After reading about the BadLands Tactical Training Facility (their Basic Course) here on Sniper Country, and hearing additional positive comments about it from one former student who is a police sniper, I made arrangements with Bobby Whittington to attend the Basic course June 20-23, 2002. There are numerous reviews (one, two, three) on that course already in the "In Review" section here on Sniper Country.
BadLands provided one date in 2002 with back to back courses, and I also registered for the June 24-28 Advanced Phase One class. This review only covers the Adv. Phase I class. I packed up my jeep with enough gear to drop the mileage a hair, and made the 8 hour drive to Grandfield without incident.
Bobby Whittington runs BadLands, and Steve Suttles was the primary instructor for our class. Mike Duncan assisted with all aspects of the course. Full information about each instructor is provided on the Badlands web site; suffice it to say, they were very knowledgeable, dedicated, and motivated gents; you'll know what I mean if you ever go there.
We had six people in our class, and three instructors, for a 2:1 student to instructor ratio. partner was active duty military, I was there as a civilian, and four SWAT officers from a major department were there as well. The excellent ratio definitely allowed a lot of one to one training to happen, and all the students seemed to appreciate that.
The course was five days in length; let's just say that the first day is mostly indoors, the rest of the time isn't. Some of the days ran long, and I highly suggest being in some sort of shape [other than round] before you go out for this one. I considered the Basic class suitable for every shooter; this class ramps it up a little, and requires more focus and commitment for sure, but in my opinion is doable by almost everyone.
On day one, similar to their Basic class, there was a Pretest on a "sniper related skill" (can't give away all the fun, can we?) Many skills are needed to successfully make that perfect shot, of course lots of things have to happen first before you can pull the trigger and expect a hit. One of the first things we encountered as a class were more difficult KIMS tests, such as remembering the eye color of a particular person...
The course covered many things, which included camouflage, field shooting positions (other than prone bipod supported), information reporting, field sketching, land navigation / orienteering [appx. 8 mile course], moving targets / qualification, Night Fire, Unknown Distance (UKD) qualification, a Known Distance (KD) qualification course (to 600 yards), Angle fire from high angles and the effects of target angle. Every bit of this included practical exercises.
Part of the progression from the Basic class to the Adv. Phase one was a mindset difference. Time limits on some things like deploying as a team from a vehicle for an UKD shooting exercise (and finding / milling the targets) were introduced, for instance. As always at BadLands, the Wind was pretty good, for training purposes. That means it was windy! This made shooting on all of the ranges at BadLands a bit more interesting.
In this course, participants were expected to carry all gear needed for the current task on their person (usually involved a ruck sack), and carrying all gear (conceivably needed for any of the tasks covered the first day) with you in your vehicle. It would not have been good to leave something at the hooch when you went out for the day's training...
The class introduced a lot more Teamwork, which was useful in Target identification exercises, and refining the shooter/spotter dialog. As I learned, the better the dialog and teamwork, the faster and more efficient the team.
We also shot through various types of glass barriers, and learned team techniques to handle this properly. Teamwork was again paramount to successfully complete the practical exercises. And I was thankful for hands-on experience. We didn't just read the handout Bobby provided on glass shots; we talked about it, then did it through various barriers.
Field stalking / coordinated sniper team employment was a fun practical exercise. I will say that there were rumors that a prior February class had frozen their behinds off; when it's almost July in Grandfield, Oklahoma, you cook a bit. Watch out for the sun; it definitely dehydrates you quickly and can burn you but good in the Texhoma area. Plenty of sunscreen and a floppy brimmed hat are your friends; shorts aren't!
As a class, we found out just how important it was to record all information in the Data Book. Let me just say before you go to this class, recording all the data is important. I knew that, but it really sunk in when some things happened in the field, and no one was prepared for it because they had failed to record some things the day before.
One of the things I definitely enjoyed about this class was more UKD shooting, by deploying with your partner (as a team) from your transport under time limits to firing the first shot.
I had picked up a bit more information on the role of the spotter; I realized in the field exercises that the spotter was critical. I noticed that when the more experienced member of a team was the spotter, the team often had better success on those wiley UKD targets.
As in the Basic class, there were After Action Reviews at the end of each day, to go over lessons learned, and provided feedback (positive and negative) on the day's experiences. There was also time to discuss various topics in more depth over a few cold ones back at the "dorm", a.k.a. sniper hooch. As others have recommended, it's good to stay there if you can.
The course was definitely worth the time and limited expenses involved; the $450 tuition works out to under $100 per day for some of the best training I could have ever asked for. I believe the costs are so low because the staff are dedicated to getting the word and skill out to all law abiding folks... they sure aren't going to get rich on this. They definitely put in more hours than the students.
While the recommended ammo for this class was 250 rounds, I think if you have more and are driving there, you might bring it. In the worst case (if you don't have time to do any extra shooting) you could always take it back home! I found the Gen2 Leupold M3LR worked like a champ, the Gen2 spotting scope let everyone who used it get within 10 yards on the UKD targets as well. The GA Precision AICS .308 ran flawlessly for all 9 days; good gear didn't hurt, as I was able to focus on all the good information and not equipment malfunctions.
There are numerous pictures of the Basic class, Advanced Phase I, and some of the Badlands ranges on the web for those who are inclined. I'm getting myself into better physical shape, as I plan to attend Phase 2 next year with some friends from my area, and Bobby has promised it's a fast moving class. I can't wait!