Posted 07 May 2013 - 12:08 PM
Costa Ludus CE01 23-25, April 2013
This AAR will hopefully serve as a reference point to the individual who plans on taking a similar class, a sort of walk-in-my-shoes experience of what to expect. And to all others, an enlightening as well as entertaining read.
I wanted to get the truck packed the night before the class. Everything was laid out on my garage floor in an attempt to ensure I wasn't forgetting anything. I checked and re-checked my gear not only to make sure I had everything, but to also familiarize myself with where everything was located. I gave myself little tests, like where is your spare parts kit? Locate it, and produce a spare firing pin in 20 seconds. Go! Things like that. With the amount of gear I was bringing for a 3 day class, immediately knowing where everything was located would be put to the test on day 3.
The class started at 07:30, and I was about an hour and 45 minute drive away from the range. I slept in my clothes that I would end up wearing all week, so when the alarm rang at 05:30, I just popped out of bed and prepared the cooler with some gatorade and ice, fired up the truck, and I was gone.
About an hour into the drive, I realized I did in fact forget something. SHIT! I printed out and signed the class waiver forms beforehand, but I forgot them in my wife's car. Amateur move! My mind raced about what to do, while my truck raced down the turnpike. I'm thinking where could there be a business center, or something similar along the way? My extensive Google-ing of the range and surrounding area beforehand brought to realization that this range is in the middle of nowhere, USA. Not going to be a Kinkos or anything non-farm land from here on out. I was making good time, so I decided to stop at the Econo-Lodge in Newton Falls where I would be staying to see if they had a business center or guest computer and printer. I was greeted by the clerk, but he said they didn't have a computer for guests. Maybe it was the ACU TruSpec shirt I was wearing, but he sized me up and then asked me what I needed to do. I told him I needed to print out 3 pages from my G-mail, and he said to come behind the counter and got me squared away on the computer. I emailed my driver's licence to Costa Ludus with my smartphone, signed the freshly printed out forms and was back on the road. Crisis averted. Maybe Chris would have extra forms at the range, maybe not. Either way, I didn't want to be the douche who can't even remember to bring the basic of basics.
The range at Southington is rather large, settled in the middle of a rock quarry that also doubles as a 4X4 park, that also doubles as a camp ground, that also doubles as a fracking site. The area is huge. I did get a bit lost, but finally found my way to the range. I parked next to another truck and began to gather up my gear. As I did this, Chris came over and personally shook each student's hand and introduced himself. I'm sure I looked like a giant dork, but I quickly put that aside and got my gear on.
After all students were accounted for, Chris began with the safety brief and rules of the range, and basic SOP's for how we were to conduct ourselves on and off the firing line. He was very down to business, all 3 days for that matter. Chris emphasized "There is not one single drill that I'll ask you to do that requires you to shoot yourself. So if you shoot yourself, you fucked up. If you shoot your partner next to you, you fucked up". From what I could tell, everyone was a serious operator and not a single fucking clown or ego was present. Top notch dudes all around. Since I was basically a "lone wolf", I linked up with a couple other lone wolves; one was an army recruiter from Ohio and another a member of a Columbus PD. Ended up meeting someone else from around the Pittsburgh area too, so that was cool. The rest of the class from what I could tell, consisted of members of other PD's from different states, a group of firefighters, some former marines and some from other military branches. We went around the semi-circle and introduced ourselves and what we hoped to get out of the class. From what I remember, I was the only computer dork present. As I said, no fuckups or douchebags; just a bunch of solid, down to business guys.
We started with a 50 yard zero on the carbine, using just our optics. A quick glance at everyone's gear left me impressed. Not much "Mickey-Moused" shit at all. Nor would I expect brands such as Barska or NC-Star to represent at such a class. Most guys rocked Aimpoint, EOTech, or ACOG optics. I did see Nightforce, Schmidt-Bender, and Leopold 1-4 scopes as well. Costa checked everyone's optic and mount for looseness and advised several dudes against mounting optics on the forend rail. He showed how some forends can wiggle from side to side, never giving you a true zero. He advised putting the optic as far forward on the upper receiver as possible, but not on the actual handguard. Basically, not past the delta ring. Chris also discussed gear placement, and how we would find out for ourselves what works and what doesn't. So with our 50 yard zero, we shot several cadences to put us POA/POI, making small corrections along the way. Keeping a leatherman tool in one of your pockets is invaluable. I found uses for it all 3 days. We then were instructed to adjust our iron sights (for those who had them) to POA/POI at 50 as well. A front sight tool stored in the buttstock is handy too.
After our 50 yard zero, we shot several strings back to 100 yards, and then back to 150 yards. We did this with optics only, irons only, and then co-witnessed. This allowed us to see where our bullet impacts would be with a 50 yard zero. Most found that we were about an inch to an inch and a half high at 100 and 150 yards. Later, we'd shoot out to 200 yards on steel, and would be pretty much POA/POI. The whole time Chris stressed fundamentals and taking your time to get the most accurate hits. We shot prone off our rucks or bags or whatever we had. Lying in the gritty gravel without elbow pads (real world) started to hurt after a while...
After zeroing, we broke for lunch which lasted a solid hour. If offered the catered boxed lunch for $10 per day, I highly recommend taking advantage of it. After lunch, we shot on steel from 100 yards out to 300 yards. I gotta admit, with 25 other riflemen on the line, it was rather difficult to hear the hits on steel out to 300 yards. For me, I was basically looking for a lack of backspash in the sand and rocks behind the target to confirm my hits. If I saw a large puff of smoke, I knew I probably missed. I'm accustomed to shooting out to 225 yards at my club's range, so I did have a little bit of "long range" experience, if you want to call it that. I recall some dudes being amazed they could shoot at distances like that with a red dot, without much hold over. The benefit of a 50 yard zero right there. For one of the strings I flipped up my irons just for fun. At these longer distances, Chris instructed proper kneeling and sitting techniques. Just like Chris, I found myself to be more accurate and comfortable in the kneeling position rather than the sitting position.
Afterwards, we switched back to paper targets to do some CQB exercises, and remembering the height over bore offset to get our hits. We worked it from 5 to 25 yards, and Chris used these strings of fire to demonstrate speed (emergency) reloads and proper tac reloads. As the day went on, the wind picked up and the targets started blowing over. A storm was coming. We switched back to steel targets for efficiency, and did more tac reloads and speed reload drills.
I had One malfunction, which I attribute to bad ammunition. Failure to fire from a round in the middle of the magazine. Immediate action drill fixed this, and later I put that round back in and it fired. No work with the sidearm today. As far as what other people had, I noticed 1 or 2 SCAR rifles, an AK in 5.45x39, an IWI Tavor, and the rest were M4 variants, one being a Haley Strategic Jack carbine. There was an LWRC or 2 as well. A POF rifle choked...Chris said he hasn't had a POF rifle make it through a full class of his...and he doesn't prefer EOTech's either...
Monsoon all day! Day 1 was sunny and warm; quite a contrast from an all day rain. We all sucked it up and just accepted the fact we were all going to be soaked to our boxers. We were told to load up our sidearms and have at least 2 magazines for it. We started shooting our carbines on paper at 50 to confirm zero, which allowed us to tweak our optics if need be. We then did the dollar shoot, where everyone tacks up a dollar on their target, and fire 1 round standing from about 20 yards away. Closest to Washington's nose wins all the dollars. Confident shooters tacked up 10s and 20s! The shooter right next to me won, with a dead center punch in GW's nose...with a 4X AGOC...weak. This drill emphasized knowing your holds at closer ranges. Before the majority of the rain came, we then worked transition to pistol drills on paper targets up until lunch. I could have done that all day, it was that good. Chris emphasized that at any point in the drills from here on out, we transition to pistol whenever the rifle stops working, except when in the prone or urban prone position for fear of sweeping our neighbors. We then took an extended lunch because of the downpour, and Chris gave some philosophy on working a guy until he's no longer a threat, and other life strategies and witticisms.
After lunch, Chris demonstrated the different malfunctions you could get with the AR platform and we practiced clearing them on steel targets. New material for me here was the way to clear a bolt override malfunction, where the brass case gets stuck up into the gas key. Learned two methods of clearing that, depending if the charging handle can be moved or not. Good stuff. When we finished up with the malfunction clearing exercises, we shot relays on steel out to 300 yards in sort of a conga line fashion, one at a time. It was much easier to hear the hits on steel with only 1 rifle at a time. We utilized different positions the farther we went back. As a wrap-up for day 2, since we were all soaked, cold and miserable, Chris put on a little contest at 300 yards. Standing, with 1 round only, whomever hits a steel target in the fastest amount of time won a custom knife. I just missed the target, pulling a hair to the right, but I had good elevation.
Didn't have any malfunctions other than those induced for the drills. That would not be the case on day 3...
Sunny and warm! What a difference a day makes. Chris said he'd run us hard with a higher round count to make up for yesterday. We started out shooting paper targets in close quarters with high round counts, putting into practice Chris's methods for running a threat into the ground. We worked different areas of the body, such as head, torso, and groin, transitioning to pistol if need be. Listening for the commands is key here, as Chris called out different round counts to different areas of the body. Then we worked different positions, fighting our way to the ground, then fighting our way back up. Search and assess when done. Use that safety when moving. Tac reload if you feel you're getting low on ammo. Listen for the next command. It got grueling real quick.
Chris then began working us into some unorthodox positions like supine, urban prone right, and urban prone left. I started having some minor malfunctions at this point in the day. I encountered a doublefeed while doing the supine position drills. Not a big problem, look, lock, strip, rack 3x, insert, rack. When I went to pick up that mag at the end of the drill, the follower stuck and about 10 rounds poured out. From the rain and sand / grit mixture, the follower was getting stuck and my mags were becoming dirty and unreliable. Not to mention my safety was starting to feel a little "strange" at this point. It was very loose, yet still worked. We then went into urban prone right side and urban prone left side drills. I had practriced these beforehand, so it was a just another walk in the park for me.
During a break, I decided to see what was up with my safety at the safe gun handling area. When I broke open the upper, the buffer detent was shoved into the trigger pack from the force of the buffer spring and the detent spring was jammed into the bolt carrier! A quick diagnosis revealed a loose castle nut, since I hadn't staked it down (or even loctited it!) Under the hard use it simply loosened up. I pulled the spring from the bolt carrier group and saw that it was mangled beyond use. My mind flocked to the spare parts kit drill I conducted in my garage and I instantly located my parts kit to replace the mangled spring. I rifled through my parts looking for the replacement spring. The whole time I heared dudes loading their magazines, whether it was the repetitive click click from someone feeding stripper clips to the schuck schuck sound of a LuLa loader. I kept telling myself "hustle...hustle" and get that spring. It then dawned on me that I had used that spring in another rifle build! I was out of that particular spare part. I thought maybe I could find a way to close it up without the buffer detent, but I never tried and wasn't confident I could get it together without the proper parts, not to mention a safety issue running a broken gun. I then realized I had my spare 5.56 rifle in the truck. Mind you, the rifle I had been using thus far is chambered in 5.45x39,the russian AK74 round. That means specific 5.45x39 AR mags and 5.45x39 ammo. Using this ammo, it was the only financial way I could attend such a course. I weighed the option of switching rifles, ammo, magazines, etc vs just cracking open the backup rifle and stealing the spring out of it. I did have about a thousand rounds of Wolf .223 ammo I could have used. I opted for just stealing the spring out of the backup rifle in the interest of time I got humpty back together with the right parts and someone lended me (THANK YOU G-MAN!) some blue loctite, and I applied it to the castle nut and wrenched that mother down as hard as I could. It would have to do. Mental note: put a bottle of loctite in your repair kit. I tested the safety, but it still felt strange. Chris then called for everyone to get to the firing line for the next set of drills. I said "fuck it" and headed to the line with only 3 rifle mags loaded. But I had my pistol. And I didn't have time to hydrate amongst all the repairs. With no magazine inserted and the bolt locked to the rear, I played with the safety as I walked to the line. "What the shit?" I thought...
Next up were multiple target engagements, shooting on our targets and also on our neighbor's target. This taught us the importance of muzzle control, stopping when we need to and changing directions. We did this standing for starters, then worked the different positions, even the unorthodox ones. It got pretty physical but was awesome. You really had to pay attention to Chris's round counts of how many shots in which sections and on which targets and in what positions. Mentally exhausting too...time for lunch.
After lunch, we broke up into 2 groups and lined up parallel to each other in a conga line, with 4 paper targets facing each line. One after another, we shot our target array, which Chris varied up, and eventually worked back to distance, where we would kneel or prone out, depending how far away we got. We were told if we have a malfunction during our engagement, just move to the end of the line and sort yourself out. The next shooter who was loaded behind you would then take their turn and shoot. A couple guys forgot to move out when they malfunctioned, and tried clearing. If Chris caught you doing that, you'd hear something like "Get the fuck off the line"! We crossed sides in another evolution which gave us a different target array to change things up. It really was a fun as hell drill and wore me down a bit.
When class was over, we helped put away steel, targets, policed up garbage, and took part in a little graduation ceremony Chris likes to do. For the 3 days, I was surrounded by former Marines, Army guys, law enforcement officers, and other industry professionals in this class. Being one of the very few "average Joe's" it really made me feel proud to be a part of this class when Chris was talking about having the right stuff. Chris allowed anyone who wanted a photo with him to have one taken. I really wanted his autograph on something, but didn't feel like bothering the man. He's probably sick of that type of shit, so I respected that, gave him one more thank you with a handshake, and began the drive home.
***Thoughts after class***
Comments on gear / things learned:
-Keep rifle mag pouches in a leg rig, or behind the hip bone on your belt. 30 round mags tend to dig into your stomach in the seated position. The Costa leg rig is awesome. Just get one.
-A good belt is also key. I bought an Ares belt at the class in the middle of day 2 and haven't looked back. It is solid.
-Gritty magazines will bind up and fail. I even saw dude's P-Mags fail on day 3 because of the grit. This place should be a proving ground for equipment. Once I cleaned out my mags on a break I stopped getting doublefeeds.
-Stake that castle nut, or at least use loctite!
-Safety: problems with the safety were determined to be a stuck detent pin, due to the gritty environment. When rifle was disassembeled for detailed cleaning, the safety detent required some banging on it to be removed. Some dirt and grit came out with the detent. After cleaning, safety feels and operates as it should.
-5.11 TacLite Pro pants are the shiznit. I came home with a serious case of crotch-rot (well not really) because I decided to wear the same pair of pants for all 3 days. Sitting, kneeling, proning out, sliding in the gravel, all were not a problem for the 5.11's. Not one seam ripped, not one hole anywhere. Those pants are as durable as hell.
-TruSpec combat shirts are also the shitznit. I also wore the same shirt for 3 days straight. Nasty motherfucker. Love the elbow padding in them, and the ripstop sleeves are also durable as hell. I was coated in dust and dirt at the end of day 3 and the shirt and pants both laundered up nicely. Although I have some light oil stains on the 5.11's.
-I've watched the Magpul series of DVDs several times over, and I'd say about 85% to 90% of this class were topics covered in the DVDs. So most of the material was not foreign to me, but it was cool to actually get out there and practice them in a class environment. Especially when the Master is running the class. You pick up so many other tips, tricks, and opinions from the other students as well.
-I shot about 1350 rounds of rifle. About 100 pistol.
-I love my S&W 5.45 upper, and the Primary Arms microdot performed perfectly even in the pouring rain.
-I'm not going to blow smoke up anyone's ass, its just not my style. That being said, Chris conducted himself with extreme professionalism the whole time, and was a very serious and down to business instructor. We're not out there playing checkers, and we're not wielding broomsticks. We're learning how to effectively and efficiently employ semi-automatic rifles against another human being. So there always was a cloud of seriousness over the 3 days. If the opportunity arose, I would take another class with Costa Ludus, I just might prefer a grassy knoll over a rock quarry though...
If anyone's curious, below is my gear / equipment checklist I used for the class...
Costa Ludus Carbine Employment checklist
AR15 / Smith & Wesson 5.45x39 training carbine
AR15 / Spikes Tactical & DSArms 5.56x45 carbine
MS3 sling for either rifle
Six 5.45x39 magazines
Six 5.56x45 magazines
Glock 22 with LW 9mm barrel
Seven Glock 17 magazines
Primary Arms PA-08 Micro Dot with PA-QD mount and killflash
Optics case with assortment of backup optics
1 unopened tin of 5.45x39 ammo with 1 opener
1 opened tin of 5.45x39 ammo in ammo can + 400 extra loose rounds
250 rounds of Wolf 9mm
1000+ rounds of Wolf .223
1 leatherman wingman multitool
2 kydex AR mag pouches
1 costa leg rig
Blade-tech holster for glock 22
Electronic ears and backup set
Vortex Solo Monocular
Lula mag loading tool
Striplula loading tool
Misc kit (usage depends on situation):
Rain coat (Spec-Ops)
1 tool bag with tools
Backup batteries for everything electronic
Stapler with staples
Backup eye pro and shades
Cash in small bills
Water and Gatorade in cooler
Snacks / energy bars / fruit
Smartphone / charger
5 pair boxers
3 pair 5.11 socks
2 pair white civ socks
2 pair 5.11 tac lite pants (tan, green)
3 pair Tru-Spec combat shirts
3 pair black 5.11 short sleeve Tee shirt
3 pair black 5.11 long sleeve Tee shirt
1 pair 5.11 covert khaki OR jeans
1 pair L.L. Bean shoes
1 pair columbia boots
1 LVL 1 Basic first aid self kit for brass burns, cuts, abrasions and blisters
1 toiletries bag
Otis cleaning kit
Chamber star swabs
22 cal patches
large patches / shop towels
- LongHaul likes this
Posted 07 May 2013 - 05:00 PM
We didn't get to the pistols at all which was a bummer and some of the positions we didn't put that much time into.
It doesn't sound like the Costa/Haley/MagPul breakup is as copacetic as everyone wanted to make it sound.
He had to dance around some questions I had about the relationship but from the reactions I was seeing there is some bad blood.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." Benjamin Franklin
Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Costa Ludus, Chris Costa, Training, Enhanced Carbine Employement
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