shooting position. As far as the sling, I was very happy with it. But this was the first time I’d spent an extended amount of time working with a 2 point sling and it took time getting used to it, particularly as I transitioned to shooting left handed from cover. Aside from these two small issues, I had no other problems with my gear. I shot through almost 600 rounds of Federal XM193 55 gr. through my 10.5 inch suppressed AR and had zero malfunctions. I wiped down and re-lubed my bolt carrier and bolt twice during the weekend. Every piece of my equipment, except for my sling, had been well proven over the last few years and I was very satisfied with how everything performed. I didn’t have to fight with my gear while I tried to learn the skills.
In summary, it was a great weekend of training with great instructors. Not only would I recommend Defense Techniques Academy to anyone serious about their training, I look forward to finding a way to train with them in the future. I always encourage people to train with other instructors, but I also realize how easy it becomes to play favorites once you find instructors that you like.