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AAR: C.R.T.C. Advanced Tactical Rifle, Bennie Cooley, September 12-14th (2013), High View, WV

 "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast"

This class came up during a conversation I was having with another student in the Warrior Pistol class I took in April.  I had wanted to take another rifle course, something different than what I am used to and of course something advanced enough to be challenging.  Since the last LE-only rifle class I took, I was left wanting to do more.  I decided to do my research and found that Bennie Cooley had a good record at instructing classes and that his material was not the standard cookie cutter stuff many of us have seen done on the internet forums in other classes.  Going into the class I knew it was going to be interesting, I did not know exactly how interesting, aside from an awesome group of students, the class itself worked out very well.  There was a metric ton of material, most of which was not meant to be mastered upon finishing repetition; it was however, an excellent look into my own skill set, overall ability and giving me a good idea of what will work in what type of situation.  My primary goal for this class was to utilize the instruction by Bennie and to do it his way, instead of my way or the way I had learned previously how to do it.  I was completely open minded going into this class.

SR15 E3 Mod1 w/ Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4x on Magpul MS4
SDK PIG Gloves
First Spear Slick
Wolf/Tula .223 55gr and 62gr (1500 or so rounds)

The First Half (Day1)
Bennie started out by looking over the rifles and kit people brought. We got directly into introductions of all the students and Bennie.  Went over what he expected from the class, an outline of what he was going to instruct everyone on.  There was a brief discussion on mindset, specifically to lay the groundwork for the rest of the class because Bennie would jump back to this discussion to reinforce/install the concepts he wanted to pass to us.  It was made very clear that since there was a lot to cover, it was not expected that anyone master anything, we just have to learn enough to understand the concept so that we may self-correct later on our own.  The concepts that were conveyed covered passive outlook and the bigger issue of personal comfort.  During the mindset talk, Bennie suggested that everyone read Terror at Beslan, a book I had already read and it made sense as to the subject he was covering (good book by the way). 

Bennie went over rifle choices, barrel issues, optics, slings, types of setups and some quirks you would otherwise not have known unless you had to go through the process of figuring them out.  After the briefing we went out and confirmed zero of our rifles.  I believe only one student had a rifle that hit where he wanted at 50y.  This was the first time I had ever put this rifle in work outside of a zeroing capacity and it showed with the zero.  I was about ten clicks high and ten clicks left at 50y with the Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4x on a Larue SPR mount.  One of the aspects of this class, which I really enjoyed, was that as soon as Bennie saw an issue, mistake, problem, or anything that need correction or explanation, he would automatically go into it, giving his personal experience with those items/topics.  Bennie went over proper zero and into an issue I may have had with the SPR mount.  I corrected my zero and was hitting about 1 inch low at 50y, which is what I want for a 100m zero.  After that Bennie had us do some warm up drills.

We got into how to micro-adjust the rifle, Bennie explained it, then demonstrated.

Bennie would stop and explain exactly why something happens based on a student's rifle/sling setup and shooting style.  I know I was corrected more than a few times; it is difficult to drop something you have practiced often.  Every time he explained something he did so in a way everyone could understand.

We got into transitions, from shoulder to shoulder.  Bennie went over it quickly and this pretty much set the tone for the whole class, nearly every single drill was run with transitioning.  Transitions were one of the few things that we did throughout the entire class to the point every student should be able to do them without thought.

We did a little bit more of the transition drills, progressing forward once Bennie felt as though the concept was understood.  Sling choice was very important for this class.  We went over a few more things and broke for lunch.

The Second Half (Day1)
After lunch we got directly into shooting from cover, specifically from a corner. 

Bennie would make sure everyone got their footwork correct.

After that we got into levels of malfunctions and how to clear those malfunctions.  Bennie  made a good point, saying that you should be able to clear any malfunction with your eyes closed since it may happen at night and all you may have is feeling your way through the malfunction.

Bennie got into detail about why a malfunction happens, not just how to fix it.

Bennie made sure the students went through their own progression on how to fix a malfunction.

We got into kneeling, proper stance, execution and follow through to standing.

Bennie showed us and then we did it.  We would be incorporating kneeling in many of the drills throughout the class.  We moved on to wide angle transitions.

 Transitioning from target to target at a wide angle, footwork is important.

We finished out the day doing wide angle transitions, to make sure everyone picked it up correctly.  Bennie made sure to give every student enough attention, as needed.

The First Half (Day2)
We started late, round midday, specifically because this day was going to run into the evening for the low/no light shooting part of the class.  Once we got on the range we got into reconfirming zero on our rifles.  Bennie said that every single trip to the range you should reconfirm zero because there are many reasons why a rifle may be off its zero, it is very important to have a zeroed rifle.  After that we got into running some of the same drills, with a few additions from yesterday.

Bennie went over transitions again, this time a little faster, since we were all doing them, he wanted to make sure everyone got it correctly because transitions were going to more utilized.

After that we got into doing a fast shot, non-sighted, at close distance (like inside a room or a hall way), bringing the rifle up to the shoulder, Bennie called this the butt-stock shoulder roll.  Bennie explained the application, the reasoning behind it, demonstrated it.

Then we got into it.  First we did it dry, then slow, then with a step.  Bennie made sure to correct us as needed.

On the walk.

We then progressed into the follow through phase, taking an aimed head shot.

Bennie made sure to let us know that at this distance, basically any distance where you can make a head shot quickly and accurately, you should be, especially with a rifle.  After the class went through the drill we moved on to transitions to secondary pistol.

After transitions to secondary we got into shooting on the move.  Bennie went into detail about the reason why things happens during movement.  Moving while shooting is very interesting because I have seen a lot of people explain it, show it, and instruct it.  Bennie's explanation and drills made it almost easy.  (Paper doesn't shoot back)  Bennie had us doing this for a good bit, as it is important.  Bennie made sure he explained the small parts as well.  Reasons why to accelerate your pace as you get closer to the target and go for the head shot.  Bennie did a good job to tie in the mindset discussion we had in the beginning of the class to the drills and reasoning behind why things need to be done a certain way, the movement drill as well as the transition to secondary drills were platforms he was able to get into the mindset of rifle/pistol work.

Of course we ran it with transitions to other shoulder.

 After running the movement drills we got into rifle disarms.  I did not take any pictures, but there was some video taken by other students.  When I get it I will post it here.  Bennie makes a pretty good case for why not to let people get close to you.  It is VERY easy to get a hold of a rifle from a person and it is difficult to get that rifle back or that person off the rifle.  After this we broke for evening lunch.  One of the students had the pure genius idea of bringing a slow-cook grill to the class.  We all chipped in and feasted like Vikings on some ribs.

The Second Half (Day2)
After the feast, we got into more movement work.  Primarily moving on angles and transitioning from shoulder to shoulder as we took our shots.  Bennie explained and demonstrated the drill.

Then we ran the drill.  One aspect of this drill that hit home was the aggression as the distance closed.

We ran these drills until the sun set and it was low enough light that we were able to begin the night shoot portion of the class.  I had shot at night time before, several times, even at the same location during an F2S class I took.  I knew what we were going into, but not exactly what Bennie wanted us to do.  Bennie had us accessing the lights during class and during the low light shoot it was a requirement to access the light every time, including transitioning from shoulder to shoulder.  This made sense since every situation is not the same and you may need to access your light in different circumstances.  We ran wide angle target drills accessing lights while transitioning.  Your ability to transition was challenged at this point because you could not really look at the rifle, since it was dark; you had to feel the rifle and the correct grip.

Bennie made a point to show everyone what different lights and lumens did in low/no light situations.  Some guys ran low lumen (100-200) lights that you can barely see the target or what was around the target at 50y.  I ran a Streamlight Protac HL on a IWC/Haley Strategic Thorntail Mount, mounted at 1030.  Bennie stated that lights should always be mounted at the 6 o'clock position because of muzzle gas, also makes bore aligning easier, up close light only non-aimed shots.  Bennie said that the brighter the light the better, the Protac HL I used is rated at around 600 lumens, but there are still brighter lights out.  The brighter the light the easier it will be to blind or "bleach" someone.  We also did a muzzle device demonstration.  Bennie shot a standard A2 which gave off a low signature, then he shot a phantom and vortex muzzle breaks, which had a very low signature.  Muzzle brakes, designed to stop muzzle climb have a noticeable signature in low light.  There was also a titanium suppressor that was fired, apparently titanium suppressors have a very high signature in low light and from out observation point of about 50y away, it looked as though it was a light AD.  We concluded with a discussion about low light shooting and called it a night.

The First Half (Day3)
Back to the 50y to reconfirm zero of the rifle, everyone was pretty much zeroed at this point, some guys had a few issues with their optics throughout the class, but for the most part it was fixed by day3.  Then we got right into moving, covering some of the same stuff from day2, moving specifically, incorporating the drills Bennie had us running.

Bennie gave us a good explanation of delayed step, which was an easy way to take a semi-precision shot while moving.

After removing the bolts from our rifles, we did some student on student sighting drills, where each student would keep their reticule on the other while moving around a few cones setup.  This was to illustrate why transitioning was so important from shoulder to shoulder and in what type of moving situation you would need to keep your rifle on what shoulder.  It made sense.

Some students recorded some of the parts I did not take pictures of, specifically a review of rifle disarms and countering to those disarms, when I get the video I will post it here. 

We also did some lateral movement drills, moving from side to side, engaging targets as we approach them; we did this from both shoulders.

We took lunch after this part, a short lunch and then got into the high speed stuff.  We started off with barricade work, running position drills on the barricades.

We ran all sorts of drills around the barricades.  Bennie did not want us doing any prone work with barricades because it draws frag, so everything was standing, knelling, with transitions to either side.  This also included movement drills like walking and shooting up to the barricade.

During the barricade shooting segment, Bennie went over shooting under vehicles.  The way he should I have never seen before, so it was definitely something I needed to work on in my own time.  We went back into barricade work after that running faster and more complicated drills.

After that we did some team dynamic movement drills.  First we started with two students then went into teams of five. 

We did this a few times, it was pretty fast paced which was awesome.  If one member of the team messed up any of the non-verbal commands then the whole team did pushups.  My team did pushups, which is fine, pain makes you smarter.

After the team dynamics, we moved onto two man teams moving forward and back with physical contact maintained until contact with a target.  This was the last part of the class and was also very interesting.  We did it dry first, then we did it live fire.  Bennie did a great job explaining the need and situation for this type of movement in a two man team.  That concluded the class.

The class

The class was not what I had initially read it to be, it was much more.  This is the type of class that takes you out of your comfort zone, which is the only type of class anyone looking to really learn and test themselves under stress should be taking.  Bennie knows his stuff and did an excellent job conveying it in terms that everyone understood.  His teaching style is very direct and he makes sure to stop the class in order to cover concepts or issues as they arise throughout the class.  For example he wanted the class to stop if there was some sort of non-normal malfunction.  I had one such malfunction (a double feed) and Bennie wanted the entire class to see the malfunction and walk through how to clear it.  This is an excellent part of the class and this was not the only part that Bennie made a point to stop, point out the concept, explaining why something happens and then explaining how to overcome it properly.  He fielded questions and concerns without issue and answered them through his experience.  The students in the class were a mixed bag, many LE, like myself, a few non-LE conceal carrying citizens, a few MIL personnel.  The only hiccup we had during the entire class was when a student put a round into his thigh during the secondary transition drills.  This was due to a very tight (and new) kydex holster which he had to force the pistol out of in order to draw it.  Thankfully it was not a serious injury; he was discharged from the hospital quickly and was walking around later that evening.  We had different experience levels in the class, specifically guys who have taken class work with Bennie before and students who needed direct attention from the instructor throughout the class.  This was definitely a class that was not for the novice shooter, but it had the potential to be what the student made it.  If you wanted to push yourself in a particular drill you could because Bennie gave you the room to do so.  My only complaint for the entire class was that I wish I had brought a dedicated 2 point sling.  I brought a Magpul MS4 sling figuring I could do both, single and two point (as did others in the class), but the class really needed to be run with a dedicated two point sling.  I have a Sheriff of Bagdad sling at home that I should have brought, definitely something to consider for those looking to take a class with Bennie, bring a dedicated, adjustable two point sling, not a single point sling.  I would highly recommend Bennie as an instructor and for those looking for an advanced class that will put you out of your comfort zone.