Santa Clara, CA played host to the TacFlow Academy’s Large Caliber Rifle Instructors Course. This strictly LE/MIL instructors course is where sniper teams from around the country come to learn even more about their .338 Lapua Magnum and .50 BMG rifles. This is no retreat and the course involves running, studying, and shooting during all 50 hours of coursework. I received an invite to this class from TacFlow’s Director of Sniper Training Mark Lang and had a week to train with SWAT Sniper teams from across the United States.
TacFlow Academy Large Caliber Rifle Instructors Course
Training and Coursework
Upon arrival, the class of 22 was split into 3 groups, and then into two-man teams. As sniper and spotter work hand in hand, it’s on you to make sure you’re checking your partner’s position, technique, etc. I was partnered up with a sniper based out of Texas and then we dove straight into the coursework.
Note: Due to the nature of this training this article is written as a high-level overview of the class and its material. Neither of the books pictured here is available for sale outside of law enforcement. The course details many different tactics for specific threats. For the safety of law enforcement members, I’m not at liberty to disclose any of this information.
I was told prior to the course that I would need to be able to build a PowerPoint, provide teach backs, and present my rifle as if I were in front of a judge. For the week I would be running a Cadex Tremor Tactical CDX-50 chambered in .50BMG. I reviewed this rifle previously for TFB, but the rifle I’d be shooting this week would be set up slightly differently.
My Stormtrooper White Tremor was outfitted with a NightForce ATACR 1-8 FFP optic, Cadex tripod/bipod, and a KGM R50 suppressor. I decided to name this rifle “The Panda” or “The Panda Express” as it was then referred to throughout the week. 200 rounds of monolithic 720 grain .50 BMG ammo were provided by Ultimate Ammunition. Like all rifles in the class, mine had been previously zeroed, but we headed out to the range to re-zero the rifles for ammunition and environmental factors. While doing so we gathered chronograph data with the help of a LabRadar.
The class plays host to a variety of .50BMG and .338LM rifles and goes over where and how information for service and spec should be obtained for these rifles. A large portion of the class was running a Barrett M107A1 or M82A1. Due to its overwhelming popularity, every member of the class was tested by week’s end to ensure we could field assemble the weapon in under 90 seconds. There would be a lot more testing, but we’ll circle back to that.
Safety and Overpressure
When it comes to anything firearm-related, safety is always the number one priority. If it’s not safe, it needs to stop and be made safe immediately. As it pertains to large caliber rifles, safety is even more paramount. The .50BMG projectiles from these weapons can carry anywhere from 10,000 – 13,000+ ft-lbs of energy downrange. Making sure you’re shooting at a range with the correct backstop and fire control team on standby is a must.
Ever been next to a firearm that felt like it was clearing out your sinuses every time it was fired? If so, you’ve experienced incident pressure. Incident pressure is a pressure that passes to the side of the weapon and not directly onto the subject. Overpressure on the other hand is any pressure experienced above and beyond that of normal atmospheric pressure on the human body.
Currently, the U.S. Army doctrine list 4psi as the current reasonable maximum for overpressure. Studies from organizations including the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and TacFlow have shown that .50BMG shooters may experience incident overpressure in common prone shooting positions. As a result of this, the course works to mitigate this increase by using various shooting positions to aid in the operators’ current and long-term health.
I was fortunate enough to be running my rifle suppressed for the week but was on the firing line with many other shooters with unsuppressed rifles. The result of this overpressure can manifest as confusion, dizziness, and other various side effects.
When snipers are called out, they’re forced to set up in whatever position is most advantageous to them. They’re on the clock and this means running and maneuvering the rifle into place as quickly as possible. In order to test this, TacFlow has its own set of standards that all attendees were tested on.
As mentioned earlier, all teams deploying a semi-auto Barrett had to assemble the rifle throughout the week. When it came time to test they had to assemble the weapon and have two rounds on target in under 90 seconds.
Another one of the standards included deployment to a tripod and vehicle threat engagement. For vehicle threat engagement, the shooter had to go from prone to barricade standing with four rounds on target in under 25 seconds.
Not only were our skills tested against the TacFlow standards, but we had to develop qualifications of our own and present them to class. As this is an instructor-level course, teach backs were a large part of the course material.
Friday, the final day. You’re tired and sore, and now you have passed tests on the range and in the classroom. It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding to pass that final written exam. New threats emerge every day for law enforcement members across the United States. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team members must be able to combat these threats whether they be vehicles, hardened targets, or otherwise uncommon situations. I understand this article will be inherently vague to our general readership, but to those members of law enforcement that currently field a large caliber weapon, this class is something your agency needs to consider.
Due to the length of the class, this will be the first of three articles covering material learned. So stay tuned. Special thank you to Ultimate Ammunition for providing the ammunition for this trip, and to TacFlow Academy for the invitation.