Author: Frank Woods
AAR: PRESSCHECK CONSULTING
OCT 7-9, 2022
The main body of this article is going to focus moreso on the T&E experience and findings with new gear I’d never used, and new modifications to firearms I’ve already trained with. I’ve trained with Chuck more than once, and after doing the same POI multiple times, you pick up things you missed the first time, so you’re always learning something new on top of the matter of practice and review. I’m not going to delve too deep into that POI (sign up for a class and get it in realtime), but I will cover the new takeaways I got out of it.
So, a little less than a month before the joint Modern Samurai Project/Presscheck Consulting class I wrote about previously, my friend Dan hit me up and said “I’m hosting a private three day/night class with Chuck at his place in Idaho in October if you’re interested. The first class to be hosted on the ridge. It’s going to be three days of No Fail Pistol and No Fail Rifle stuff in the day, and then Night Fighter stuff catered to the small group of us at night. Think adult sleep over with guns and Chuck. You in?”
I said “Yeah I can totally fuck with this. This sounds like the dopest shit ever.” We worked out the details and logistics, I put the time off request in at work, and I was all queued up to go. Taking place just two weeks after my Iowa pistol class with Scott and Chuck, it would be a quick turnaround from the time I got back before the time I flew out again. I started to figure out my packing list ahead of time.
Wednesday night on the way home from work I hit one of the local gun stores to grab a new hard case for my flight, knowing I’d be packing two rifles and a pistol, and needing those plus all their magazines to fit in the locked case. I snatched a Pelican Vault V800 I was lucky to find, brought it home, packed all my stuff, and Thursday morning I headed to the airport. Mid day PST I arrived in Spokane, WA, and got picked up and taken to Dan’s house, where half of us stayed that night. Dan and the guys and I played some tactical show and tell, staged gear and luggage, and Friday morning we headed up to Pressburg Ridge to ground our gear and help set the place up for the class.
The inside of Chuck’s house has been seen from a few different angles over the years via his Patreon Q&A videos, and other pictures and videos he’s posted in that time. The room I stayed in was where the famous “YAHTZEE!” video was recorded. It’s a nice place on a beautiful piece of land, and getting to see it in person was really cool in a “So this is where it all goes down” mixed with touring a landmark kind of way. It lends itself nicely to the kind of stuff we were doing, and then some. Chuck’s future students will have an excellent experience to look forward to.
All of the daytime Pistol shooting was review for me, and this is what the majority of the first two days consisted of. Having just done this POI two weeks prior, my intention was to practice what I’d learned from Scott to more proficiently execute Chuck’s drills.
After the classroom lecture on the background and intent of the course lesson plan and safety/medical brief, we started with the usual zero confirmation with a 10rd/100pt aggregate at 25 yards, and went through a battery of exercises focusing on draw and presentation, trigger prep, and precision, shooting freestyle (two hands on the gun) and strong and weak hand only, ending on a target transition drill on steel, and a Bianchi drill. Some notes and takeaways:
- Every single time we do a 10 round/100 point aggregate on a B-8 at the beginning of an evolution in the training, regardless of how many hands were on the gun, Chuck gives us 10 minutes to do it. Like an asshole, I wouldn’t take advantage of the time during my previous times training with Chuck; up to now, I’d shoot it as fast as I thought I could accurately shoot it and be among the first to finish, and then when when we’d go check paper, I’d shake my head and say to myself, “I could have done that better, I was shooting like an asshole.”
That’s to say nothing of the times I knew I threw a shot by calling it based off the information my dot was giving me immediately before and after I pulled the trigger. This time I slowed way down and took my time.
During one of the trigger prep portions of the class Chuck told us a story of DAO triggers and how to treat them as a revolver trigger pull that’s one continuous pull to the rear with no take-up or wall. I’d heard this story before but didn’t put too much thought into it, because with my G19X, I could always delineate between the trigger take-up and the wall before tripping the sear. However, I noticed I’d sometimes pause at that wall and have difficulty making the gun fire when I was paying super close attention to my dot’s wobble zone, in a “Why the hell doesn’t this thing go off already?” kind of way.
What I found this time, when Chuck actually gave us a string of fire to test this trigger pull method, was that the spring kit in my G19X (TTI Grand Master) that I installed to balance the reduced recoil spring weight to make everything work with the Battlecomp, had actually resulted in a trigger travel that felt very similar to a DAO or Revolver pull only much lighter. This revolver pull technique actually worked and works well with my G19X, especially with strong and weak hand only shooting; rather than taking out slack waiting for a wall to prep on, I’d just keep pulling until the gun went off. I’ll be putting more focus into practicing with it on my time.
It’s always fun letting people take my G19X for a spin; the first thing they say when they see it for the first time and give it a puzzled look is “…is that a Battlecomp?” I offer it to em with a full mag and let em go crazy. A couple of the guys asked if they could put some rounds through it, Chuck among them, and I was happy to oblige. They come out of it with a pleasantly surprised smile on their face, and we laugh at how nice what started as a meme gun turned out to be; it shoots better than I do.
- Best Freestyle B-8 (25Y): 98, 7X
- Best Strong Hand B-8 (25Y): 93, 5X
- Best Weak Hand B-8 (25Y): 94, 2X
- Best Timed Drill: Freestyle 5X3, 15Y: 5:33, Zero Miss
- Bianchi, Day: 6 Miss total
- Bianchi, NV: 6 Miss total
Better to go over your time to make your hits on Bianchi rather than miss really fast.
A lot of it was what you’d expect: Zero confirmation, sling usage for shot stability, the four shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting, prone), shooting from those positions at varying distance on paper and steel, all of it with a performance standard focused on accuracy applied to real world scenarios with low percentage shots. I’m very much considering an open tail sling like the type Blue Force Gear offers after this, since my Magpul MS1s don’t as easily cinch up or adjust when moving between positions, and trying different sling attachment points than my usual rear of rail + rear of receiver approach, to try to optimize the stabilization the sling can offer balanced against flexibility when slung and firing.
One of the cool parts of the steel range was Chuck using the Pinzgauer to shuttle us back and forth to check and rehab targets, finally being able to see it in person after having first seen pictures of the thing when he first got it before going public about it on his Patreon.
- 100 yard zero check: 100/5X
- 200 yard zero check: Minute of 7 Ring
- 300 yard zero check: 82/0X
- 50 yard ACRO check: All X (See ✓s)
This was nowhere near my first experience training or shooting live fire under night vision, but I’m always enthused to get more exposure to it since it’s something I don’t get to do as often. I was looking forward to it because even my buddy Sam Houston over at Greenline Tactical said “If you can’t make it to our Night Fighter class, Chuck’s is the nearest equivalent.” Granted this was an abridged version of the Night Fighter class, but any training with quality instructors is better than no training, especially when it comes with such high regard from peers in the industry.
The first thing we did was go outside and check the focus on our NODs to make sure they were good to go. Chuck helped me unfuck mine and I finally got to look through a real pair of GPNVG-18s. One more bucket list item checked off.
Once we got to the range, we checked zero on our lasers. Previously I’d zeroed my MAWL-DA using the B.E. Meyers parallel zeroing target that came with my MAWL-C1+. At dusk when we wrapped up the day rifle portion and were heading in for chow I did a test fire on steel at 50 yards using the laser on VIS mode both proned out and standing while canting the rifle to put the laser emitters at 1200 over the bore and got first round strikes each time, so I figured it was good to go.
During the classroom portion with all the nerdy in the weeds NV details, I learned a lot about terminology, how NV is made and works the way it does, and Chuck explained how he uses a hybrid converging/parallel zero, or “dirty converging zero.” I don’t remember the exact mechanics of it that makes it a hybrid at the time of this writing; When we started doing the glint tape zero tuning on paper, I adjusted my zero as directed; shut up and color, as it were. You can see above that my final five shots during that zero adjustment were all in the 10 ring, 3X.
Chuck explained that prone shooting isn’t really an option under night vision because of how uncomfortably one must crane their neck up and back to get proper NV alignment over the top of the gun, and introduced us to a new way to zero lasers that I’ve come to refer to as “night vision prone,” which is actually an off hand sitting position with the rifle situated between one’s legs pointed downrange. “If it looks stupid but it works, it’s not stupid.” It worked, repeatably so.
Once we had that figured out and squared away, we went to the long range and used night vision prone to shoot at steel out to… at least 300 yards. I was able to put rounds on steel using the night vision prone position and my laser out to 250 yards, which coming from a 10.4″ barrel + suppressor with no magnification and shooting off hand was pretty cool to do just to know it could be done.
We did some fast shooting drills at 5 yards on paper targets that covered target discrimination and transitions, and recoil management. At this point, Chuck explained a sort of Push-Pull grip on the rifle that involved pulling the rifle into your shoulder with the middle, ring, and pinky finger of your shooting hand (thereby isolating your trigger finger) and using your support hand to steer or drive the gun and manage the muzzle rise while slightly pulling forward. I’d never heard it explained that way but it was a gold nugget of info that really helped.
Using this method, I finally scored the Presscheck patch that I’d been looking for another opportunity to earn (they cannot be bought) over the last two years, by shooting the test drill (Fastest 5 rounds in the black from 5 yards using your laser under NV, therefore challenging you to know and maintain your mechanical offset hold) clean in 1.29 seconds; my best of three runs (Targets 1, A, and 2 below; 1.29 being Target 2. Target B was shot on a previous drill and not used or rehabilitated for this one). The other two were 1.22 and 1.26 seconds, though one or two rounds had landed in the white. All three were the fastest runs in the class for that drill, with the next fastest clean run by another student being 1.31 seconds or more. I’ll be putting more work in with this grip method in my rifle practice sessions.
We closed out the NV shooting portions of the class with two timed accuracy drills; first was Bianchi again, which I found easier to do under NV for some reason than in the daylight; I attribute this to there being less visual noise to preoccupy oneself with. I was doing a good job until my last two runs where I dropped three each, and that was me getting inside my head after watching other guys, all of them good shooters, drop plates before my turn and started thinking it was harder to do even though I had more time to work with the farther away from the targets. Just pace yourself, it’s not as hard as others make it look.
At the end we did a target transition drill with rifles, not unlike the Pistol target transition drill we did with the steel popper targets, only this time it was on paper. I had no delusions of grandeur going into this, and used it to try to get reps on the physical mechanics of driving the gun under NV. Middle of the pack in performance between time and scoring; I’d like to do it again with a few more reps (we each shot a mag’s worth transitioning between two targets).
- CQR (HK416/ADM4)
- Velocity Systems Jungle Kit + Safariland 6354DO
- OTTO Engineering NoizeBarrier Micro electronic hearing protection ear buds
This is the real meat of the article.
Before this class, I trained on pistol with Chuck twice, one time on rifle, and no times on night vision. The required equipment was all accounted for: I knew my customized G19X would be the go to pistol for those portions of the class. Having just worked with it two weeks prior, I didn’t expect anything new out of it.
It performed as expected, the only malfunctions were due to a lack of oil. In fact, any malfunctions I had with any firearm during the weekend firing schedule were because the guns were dirty and/or got dry; a squirt of oil and racking of the action got them back in working order.
The only thing that changed between the Iowa class and this class was that I applied a new Talon Grip wrap to replace the last one that got shitted up from being in contact with bug spray, and I switched out the Glock Gen 5 factory mag well and put the Magpul one I was using previously back on, because it locks in tight and therefore doesn’t shift up and down on the grip like the Glock factory mag well.
For the Day portions of rifle shooting, I chose to bring my 14.7″ barreled GPR. The motivation behind this choice was that I used the same rifle with a different optic last time I did No Fail Rifle, and the changes I made to it were directly informed by my experience in that class. Therefore this (presumably) was an opportunity to proof those modifications against Chuck’s POI.
Last time I did No Fail Rifle, my GPR wore a 1-6x VCOG with the BDC reticle calibrated for 77gr ammo. Shooting the 200-300 yard portions of the class with the bulk 55gr XM193 ammo I purchased for the class (and just barely, back in 2020 what with the strained supply chain and run on supplies) proved frustrating, so I determined to replace it with something not so constrained once I got home. I went with the Vortex Razor HD Gen III 1-10x, having already been familiar with it since I have one on my SPR, and having seen others use it quite effectively in that same No Fail Rifle class.
The rifle stayed like that for a while until Reptilia finally made the 34mm ROF-90 available for the Aimpoint ACRO. The P-1 that came off my G19X when it got the P-2 went onto that ring cap mount. This gave me both a passive aiming capability under NV with my GPR, and the ability to leave my LPVO on a magnified setting as the day optic and use the ACRO for quick acquisition in close quarters, or to track and acquire a target with the ACRO and drop down into my magnification. The only other change was moving my MAWL C1+ to the GPR (and repositioning the WML to accommodate it) once the HK416 got the MAWL-DA.
Everything about the GPR except the MAWL got tested out this weekend, though it certainly factored into the experience. Last time, to win a Presscheck patch we had to put a shot on steel at 100 yards in under a second, and we had three tries to do it. I did it on my 4th try, so it didn’t count. This time I was READY for that drill (having watched Paul Gardner smoke that shit with a 1200 mounted RMR over his Razor III last time), but it never came up. It wasn’t all for naught though.
- Using the LPVO (zero tweaks aside) with the 14.7″ 1/8 twist barrel and 55gr XM193 ammo, the rifle did pretty good in terms of accuracy and precision on paper and steel (as noted above in the weekend totals).
- The ACRO had a 50Y zero when I first mounted and zeroed it at home, and required minimal windage tweaking when we checked it, but I had it tight to the X ring after that (note the two groups marked with the ✓). I was satisfied.
I defaulted to the ACRO for all the faster paced shooting we were doing that involved target discrimination, target transitions, and low percentage hits with a high accuracy standard at close range. I could have used the LPVO on 1x, but I couldn’t think why I would opt to contend with the LPVO’s eye relief with the ACRO right there. Once I determined what the mechanical offset and close quarters hold was, it was nice and smooth, and I didn’t even notice the chin weld.
So where’d the MAWL-C1+ factor into this experience? Well between it, the MINI2 suppressor, and the Razor HD Gen III 1-10x… the GPR is a hefty sumbitch now, clocking in at 11.6lbs. Everybody talks shit about my HK416 being heavy between the Elcan, the Surefire suppressor, and the MAWL-DA, and it is, weighing in at 13lbs, but oddly enough, for some reason it felt lighter than the GPR. In fact, the HK416 felt nicer to shoot and easier to carry. My back noticed a difference at least; I’m guessing the reason is because the weight of the HK416 is more concentrated than the GPR, which is more spread out over its length.
Anyway. The weight of the GPR hanging off of me by the sling wasn’t alone in putting strain on my back; the jungle kit (and later the helmet + NV) contributed a lot to that also. I’ll get to that shortly.
For the night portions of the class, I decided to bring my HK416, since it’s my designated night gun. Although the GPR can now do the same job as the 416 as far as NV stuff goes (between the optic and laser setup), and I therefore didn’t really need to take both rifles, this was an opportunity to take out the MAWL-DA I just got for a spin in a live fire shooting course and check the zero at distance and the like, and compare it to my MAWL-C1+. Nothing on the HK416 had changed besides the laser since the last time I’d trained with it. Same short & stout recoil impulse with very controllable muzzle rise, as ever.
For tac gear, part of the plan changed. The helmet and night vision aspect was easy, that whole system was coming with me. But in terms of second line gear, at first we were expecting the low temps to be in the 30s to 40s at night during the NV portions of the class, so it was recommended by Dan that we all bring plate carriers to help trap our body heat and keep us warm. My gun belt would have accompanied this.
But, I had this brand new Velocity Systems Jungle Kit rig sitting here that I’d only done as much as size it to me, tape up the excess straps, and modify the pouches a bit. It didn’t actually have any field time. So I was very tempted to say screw the weather I can layer up under the jungle rig to stay warm and give you guys some feedback on how it shook out. I even grabbed a new softshell jacket from KÜHL in anticipation of this.
Therefore it had been decided: the Velocity Jungle Kit was coming with me, and it would serve as my kit for all portions of the class, since it accommodated both a pistol and a rifle. It would also save me money on the checked luggage, lacking the weight of the hard plates. I also figured I’d take my Crye Tiger Stripe G3 field shirt and combat pants out for a spin since they’d never even been opened yet. Crye G3s are the UOD at Pressburg Ridge, so they wouldn’t at all seem extra or out of place.
Fortunately, as the weekend drew closer, the forecast changed; the high would be in the 70s, and the low would be in the 50s the whole time. You don’t even need long johns in that weather, much less any cold weather clothing. Therefore, I never really got to give the softshell jacket a fair shake. I only wore it for a little bit on the third morning when it was chilly in the shade, but once the sun was hitting us it wasn’t long before I ditched it for the remainder of the day. I was only wearing short sleeves at night, as a matter of fact.
For the pistol portions of the class, I only used the holster, the pistol mag pouches on the opposite side of the belt from the holster, the dump pouch for partials and empties, and threw my additional mags into one of the rifle pouches. The rest of the rifle pouches were empty. At that point it just felt like wearing a gun belt, nothing crazy or out of the ordinary.
I had zero issues drawing from the holster; no hangups or snags coming out of the holster or from the canteen pouch immediately behind it that I’m using as an IFAK with the additional TQ mounted to the side of it closest to the holster. The BFG pistol mag pouches, although set more on the 9:00 than the 10-10:30, weren’t hard to reach or draw from, despite their location and velcro flap closure.
However, there were no points where I was reloading during a timed drill, only between strings of fire, so I can’t speak to how quickly accessible they are. Also, the belt (although cinched down with the slack taped up) isn’t so tight; I left some room in case I layered up under it. Sometimes I’d find the rear most pistol mag pouch was inching closer to 8:00 on my hip. Not problematic or out of reach, but again, not really tested under speed.
Now, when we started doing rifle stuff day and night (none of which involved transitioning to pistol, which Chuck’s No Fail POIs doesn’t account for), I loaded up the jungle rig: 2x 30rd mags across 4x rifle mags for a total of 8x 30rd mags + one in the rifle. I also kept two loaded pistol mags in the pistol mag pouches, although no mag in the pistol while it was holstered since it wasn’t being used. I also had the two canteen pouches loaded (one with an actual canteen, the other with 2x IFAK inserts & 2x TQs), and the buttpack partially loaded with some of the stuff I intend to keep in it (I’ll explain why in a sec).
Reason for the full load of mags + the extra stuff was cause I wanted as close to a realistic field experience with the gear as possible, meaning load carriage, ergonomics, and comfort, for an accurate impression of what to expect and therefore tell you guys wanting to know. The buttpack was packed to the top; out of three prefabricated and categorized smaller waterproof bags meant to go inside, I only had two. This included:
- Handheld light
- Notepad & Pen
- Water purification (lifestraw & iodine tablets)
- Weapon cleaning kit
- Spare BCG
- VS17 panel
- Pack of wipes
- 550 cord
I had removed the bag containing my spare socks and underarmor briefs prior to the class, while I was packing. I’m going to have to reevaluate and reorganize what I keep in there, and put the remainder of the stuff that doesn’t make the cut into my assault pack and/or ruck; Truth of the matter is, the buttpack just isn’t that big compared to the surplus Vietnam era joints.
It will truly have to be a mission & survival essentials only type of deal, like a giant admin pouch, where everything else ends up in a pack and pulled out as needed. Unless someone makes a bigger MOLLE compatible buttpack that I don’t know about (I’ve searched for one, unsuccessfully). I’m aware of the Nixieworks Light Fighter rig (that’s similar to the jungle kit as a platform) and the gigantic buttpack it comes with; I am not interested in buying one.
So when I put this whole thing on fully loaded, I asked Chuck to look at the straps and make sure they were adjusted proper with no extra slack anywhere, and it passed inspection. I was actually surprised after wearing it for a few minutes and said to him, this thing’s really light and comfortable. I was expecting it to feel heavier, with more pressure on my shoulders, but the padding on the shoulder straps prevented it from feeling like it was digging into my shoulders.
However, after two days and two nights of the jungle rig, either rifle slung, and the weight of my helmet + NV & counterweight, the effect of the combined weight of it all bearing down on my spine was hard to ignore. It got to the point where if I didn’t need to be holding my rifle or wearing my helmet between courses of fire, I would remove them and/or set them down just to relieve my spine and back of the strain, cause that shit started to hurt after a while.
Other than that, the gear held up aces. No premature wear & tear, no “Oh shit I set this up wrong and gotta rearrange or remove pouches,” no “Oh this is unnecessary on my rifle I’m gonna remove and reconfigure it when I get home,” none of that. Everything performed as expected, and I’m happy with how that all played out as far as the “new to me” stuff went.
My only concern with the jungle rig is the lack of a drag strap, though I suppose either of the shoulder straps would suffice for that. The leg strap that came with the True North Concepts Modular Holster Adapter that my holster is mounted to (and attached to the belt with Blade Tech MOLLE adapters) would keep the entire rig anchored to me and prevent the whole belt from hooking up under my armpits, should someone need to drag me by said shoulder strap.
The OTTO Engineering ear buds + skull screws did their job perfectly between hearing protection and sound quality. I’ve been using them for two years now and through several live fire training events, especially in the heat when a Peltor Contact headset + gel cups would be too much. One weird thing I noticed was every time I took them out of my head and put them into the charging case (they start to hurt after a few hours), one ear bud would have a lower remaining charge than the other by 20-30%, even though both had been worn for the same amount of time at the same volume level. Once they charged they were fine and I never had a problem with them in terms of running out of power, but I’m hoping this isn’t a symptom of one of them failing to hold a charge that would necessitate an RMA process.
The Ops Core RAC-1 headset on my helmet setup did fine, the only problem with it was the boom mic didn’t survive air transport and snapped off inside my luggage and one of the wires tore along with it. Not a show stopper since it was a modular component and easy to remove, and since I don’t have a comms/radio setup to use with the helmet anyway, but finding a replacement might be difficult since the RAC-1 (which I purchased before the Ops Core AMPs existed) has been discontinued for some time now, having long since been replaced by the AMPs. I tried fitting another student’s boom mic from his AMP headset onto my RAC-1 at the house, to no avail; the screw that the AMP’s boom mic uses to screw into the ear cup is a different thread pitch and girth from the one the RAC-1 came with.
In terms of clothing: the Crye G3s were just Crye G3s; combat pants and a field shirt. Nothing to write home about, they held up and they were comfortable; boring reliable, as it were. The first day I wore a pair of Rothco cargo pants and that 5.11 Hawaiian button down joint since the objective was to stay cool in the warmer weather; I wore the Crye stuff on days 2 & 3, whereby on day 3 I ditched the field shirt and just wore the T-shirt I had on underneath. I wore the original Salomon Jungle Boots, the Jungle Ultras, that I’ve had a pair of for the last few years. They were lightweight and didn’t give me any problems on the ridge’s terrain.
Those of us that had early flights home Monday morning (myself among them) packed our stuff, said our goodbyes, and relocated to Dan’s place Sunday night to stage ourselves for pickup and drop off at the airport in Spokane. Although I missed out on the last night of hangin’ with the boys, overall it was a great weekend with great people, all of whom were previous students of Chuck’s that were hand selected to attend.
I’m glad I got to go, not just for the reps and the new knowledge, but for the privilege of participating in the very first class at Pressburg Ridge (which we’ll commemorate among ourselves as participants). This was both historic and helpful, in the sense that it gave Chuck an idea of the logistics and experience of hosting classes on the Ridge in the future; a beta test, as it were. I’m fortunate to be able to call Chuck a true friend, and helping him to better help others, many of whom are reading this report, was both a pleasure and a cool thing to be a part of.
So after 2.5 days of slinging all that gear around, you know what occurred to me? “Man, I gotta change some shit up and make this rifle and kit lighter”? Lol no, fuck that. I’ve gotta spend more time working my back out with weight lifting regimens.
Training sucks like that. You hurt when it’s over. Your arms get all scuffed up, you’re exhausted, you’re sunburnt, you might have hot brass burns on you, your muscles ache, your feet hurt. You find you’re built too large when you’re trying to crunch down into a sitting position like some of the smaller framed students and control your breathing to steady your rifle, and those moments aren’t fun. You’re like “Fuck! Why do I do this to myself?!” You know why you do it, you need to do it; “Nobody’s coming to save you.”
But at least it sucks in a good way, cause it gives you areas of improvement to focus your efforts into. Now you can more clearly (and easily) set and meet goals for your physical training. Hurt up front in training so you can endure in battle. Or you can just blame the gear, give up capability and reliability in exchange for lesser, simpler, lighter weight stuff, and regurgitate “Ounces equal Pounds…” on the internet. Up to you.
Stay in this L.A.N.E.
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