first published on October 2, 2020 by Josh Brooks[mashshare]
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a long range precision shooting course hosted by Student of the Gun. If you’ve never had the opportunity to attend a course of this type, I’m hopeful that by the end of this review you will consider it. Training makes us all better shooters, and better shooters make America a safer place to live.
Throughout the duration of the course, I fired .308 rounds through a Next Level Arms AR-10 platform. On the platform, I was also running a MagPul M-Lok Bipod as well as a Vortex ViperHS Rifle Scope. I also used my Hackett Equipment Rifle Burrito as a shooting mat for the duration of the two day course. We won’t be focusing too much more on the equipment that I used throughout the duration of the course, but it’s worth mentioning up front so you know what kind of hardware I was running. You can find a full review and breakdown of the rifle build at this link.
Without further text to drag this intro out, let’s jump into my review of the Student of the Gun long range precision course.
To properly answer this question, you need to definitively answer yes to two questions yourself. Are you willing to break bad habits? Do you already own the tools to shoot at a distance? If you answered yes to both questions, then without a shadow of doubt this is the kind of course you should attend.
Now, when I ask the question, “Are you willing to break bad habits?” I don’t mean to say you suck at shooting. What I mean to say is that the skillset required to shoot paper at 25-yards is a hell of a lot different than the skillset required to shoot at 1,000 yards. There is a ton of science that goes into shooting long-range. Something as simple as breathing wrong, or putting too much muscle into the stock of your rifle could cause you to completely miss your shot at that range.
If you already own the equipment to shoot at that range however, then you would be doing yourself a disservice to not at least attend one of these courses. First of all, because it’s incredibly difficult to find a 1,000+ yard range to shoot on. If you never attempt a 1,000+ yard shot, you’ll certainly miss when you have the first opportunity. Hopefully, that first opportunity won’t be at a critical moment in your life where you need to hit. These types of courses make that training possible.
Now, before you go to one of these courses you need to manage your expectations. You cannot, and will not, become a Marine Corps Scout Sniper in a singular two day course. In fact, you may find yourself with more questions at the end of a two day course than you had going into it. That’s because you’ve finally scratched the surface of an extreme skillset. Things you didn’t even know existed in the shooting world are now concepts that exist to you. Naturally, your thirst for knowledge will make you feel like you are in a deficit with the skillset you thought you already understood well.
Before, you were probably blissfully unaware of shooting mechanics like bone support, and breath control. You were also probably blissfully unaware of the more intricate workings of your high powered optics. Now, at the end of a two day course, you’ve used these things in practice. You’ll be a better shooter for sure, but you’re going to want more knowledge on the topics. You don’t have a deficit in the skillset though. You now know those glasses exist, and that you need to fill them with your own experience. Before, you didn’t even know those cups were on the bar-top.
That’s one of the primary reasons I enjoy attending Student of the Gun’s and other shooting courses.
When it comes to a long range precision shooting course, Wyoming is the perfect location. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of open land with clear fields of fire. Student of the Gun chose this location to be the home of their long range precision shooting course, and it proved to be a great decision. The course itself started on a Friday. Training day one is really just a meet and greet between the instructor and the students.
We met at the Elk Hollow Lodge on the Silver Spur Ranch late Friday afternoon. Over the course of several hours, we all got to know each other, and learn a bit about who we’d be spending the next few days with. The first actual training day started bright and early after an amazing breakfast on Saturday morning provided and cooked by Mrs. Markel.
Our course started with a classroom period of instruction from Marine Corps and Gulf War veteran Paul Markel. During the period of instruction, Paul broke down the range safety rules, and immediately started digging into the finer points of precision shooting. Paul is an outstanding shooter with decades of experience. Learning from directly from him was awesome.
After about an hour in the classroom, we loaded up and headed out to the range. Here, we had a secondary period of instruction on shooting positions, and set up the range for the day. Over the course of the day, we got a solid zero on our optics and started shooting at known-distance targets out to 1,000 yards. Under the watchful eye of Paul and his son Jarrad, the students were able to truly learn the ins-and-outs of both their weapon system, and their optic.
Training was rarely interrupted by the odd antelope or blown over target, but these things were fixed in an expeditious manner which really allowed us to maximize our time on the range. One of my fellow students may or may not have accidentally hit a groundhog at 700 yards.
Training Day 2 started much the same as Training Day 1. We woke up bright and early to a home-cooked breakfast from Mrs. Markel. There was no classroom period of instruction, and we got out to the range pretty quick. The second day of shooting was remediation for some shooters who struggled on the first day. After completion of the remediation, we moved into unknown distance target shooting which involved some range estimation.
On Day 2, we also worked on shooting from unconventional shooting positions. This proved to be a substantially more challenging way to shoot, and was really where we started to get stretched and stressed as shooters. The training day concluded early for me however, as I needed to make the long drive back to Salt Lake City a bit early. I truly wish I had been able to finish that last day of shooting, but I had a long drive to back to Salt Lake that needed to be done before I was completely sapped from the sun and elevation.
For the duration of the two day course, students stayed at the Elk Hollow Lodge on the Silver Spur Ranch. This location was absolutely amazing, and best of all, there was absolutely no cell phone reception for Verizon. The ranch itself did have access to WiFi, for those who absolutely cannot be disconnected, but for me, this was a great opportunity to unplug from the rest of the world for a little bit. On top of this, the location was also dog friendly, which allowed me to bring my Belgian Mal out with me for the weekend so he could enjoy some open ground to run on. The lodge was also the location of the classroom portion of the course, and it served that purpose really well.
The range facilities were also fantastic. Shooting itself took place on the Silver Spur Range, which was just a short drive from the lodge. While we primarily used the long range shooting course, which had a steel gong set up at over a mile and a half from the shooting positions, there were other great ranges on site as well. As far as long range precision shooting ranges go, I’d say Silver Spur Range probably has one of the better range facilities that I have personally seen. The only better ranges that I have personally seen specifically for this purpose are limited to Military and DoD use only.
I didn’t personally get to use the shorter ranges, but we did tour them and they seemed like a really great place to shoot. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to conduct a full review of this facility. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in Wyoming. You won’t regret it.
As many long time readers already know, I spent 8 years in the Marine Corps as an Infantryman. The primary instructor for the course has a similar life experience to myself. The primary difference between Paul and Myself is that he has about 25+ years in the industry on me. That roughly translates to a whole ton of experience in shooting that I just don’t have. So, needless to say I learned a lot of things.
While many aspects of the formal training were review to me, there was a wealth of new new information as well. Topics like, conventional shooting positions, bone support, breath control, and compensating for long ranges were mostly review. That said, there were new topics that I learned a lot about while at the SotG long range precision course. For example, this was the first time I ever took out a variable zoom optic and put it to use. For Paul and his son Jarrad who was assisting as the primary marksmanship instructor, my particular optic was second hand nature.
Both Paul and Jarrad were not only able to teach me the ins-and-outs of my specific optic, they were able to help me stretch the optic’s capabilities. On top of stretching the optics capabilities, they were also able to help me stretch and expand my own as an individual shooter.
“You’re a beginner once. You’re a student for life.” That’s the ethos of the Student of the Gun team. When you’re on the range with the crew, you can see that they live up to this. Not only were Paul and Jarrad great at teaching, they were receptive to learning from their students. This isn’t something that’s super common amongst firearms instructors.
Overall the long range precision shooting course from Student of the Gun was a fantastic weekend. I stretched my skills as a shooter. Expanded my knowledge base in long range marksmanship. And, I also had a killer weekend hanging out with great people and being quasi off-the-grid. If you’re looking to test your skills, I’d highly recommend attending any of the future Student of the Gun training programs that they offer. It’s well worth it.
That’s just the opinion of one reviewer though. Let me know down in the comments sections below who your favorite firearms instructor is. Have you found value in any shooting courses throughout your time as a shooter? Together we can always come together as a community and raise up good instructors.