US Optics Academy’s Inaugural Long Range Precision Class – Independence Training
“Miss! 5 seconds.” Tyler, the lead instructor at the US Optics Academy, has just informed me that I had missed my 800 yard shot and had 5 seconds to load another round, get on target, and engage again – my second and final chance to get a hit. He began the countdown “5 . . . 4 . . .” I had already run the bolt and jacked another round of .308 Winchester 175gr Sierra Matchking into the chamber, settling the crosshairs back on the target and holding slightly off to one side for the wind, using my mil-dot reticle to help me make an accurate hold. Tyler continued “3 . . . 2 . . .” Patience is a virtue when it comes to long range shooting and I wasn’t going to let him rush me. Just as he was about to call out my final second, I finished my trigger compression and set that round loose. At 800 yards, the bullet flight time is nearly 1.5 seconds, which can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for a hit. This time I didn’t make any major mistakes and my bullet flew exactly where I wanted it to, on to the steel gong, which rang out and verified a hit. “Hit!” Tyler called out, and moved to the next shooter. We were in the final couple of hours at the inaugural US Optics Academy Long Range Precision I class in Apple Valley, CA and each of us in the class would have to accomplish what I had just done from 200 – 1000 yards . . . with the fierce winds of the canyon to contend with.
I had travelled to this 8 student class with my friend and fellow instructor, Josh, from Arizona. Both of us have a pretty solid background in shooting, including long range, so we were anxious to see what this class had to offer. We arrived the night before the class began and found ourselves at an amazing lodge – bedrooms, shower, kitchen, couches, even a pool table, all with a very rustic feel to it. The lodge and the food, all provided as part of the class, were certainly a great part of the experience, as it really takes a lot off your mind when you don’t have to think about where you’re going to sleep or eat for a few days. We met Tyler Hughes, the lead instructor for the course as well as the owner of Max Ordinate Academy, as soon as we walked in the door – good guy straight from the start.
We got started the next morning at 8am with time in the classroom, which was in the basement of the lodge but was very comfortable with couches to sit on – that makes a big difference when you spend a lot of time looking at a Power Point! We each received a data book from Storm Tactical in a zippered binder, as well as a rear bag, both embroidered with US Optics Academy – a very nice addition to the class. Tyler knows his stuff, as does his staff, and we were led through scope theory, shooting fundamentals, zeroing and internal ballistics. Classroom time is certainly not my favorite part of any class, and I will say that it seemed a bit heavy and long for this particular training course, especially for some of the newer shooters there. I’m a big fan of practical application, so I was excited when we finally hit the range after lunch.
Josh and I were both shooting rifles from LRK Mechanical in Prescott, AZ, a company that we’ve been using for several years now, having been impressed with the accuracy and reliability of their rifles. I would be shooting .308 Winchester while Josh a .300 Win Mag. Both of our rifles had Valdada Optics on them. But part of what got us so interested in this class was the chance to use a US Optics scope during the class. The disappointing part of that, however, was with all of the different rifles and setups that each student had, I was the only one in the class that had requested a scope and was actually able to use one, an LR-17 with Mil-Gap reticle. I felt that this was really a missed opportunity on the part of US Optics and the majority of the students that left their academy having not even fired a single shot looking through one of their scopes.
Great facilities, interesting curriculum, great instructors, learned new skills, nice swag. Good times.
For the allotted time, more range time and less classroom time would be beneficial for less experienced shooters. A debrief at the end of class would be helpful.