Gun-Day Monday: Minuteman Rifle, Take 2‏

This weekend I, along with the stalwart and straight-shooting MDL, took John Murphy’s Minuteman Rifle Course. It was the second go for both of us.

Conditions couldn’t have been better– clear and in the 60s during the day, frigid at night. (Why the cold nights mattered, below the fold.)

The purpose of the Minuteman Rifle Course is to teach and train the citizen-marksman to achieve effective hits with a modern military rifle, from field positions, out to 100 yards. I define a Minuteman Rifle engagement as one where you have a problem that is too far off to solve with the handgun but too close to ignore, or, a situation that is morally unacceptable and demands immediate action– a Mumbai-at-a-school, if you will. In these instances, if you choose to act you will need to grab that rifle and whatever bag or pouch you’ve set aside and move out smartly.

The general scheme of the course has not changed– morning of Day 1 is classroom work; afternoon of Day 1 is spent zeroing at 25, 50 and 100, and then getting into whatever drills the available daylight permits. A change to the previous iteration is the ability to move back en masse to the 100 yard line and verify zero there, thanks to improvements in the range. Where once Murph had only a single (and very muddy) firing point at the 100, he can now accommodate a relay of about six on terra firma.

Day 2 is all shooting, with single shots, controlled pairs, non-standard responses, forward and lateral movements, multiple targets, moving targets, position changes, handgun transitions and all manner of things thereunto belonging, from 7 yards to 100 yards. Periodically, we would move back to the 50 and go prone for five-shot precision drills on 6-inch bulls, in order to drive home the requirement to be able to shift from rapid multi-shot engagements back to precise single shots. The results of these little drills were both illuminating and humbling.

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MDL transitions to the SIG…

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… And scores the hits.

In my opinion, as stated before, the course achieves its objectives. A three-day course might present the optimal format, but with everyone’s schedule and prevailing economic circumstances, the two-day Minuteman Rifle Course hits the mark.

My own performance was good, but not exceptional. (MDL shot well.) I brought out the XCR in 7.62×39 and learned a few things about that gun:

1) Keep the barrel nut tightened down. If it starts to loosen, your point of impact will quickly wander and your groups will open up. If the barrel nut stays locked down, however, that rifle *will* perform as advertised. The best way to ensure is to torque it to specs, and keep a 1/4-inch hex key to verify.

2) If you have a folding stock, make sure the bolts and pins and whatnot on the hinge are good and tight. I lost the hinge pin on my Magpul stock close to the end of Day 2, and as I had a backup right at hand, this was more maddening than show-stopping. I chalk this one up to the stock, not the gun, and my unfamiliarity with that particular item. Good lesson, though, and one of the reasons why we put our gear through its paces in controlled conditions.

3) The 30-round 7.62×39 AR magazines are the long pole in the XCR tent. I once had four, now I have TWO. But those two ran and ran and ran. In my opinion, C-Products should make a true 20-rounder in the name of reliability. I’d prefer to have four good 20s than two 30s. It would help if someone made a stripper clip too.

As it stands today I’ll give the XCR a “C.” I like it, but I can’t yet endorse it for extended worry-free use. With the barrel nut cranked down and a handful of good magazines, however, I have no hesitation at all in packing it as a truck gun. (And I will happily use it on deer.) It certainly can perform, and the 7.62×39 round hits noticeably harder than the 5.56. Let me see to some maintenance, take it out again, and then I will issue another review. There’s a lot to like about it.

Other little things I learned or re-learned:

– The eternal truth that when you apply the fundamentals of marksmanship, you will hit the target. Conversely when you don’t, you’ll miss. Curious how it works out that way.

– When you zero with the small aperture on an AR sight, and then flip up the large aperture for serious work, the point of impact will change and the groups will open. Expect it, and know how to correct for it.

– For this kind of work, the less that is on the rifle and on you, the better. Be judicious and prioritize. A solid simple optic, back-up iron sights, a quality sling, and a bag you can sling over your shoulder, containing two or three spare magazines, a blow-out kit and a small selection of other essential items will probably suffice. This is a true Minuteman set-up.

– If you have any little sharp edges or pinch-points on your stock, cover them up, because they’ll rip the hair out of your face on every shot. I found out the hard way.

– I need to invest in a red dot sight. It’s time.

– I don’t get nearly enough practice.

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Yours truly taking in a Murphy teachable moment…

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… And then putting lead on target.

This was my fourth FPF Training course, and I came away once again with complete satisfaction. John Murphy continues to deliver Gunsite quality instruction in a compressed format, and at a fraction of the cost. For NoVa residents in particular, there are no good reasons to pass up on this opportunity. I’d like to hit the pistol course each spring and the rifle course each fall. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Also recommended– Cedar Mountain Campground, located conveniently between the range and Culpeper town. MDL and I paid $45 total for two us of, two nights, for one site with a fire ring. It was quiet and safe, and if the head and shower facilities were somewhat rudimentary, well, the hot water did work! We had a fire each night, and feasted on deer steaks, grilled peppers and Sierra Nevada on the first evening. OK, so you won’t get splendorous isolation or National Park-like amenities, but it’ll do.

Cold nights, clean air hard ground and wood smoke will do you some good! (And it’ll test your bug-out preparations.)

And the Millstone Restaurant, located by the Best Western in Culpeper, ain’t half bad either for breakfast.