When I read a recent notice describing an upcoming ‘Sniper School‘ at The Range at Camp David, I was interested. When I saw that both Tommy Goodson and Chris Walker would be the instructors, I was certain I should attend.
The site for the upcoming Sniper School was The Range at Camp David, also in South Carolina, but located near Edgefield. The course content of the school would overlap somewhat with my previous experience, but it would also include some different facets.
It would also provide us the opportunity to shoot not only from ground level . . .
…but also from elevated platforms.
There would also be team exercises not included in the previous, GTI, course.
Finally, a major plus I discovered was that David Robinson, the owner of The Range at Camp David, provided a relaxed atmosphere around home-cooked (by Dave) meals
and a fire-pit.
Dave uses his property for events such as the sniper course and personal defense training. He also hosts corporate clients interested in team building.
Learning Long-Range Shooting Tactics
The course began on a Friday afternoon at 3pm and ended Sunday at noon. Included throughout the time were classroom sessions followed by application on the ranges. Dave Robinson and the instructors limit the course to around 10 students. This keeps the student-instructor ratio low enough to provide plenty of one-on-one instruction for each student. Our class of eight included women and men, and even an 11-year old named Annabelle, who was already an accomplished shooter.
Friday afternoon began with one of the teaching sessions led by Tommy.
He first taught the importance of ensuring that our rifles were level as any cant would result in shots at the longest distances being thrown off target.
He demonstrated how to eliminate cant through the use of either electronic or bubble levels attached to the rails or scopes of rifles.
Tommy also emphasized the need to avoid scope shadow and to ensure a proper cheek weld. Improper cheek weld on the stock is often the culprit causing scope shadowing. Stock adjustments can correct the problem, as can the shooter realigning their cheek on the stock. Like the other seven students in the class, the Daniel Defense Delta 5 Pro rifle I was using for the course has a fully-adjustable stock. Eliminating scope shadowing through stock modifications was straightforward for all of us.
We were given flip-cards to drive home some of the key points.
The final preparation before heading to the range, was to collect the data to be entered into the Kestrel 5700 Elite Meter With Applied Ballistics (hand-held ballistic computers; see (TTAG review) available for each student to use during the course.
The data needed included a number of variables.
Once students had determined their muzzle velocities at the range, Chris and Tommy helped them to complete the setup of their Kestrels.
With the dope entered, we were ready to start the next stage of instruction. ‘Truthing’ our settings for each of our rifles involved shooting at targets located at 300-700 yards. Tommy and Chris called our shots during this exercise.
By calling the impact points . . .
…they were able to help us make sure our settings in our phones/Kestrels matched with the performance of the ammunition and rifle. If not, we re-zeroed our ballistic turrets to allow consistent impacts on the targets.
With that out of the way, Tommy and Chris began instructing in the method of positional shooting. Specifically, how does a shooter fire from a maximally stable position from a range of very different rests.
Whether from naturally occurring bases like rocks . . .
…or simulated rooftops . . .
…’tank traps’ . . .
…horizontal tires, or . . .
walls built from railroad ties.
They emphasized the need to make as much contact with the ground and solid structures as possible to stabilize yourself and thus your rifle.
Needless to say, getting into position to make maximum contact with the ground was easier for some of the students.
The instruction throughout the course was thorough. They went from demonstrating how to balance when shooting from a standing position . . .
…to simulating a hunting scenario by picking up a stick and using it under the stock to help stabilize a shot when kneeling.
As a hunter, rather than a PRS or Extreme Long Range competitor, I appreciated them asking the students in which of these categories they considered themselves to belong. The skills taught were useful for both competition and hunting, but they made sure to point out some methods that were category-specific.
One of the most challenging and exciting exercises for the students was the team shooting. It followed this protocol.
Students chose their two-member teams.
Tommy and Chris had previously photographed certain targets ranging from 200-800 yards in distance.
They used these photographs to indicate to the students which targets they had to acquire.
Tommy led each team up onto the elevated platform while Chris started a 2.5 minute timer. In that time, the team members must:
a) find and range the target shown to them in the photograph,
b) dial in their distance, and
c) while one student spotted, the other fired at the target.
This was the sequence, unless Tommy aborted the exercise after they were ready to fire the first shot and sent them on a search for a secondary target to acquire, etc.
While teaching teamwork, these drills also added the stress of communication and time limits to challenge the students in their shooting. Comprehending what your partner is communicating about your impact points, while your instructors are calling out the time left, and showing you photographs of new targets to acquire, elevates heart rate and blood pressure, making accurate shooting tough to accomplish.
I recorded the following video during the team drill. Tommy is calling the countdown and Chris is spotting for the shooters. The two shooters were to wait until Tommy reached ‘2’ in the countdown, at which time they would fire simultaneously at an 800-yard target.
The Sniper School at The Range at Camp David was a challenging experience, but it was never dull. The course structure also provided plenty of time for relaxing and getting to know the other students who were equally passionate about firearms, long-distance shooting, and hunting.
The classroom times, and the concentrated instruction on the ranges, provided the students with the tools necessary to properly use a wide array of rests to achieve impacts on targets at extreme distances.
As the course progressed, all of us became more confident that we could ring steel at even the longest distances and the instructors (and owner of The Range at Camp David) made sure there was plenty of laughter to keep things relaxed. With that in mind, the course concluded with the largest bang of all…a container of Tannerite was set off by a shot from our 11-year-old sharpshooter.
Mike Arnold writes for a number of outlets; you can find links to other articles here.
[All photos courtesy of Mike Arnold.]