About me. I've been "serious" about shooting since about mid-2010. I've taken several classes from Randy Cain (Handgun 101, Indoor Tactics, Practical Rifle), a 8 hours of 1-on-1 with Frank Garcia, a 4-hour fundamentals class with SLG&co, a 4-hour lowlight session with TLG, and the Intermediate/Advanced class at Rogers Shooting School (qualified as Intermediate.) I have no affiliation with GORUCK, or with any shooting-related endeavor, other than being staff here at PFC.

Ever since I did the GORUCK Challenge last year, I've been spending a lot of my workout time rucking. (Which, when I did it in high school, was called "walking around with a heavy book bag." In tacticalese, though, it's called rucking.) Anyway, the GORUCK folks are a great bunch, I love their gear, and now that I live in Colorado it seemed like a great idea to let them teach me a bit about rucking in the mountains. So this last weekend I spent 4 days doing just that, as part of GORUCK Ascent. Which was awesome and I learned a ton and - as with any GORUCK event - I got totally smoked. But this AAR is about GORUCK Firearms Day, which happened on the day before Ascent got started.


GORUCK Firearms Day

I have to say I had mixed feelings going in. First, it's a one-day class, open to any experience level. The price includes loaner guns and ammo, which tells you something about the expected lowest common denominator. Second, they say they'll have you SOM'ing and stuff by the end of TD1. Which, while there are threads out there to discuss this, I'll say seems counter-intuitive in my limited experience. Third, there's this sort of undercurrent of "Learn from Special Operations!!!" in the literature. Which, frankly, triggers some red flags in my mind.

But I was already doing Ascent. I've been out of shooting for a few months and a refresher class seemed just the ticket. And did I mention that the GORUCK folks are a great bunch? I figured I'd get some reminders about sight/stance/trigger pull, shoot a little with at least somewhat knowledgable eyeballs on me, and most of all have a good time and some beers before climbing mountains with these guys.

Holy crap, was I in for a pleasant surprise!


Right off the bat, this class was different from anything I'd done before. The first thing I noticed is that the instructor-to-student ration is 1:3. That's a lot of eyeballs, and I immediately relaxed as far as safety. Secondly, they split us into two groups, so while we all got the "Overview of Fundamentals" speech, the beginners got a bit different treatment where there was more lecture time, and the "less-beginners" got more reps and on-the-line type feedback. Third, while the first drill is your usual "shoot 5 rounds at the X from the line" to get a sense of who is where...we shot it from 25yd. Everyone did - even the absolute beginners who'd never shot a gun before.

After working dry fire and slow fire at 25yd, we moved in between 5-15yd and progressed through some 2- 3- and multi-shot strings, then worked in the drawstroke. All in what seemed to me to be a very standard progression, just moving very quickly. I asked the instructors about this, and their response was that, just like the Challenge and other GORUCK events, part of the philosophy is that folks will rise to the level of expectation. So they set the expectations high, and get proportionate results. There was a lot of adrenaline and excitement, and early on I a little worried about safety - but the instructors had their eyes on straight and would discreetly correct any issues before they became scary. Again, that 1:3 ratio was good for safety.

The ratio was also good for learning. At various times, I was being watched by any one or more of 7 dudes who weren't total novices in pistolcraft. I got some good insights from all of them.

I should mention that reloads were taught right from the start. You always brought at least 3 mags to the line, and the drills were set up to use approximately that much ammo. They explained the reload during the very first drill of the day, and from then on you were expected to reload at slidelock whenever necessary, and to consider the reload as the pause between strings. I.e., you always continued to fire immediately after reloading. So we were all practicing reloads all day, as well.

Once we were working safely from the draw, we did a few sight-tracking drills and then lined up for SOM. Again, it looked to me like the usual progression: a few runs where everyone walks forward and backwards while shooting, followed by a few runs where everyone, one at a time, walks sideways while shooting at several targets. It was just efficiently managed and we progressed very quickly. They then ran everyone through a quick barricade lesson: standing for high barricades, kneeling for low ones. My KSTG experience has scarred me for barricades, and they kept telling me I should step a little closer... <shudder>

By now we were nearing the end of the day. The instructors set up a practice run of the "stress exercise." Basically, something like an IDPA stage, with targets between 5-25yd, some high and low barricades, and SOM, off the clock. We all got a lot of valuable feedback from that, what with 7 instructors observing us each. Then they took us away, set up a different stage with similar characteristics. On the beep, we did 20 pushups and ran about 100yd to the range, where we saw the stage for the first time, and received instructions in real time as to what targets to shoot, how many times, in what order, from what position and behind which barricade. It was extremely cool to have to think about shooting while hearing, processing, and following the instructions in real time. Combined with the elevated heart rate of the pushups and sprint, this drill was the most "stressful" I've ever run. I can imagine it would be tough to run a match stage this way just for fairness' sake, but I'd run this kind of drill with a practice buddy all day.

After the stress test, we spent an hour shooting toys - I sighted in my AR a bit, and shot my 617 at the steel a bit, and some folks who'd never shot an AR got a chance to split some rocks on the hillside and much fun was had. We policed up the range, then had some beers and some chow and prepared for Ascent the next day. As with every GORUCK event, there were lots of laughs, usually jokes about kittens, and also kittens. And oh, yeah, tons of kitten jokes. (We need a more nuanced euphemism...)


The most important thing I learned for my shooting is.... wait for it.... listen carefully: trigger control. When I let myself get distracted from the trigger, El Snatcho would show up and my groups would open wide. When I remembered to focus on the trigger, they tightened back up. My FACT vision got a good solid workout. I practiced pressing out as well as other presentation techniques. On easy shots they all seemed about the same. On difficult shots the pressout was a little slower when I screwed it up, but a little faster when I got it right - I think I'll stick with it. My nasty dirty rusty-ass G17 with a Gadget went ~650 more rounds without a hiccup. And while all the instructors are active or retired special operations from one branch or another (we had representation from 3 branches, no NSW instructors in this particular class) there was absolutely no chest-thumping or anything like that. Very humble, very focused on the fundamentals and on the mindset to apply those fundamentals under stress.


The coolest thing about this class is that the newbies got some solid exposure to a wide array of shooting problems - they were able to keep most shots in the black at 25yd, or SOM, or on multiple shot strings, by the end of the day, while reloading as necessary. All of that in a format that still allowed folks with more experience to get some good reps in under good instructors' eyes, with coaching and feedback and new ideas to keep them working and interested and learning the whole time. The whole vibe of the class was very different from anything I'd ever done before, with a focus on getting something down safely - if not expertly - and then piling on more stuff immediately. I can imagine for the brand new people it was like drinking from a firehose, and several of them seemed overwhelmed during the first half of the day. But the target doesn't lie, and the results on paper speak for themselves. Sometimes, being overwhelmed gets results.

For a brand new shooter, I still think a good 3-day class like Randy Cain's Handgun 101 leaves you with a more solid grounding in the fundamentals, just because you get 3 days to practice and process it all. But I would heartily recommend the GORUCK Firearms Day for new and more experienced shooters, especially if a 3-day format is difficult. Or if, like me, you enjoy the GORUCK experience. For myself, I'll definitely do it again.