Company: Michigan Defensive Firearms Institute (MDFI)
Course: 2 Day Home Defense (Long Gun)
Dates: 17-18 AUG 2013
Instructors: Erik Utrecht, Tom Fineis, Zach Hoernschemeyer, Kyle
Location: Alliance, OH – Alliance PD Range and Shoothouse
AAR PREFACE – For ease of writing, some of what follows is replicated from my AAR of the MDFI Home Defense Pistol Course on 7/18-19/2013. I have copied some text purely because I had the exact same feelings in this course, but altered/enhanced all necessary relevant points.
T1 – Mostly sunny, highs in the 80s during the day. Lows in the high 60s at night. Perfect.
T2 – Overcast, highs in the 70’s for most of the day
My Background: Civilian, InfoSec industry, serious student
Pistol – M&P 9fs, 10-8 sights, APEX DCAEK/RAM, SureFire X300U, SF DG Switch
Carbine – 11.5″ SBR, Geissele MK4 9.5″ rail, BCM Barrel, Geissele SSA-E trigger, Rainier Upper, Raptor CH, Trijicon SRS, Magpul BUIS, SureFire Fury
Holster/Mag Holder: Raven Concealment holster, FastMags for M4 and Pistol
Helmet/Armor/Carrier: Team Wendy EXFIL, 10×12 ESAPI LEVEL III+, SKD PIG with MOLLE cummerbund, Estac KYWI and BFG pouches
Med Kit: Dark Angel DARK, Pocket DARK
Belt: HSGI Padded belt, Ares Gear Ranger
Eyepro: Smith Optics Elite Prospect, Boogie Regulator, Aegis, LoPro Regulator
Earpro: Leight Elec, MSA Sordin
Camera: GoPro Hero3 Black, Hero2
Round Count: Approx 300 total over 2 days
Big thanks to Joe Weyer and Mike Jones from Alliance PD for allowing us to come out and use the range. GREAT facility. Once again, very clean and an honor to use.
A special note of thanks to Chief Griffith of the APD as well. We felt privileged to be allowed to train here yet again.
10 students. Primarily civilians, one LEO. Half of us had gone through the Home Defense Pistol course several weeks ago and were returning for the long gun portion. The other half were students that had taken many classes at MDFI previously and were interested in gaining shoothouse experience. Weapons consisted of AR variants (suppressed, SBRs, 5.56, .308, .22) quite a few pump shotguns, and one or two SA shotguns.
The MDFI Instructors (Trek, Tom, Zach, Kyle) had us kit up and took us down to the square range to get us warmed up and figure out any potential gear issues.
Trijicon loaned me an SRS optic to test during the class. I removed my Aimpoint H1 and attached the SRS. It came with a kill flash cover on it, but I took it off for the purposes of the class and wanted to see if I noticed the emitter reflection I’ve heard about. I immediately noticed how much larger and heavier the SRS was on my SBR, and knew that it was going to take some getting used to.
The cadre started with a thorough safety briefing and what was expected from the students and then took us through various marksmanship drills to iron out gear issues. 15 minutes later we were good to go.
As with the Home Defense Pistol course, we got an overview of what to expect in the house. What would happen to our eyes, our minds, our feet. Where we would look and not look. How we would move, how we would overthink everything. The instructors remained consistent with their previous messaging from HDP that operating well in the shoothouse is a matter of learning how to process large amounts of data in short amounts of time and being able to separate out what is important from the inconsequential.
We were told about shapes and angles of rooms, furniture placement, and how to break the room down into smaller and smaller sectors.
At no point did I feel like I was hearing old or tired information. Although I had gone through essentially the same briefing 3 weeks prior, the emphasis now was using a long gun rather than a pistol and the intrinsic differences were highlighted. Quite a bit of time was taken to ensure safety rules were followed religiously.
T1 was all about making runs solo. After the briefing we broke into two teams of 5 students and started dry runs on opposite sides of the house. We were taught corner fed rooms and center fed rooms and a bit of hallway work (intersections were covered on T2). How to obtain proper positioning to take a corner but not over penetrate. How to position on a door depending on how it opened and what could be read of the structure.
We went through several runs dry and live, switching rooms throughout the house, and the cadre did a great job of varying furniture and target placement. I never felt like I was entering the same room twice. The instructors were thorough as always with personal critiques during and after the runs so that we had a chance to fully absorb what we did right, and what we could improve.
I ran a GoPro Hero 3 with the NVG mount on my helmet, and a rear facing Hero2 on a Strikemark rail mount on my carbine to capture each run for further personal analysis.
After each major set of runs, the cadre would bring us all back to the staging area and debrief, going through each student and getting perspectives on their runs. This was an invaluable tool for the class to hear what each person was seeing, doing, and how they approached their problems. Sometimes the comments were comedic, other times sobering, but mostly the students realized that operating in a 360 degree environment with a long gun is a complete mindf*** and is strangely addicting.
Me and two other guys brought a ton of meat for the class so we fired up the grille and had a hell of a lunch.
Side note: Jake from Ares Gear stopped by and it was great to be able to catch up with him. He had some gear available and it’s always great to see industry partners just hanging out and donating their time.
Afternoon of T1 consisted of more runs throughout the house, multiple room clearings, hallways. We were all trying to iron out small inconsistencies in our own performance knowing that the night runs were coming.
Personally, I felt like I was performing much better than I did at HDP, but trying to get used to the SRS optic was time consuming. I never had a chance to zero it properly during gear check, and I was screwing up my holdovers. That said, movement was smoothe and the instructors were helping me with the details only time in the shoothouse will expose, such as better moments for shoulder transitions.
We had 10-12 daylight runs in the house and were pretty much smoked by dinnertime.
The SRS worked great during the day. I really liked the increased field of view, and the weight became a negligible issue. The housing, although large, just seemed to disappear after a while. I was really digging this sight…that would change.
I couldn’t find earpro that worked perfectly for me with the EXFIL helmet. The Howard Leight’s didn’t fit underneath, and the neckstrap MSA Sordins were just slightly getting caught up in the nylon helmet straps making them a little uncomfortable. Most comfortable were the in-ear SureFires. I hadn’t had time to test out Peltors clamped to the helmet rails, but that is the next test when I get home.
The helmet was extraordinarily comfortable for all day use. Compared to some of the AirFrames and FAST helmets in class, the EXFIL seemed to ride slightly high on the head, but it was super light and the padding was stellar. The BOA system for adjustments was flawless and I had a lot of guys in the class commenting on the comfort.
After another grille dinner, debriefing and a lot of laughs, we kitted up again around 2100.
Cadre took us back down the square range to work through any lighting issues and to go through a briefing on light techniques. As with HDP, they explained that on these runs it was more important than ever to remain methodical, paint the room with light, cover the sectors, recover the sectors, check the downed bad guys and make sure that you are efficient in moving around the room.
I had my SF Fury mounted to the carbine all day, so by the time night rolled around the lens was caked with filth. Trek tossed me a travel sized tube of Colgate and told me to try cleaning it with the paste. Best trick I learned all weekend.
Before I came out to OH, I had replaced the tail switch of the Fury with a clicky tailcap from an old Streamlight I had lying around. Great low cost mod that helped me a ton. The Fury blasted the small rooms with light and performed very well in the large rooms. Once again in two student groups, we made 3 or 4 more runs in the house. Fatigue began to hit the group pretty hard and we packed it in around midnight.
The biggest issue I found in the night runs was that the Trijicon SRS began to fail. I had one run where the red dot disappeared briefly. I thought it was an aberration or that maybe I just lost sight of the dot. Unfortunately, on our last long run of the night, the dot started turning on and off every time a shot was fired. It just so happened this hit while I was trying to make a relatively easy 15 yard hallway shot. I had to transition to the flip up Magpul BUIS to complete the run. Even though it was rock solid during the day, this ruined my confidence in the optic for critical night work. Pretty sure the issue was a faulty battery connector, so I will give my feedback to Trijicon and hope they iron out the quality issues.
T2 was about teamwork. The cadre split us into two man teams as soon as we arrived and we had our buddy for the whole day. My partner was a southpaw and new to the house so we came up with a basic SOP for movement to help him get comfortable on the first few runs and that advanced planning served us well. Since we were using reactive balloon/cardboard targets all day, any downtime we had between runs was spent blowing up balloons and stringing up new targets. Once again, this allowed us to compare experiences among the group. My partner picked things up very quickly and we began to move smoothly as a team.
Midway through the day the instructors took some time to cover L and T and 4-way intersections.
As we found with the Pistol version of the course, we were able to make about 6-8 runs through the house as a team on T2, with the final exercise being another active shooter scenario. Everything just seemed to come together as it should. Another great day.
Thanks to Trijicon & Geissele for some swag (always appreciated) and especially to Trijicon for the free RMR giveaway. Unfortunately, and yet again, I was not the lucky winner but it was VERY cool to see companies supporting training like this.
Trijicon was also very generous letting me T&E the SRS and I hope more folks get the chance to do the same. It really is a great sight, but it needs some quality control work at HQ.
It bears repeating: The personalities in the cadre really sets MDFI apart from other schools I have attended. They were a TEAM, not a mix of egos, and their coordination throughout the period of instruction was stellar. They had the right level of professionalism, levity and intensity that kept us from all burning out. Their instruction was consistent across the team and the handoffs from one pair of instructors to another was seamless.
While I learned a great deal in the Pistol offering about general movement, the Long Gun version of this course gave me a much better appreciation of what I would need to do with my long guns in my home. Once again, the low light portion on T1 was invaluable and I felt lucky that it was included.
I can’t say enough good things about MDFI and I would recommend their courses to anyone looking for a solid curriculum and top level instructors.
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.