Blackwater Precision Rifle Course

22 July 2002
By Rob01

Let me just start by saying the Chandler/Reifinger Precision Rifle Part 1 class at Blackwater Lodge in Moyock, NC is first rate. I attended it over the weekend of 26-28 April of 2002. It's a 3 day course that costs $675. The cost includes lodging in their 4 man bunkrooms - more private rooms are available at an additional cost, and meals.

The course is taught by Norm Chandler who is the owner of Iron Brigade Armory as well as a retired LtCol USMC with many, many years of marksmanship training experience. Most all of you know about Norm's rifles, books and his company so I won't get into them but if you need a hard use rifle, he's the man to see. Also instructing is Jim Reifinger who is a retired Recon First Sgt. USMC and is now a Captain in the Jacksonville North Carolina Police Department where he is the Commander of the department's Tactical Team. Odle Wood, retired MGySgt USMC and an instructor for IBA. And the last full time instructor Jack McMillin retired USAF who has been on and retired from 2 Sheriff's departments in Maryland and is now a member of the Calvert County Sheriffs department. Jack is also a master armorer. Both Jack and Jim train the officers in their departments. We had some part time instructors from the North Carolina Highway Patrol on Saturday, which included Sgt. Eddie "Mushroom" Lane. Just a hint if you go down, don't take any of Eddie's bets even if he says he'll shoot against you right or left handed. You can see all of them in Norm's book "One Shot Brotherhood". They are a very knowledgeable bunch.

The first day started with breakfast at 0730 and then to the classroom for classes. The classes covered basic topics like rifle/scope/gear selection and pros and cons of different types, how to use the scope including topics like explaining MOA and the inch rule, rifle cleaning and maintenance and the importance of keeping an accurate data book. They keep the classes fairly basic, although very informative, because this is the basic Part 1 class and there are some people that are just starting in the world of precision rifle shooting. The basic classes are the building blocks and you will have to put them to use on the range and in Part 2 of the class, if you attend it.

After lunch, seeing as it's a beginner class, they have you get prone behind your supported rifle, either using a bipod or pack, and make sure the rifle fits you and not that you are trying to fit to the rifle. If you are trying to fit to the rifle you will know it through tense muscles while getting into position and then sore back and neck muscles after shooting. It was an eye opener for me because I found out how much a little piece of foam pad helped out my check weld. They supply the foam and tape and teach you how to set up the rifle so that you can do it with any other rifles you had at home.

Then it's off to Blackwater's 1200 yard KD range. They make sure everyone is on paper at 25 yards with a few shots. This needed to be done because some people had to remount their scopes when we were fitting the rifles. After the 25 yards you shoot at 100 yards and 200 yards at headless torso targets with a 1 MOA size white square in the center. You shoot while your partner is in the butts and vice versa. The butts can be a good time if you have a good crew, which we did.

After completing the afternoon shoot, it's back to the Blackwater HQ for weapons cleaning and dinner. They have an excellent outdoor covered weapons cleaning area with air hoses at every two or three stations which you learn you will definitely need with the range dust from the almost constant 5-8 mph 3 to 9 o'clock wind at the range. The instructors are there to help and answer any questions as they always are throughout the class.

That night you shoot bobbers and slow and fast movers at 100 yards in very limited light. The bobbers and movers consist of an approximately 12" by 20" white board nailed to a 2"x2" board. It's approximately the same size as a side view of a man's torso. The bobbers are held up for a count of 2 and then dropped by the butt workers and you have 5 shots total on each stage for a total of 15 rounds. The movers are worked by having the butt worker walk back and forth in the butts with the target above the berum. 100 yard movers were fairly easy but 200 and 300 the next night got interesting. After the night shoot it was back to clean weapons and then to the usual BS session with the instructors and students back at the bunkhouse. The instructors are very knowledgeable and I suggest you pick their minds as much as you can. They will answer any question but make sure you want the answer because they will tell you like it is from their experience.

The next day it's breakfast at 0730 and then classroom at 0800 again. Subjects that morning are fundamentals of marksmanship, ballistics, ranging with mildots and range estimation, wind, and dealing with other environmental issues. All classes were very interesting, well taught and easy to understand. If you have questions at any time throughout the class just ask and they will be answered.

After class you have lunch and it's off to the range for shooting at 200 and 300 yards. All this time you have to read wind at the range and make the right adjustments and put all your zero info in the supplied log books or your own if you like. I personally used their book and then just put it in my book at night. It was easier that way. At the 200 and 300 as with the 100 you shoot three 3 shot groups which is plenty to get your zero and practice at the ranges. Jim also has you practice your mildot ranging at this session by giving you different objects to mil.

That night you again shoot fast, 3-4mph, and slow, 1-2mph, movers and 2 second bobbers at 200 and 300. It's much harder at the greater distance especially with barely any light and not being able to see your mildots that well for leads. They have the backside of the butts illuminated slightly and they have some vehicles behind you position but it gives you barely enough light. It's good training. An illuminated reticle would have been perfect but you work with what you have. Also make sure to have something whether it be a jacket or veil to cover your head and rear of the scope. Having your head covered allows you to get better concentration on just the target and it appears to make your view through the scope a little brighter for better target acquisition. This actually also works during the daytime with bright sun. Give it a try.

The last day after your 0730 breakfast you go right to the range and shoot 400, 500, and 600 yards. Again you are shooting at 1 MOA target aiming points. I also learned that they weren't kidding when they said to bring clothes for all weather conditions and that they don't go in if it rains because we got rain. The rain made it interesting. Not anymore difficult to shoot in, just different. If you're a fair weather shooter it will be an experience for you but usually the weather is nice and sunny down there and during the classes which are in the spring and fall the temperature stays around 70-80 degrees during the day and down into the 60's at night. Like the old saying goes "If it ain't raining, you ain't training".

After the morning range time, it's back for lunch and weapons cleaning. Then it's off to the classroom for certificates and Norm has his books for sale. I bought "One Shot Brotherhood" which I didn't have and was able to get all the instructors to sign it on their pictures, which are all in the book. Bring some extra money with you because Norm comes supplied with almost everything shooting related you might need in the back of his big Ford F350 as well as his books. Norm doesn't believe in having gear just to have gear for the CDI (chicks dig it) factor so if he has it, it works and is useful.

Round count for the weekend was about 130. It might not sound like a lot but you did do a lot of shooting as well as what I think is more important and that's getting some great info from the classes and your zero to 600 yards and coaching from the instructors at the range. Part two they say to bring around 250-300 rounds because it's all shooting. You shoot from 600-1000 yards and shoot unknown distance steel to 600 yards. There's no classroom in the second part. Just shooting. You will need to remember all the basics and put them to use where it counts.

All in all I found the class to be an excellent learning experience no matter what your skill level. I have been shooting for years and still learned many things that I will continue to work on and practice. As well as learning it's also a great place to make friends. After returning home I'm continuing to converse with friends from the class. You get a list of contact info for the other attendees on the last day too. I highly recommend the class. You can get all the info for the class as well as Blackwater's other classes on their website

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