While visiting Sniper Country I learned of a sniper course being offered at the BadLands Training Center in Grandfield Oklahoma. I secured a slot, packed up my stuff and flew off to Dallas and then made the three-hour drive to Grandfield Oklahoma.
Air travel is hard on your equipment. Buy the best hard rifle case you can afford. Baggage handlers will abuse your luggage. Expect your precision rifle to be thrown and dropped several times during each trip. Your gear will also get frozen and depressurized. I bought an O.D. Pelican case from Gene Luke at Precision Arms in Escondido California. Fully loaded, my case is heavy, so heavy in fact that the baggage handler had trouble throwing it onto the conveyor. This is good. When I retrieved my luggage at DFW airport the rifle case was oil-canned in by air pressure and covered with condensation. I simply opened the vent valve to equalize the pressure and the case returned to its normal shape. My guess is that if your hard case will deliver your precision rifle undamaged after commercial air travel then it is a "tactical" piece of equipment.
As a civilian I felt fortunate that the folks at BadLands would allow me to attend because so many sniper related events are closed to anyone outside the law enforcement and military community. Frankly, this is a pet peeve of mine but I won't beat that drum here.
Bobby Whittington ran the course. Mr. Whittington is a full time law enforcement officer with military experience. The principle instructor was Steve Suttles. Mr. Suttles is a combat experienced military sniper and sniper instructor. Both Bobby and Steve demonstrated their technical and tactical competence repeatedly during the four days of instruction. Additionally, both of these men showed real commitment to excellence and were enthusiastic about what they were teaching. Time spent in their company was very worth while.
The course of instruction was well organized, thorough, well documented and supported by more than adequate facilities. The student to instructor ratio was 4:1. Such a high degree of individual attention is seldom available at other schools and training centers.
Day one of the course consisted of the usual introductions followed by a pretest. The purpose of a pretest was to give the instructors a measure of the students' knowledge so that subsequent training could be tailored to best exploit the available time. I immediately recognized the pretest as an indication of training skill and I was not disappointed. The rest of day one was spent learning the history & mission of the sniper, equipment requirements & maintenance and fundamentals of marksmanship.
On day two we learned about ballistics, reading the wind, use of the data book, range estimation and shooter/spotter dialog. We conducted a range and wind estimation exercise and then proceeded to the rifle range to establish our 100 yard zero. When we returned from the range we participated in a review of the material presented thus far because a written test was scheduled for first thing the next morning.
Day three started with a fifty question written test after which we traveled back to the range for the first full day of firing. The range had the usual "E" and "F" type "iron maidens" at various ranges out to 1,000 yards. The range is similar to a field fire type of range with rolling terrain and mixed vegetation. Firing at one, two and three hundred yards was done on paper. Firing at ranges greater than three hundred yards was done on steel. Students were paired up into teams so that shooter/spotter dialog and logbook entry could be practiced. We established our elevation and windage data for targets at various ranges and then shot qualification.
On day four we returned to the range to fire our cold bore shot for record and complete our field firing. I noted in my logbook immediately after the cold bore shot, "Check your windage setting STUPID." The 800, 900 and 1,000-yard targets were the final field fire targets and were not included in the qualification scoring. We were allowed to shoot until early afternoon when we packed up and returned to the classroom for an after-action review and distribution of certificates.
The content of the training was solid. The course of instruction was complete and well organized. The trainers were competent and motivated. The cost for four days of instruction was, hold onto your hat, $250. Yes, that's all. Compare that to the tuition at other training centers offering similar instruction. This is a huge value. I'm looking forward to the next level of training offered at BadLands. I plan to attend.