We’re hearing it from lots of folks these days: Rarely have training budgets been as tight as they are right now. This is various sorts of bad news, but hardly unfamiliar. And the lesson it implies isn’t news at all: If you want to keep a hard-won, even life-saving edge, it may be up to you.
Ammunition is more available and more reasonably priced than a year ago. We doubt the days of 15-cent-a-stick 5.56 will be back anytime soon, but at least you can find some. In another sense, however, the current state remains a sort of double-down of disadvantages: You’re not only “on your own,” but good, safe places to train on rifle skills are hardly falling off trees. Most areas of the country are seeing decades of pent-up demand for non-rural shooting locations met with modern indoor facilities, but these are pretty much bull’s-eye/sight-in only when it comes to rifle craft. More versatile outdoor facilities are conversely harder and harder to find. A good way to keep long-gun skills sharp in either venue is a huge plus.
So what’s a fella or lady to do?
We mulled considerably, and finally decided to broach this quandary to Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts. All right, all right: That’s a lie. We take any chance we can to ring Jeff up, and of course he came up with a great suggestion in about 20 femtoseconds—the Modified Navy or “Short” qualification.
“Back in the day,” he told us, this was “shot for qualification in the Navy. As a BUD/S instructor, I used it as well. Now, it’s a baseline in any Trident rifle class.”
The course of fire is straightforward, using a single target at a single distance (50 yards). Where it gets a little tricky is the quality of hits it requires, and the position changes. Generally the rifle is an M4 or variant, with shooter’s choice of sighting technology and three mags loaded with five rounds each.
At the line, you load your rifle on command. Upon “start,” engage the TCT-05 with five rounds, safe your rifle, reload and go to kneeling. From kneeling, repeat: five shots, safe, reload, go to prone. Five shots from prone complete the drill.
Easy, right? Right?!
Well not exactly. Par time for the drill is 25 seconds, and corresponds to a score of 0. Procedurals (failure to safe, incorrect reload, etc.) and misses add five-point penalties per occurrence, and each second over par time adds a two-point penalty. Expert is 9 or below, Sharpshooter is 10-24, and Marksman is 25-40. There’s a one-point bonus subtraction for every second or portion thereof under 25.
But perhaps you’ve already sussed out the truly huge advantages of the “Short” Qual: You can run this drill indoors or out, it doesn’t demand a big piece of real estate, and it’s fairly easy on your ammunition supply. (You’ll definitely want to inquire about permissibility of the position changes on indoor ranges, but as there is nothing about the drill that necessitates worrisome muzzle flail, we expect most will permit it with a little cajoling. Certainly they should.) While it’s only 15 rounds, note just how varied the drilled skills are: the three crucial shooting positions, three sight and target acquisitions, two reloads, and two charges/loads. It might be a good idea to run it backwards too, starting with prone.
A last thought: If you decide to run this drill for skills maintenance—or improvement—trouble yourself to get the correct target. You can poke around the ‘Net and find some pretty impressive runs of this, but nearly all of them are on different and far easier targets. With the 8-inch bull’s-eye essentially black-on-black, the TCT-05 rightly demands a good sight picture and disciplined trigger press.If you decide to run this drill for skills maintenance—or improvement—trouble yourself to get the correct target.
As Jeff himself told us, “It feels like a speed drill, but marksmanship is the real name of the game. Smooth reloads and smooth position changes are the key. Speed, as with so many other shooting skills, is a desirable byproduct of not fouling anything else up.”
And yes, we ran ourselves through the Short Qual. We scored several weak-ish Sharpshooter runs, so we’ll be practicing this a lot. We’re certainly a long way from the -3 (no misses, procedurals, 22.4 sec.), which is the best-ever score Jeff reports.