4 Day Mission Airborne Infiltration With Gray Fox Tactical Training - Testimonial

I recently attended a 4-day, long-range shooting (and more) class at Coleman’s Creek shooting range in Ellerbe, NC hosted by Zach Fuller of Gray Fox, LLC and Jon Stains of Mockingbird Dynamics.

The focus was building an understanding of ballistics, wind reading, talk-ons, shooter/spotter communication and range finding, using technology to augment those skills, learning to adapt those skills to low light and no light conditions using host-provided image intensification and thermal clip-on devices, and finally putting the skills to the test in a night-time culmination exercise. Oh, and by the way, if you want to, you can HAHO jump into the facility to begin your culmination exercise mission.

I’m a civilian nobody. My previous formal training has been pretty sparse, a Pat Rogers AR-focused course and several low light / no light courses focused on CQB with carbine and pistol, and no long-range training at all, other than intermittent shooting since I was about 10 years old at 100 yards or so, with a few days at a 300 yard range sprinkled in over the last few decades.

In the past I’d considered several, but ultimately never attended a long-range class, mostly due to not having the ancillary equipment (kestrels, spotting scopes, the “right” shooting bags, etcetera) at that time and not wanting to be the guy that held the class back.

The small size of the group, the relative proximity to my home, the promise of real-world use of some of the coolest night vision and thermal devices available, the fact that I could have brought absolutely nothing (no gun, no ammo, no night vision, no clip-on, no spotting scope, no Kestel, no range finder) since the host was willing and able to provide all of that for me, and last but certainly not least, the insane option of a private (instructor led, tandem) high altitude high opening sky dive into our culmination exercise just before sunset (!) were all factors leading me to get off my ass, get uncomfortable, and learn some new stuff.

Coleman's Creek Range with Grayfox Tactical Training

Coleman’s Creek range boasts 830 acres of range facility in southeastern North Carolina featuring a covered 100 meter sight in range, a bunch of short-range bays, and four long ranges with steel targets, three of which are covered, and the longest of which maxes out at one mile. It’s an incredible facility.

The shooting instruction was led by Zach Fuller, who, with 10 years of experience as a US Army Special Forces sniper and 4 years of experience as a USASOC Science and Technology unit lead on optics and target engagement systems, was a wonderful host and instructor for the class, having extreme familiarity with the shooting facility itself, plenty of real-world application of the course material, and access to a whole bunch of optics that most of us will never have the opportunity to see, much less use.

The jump portion of the class was led by Jon Stains, the owner of Mockingbird Dynamics. Jon has twelve years in the US Army, seven of those years spent in Special Forces, is an experienced sniper with several deployments in Afghanistan, and is a military freefall instructor, jumpmaster and special operations terminal attack controller.

The group elected to stay together in a very nice home on one of the golf courses in Pinehurst, NC, which is about half an hour from the range. If we had it to do over again, I believe we’d have stayed closer to the range, since we were there into the wee hours nearly every night, and rental homes are available much closer.

NOTE: Due to scheduling issues, no two of the attendees had the same arrival and departure dates, which resulted in some repeats of the zeroing and “beginner” shooting and spotting portions of the class. In order to simplify my summary, I’ve left this out of the information provided below.

DAY ONE:

Day one started with getting 100m zeros, and building ballistic profiles for each attendee, his rifle, and selected ammunition. We then went to the intermediate distance range of about 1100 meters to fine tune the ballistics data. Here, we began to learn about range finding, wind calls, how a shooter and spotter work together, and everyone that attended was soon hitting steel targets at 1000 meters with relative ease.

As the daylight expired, we ended up on an adjacent range with dozens of steel plates, many hidden by foliage and/or shadows, from probably 50 meters to 600 meters or so, and were able to team up and talk one another onto intended targets at varying distances.

After dinner, we went back to the intermediate range and began to spot and shoot under night vision, thermal, “dual band” (image intensification and thermal combined) and what the cool kids refer to as “mid-band” thermal clip-on devices, which are internally cooled and are so sensitive that you can clearly see an individual bullet in flight on and the spall flying after impact. We also learned about and began to use weapon mounted laser range finders.

Soon we were making reliable hits at the same distances from before sunset, both as shooter/spotter teams and individually using the weapon mounted LRFs. For a bunch of guys that had no shooting experience beyond approximately 300 yards, it was quite a day.

Day one participating with Grayfox Tactical Training

DAY TWO:

Day two was more long-distance shooting. We moved to the longest range and continued our spotting and communication training. After a few hours, we were all ready to try something a bit more challenging and spent the afternoon switching between an Accuracy International AX50 ELR and a Barrett M107A1 CQB, and all the 50 caliber ammunition that anyone wanted to pay for. Given the previous day’s success, it was still monumentally cool and somewhat unexpected that each of us made hits on a 1 meter square target, and one of us on a man-sized plate, all at one mile.

After dinner, we were back on the intermediate range getting more repetitions in.



DAY THREE:

Day 3 was a bit of a change, involving some time spent discussing pistol belts, chest rigs, general equipment layout, and some pistol instruction, before moving to barricades and a little friendly shooting competition.

Night three was more of the same- night shooting at distance with awesome clip-on devices.

Over the course of the preceding three days, we were continually exposed to different nuances of shooting and spotting at distance, and with varying degrees of success, each of us were able to see wind and bullet trace with spotting scopes alone.

Having the opportunity to get in several days’ worth of shooting and spotting, both day and night, was much more valuable than perhaps it sounds.

DAY FOUR:

Remember the mention of sky diving into the culmination exercise? Day 4 began with a mission briefing on our culmination exercise, a brief equipment planning session and a trip to a nearby airport where we received gear and training on what happens when you jump out of an airplane.

After a little while, our Short C-23 Sherpa arrived, we met our tandem instructors as well as the cameramen and women that would be filming our jump.

I’ve never jumped out of an airplane, and was pretty excited but also somewhat apprehensive about doing so, however my worries soon dissipated. As I quickly learned, this was not one of those, “you’re on vacation, let’s jump out of a Cessna” operations- this was a group of seasoned jumpmaster-level instructors and an absolutely bad-ass plane.

Everyone involved and everything about that morning were exactly as you’d hope to find. I didn’t know what to expect that morning, but as we started to taxi the runway, I was completely comfortable with the fact that everyone involved was top-tier, on their game, and ready to make sure that we had a safe and memorable experience.

The jump was awesome. That’s about all I can say. It was just amazing. I can’t wait to do it again.

Airborne Mission Tactical training with Grayfox LLC

 

Knowing full well that a bunch of new skydivers would be a little bit weary from the inevitable adrenaline dump that accompanies their first jump, our hosts had wisely built in a buffer period during which we were provided with a combat medical information and training class, together with some time to gather ourselves and eat a small meal before the culmination exercise.

At dusk, we began the mission with double-checked and cleared rifles, having left our rifles’ magazines with our hosts. With the targets’ description, general location, information on what opposing force we might encounter and the equipment that we’d packed earlier in the day, we set out under night vision and/or thermal (one of the more well-heeled and internet-infamous attendees ran a dual Skeet IRX rig in lieu of his L3 panos) toward our destination.

Through darkness and a seriously underestimated amount of OPFOR which we were instructed to avoid, we eventually located our target and selected a location from which to engage. Our hosts then appeared with our magazines and it was time to put our skills to the test.

We were approximately 350m out, and our team was able to achieve our goal: three near-simultaneous first shot hits on the three adjacent targets on a very, very dark night.

After we’d expended all the ammo we didn’t want to carry home, watching each projectile fly toward our decimated targets under mid-wave thermal clip-ons, we walked down to inspect the target zone, packed up, and headed back to the VRBO for some beers and a discussion on the day’s events.

Overall, the course was incredible. Having the ability to spend hours across several days shooting at the distances allowed by Coleman’s Creek range during the day and at night was great.

At the time, the jump portion of the class was fun, but honestly we were very focused on our culmination exercise, not wanting to let our instructors down, and I don’t believe we really relaxed and allowed ourselves the opportunity to take it all in, until we were completely done and having beers back at the rental house.

For anyone that is curious about skydiving but wants to feel a little more comfortable with the equipment and instructors, I think this would be an excellent opportunity.

Grayfox Tactical Training personal day and night