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Redback One 2-Day Basic Carbine Course: AAR

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

An Intro: I’ve had some previous experience with the M4 before, but this was the first class I took that was completely devoted to its operation. Even though it was only two days long, I still managed to pull a lot of useful information that I will definitely be using in the future. In any event, if you’re new to the carbine, or just want to polish up some skills, this is an excellent class to take.

The Instructor: Jason Falla has 6 years experience in the Australian commando regiment and a further six years in SASR. He has prior experience in counter terrorist operation, heavy weaponry, combat medicine, CQB, special reconnaissance and surveillance, and hostage rescue. In 2005, Jason relocated to the USA and worked for Blackwater for a period of 5 years as a firearms instructor before starting Redback One where he became the senior instructor and training advisor. His years of experience and mastery of the carbine really showed through his instruction.

The Weather: The first day was pretty chilly, and it stayed that way pretty much the entire day. The morning started cloudy with a light sprinkle, but thankfully this didn’t last. It definitely helped that we spend most of the day in the classroom, but more on that later. The second day was also fairly cold. It warmed up a bit as the day progressed, but a jacket was not unwelcome. Also, plenty of afternoon sun led to plenty of sunburn after the second day. What can I say? Blame my Nordic European ancestry.

My equipment: I used a Daniel Defense M4 with a DD forward grip, Magpul ACS stock, Blue Force Gear Vickers Combat Applications Sling, Surefire Scout Light with Manta Rails to hold the pressure switch, and an Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic. For my choice of magazines I used Magpul PMAGs. For the purposes of the exercises, each mag was filled to 28 rounds. I also used a Crye Precision Mag Clip for one of my mags, which I held on the left shoulder strap of my rig. My rig is a Tactical Tailor 2 piece MAV complete with an X Harness, both in MultiCam, of course.

Day 1:

We were in the classroom for about 7 hours (including the lunch break). That’s not to say it felt like wasted time. Actually, the lessons were quite informative, starting with the training objectives and leading into topics like M4 safety, characteristics of the M4 platform, the cycle of operation, how to field strip your rifle, shooting fundamentals, and zeroing. It’s definitely a great introduction for someone who’s new to the M4.

When 1500 rolled around, we did a bit of shooting. Mostly zeroing our sights from the 25m line.

After an hour and a half of zeroing and confirming our zero, we fired at low percentage targets from the high and low ready positions with follow through and post engagement exercises. That ended the day.

Day 2:

More classroom! But it was only 30 minutes long. And it was about ballistics. Having a good understanding of how the combination of your rifle and chosen ammunition affects a target is very important information. FYI, be on the lookout for Barnes Triple Shock. Best round ever [for now].

The shooting exercises, in order:

-Shooting at high and low percentage targets at 7 meters. A good warm up for the exercises to come.

-Shooting from the standing, kneeling, and prone shooting positions, and the pros and cons of each. We also worked a bit on alternative stances, such as rolling from prone.

-Tactical reloading. We went over this extensively.

-Cadence drills. Shots at 1 sec, 1/2 sec, and 1/4 sec from 7m. This is where stance and trigger control really come into play. This was also the last exercise before lunch.

-My personal favorite, the malfunction drills. We worked on failure to feed, unseated mags, failure to extract, double feeds, and the biggest malfunction of them all: bolt override. Mortar that rifle, soldier!

-Turning drills. Pivoting left and right towards the threat. About turns towards the threat. This also doubled as an exercise in shooting weak side dominant. You can’t always have your left foot forward, after all.

-Shooting on the move, specifically while moving forward. You sacrifice a stable shooting platform, so keeping good control is all the more important.

-Shooting from cover at steel. We devoted quite a few rounds to this, about one mag per cover. We practiced leaning from cover, shooting under cover, shooting above cover, ect. As predicted, some of the students took a few pieces of the cover off. Not a big deal in training, but it’s always important to remember when shooting that you’re optic has about a 2in. offset from your barrel.

-The final exercise of the day was a qualifier from the 50m line. 50 rounds, 5 points within the target, 3 points if the shots hit the body outside the target, same with headshots when the exercise called for them, 250 max score. The shots were made from various positions at various distances. We advanced to the 7m line. I managed a 210. Yea, me!

If you’re interested in attending this or other firearms classes, visit redbackone.com to view their available training schedule.

Also, thanks to Redback One’s facebook for many of the photos used in the article. You can view them and plenty more here.

Mad Duo Reviews Drive Angry

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Drive Angry: Cleared Hot to Watch

Drive Angry is the 3D theatrical version of that old truism about mopeds and, uh, large women. You know the one we’re talking about. This flick is so utterly ridonculous, so over the top, it makes self-respecting grindhouse hang its head in shame—and that’s what’s so awesome about it. We know, you expected us to make fun of it, mock the script and gunhandling…and we would have, if the movie had taken itself seriously, but it doesn’t. Its nonplussed self-awareness conveys the sort of “I’m at peace with myself” vibe that hippy gurus, overpaid therapists and cannibalistic serial killers can only envy. You know from the first thirty seconds you’re in for an over the top ride and within ten minutes you’ll have either left the theater or you’ll be having the time of you’re life.

Frankly, we loved it, and if you enjoyed The Expendables, or movies like They Live or Big Trouble in Little China, you will too. However, if you want writing without clichés or realistic combat action, better skip it. Production values aren’t as good as The Expendables, but the cast is, and it’s way better than Machete…but the fact that we’re comparing it to both should tell you something. Pay attention boys and girls, we’re talking about a movie in which the protagonist engages in a gunfight while in flagrante delicto* with a white trash redneck waitress (who has predictably big store bought boobs), smoking a cigar and drinking Black Label at the same time. The fact that she never dismounts and he neither misses nor spills the whiskey despite an obscenely high bad guy death toll should tell you something about it.

* Attention, grunts reading this: this is a fancy way for us to say he was having sex with her. Note also that he was the one smoking the cigar and drinking, not her.

Nicolas Cage plays our protagonist, John Milton (yes, like Paradise Lost), the bad ass grandfather everyone thought was dead (because he was). He breaks out of hell (in black Oaklies, behind the wheel of a 1964 Riviera) by driving across a sort of post-apocalyptic version of hell obviously dreamed up collaboratively by Dante, John Carpenter, Nick Castle and the editor of Muscle Car Magazine. Hell behind and vengeance before him, Milton goes after the villain of the piece, rescues a waitress from her abusive boyfriend and persuades her to take him across country, drives several awesome cars and tries to avoid a pursing demon, all the while indulging in epic amounts of carnage and bloodshed.

Billy Burke does a good if not compelling job as the evil hillbilly satanic cult messiah Jonah King, whose congregation apparently consists solely of Jerry Springer Show castoffs and refugees from Appalachia. He wants to sacrifice Milton’s grandchild (who killed Milton’s estranged daughter after she performed an ad hoc penectomy on him) in a satanic rite and unleash hell on earth.

Amber Heard is easy on the eyes as the daisy-duke-shorts-wearing Piper, a brawling trailer trash princess, and she does carry her role off okay, but the best supporting actor is without a doubt William Fichtner. He just steals every scene he’s in. Fichtner is the dry, impeccably dressed, laconic Accountant, sent by Lucifer to bring Milton back. Whether effortlessly beating the trailer park bully to death or driving a gas truck through a highway patrol roadblock, he makes it all look easy. David Morse plays Milton’s old friend, and we give the movie additional kewl points for having him in it despite his limited role.

There are a few things in the movie we’d have wished were made clear, like the “godkiller” gun and how Milton wound up dead in hell in the first place. However, in our views such gaps aren’t sufficient to spoil the fun. Besides, they’re more than counterbalanced by such niceties as a 1964 Buick Riviera, a 1969 Dodge Charger, a 1971 Chevy Chevelle, boobies, a cane made from the femur of the villain’s previous victim, the assorted grisly fates suffered by oh so many cultists, laugh out loud one-liners, mounds of expended brass, unabashed bloodshed, more boobies, expended shells and more brass and indignantly bloodthirsty cops…Plus, big damn supernatural bullets with Deus Velox Nex on the side are just kewl.

Though the film starts out in Colorado and makes its way to Louisiana via Olahoma, the terrain throughout will be woefully familiar to any poor bastard ever been stationed at Ft. Polk. Note: the Colorado troopers may not have been too bright (the Accountant’s influence not withstanding), but the Oklahoma troopers actually seem kind of familiar. We particularly enjoyed the OHP Captain ordering them to “shoot at their tires”. Pretty sure he was teaching at a tracking course we attended at Camp Gruber back in the early 90s.

Anyhoo, we’re just not sure how better to describe this movie in comparison to other movies. Constantine meets Crank? Big Trouble in Little China meets the bastard love child of Desperado and Dusk Til Dawn? Maybe it’s a whole new over the top genre itself, but if you don’t expect anything serious or coherent then you should be able to sit back and enjoy it.

Much as you would a really big-boned sportin’ woman or a moped with flames painted on the side. Just don’t wanna to tell anyone about it. You are hereby cleared hot to watch.

Mad Duo Clear!

About the authors: The Mad Duo enjoys celebrity status in the action figure world and among those sheepdogs perspicacious enough to follow them. Iconic trigger-pulling pundits whose wit and witticisms have been described as the “literary equivalent of a .308 boat-tail to the head”, they offer commentary on everything from current events to the relative merits of tactical gear, TTPs and weaponry. Read them on SSD, their website Breach-Bang-Clear or on FaceBook. No sissies, pansies, Olbermann fans or Behar acolytes allowed.

Badass LEGO Guns

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Badass LEGO Guns: Building Instructions for Five Working Guns by Martin Hudepohl is a pretty cool book. Using parts you’ll most likely have to custom order along with rubberbands and super glue, you can build any of five guns, from the semi-auto “Parabella” pistol to the fully automatic bullpup “Warbeast”, as seen on the cover. There’s also a neat butterfly knife called the “Magic Moth” available as well. If you have a bit of spare time, patience, and a love of LEGOs, then this might just be the next set of projects you could be looking for.

The 4-Hour Body

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

At a first glance, “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman” by Timothy Ferriss looks to be another ‘miracle’ lifestyle book that promises plenty while offering nothing of real value. However, most of the information inside is actually beneficial. It is possible, though not always practical, through using this book to indeed become “superhuman” as the title so boastfully states.

But how is this achievable? Mostly through the driving principle behind the book: the MED, or Minimum Effective Dose. A simple practice that values doing only what is absolutely necessary to achieve your goals, whether that be losing fat rapidly or quickly gaining muscle. For example, the Slow-Carb Diet described in the book promises to cause you to lose 20 pounds of weight in about 30 days without any exercise. Other techniques further assist with whatever cause you are currently pursuing.

Of course I mentioned the sometimes lack of practicality of this book. Mostly, it would really benefit from a companion publication. A “4-Hour Body Manual” or something similar, which would better define and simplify the information contained within. I say this because it’s a common occurrence to have to read through the author’s personal take on everything before you finally learn what you were looking for. Also, the author went through a wide volume of testing and describes some procedures that aren’t necessarily available or affordable to every reader.

Despite this, it’s a very good buy. It provides some very valuable information and the stories are generally entertaining. Also, the original title of the book was to be some variation of the term “Body Hacking”, so you know you’re in for a treat.

CoD Tritton Headset

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

When Black Ops first came out, there was a glaring problem with the sound mixing in the game: your own footsteps were highly audible while you couldn’t hear any other player’s movement. However, recent patching has virtually fixed this problem (Ninja Pro helps) and the practice of ‘soundwhoring’, or using a headset to locate your enemies based on the noise they make, is once again possible. There are many models of headsets up to the task, but in particular, I’m reviewing the Tritton – Call of Duty: Black Ops Dolby Digital True 5.1 Gaming Headset for Xbox and PS3.

The headset is decked out in Black Ops emblems and has interchangeable leather or terrycloth ear pads. A Dolby Digital decoder box converts the standard in-game sound into surround sound. All cabling is braided and all connectors are gold plated and are of a high quality. An in-line control allows you to adjust either in-game or chat volume and you can independently mute either. You can also attach a flexible microphone to the headset to allow for in-game communication and chat. The whole thing requires its own power supply via an AC adapter and along with the relatively short cable, you’ll most likely have to be close to your television. This, along with the multitude of required cables, made installation a bit of a pain in the ass, but it’s not a huge problem. The whole set can be stored in a hard carrying case, also decked out with Black Ops graphics. Still, components mean squat if the headset doesn’t perform well.

I am happy to say that the headset does run as good as it looks, but to be honest I found it to be a little disorienting at first. The size and weight of the headset coupled with having surround sound right next to my ear caused me to take them off more than once. However, this quickly passed and now I find it somewhat difficult to play online without them. There’s plenty of satisfaction in hearing that one guy (or guys, as is common) running Ghost with a suppressed weapon, stomping after you just for you to hear them coming and headshot them. They also work great with other games, and not having to rely on your television’s sound system for in-game audio is a nice bonus if being quiet while you game is preferred.

Only one question remains: To buy or not to buy? It’s a really good, solidly built headset, but at $250 this honestly boils down to a fanboy product. For a similar headset at a cheaper price, go for the Tritton AX Pro. It’s almost the same headset without the Black Ops graphics, and as a result, you save about $100. If you like the CoD license but still want to save some cash, there’s also the Black Ops Dolby Digital Surround Sound Gaming Headset. It’s virtual 5.1 instead of true 5.1, not too much of a difference honestly. It’s also $50 cheaper.

Medal of Honor

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Medal of Honor doesn’t single-handedly define the first person genre. Nor does it introduce some radically new idea or change the way we look at games in general. But rather, like Call of Duty, it also broke away from its WWII roots and reboots in a modern setting. In many ways, it’s just like the other ‘modern warfare’ shooters that are already on the market. So why even get it? Because, it does what it does very well, and it’s also pretty damn fun.

The story takes place in Afghanistan over a two day period during Operation Enduring Freedom. During that time, you’ll switch, with fairly equal playtimes, between a SEAL, Army Ranger, and “Tier One Operator”, with an Apache helicopter mission thrown in for flavor. The campaign does a good job of being believable. Soldiers interact with a sense of camaraderie, and converse with accurate force-specific jargon. Equally realistic objectives and scenarios are also within the campaign, mirroring the kind of operations these men would undergo in real life. The influence of the military sources that were used in the creation of the game are apparent. It’s also worth mentioning that the frame rate does drop significantly when the action gets really frantic, but it’s not game breaking.

The controls are the same as MW2, at least on the consoles, so if you’re coming from that game you won’t get that sense of ‘controller shock’ that can occur with other titles. You’ll receive the standard assortment of weaponry found in any other game of this kind: assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, etc. The ever present one hit kill knife is also in the game, and is as satisfying as ever. The Apache segment is on-rails, and you only control the weapons. This works fine, however, as it’s more fun to shoot at targets without worrying about piloting as well.

Multiplayer is a much different game compared to single player, having been developed by Battlefield creator DICE. Much like Battlefield, there are different classes to choose from and weapons to unlock, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The maximum number of players for each team is 12, players can’t form into squads, and maps are relatively small, making CQB a common occurrence. Damage from weapons is also greater, so death is much more common. It’s fast and frantic, and it’ll be sure to tide you over until Black Ops comes out next month.

Overall, Medal of Honor doesn’t offer much that hasn’t already been seen, nonetheless it’s a solid game. I highly recommend it.

The Paleo Solution

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

“The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet” by Robb Wolf describes a method called Paleolithic dieting, which involves eating foods that closely mimic what our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed. In layman’s terms, this means no grains, dairy, or legumes of any kind but rather eating seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seafoods, and land animals, preferably organic and grass fed. Unlike many books on dieting, the technique is easily accessible and includes well-researched information on the benefits of paleo dieting, testimonials, a simple to follow 30 day meal and exercise plan, and even a bit of humor spread throughout.

I bring this to your attention because of the not so recent news about military personnel struggling with their weight and turning to methods such as liposuction and crash dieting to achieve their goals. I’m not claiming this as a definitive method for weight loss and long-term health, but like anything else it’s worth a shot. So pick up the book and follow it’s contents for a while. You might end up liking paleo dieting, or at least the results it brings.

Review for H.A.W.X. 2

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade flight game. Unlike a simulator, which tries to replicate the realities of flight, the arcade flight genre simplifies the process to make it more enjoyable for a wider audience. Luckily, this is the way I prefer it. Who needs reality slapping them in the face while shooting down enemy craft or doing multiple barrel rolls at 1400+ miles per hour? Not me, and it makes for quite the action packed experience.

There are several modes available in H.A.W.X 2: Story, Free Flight, Survival, Arcade, and Multiplayer.

Story mode takes place in the near future and is told from the perspective of pilots from three countries: USA, UK, and Russia, and their involvement in quelling insurgent and Russian Ultranationalist activities across the globe. This is somewhat familiar territory for recent military-based games, but it still works. The inclusion of Ghost Recon and references to other Clancy games is also a nice touch. Most missions involve dogfighting in fighter planes, but the occasional UAV, recon, bombing, or AC-130 mission adds a bit of variety. After completing the entire story, you can play custom versions of the missions using any unlocked planes and loadouts you have. It’s pretty fun to tear through earlier missions in an F-22 Raptor or A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Free Flight is simply a threat-free way to try out your new planes in any of the game’s environments.

Survival is, what else, a survival mode. You pick your plane and fight off waves of increasingly difficult enemies until you finally lose. It’s a good way to gauge a plane’s abilities in combat situations.

Arcade is one of the more interesting modes. Every story mission is represented, but also has a certain restriction placed on it. This can be anything from being allowed only your cannon to being forced to play an entire mission in assistance OFF mode. These missions then become either fairly simple or frustratingly difficult.

Finally, multiplayer allows for other players to face off in matches. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a match online, so I can’t properly review this portion of the game.

In-game environments look incredible. Thanks to GeoEye, every location is highly detailed and are a real treat to view, especially in HD. Planes are also equally detailed, but the human models and non aerial vehicles leave a bit to be desired. Of course, the main focus in the game is the planes, so detailed people and ground forces may be asking a bit too much.

The controls are simple enough. There are buttons for acceleration and breaking, yaw, flare release, target acquisition, and your weapons. There is also assistance OFF mode, which removes the game’s limitations on plane movement, allowing you to perform impressive maneuvers at a greater risk of stall. In this mode the camera also zooms way out. When paired with the increased maneuverability, this can make combat a bit more difficult. Difficulty, of which there are three levels, also affects plane movement.

The game features a rewards system. Defeating enemies and completing missions nets you experience points which raise your in-game level. Certain actions also complete challenges, which often reward you with additional experience. You can use points earned while leveling up to purchase new weapons packs, planes, and overall upgrades. Continuously using a plane will also raise the mastery of that plane, which allows for greater levels of customization.

So, to buy or not to buy? I say go for it. I found it to be enjoyable, and the multiple modes and unlocks can keep you busy for a while. Plus, F-22 Raptors! ‘Nuff said.

[Review was done using the Xbox 360 version]