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Kalashnikov Rifle Marksmanship

August 27, 2010

In June, I took three Kalashnikov classes from Gabe Suarez in Prescott. We also had the services of SI instructors Doug Little and Dale Hunter This is the leadoff class for the five day Red June block of AK classes, to be followed by Advanced Kalashnikov Rifle Gunfighting and Kalashnikov Rifle Force on Force. This was a basic course, intended both as an introduction for some, and a refresher for more experienced folks.

I shot the class using my Arsenal SLR-107F in 7.62x39mm. Everyone in the class was using an AK pattern rifle, with a mix of Arsenals, nice Fuller builds, and various other rifles. 7.62 rifles were the most common, with a minority in 5.45mm. My rifle was set up with a forward mounted Aimpoint Micro on an Ultimak rail. There were lots of other folks in the class with optics, with Ultimak mounted Aimpoints being the most common. One fellow had a Russian optic, while another brought out a rifle with a scout scope on it later in the day. While there were a lot of optics, many rifles had only iron sights. I fed my rifle out of a sneaky bag, as did many in the class. The majority of shooters were using more tactical gear of some sort or another, including plate carriers, tactical vests, chest rigs, and other similar equipment.

We started off with the safety lecture. In addition to the standard gun safety stuff, Gabe also discussed how to avoid some of the unique hazards of training in Arizona: the heat, the altitude, venomous insects, and snakes. This was followed by a discussion of the AK system. Gabe discussed the basic features of the rifle and did some compare and contrast with other systems, particularly the AR. In addition to the weapon itself, he also talked a bit about support gear, like slings, sneaky bags, and chest rigs.

Before going hot, we did some dry practice, working the AK safety, magazine, bolt, and trigger. This was followed by some dry fire in the different shooting positions. We paired up and had one partner work the charging handle while the other worked the trigger. Since I’ve become an instructor, I started looking at some of these things a bit differently. In this case, I noticed that while the announced purpose of the drill was to get us a chance to work the different shooting positions, everyone also got a bunch of practice on the trigger reset. We did the drill in prone, sitting, kneeling, squatting, and standing.

Finally, we went hot and did our first shooting, firing a three round group from prone at about 25 yards. As with all of the shooting in today’s class, this was slow fire, marksmanship oriented shooting. One of the goals for this particular exercise was to get a decent zero on everybody’s rifle. I was dead on with both my optic and irons, but many in the class needed some adjustment. This was also an opportunity for Gabe to show off the new sight adjustment tool that OST is selling. We all fired a second three round burst to allow anyone who made an adjustment to confirm the results.

We broke for lunch, with everyone eating at the range as there were no restaurants within any sort of reasonable drive.

After lunch, we picked up with the position shooting, shooting three round groups from sitting, kneeling, squatting, and standing. During this sequence, one of the students had some real trouble. Gabe did a great job working with her, isolating the problem, and helping her overcome it. As a new instructor, watching that alone was worth the price of admission for this class.

We also had one gun malfunction during these drills, and Gabe seized the opportunity to talk about malfunction clearance (given the AK’s legendary reliability, you need to seize these teaching moments when they come up). He went throughout eh SI non-diagnostic malfunction drill for the AK (reload, if that doesn’t work, unload, run the bolt, then reload).

Dale gave a lecture on how to field strip and reassemble the AK. He offered us a chance to take our guns apart (I declined, figuring I’ve stripped my AKs enough already).

We finished up the day by doing some longer ranged shooting on steel. We shot at about 35, 75 and 100 yards, shooting from prone, some intermediate position (sitting, squatting, kneeling) and standing at each range. At the closer ranges this was pretty easy in all positions. As the distance increased, the benefit of the more supported positions became apparent to everyone. However, some subtle features of the range made some of the disadvantages of prone apparent. The range was not perfectly flat, it sloped downhill, with a slight bulge in the middle. The bulge was barely apparent when standing, or even kneeling. When prone, however, it made it impossible to hit the two steel targets placed directly on the ground and made it more difficult to hit the ones placed a bit higher on the berm. These sorts of micro-terrain features can create obstacles to shooting from prone.

This was a very worthwhile class. It was quite basic, focusing on the fundamentals of marksmanship and shooting positions. It was a good introduction to the AK platform for some folks who were new to it and attending the more advanced classes the next four days. For those with previous experience, it was a good refresher. This was my first time seeing Gabe run a basic class, my previous experience with him has been in intermediate level classes. I think seeing how he handled this class is going to be quite useful to me as an instructor. This class was an excellent introduction to Red June.

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