Defensive Kalashnikov Class 23MAY21

Garrett S

Disclosure: I am an alumnus of previous Green Ops courses and received a discount on this course for providing an AAR on a previous one. That being said, I am doing my best to be as impartial and fair as possible in this report.

I attended the Defensive Kalashnikov Class on 23 May 2021. Although this is a super-delayed AAR, I still believe the information contained within will be helpful for people considering this course in the future. This class was held at Green Ops' Stone Quarry range in Culpeper, VA. This was their inaugural Kalashnikov class, and I jumped at the chance to get some instruction on the AK platform. I was very happy with the Defensive Carbine I and Tactical Pistol 2-day courses in 2020.

A little bit of background on myself: I have been an AK enthusiast for as long as I can remember. The first rifle I ever owned was not the typical Ruger 10/22 or Marlin Model 60, but an Arsenal SLR-106 that I bought when I was of age. The sales guy had given me prescient advice to buy something not chambered in a "Commie caliber" that was sure to be banned at some point. Ha!

Over the past 11 years I have been a professional gunsmith and gradually learned the skills and my shop had acquired tooling for building and servicing the AK platform. I have built and re-built several AK rifles, pistols and SBRs. I even have some experience with select fire variants. I feel I am fairly well-versed in the history, cycle of operations, and fairly knowledgeable about the minutiae of differences in several AK pattern rifles produced by countries around the world, some which no longer exist as they did during the Cold War.

However, everyone knows that working on and collecting guns does not make one proficient with using them. Training, practice and repetition are necessary to use any platform. Training on AKs, both for learning how to work with them in the shop and on the range has been sorely lacking here in the US. We have military TMs which have data collected by reverse engineering and obtaining technical documents over decades of intelligence gathering - but there is still a lot of "secret sauce" when it comes to the esoteric knowledge of how to run these things. YouTube videos of Spetsnaz Operators Shooting over other people's shoulders and strangling people with slings, using them as human shields are shocking/entertaining to an extent - but real, safe and effective training is hard to come by. After attending the course last year focused on the AR platform, I began to run my AKs more often during COVID as 7.62x39mm was still available for $0.25-0.35 per round. When Green Ops announced a course, I signed up immediately.

I'll break down my AAR into the following blocks: Instructors, Equipment, Training Course, My Experience and Feedback.

Luke, Josh and Brian. A couple of other guys were there filming footage with drones (which sometimes sound like a swarm of bees if you don't realize they're there). If you want to find out about their bios, check out their page here:

The instructors stated outright at the beginning of the class that this was the first AK instruction Green Ops had offered, and that due to the nature of the platform and overwhelming preference for AR-pattern rifles - things would be a bit different. Manual of arms differs slightly between variants and magazines used (such those with "Yugo" style "bolt-hold-open" followers) - but that the class would be centered around the standard AKM pattern, using irons or red dot sights. About half of the students were running red dots mounted in various positions, while myself and one other student ran LPVOs (more on that later).

Equipment: First of all - hydration. It was 75F by 9 am and reached the mid-90s by early afternoon. Like most ranges, there isn't a lick of shade for the most part unless you go into the treeline. Green Ops urged starting hydration the night before with electrolyte-laden beverages and water. I typically drink 3L of water per day as a baseline, but I doubled that and added Pedialyte+. I was glad that I did. It was a scorcher and sunblock was also clutch, although I still managed to get a light roasting on my alabaster-white skin despite constant re-application. You can't train effectively if you're dehydrated, exhausted, in pain and/or falling out as a heat casualty. Be prepared.

My primary weapon was an Arsenal SAM7SF-84E - a milled receiver slightly modernized variant of the AK-47. It features a tubular stock that folds to the right side of the receiver and is retained by a catch. There is also a safety lever on the left side of the pistol grip that controls the standard selector lever much like those on the legacy Galil rifles. I had removed the cleaning rod as it can improve accuracy slightly as it makes barrel harmonics more consistent based on my experimentation. The standard AK-74 style muzzle brake was replaced with a Definitive Arms Fighter 24 brake, which is half the weight, half the length and actually reduces flash while fighting muzzle climb effectively. My sling was my standard Blue Force Gear Vickers sling with a Uloop up front, and Tier-1 Operator-style paracord rigging to the outboard heel of my buttstock. Weight unloaded: 8 lbs (oof). I ran MAGPUL PMAG 30 rounders and a couple of Hungarian tanker mags for zeroing/prone work.

I ran a Primary Arms SLx 1-6x FFP with ACSS reticle with BDC for 7.62x39/300 Blackout supersonic loads, mounted to RS Regulate side mounts (AKML and AK-303M) with Warne steel low rings. Weight of optic and mount: 28.4 oz. (oof again). I shot a 3-shot 1.3" group at 100 yds when confirming zero before the class with [formerly] cheapo Wolf 122 gr. FMJ ammo - not too shabby. I did this to see how I'd like running an LPVO, despite knowing we would not be stretching to longer ranges.

I ran my HSGI SGPB with long Esstac KYWI AK mag pouches, HSGI taco pistol pouches, HSGI dump pouch, IFAK, G-Code RTI belt hanger with PHLster Floodlight and a large radio pouch for admin/random stuff. I carried my G45 MOS with Holosun 504C but we did not run any pistol transitions from what I recall. I wore PIG gloves throughout as you should always run an AK with gloves if possible due to the hot handguards/gas tube and sometimes sharp edges on the selector lever and top cover. I ran some knee pads as well.

Training Course: The course began with student intros - and as one might expect, there was a wide swath of different rifles in all sorts of different setups. Students ranged from experienced enthusiasts to novices who had bought their first AK rifle within a week or two of the class. After the standard instructor intros and safety briefing, there was a brief class on the history of the AK platform. There are dozens of books and probably decades of documentaries and YouTube videos about them, so I appreciated a concise version.

Then we got into zeroing. I say zeroing, not confirming zero because students were all over the map. This was compounded by people running a combo of various optics or iron sights. Those who had done their homework (as requested by Green Ops on the registration page and follow-up emails to students) and printed a nice group off the bat got to hang out for about an hour while the stragglers were brought up to speed. The instructors did their best to manage this but it is really not their job to help you zero your weapon. Rant: Showing up with something not set up or at least somewhat close, potentially needing some fine tuning for elevation to use a different distance for zeroing wastes your time and everyone else's. It's a dick move. It was beyond frustrating to the people who came prepared as they knew this was eating into valuable drill/repetition time, which is the whole point of such a course. PLEASE do the right thing and come with your gear set up, you will be happier and so will everyone else (rant over). That being said, the instructors got participants to an acceptable zero and we continued on.

Instruction ran the gamut from basics of setup of the rifles, the best methods for mounting optics, and operation of the rifle as an AKM with a standard selector lever. Ready up drills were covered to get warmed up and acquainted with the operation of the safety and getting rounds on target. Some standing/kneeling/prone transition drills were worked on as well. As always, Green Ops instructors stressed the importance of getting comfortable shooting in as many positions as possible, and also transitioning SAFELY between positions. Standing up before checking your surroundings can be disastrous, and this is something I always appreciate. No one needs unintended holes punched in them. Reloading techniques were covered, with several different styles. Students were encouraged to try the different evolutions to see what worked best for them and their setup. Having the optic mount on the left side of the receiver forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me a technique that ended up being faster for me than anything I'd tried before. This is why I come to class!

Several other drills were run as the day progressed in the late spring heat. My favorite part of the course was running up and shooting from cover behind the VTAC barricades. This is always a rewarding training opportunity as you have to really work hard to stay behind cover, be aware of your muzzle and make hits as targets are called out quickly. Doing this at the end of the day with new knowledge and while a little fatigued really shakes out your bad habits. Every shooter makes mistakes and thinks about what to work on on their next attempt, or at home/on their range on their own time.

Training was wrapped up with the qualification - which is always a huge challenge but a lot of fun. Going up against the clock against myself, but also other students that you've bonded with and worked with throughout the day is always a good thing. The goal this day was to shoot the qual clean, with less attention placed on time. In my fatigued state, the LPVO was tough to deal with at closer range. I was getting sloppy and the 10 pounds of rifle and optic were getting heavy in my hands. I pulled a few shots but otherwise did ok. The other guy running an LPVO did manage to shoot it clean! It's good to see at least one student reach the bar as it proves the qual is challenging but achievable.

My Experience: The biggest takeaways for me from this class were some fresh takes on reload drills, and practice on the range. I love that VTAC barricade, and some day I'm going to find a range where I can do more work on it more often. For now, I'm mostly confined to indoor shooting lanes and getting creative with dry fire and gun handling at home.

The LPVO on the AK is viable, but slow to difficult to use at close range (duh). It adds almost TWO POUNDS of weight to an already heavy rifle - but this for me was a proof of concept of optics on an AK period. Would my optic retain zero? Could I use it effectively at all? Absolutely. The Primary Arms FFP ACSS reticle is AWESOME. The only gripe I have about it is in bright sunlight, the illuminated reticle is really not worth using, but that's minor. Turn it off and you have a nice crisp black reticle to work with. The RS Regulate mount is unparalleled in my opinion, and I use it to run a much lighter weight Holosun 403C on my 12.5" 7.62x39 AK, which is MUCH lighter and handier for close work. Next time I take a class, I'll be running that or a 5.56 AK with red dot.

Feedback: The Green Ops guys are great. There was some discussion/disagreement on what zero distance to use - as people were shooting different calibers, barrel lengths, optics etc. I would suggest the cadre come up with some solid recommendations for the most common configurations to help people who need assistance here. Sending this advice a few weeks before class would give people time to get ready (currently, students are advised to reach out if they're having trouble). I use the following site and book for my zeroing info:

I keep this in my range bag: https://shop.akoperatorsunionlocal4...-NEW-EDITION-AK-Bootcamp-Book-NEW-EDITION.htm

Aside from that, I enjoyed the class and learned some valuable skills, as always! I will be back for more.