Recently I took the Kinetic Consulting Rifle Mechanics class from Jon Dufresne. My first exposure to Jon was via his youtube videos, and as soon as I saw his How to be a Student series I knew I wanted to train with him.
I had signed up for an RDS Mechanics class last summer but had to drop out the Wednesday before the class. Despite being well past the refund date, Jon was good enough to transfer my registration to the rifle class. In the meantime, I had the chance to do a one-night NVG on the Move class with Jon as part of the Night Operations Summit, which was excellent. It had me really looking forward to this course.
Usually, I’m pretty conservative about what gear I bring to class. I don’t want something that won’t work well to detract from the learning experience. However, in this case, I did something pretty uncharacteristic for me: I brought a completely untested rifle. A 12.5” SBR I’d built (mostly from Aero Precision parts, with a bit of FailZero, Geissele, and VLTOR thrown in there). I’m running an HX-QD 556k suppressor on it. Sometimes suppressed 5.56mm guns get a bit gassy, and I’m hoping the flow-through can will help with that.
Part of the reason I wanted to bring this rifle was the optic setup; a Leupold Mark 6 in a tall Unity LPVO mount and an Aimpoint T2 in the Unity offset mount. I wanted to play around with the offset red dot combo.
I’m not a complete idiot, though; I brought a backup rifle: the .300 Blackout Sig MCX SBR I’d used in several previous classes. After my magazine issues at the Night Operations Summit, I got a bunch of .300 Blackout-specific mags for it.
Everyone in the class was running AR-type rifles. About half had suppressors. Mostly red dots (often with magnifiers), but there were some LPVOs, including one or two with offset RDS like mine.
For support gear, I ran my usual belt rig, with a dropped and offset holster, a couple of rifle and pistol mag pouches, along with a dump pouch, multitool, trauma kit, and tourniquet. The class gear list didn’t call for a handgun, but I brought my Roland Special G19X just on general principles.
We started with some introductions, then Jon moved into the safety brief. He covers the same ground as the traditional four rules of gun safety but from a somewhat different perspective. For instance, he talks about knowing the condition of your weapon more generally, including optic/laser settings, batteries, etc., rather than just whether you’ve got a round in the chamber. He also takes a very realistic view of the other safety rules, talking about pointing in the safest possible direction and being aware of your angle of engagement (acknowledging that no direction may be completely safe).
First up was a cold exercise, emphasizing shooting quickly: five shots at five yards into the head of an IPSC target. To add a bit of pressure, he had us do it one at a time, so everyone else would be watching to see how you did.
After I shot it, he looked at my target and said, “you can go faster.” Not because I was a slowpoke by any means (I was one of the faster shooters in the class) but because he saw how stable my shooting position was and how tight a group I was holding.
He was right. I could have shot faster. I say this not to brag on myself but to point out how good Jon’s coaching skills are. Coaching is a separate skill from teaching, and not all instructors are good at it, particularly at coaching more advanced students. It’s something I really value in an instructor, and Jon had me pegged on that first exercise. We ran the drill again “lukewarm” (I did shoot faster my second time around).
Next up was zeroing. Jon gave a nice explanation of basic fighting rifle external ballistics, then we walked back and got on paper to zero. Being a new rifle, my zero on this gun was pretty rough, so I appreciated the chance to refine it. I also appreciated that, since the range was long enough to enable it, he gave us the opportunity to shoot from either 50 or 100 yards, depending on which zero we wanted to use.
Jon spent a good bit of time talking about some of the mental aspects of gunfighting. He emphasized the need to make the physical actions of gunhandling as automatic as possible in order to free up mental bandwidth for problem-solving and making decisions. This is something that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit over the past few years, and I appreciated Jon’s take on it.
I’ve done enough training that I’ve observed the point of diminishing returns. When you take your class on a subject, everything is new, and every technique and every concept is revelatory. Second class, you’re still learning lots of new stuff, but now it’s mixed in with things you’ve seen before. Eventually, most of a subject gets to be old hat. Classes are a good chance to practice skills and run some drills, and you still pick up tidbits here and there, but even training with the best instructors, revelations are few and far between. However, every once in a while, the instructor says exactly what you need to hear and how you need to hear it.
Jon was discussing how to grip the rifle (something he emphasized quite a bit more than most carbine classes I’ve taken). In addition to the usual suspects, the proper length of pull to provide leverage and pulling the gun back into the shoulder, he also talked in quite a bit of detail about the pros and cons of different stock placement, ranging from near the centerline, to the traditional shoulder pocket, to out on the deltoid muscle of the shoulder. I prefer a near-centerline mount, which puts the optic in front of the eye and allows a more squared-up stance. Jon advocated for the delt since shoulder articulation allows you to push the rifle forward (rather than just pulling back), as well as adjusting up and down to accommodate sight height differences. However, the light-bulb moment for me was when he pointed out that canting the rifle to use an offset red dot or laser allows you to put the toe of the stock on the delt while bringing the optic and bore closer to the centerline. This being my first class running an offset dot, this was very much the right information at the right time for me.
My enlightenment aside, Jon gave us a chance to experiment with various aspects of the grip. As part of this, he talked about using the motion of your red dot under recoil to help assess the effectiveness of your stance. He uses this teaching technique regularly: talk about a particular subject, then give students some time to run through a magazine or two to explore the various options and experience it for themselves.
Having covered our interface with the rifle, Jon moved on to interfacing the rifle with the target. He’s all about focusing on the target rather than your dot. He started by discussing how our vision works and why keeping your eyes focused on the target is important. He’s got some really interesting drills to emphasize this, including one that had us aiming at the very bottom of our target with the bullets actually going below the cardboard so we could concentrate on the relationship between the target and the dot without being distracted by where our bullet holes were appearing.
We also ran the panning drill (moving the dot across the target and pressing the shot as it enters the bullseye). I had trouble with this drill at the Night Operations Summit, but I did better this time. This drill was part of a big emphasis on the wobble zone. After some close-up drills to build some skills for dealing with wobble, we moved back to 30 yards and eventually 50 yards to put these skills into practice.
This segued nicely into shooting on the move, where wobble from walking presents even more of a challenge. In contrast to some other instructors I’ve trained with, Jon teaches shooting on the move from a perspective of walking normally and dealing with your wobble zone rather than special movement techniques.
That wrapped up a very full day of training.
Today’s cold drill emphasized accuracy at distance, starting at three yards and moving in increments to 60 yards.
Our first new subject for the day was dealing with malfunctions. Jon started this off by talking about reloading a gun that’s gone dry (“no more ammo” is a malfunction). Then, he moved on to failure to fire, failure to eject, failure to extract, double feed, and bolt override malfunctions. Jon explained each type of malfunction and how to get the gun back up and running. After hearing about each one, we had the opportunity to set up a couple of malfunctions and practice clearing them.
Throughout the process, Jon emphasized the cues that can help diagnose the type of malfunction without having to stop and look at the gun. Did the gun fire? Did you get the click of a hammer falling or not? Did the gun come back on target after recoil when the bolt carrier slammed forward? Can you engage the safety? Does the charging handle move normally when you try to cycle the action?
Next up was multiple target engagement. After some lecture, we went through a few magazines, shooting singles, doubles, and triples on each target.
We shot some moving and shooting drills on steel, doing some forward, lateral, and diagonal movement in one drill and slaloming between barrels in another.
We lined up for a long-distance peel drill, shooting, then walking to the back of the line as it inchwormed back to nearly 200 yards. Some had to work harder than others at distance, but people were getting hits all the way back.
At that point, we shifted over to a couple of drills designed more like match stages. Jon ran these on the clock, putting us under a bit of time pressure. I did pretty well on the first one. The second was larger and more complex. I missed a pair of targets over on the left side and had to go back and make them up. For the targets I actually engaged, my shooting was pretty decent.
Behind the berm were a few pieces of steel scattered out to a few hundred yards. We finished up the class by taking some longer-distance shots on those, using a post for support.
After a debrief, we packed up and headed out.
This was a fantastic class. The best compliment I can give is that if I was still working as an instructor, I would be cribbing the hell out of Jon’s course: not just what he teaches but how he teaches it.
His explanations of concepts are clear and engaging, often taking a slightly different tack than what I’ve heard before. As a coach, Jon is among the best I’ve seen (right up there with Roger Phillips).
Rifle Mechanics is an excellent intermediate-level rifle class. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to enhance their skill with a carbine.
The new rifle didn’t bite me on the butt too much. However, the castle nut did start loosening up later on Sunday. I was able to tighten it up by hand for the rest of the class. Afterward, I cranked it down with a castle nut wrench and restaked it.
I really like the offset red dot. Except for the longer-distance shots, I largely ran the Aimpoint as my primary rather than my Leupold. I mentioned my a ha moment above. The canted position with the offset red dot worked well for me in the class.