AAR: EAG Tactical Carbine 1 – Brian Canova, Instructor
19-20 May, 2018. Echo Valley Training Center, High View, WV
Brian Canova of EAG Tactical. Photo by Triple Bravo
Carbine: 12.5” AR-15 (Centurion barrel, Noveske lower, Hodge upper receiver and rail). Kahles K16i 1-6 optic, Surefire DF Scout light, Blue Force Gear (BFG) 2-point sling, Magpul magazines.
Rifle Ammo: MEN 56gr M193 (appx 700 rounds fired)
Pistol: Glock 19 with RMR and X300U in Safariland ALS holster, Magpul magazines.
Pistol Ammo: Speer Lawman 147gr FMJ (Appx 75rds fired)
Support Gear: BFG BeltMinus V2 with BFG, Tactical Tailor, and ATS Tactical pouches. Dark Angel DARK IFAK. MSA Sordin earpro, Smith Elite eyepro, Petzl Cordex gloves, Hatch knee pads
Pat Rogers, despite his warrior size, left incredibly large shoes to fill. When I found out Brian Canova was carrying EAG Tactical into the future, I didn’t know what to think. What I found out was that Brian is not resting on what Pat built. He is heading down his own course, at full speed. In his own words, he has no interest in being a “Pat Rogers Cover Band,” and that’s a good thing.
Wet ranges happen. Photo by Jimmy Smith
Things looked less than great as I pulled up to the range, the same range as I’d taken all my previous EAG classes. It was gray and raining, with much of the range covered in water. The class of ten students was half of what I expected. Brian, however, was busy setting up the familiar camouflage EAG/Tango Down targets.
Training Day (TD) 1 began with Brian giving us an overview of his experience as a police officer and how he came into ownership of EAG Tactical. After student introductions, a safety brief was given. Every student came prepared, which helped minimize down time. There was a mix of red dots and low power variable optics. There were a few oddities, including a STAG left handed upper and a couple of BAD lever copies. There were a couple SBR’s, and of course a mix of accessories. All of the guns functioned well, and no one needed to utilize one of the several backup guns on hand.
I was fortunate to check the weather before the class and brought extra snivel gear. I took some time to add some extra waterproofing to my leather gloves and boots. The extra protection helped, especially as we began from prone in the water to verify our sights. My Outdoor Research rain jacket worked perfectly. However, I didn’t bring rain pants, and I suffered a little bit for that. While my top stayed nice and dry, my bottom half got pretty soaked. Staying dry means more energy and focus on learning and executing drills. It’s not about being tough, it’s about learning the most you can.
We started with zeroing the rifles at 50 yards. Most students were well dialed in, but a couple had issues, including one Trijicon MRO that had run out of adjustment. Morning instruction covered mechanical offset of sights, obtaining a quick sight picture between shots, and reloads. Drills were conducted with a shot timer which Brian used on individuals and the whole group, providing immediate and objective performance metrics. The morning ended with a head-to-head competition. From a low ready, we shot one round, performed a speed reload, and shot a second round. There were several more competitions throughout the class, and it was a great way to add pressure. Plus, it was fun.
After lunch, we were back at it. From 75 yards, we shot from standing, then shot after dropping into prone. The results from the target and timer were very interesting, and showed that taking extra time to drop into a more stable position isn’t always the right answer. Various kneeling positions were practiced, again on the timer. We also worked with shooting under barricades laying on our sides. In odd positions like this, the more restrictive eye box of the 1-6 scope was a little harder to use than a red dot. With prone and kneeling practiced, we shot several Modified Navy Quals. From the 50 yard line, with three magazines of five rounds each, five shots were fired from standing, kneeling, then prone, reloading between positions. With a 24 second time limit, this was a great test of marksmanship, manipulation, and changing positions. It also helped students learn to speed up their shots with more stable positions so that they could spend more time on the standing shots.
The day wrapped up with shooting steel out to 300 yards. Many students had trouble getting shots on the orange painted targets against the red clay background at the more distant steel. Combine the orange targets, red clay, and a red dot as the aiming point with little reference to adjust point of aim corrections, and the variable scopes shined in comparison. The superior glass and magnification gave a significant advantage on the more distant targets. Also, being able to turn off the illumination and having a fine black reticle gave good contrast on the targets. While I didn’t need any aiming corrections, my reticle had plenty of wind and elevation reference points to use if I had needed them. With training concluded, we washed up and gathered at a local restaurant to wind down, exchange stories, and talk about the day’s lessons.
TD2 began with puffy white clouds and impossibly blue skies. We reconfirmed our sights and discussed pistol transitions. From then on, any drill where our rifles malfunctioned or ran out of ammo, we were told to transition to the pistol. The reason was made clear when the timer showed that a pistol transition could be a full second faster than a reload.
Malfunction clearance was covered next. Double feeds and failures to fire for various reasons were both practiced. Then came what I called “Malfunctions Round the Fleet.” In the 16th through 19th centuries, in cases of severe wrongdoings by sailors, the British Royal Navy would administer an equally severe punishment. The sailor would be taken by small boat to every ship of the fleet where he would be lashed with a whip or cat-o-nine-tails in turn. This was called “Flogging Round the Fleet.” Likewise, every student set up some type of malfunction on their rifle then laid it down. One by one, each student ran up, cleared the malfunction, and fired each of the ten rifles as fast as they could. This was an excellent timed drill, with added pressure to perform by the audience. Empty magazines, empty chambers, double feeds, optics that were turned off, BAD levers, a left handed rifle, and of course various triggers, grips, stocks, handguards etc, were sprinkled throughout. No one knew what to expect. Safe handling and shooting standards were upheld throughout.
Next was the midrange competition, back at the 300 yard range from TD1. Five steel targets were used from 125 to 300 yards, both above and below the shooter. No one brought precision guns, and all of the barrels were between 10.5” to 16.” Using training ammo, most guns had 3-5 MOA accuracy. 300 yard shots on steel with a 3-5 MOA gun are not especially hard, but they require solid application of skills to make first round hits. From standing, each student dropped into prone and attempted to hit each target once, as fast as possible. Most shooters needed several shots on the more distant, harder to see targets. Those using red dots completed the drill as fast as 37 seconds. Using my Kahles 1-6 with the illumination off and set at 4x to balance magnification and field of view for faster transitions, I was able to shoot a clean run (5 shots, 5 hits) in 26 seconds. The low power optic proved superior again.
Last was Brian’s qualification course. Using mostly B8 targets, each part of the qual was timed. Extra shots and shots fired after time expired were penalized 10 points each. I started off poorly. From a low ready, Brian had us drop into prone and fire two shots at 75 yards in 5 seconds. I had difficulties getting down and on target, and I failed to fire before time expired. Other drills included two shots from a low ready in one second, six shots from low ready in two seconds, shoot-reload-shoot in four and a half seconds, sprinting to the 50 yard line and firing twice, plus another Modified Navy Qual. I ended the event with a passing score, but I could have performed better. This drove home that it doesn’t matter how well you perform at your best, but how well you perform when you are not at your best.
After the qual, we gathered to debrief. Brian was up front about wanting criticism on the whole class. He wanted to know what seemed to work, what didn’t seem to work well, and asked for any ideas for improvement. He certainly is very motivated to make his classes better. I had one of the few criticisms of the class, when I said that I thought pacing could have been a little quicker, especially early on. Indeed, we shot fewer rounds during the weekend than I have ever shot in a 2-day class. However, after a couple more days to digest the entire class, I’m very happy with the pace that Brian set, as it was used to emphasize lessons backed up with facts from the target and timer. It wasn’t just wasted with extra repetitions that we students could easily do on our own time.
Many of us had similar takeaways. Among them were the following:
-The stress that Brian put on owning every shot, as opposed to double taps / hammer pairs with a single sight picture, was a good thing.
-The time difference between taking a slow aimed shot from standing compared to the time it took to transition to prone before shooting.
-Checking gear and mindset prior to each drill. During the qualification, many of us should have taken greater time to ensure our gear and our minds were ready before the buzzer. Had I taken a moment or two more to prepare for my 75 yard prone shots at the beginning of the qual, I may have gotten a shot or two off. Another student didn’t check his gear and dropped into prone without a magazine in his gun on the same drill.
-Contrary to my earlier belief, transitioning to a pistol can be done much faster than performing a reload on a carbine. That saved second or so can mean the difference between a cool war story and tragedy.
-Efficient movement is the key to most drills and situations. This is a key point in every class I’ve been to, but it’s always good when it’s stressed again in new ways. Putting effective shots on target sooner is the goal, and moving efficiently, changing positions, or transitioning to a pistol may get those shots off sooner rather than later.
-There were many more lessons learned, and Brian’s use of the timer drove them home effectively. I was happy to see that he used it as a training tool. The timer and target don’t lie, and make excellent diagnostic tools.
My biggest takeaway is that this is a different EAG. There were no Moose Cocks anymore except those the students brought with them. There was no binder of cool, nostalgic pictures. There was only a single relay and no assistant instructor. This class was Brian Canova building off Pat’s legacy, his way, playing to his own strengths. I’m very optimistic about the future of Brian’s EAG Tactical.