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GearScout: Instructional videos can enhance firearms training, but watch for snooze factor

Oct. 20, 2011 - 04:02PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 20, 2011 - 04:02PM  |  
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How much can you really learn running dry-fire rifle drills in front of your TV? Actually, a fair bit if you get the right instructional videos. There's no replacement for live coaching, but videos can improve your mindset and give you some things to focus on at your next range session.

But be careful: Without an instructor to help with mechanics and execution, you could reinforce some bad habits.

Aside from quality instruction, the second-most important quality in training videos is a low snooze factor. Staring at a guy talking at you for an hour-plus will challenge even the most hardcore range junky to stay awake.

The better videos out there work hard to hold your attention, but unless you've got Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass crew running carbine drills under the colorfully worded tutelage of Samuel L. Jackson, resign yourself to the idea that you're going to doze off at some point.

How do the following four videos address this concern?

Vickers keeps it concise. Magpul brings in a few characters and cranks the production quality. Kyle Lamb presents a solid, simple reference of drills. And Panteao takes a chance and hopes you're not watching their one-on-one-style training videos right after Thanksgiving dinner.

These videos and the collections they come from represent the most current content available on disc. Across the board, you'll find plenty of methods and rationales to explore. Some are worth embracing, and others will draw ridicule from advanced shooters. Use your own intended application to keep things in perspective.

These training videos will give you a foundation for weapon manipulation skills — just don't expect them to make you a carbine ninja.

Make Ready with Travis Haley: Adaptive Carbine

Premise: Panteao Productions brings you a private range session with former Force Recon Marine Travis Haley.

Instruction: Focuses on the mindset needed to adapt to a changing combat environment. The material is applicable to the war fighter, but home defenders are going to find it a challenge to adapt some of Haley's lessons. The practical instruction hits on carbine setup, reloads, zeroing, compensating for height-over-bore, malfunctions and simple movements.

Production quality: Decent. Clear audio and a good standard-def image. It's no Blu-ray, but it gets the job done.

Snooze factor: High. Haley has a lot to offer, but he offers it all on his own. It's hard to watch one guy talk, even an instructor as talented as Haley, without dozing several times. The format doesn't do anything to keep things moving.

Value: These two hours with Haley will appeal more to advanced shooters working in a true tactical environment. You get a lot of motivation and talk about mindset before the practical in many scenes. If you can sit through Haley's explanations, there is good instruction.

Price: $50.

Vickers Tactical Training Series Carbine I & II

Premise: A former member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, Daniel Defense's Larry Vickers cuts a four-day carbine class down to a couple of hours.

Instruction: Vickers teaches the fundamentals well. From setting up a carbine to trigger control and a few drills, beginning shooters will get everything they need to feel comfortable on their first trip to the range, down to the basics of cleaning and lubing the weapon. Fair warning: Vickers does pitch his favorite products with a heavy emphasis on Daniel Defense, but it's not annoying.

Production quality: The producers throw in a bunch of eye candy to keep your interest, and it works. Super-slow-motion shots help drive points home, and the slides that end each segment help reinforce the points Vickers is teaching. The smooth, moving camera, multiple angles, slow motion and excellent editing really help keep your interest. One minor distraction was jittery playback on my Blu-ray player.

Snooze factor: Low. "The LAV" is an engaging personality. The editing keeps things moving, and Vickers' methods are clearly explained. But there's limited student interaction, and the format is just listening to Vickers talk and work the gun and move the students around for demos. I hit the wall about halfway through and did a couple of power nods before I got up for a few jumping jacks and finished the second volume.

Value: High. Despite its use of a single personality, the incredibly disciplined approach works thanks to its brevity and tight focus. Hands down, it's the best way to introduce a new or beginning shooter to the carbine.

Price: $40/$50 Blu-ray

Viking Tactics Rifle Drills, DVD #1

Premise: Delta vet Kyle Lamb demonstrates six drills with his range buddy, Dan Brokos.

Instruction: This isn't a how-to-run-your-carbine video. It shows you how to perform six courses of fire that will work certain skills that Lamb explains in each segment. Don't look for deep thoughts on rifle work, just practical tips on how to improve your shooting using a range and various drills that will apply to any battlefield. He runs you through: 100 Yard Aggregate, 2-2-2 Drill, 50 Yard Aggregate, 1-5 Drill, El Presidente with rifle and Stretch Kneeling.

Production quality: Low, but adequate for its intended use and audience. It looks like a handicam on a tripod for most of the shots. Not too sexy, but the premise of the video doesn't really demand incredible visuals.

Snooze factor: Pretty low — lots of action and not much talking. The segments are short, and if you're interested in running the drills, then watching Lamb run them quickly will keep your attention.

Value: At $20 per volume, there's a bit more here than you'll find looking for range drills on YouTube. If you have a range that will allow you to move and shoot, you'll learn something by listening to Lamb's explanations and incorporating these drills into your training.

Price: $20.

The Art of the Dynamic Handgun

Premise: Magpul Dymanics' dynamic duo, Travis Haley and Chris Costa, turn their attention to the pistol in this four-disc production. It's a marathon of practical pistol-manipulation advice.

Instruction: Covers a wide range of topics, from draws to concealed carry — everything from the basics to advanced movement and clearing malfunctions with one hand. There are a few areas that I had to think about, such as Haley suggesting all reloads should be done at full speed even in admin situations. There's also a section on gear at the end that is almost useless. The pair is heavy on the why and how, so you'll always fully understand why they're teaching you something. It's sort of the opposite of Vickers' approach — it really empowers you to decide whether what they're teaching fits with your training or lifestyle.

Production quality: Huge. Magpul started the revolution in training videos and hasn't slouched. Lots of slow motion, moving cameras, and the best-looking picture in the group combine to help you feel like you're there in the class. I went with the Blu-ray, and high-def helps when looking at things such as thumb placement during reloads and reading the labels on the duo's Gucci kit.

Snooze factor: Medium. Haley and Costa explain everything, but they also interact with students and switch off hosting duties to keep things moving. But it can drag on.

Value: It's hard to argue with four discs of handgun instruction at these prices. Probably no other single set of discs covers the pistol as well or as thoroughly as these for a beginning or intermediate handgun shooter.

Price: $50/$60 Blu-ray.

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