As a firearms instructor, one would think that I benefit from the range time and that I practice as much as I teach. Wrong.
As all firearms instructors are aware, getting the trigger time necessary to maintain your very own discipline is very difficult due to teaching others to learn and maintain their own. On top of that, most of what I teach is handgun doctrine, causing my proficiency in other disciplines such as long range and tactical rifle, use of scope and the tactics thereof to sometimes fall short.
Now this goes against my instructor ethics, because I believe that as good instructors, we should never allow our practice time to be neglected and we should constantly look for opportunities to hone and define our skills. Also, we should never allow our egos to get in the way of continuing education; a vital tool to any good instructor.
-“Every time I teach a class, I discover I don’t know something”-Clint Smith
One can ALWAYS learn more, and one can ALWAYS benefit from shared knowledge and experience. It is truly a far better practice, which can only maximize and continually develop sound and articulate teaching methods.
Furthermore, as much as it is true to fact that practice makes perfect, it is also true that practice makes permanent .This is a simple way to say, you must learn the correct skills from the beginning in order to ensure that the practice and the permanence of your skills are correct.
So when it comes to brushing up on my own skills , refining my abilities and acquiring the know-how of the equipment in my field, rifles in particular, I seek out top training academies and institutions as well as quality firearms and ammunitions. One such place, which in my opinion ranks No.1, is Thunder Ranch in Lakeview Oregon under the leadership of the world-renowned Clint Smith, his wife Heidi, and their crack team of Instructors. This group goes well over and above the call for Instructors to teach the “Knowledge, Skills and Attitude”, raising the NRA adage to another level altogether.
So far in 2013 I have trained at Thunder Ranch twice, each stint giving me a better understanding of firearms dynamics and tactics, with strategies to implement them in real world situations; from survival defense to urban combat, from warfare methodology to just being a better sportsman/hunter, close range and long distance.
My recent visit to TR was for the Mid-Range Rifle course, where the purpose is to:
1. “Acquire and nurture marksmanship at known and unknown extended ranges”
2. To learn “techniques for application of applied marksmanship on flat and angled environments”
3. To get “exposure to use in precision and surgical applications”
Clint Smith is a great advocate of the Logic Effect, calling on all students NOT to overthink when applying any of the lessons learned at TR. People tend to get overwhelmed by the equipment they have to use, the distances they have to shoot, the environment, and the fellow shooters. The underlying focus, according to Clint, is the application of logic and not to let it become clouded by any of these elements.
What I love about TR is the precise and concise amount of time spent in the classroom vs. the length and quality of time spent applying the theory on the range. This knowledge can only be truly understood and applied when put into action. It can only be fully experienced by sending lead downrange. The course covers engaging targets from 100 to 900 yards, with target ranges in all shapes and sizes from 6 inches to 24 inches and everything in between. The emphasis in this course is placed on shooting across varying distances, as much as spotting and adapting for wind effects, developing and becoming efficient with your firing platform, learning and perfecting your natural point of aim, communicating clearly and directly with your spotting partner, and becoming proficient (the key training emphasis) in the use of your scope.
Until TR I had mostly used hunting optics, applying hold offs to determine shot placement at greater distances. But I had never taken shots at 900 yards! The introduction of The Data of Previous Engagement [ D.O.P.E] and the surgical precision you gain when applying DOPE to your scope is a rewarding and eye-opening experience. This course teaches you how to obtain optimum accuracy whether you use mil-dot or minutes of angle [MOA] and you will find, as I did, a distinct difference between your skills at the beginning of the course to your increased accuracy at the course’s end.
You will come to find out that there is nothing that surprises Clint; any equipment you bring to TR offers him the opportunity to prove his exceptional wealth of knowledge and expertise with Firearms and accessories. He will harness the best qualities of your firearm and guide you to best use what you have to be an accurate and first rate marksman.
It is common knowledge that good quality ammunition is vital to good marksmanship. Any long range course at TR will exemplify its necessity, highlighting the difference between good ammunition and lesser quality ammo. I was exposed to this first hand during my time there. At these great distances and with this caliber of training, it is so important to use the best ammunition you can, ensuring the accuracy and precision of each shot, as well as guaranteeing that the best rounds are used in your expensive rifle time and time again for hundreds of consecutive shots. For me and many other tactical instructors/students, the ammunition of choice is S.S.A: Silver State Armory ammunition- “FOR THE SERIOUS SHOOTER. WHEN THE FIRST SHOT MUST COUNT.”
For SSA, this is not just a common catch phrase- this is a lifestyle; a belief system deeply rooted in creating the best possible product for their clientele. Those who use SSA Ammunition understand the value in this phrase. It is without a doubt, Precision Ammunition. The company manufactures custom loads as well the bread and butter of the tactical ammo world such as the 5.56mm, the 7.62x51mm, and the round that put SSA on the map, the tactical 6.8mm along with many others. SSAs’ cartridges are loaded with a variety of the best-known and most reputable names in the bullet world, such as Sierra, Barnes and of course Nosler.
I was afforded a unique opportunity before going to train at Thunder Ranch earlier this September. I was invited to take a tour of the SSA facility in Packwood, Washington to see for myself how meticulously they craft their ammunition from start to finish. It was a sight to personally watch the transformation of a simple brass cup manifest into a tactical precision masterpiece. I was able to witness what many of us in the Firearms industry take for granted; to witness the in depth knowledge, skill and discipline it takes to form cartridges of the highest quality. My thanks and gratitude to GM Greg Hawley for the invite, and to the envy of my fellow TR Students, the opportunity to test 500 rounds of .308 168gr HPBT on the Mid- Range Thunder Ranch Course.
SSA has made a truly great product and it paired well with my FNAR 7.62x51mm Semi-Automatic Rifle. The FNAR is a descendant of the legendary BAR and it is endurance tested to 10,000 rounds for increased reliability and durability. The 7.62x51mm NATO (308 Win.) FNAR has a 16″ cold hammer-forged MIL-SPEC fluted barrel. It has a one-piece, receiver-mounted MIL-STD optical rail, along with three rails attached to the stock’s fore-end for customizing your accessories. The synthetic pistol grip tactical stock is fully adjustable for comb height and length of pull via interchangeable inserts and for cast on or cast off using interchangeable shims. I used a Zeiss 4.5-14×44 Scope with a hunting reticle, a great scope for my African hunting trips. But as far as optimizing my DOPE ability and long range precision it will soon be replaced by a Schmidt and Bender 5-25x56mil-dot. I had the honor of shooting Clint Smiths’ GA Precision 308 Thunder Ranch Edition with a Schmidt and Bender Scope…..WOW! As Clint said to me after I shot it; “It’ll put a smile on your face”.
All in all, I am fortunate to do what I love and learn every day from doing it. I cannot emphasize enough the value in practice- good practice, the correct way. To all of you who are looking for a place to fine tune your skills and learn under the tutelage of a great expert, Thunder Ranch in the beautiful SE Oregon Mountains is worth the trip. There is a satisfying feeling of accomplishment that comes with shooting out at 900 yards and hearing the sound of lead hitting steel. The camaraderie you build with fellow students and the networking opportunities that exist are invaluable, while the interaction you have with the polarizing figure that is Clint Smith is a remarkable experience.
Thank you to Clint, Heidi and the team. Your expertise and wealth of knowledge shared at TR is second to none. Thank you also to my fellow students for enhancing the experience.
To SSA and Greg Hawley, thank you again for inviting me to visit and allowing me to test your product. To the readers, if you want more PRECISION, ACCURACY AND KNOWLEDGE, take a course at Thunder Ranch. While you’re at it, order your Silver State Armory ammunition, tell Greg that Jonathan sent you, and enjoy becoming more proficient with your firearms.
For now, from a determined and devoted voice, God bless you and God Bless America -J. Wallace II
For my company profile, class dates and services please visit: www.nativeexecutivesecurity.com.
To review course outlines and dates please visit: www.thunderranchinc.com.
For product info and online ordering please visit: www.ssarmory.com.