View Full Version : Victory First Carbine Workshop - AAR

18 July 2014, 14:31
I attended the one-day Victory First Carbine Workshop hosted by Echo Valley Training Center in High View, WV last Saturday. I found out about the course through my local cool guy shop, F3 Tactical in Chantilly, VA.

Jimmy from F3 Tactical on the firing line at the Victory First Carbine Workshop. One of the nicest guys in the business!

This was the first time Iíve had instruction from Victory Firstís owner/operator Matt Jacques, and I was very impressed. Matt has a military and law enforcement background, and has been active in the industry one way or the other for years. He spent a portion of his career working on FNís SCAR program, and still spends a great deal of time consulting a number of companies in product development.

Instructor Matt Jacques showing off his Ghost gun? No, here he's discussing reloading.

This workshop is designed to be exactly thatÖa workshop. Itís not a ďCarbine IĒ type class for new shooters. The class description clearly informed potential attendees that students should already possess a basis of knowledge prior to taking the course. It was also clear that students should ensure they brought a good zeroed and working carbine. The class was exactly what I was looking for: A kind of range day with some solid shooters and knowledgeable direction from an experienced instructor.

Matt firing his customized BCM rifle.

Prior to the class, I established two goals I hoped to accomplish by the end of the day. First, I wanted to test a new training rifle set-up Ė which included a couple accessories that Iíve been eager to test out. Second, I wanted some guidance, instruction, and practice on the clearing of malfunctions that couldnít be cleared by an immediate action drill . I hoped a one-day workshop would be the ideal venue for this, and I was right.

Matt helping a student figure out how to best clear a malfunction (remedial action).

Matt had us all meet at an easy to find hotel a few miles from the training venue. (Several of us took advantage of a Victory First discounted room rate to travel there the night before.) There were two things I really liked about this. First, we all got the chance to drink a cup of coffee and kind of break the ice prior to hitting the range. As a result, when we did strap on the gear, weíd already gotten past some of the nervousness that comes with shooting with a bunch of people you donít really know. Secondly, the Echo Valley Training Center is not a very easy place to get to if youíve never been there before. (My GPS couldnít even communicate with the satellite once we turned off the main road.) So travelling in a caravan behind Matt from the hotel was extremely advantageous.

The t-shirt of one of the trained medics in the class.

Once at the range, we got to work pretty quickly. Matt gave a detailed safety brief that included detailed plans for calling in a chopper or ambulance. He also identified who would be in charge if HE went down. There were several medical professionals among the students, so that was reassuring. I also noted that the majority of shooters had some type of med kit with them. I applaud companies like Dark Angel Medical for pushing shooters to make medical training a vital part of their overall firearms training plans. I was personally carrying a D.A.R.K. and saw a number of others throughout the day. Finally, Matt started his mantra for the day, ďDrink water!Ē It was an extremely hot and humid day, and everyone took this little piece of instruction very seriously. (We took a number of water breaks, and Matt checked in with everybody regularly.)

"Drink water" was an order we heard often and took seriously...it was HOT!

We broke down into two relays, and proceeded with the dayís instruction. First we confirmed zeros with a three shot group from 50 yards. We checked targets, made adjustments if necessary, then shot another group of three. No student needed adjustment beyond this second group. It quickly became clear to me that this was a dialed-in group of shooters.

A dialed-n shooter checks his zero. Note the D.A.R.K. on his belt. There were several students carrying these in class including your's truly.

The content of the instruction included the following topics: (not an exhaustive listÖIím sure Iím missing something.)

 Trigger control
 Mechanical hold-over
 Presentation from both low and high ready
 Reloads
 Immediate action drill
 Remedial action drill
 Shooting from cover
 Course proficiency standards
 Culmination exercise

The pace of the class was quick, and I think the heat driven water breaks prevented Matt from getting to everything he wanted to cover. Throughout the day though, Matt threw out a number of little nuggets to get shooters thinking about gear and their personal SOP in the use of their weapon system. Much of his position assumed that the majority of the students were regular citizens who might need to defend themselves in their home. From my LEO perspective, there wasnít a thing Matt talked about that I didnít agree with 100%. (In fact, a lot of the common sense warnings he gave fit right in line with safety concerns I have operating as a plain-clothes officer.)

We shot just under 500 rounds this day, and I donít think any student would argue that even one of those rounds was wasted. I accomplished both of my goals and had some great take-aways:

 A Remedial Action Plan I can practice and perfect. My department spends little to zero time teaching and practicing how to clear double feeds or base-over-bolt malfunctions. Iíve recognized this as a personal training deficiency for years, but needed to seek out some reliable instruction to fix it. Now I haveÖfinally!

 I need to work on my support side skills. Admittedly, I hate switching shoulders with my rifle. I would rather expose a little more of my body around cover to ensure I can use my strong eye. Trying to find the dot of my Aimpoint with my left eye proved to be a serious challenge this day and Iím not sure Iíll ever be comfortable resorting to this in a real life situation. But I should work on it.

 The Blue Force Gear Vickerís sling has some deficiencies. This has been one of my favorite slings mainly because of the ease of adjustment and the padding that adds comfort to long periods of walking around with a slung rifle. What I discovered is that the combination of padding and material type hinder my ability to pull the sling across my neck (especially when itís sweaty) to pull the rifle into my workspace for reloads. In the end, I think I will be better off with something thinner and slickerÖlike the Gear Sector two-point sling I use on my duty rifle.

 The CMC Triggers 3.5 lb. single stage is smooth. I wasnít sure if Iíd like a trigger pull as light as 3.5 lbs. in a training carbine, but I did. I still need to train with it some more though. I found myself falling into the trap of jerking the trigger because you can get follow-up shots off so easily with that light pull. I need to work on this, but this trigger helped me fly through a slightly modified ďEl PresidenteĒ drill with zero misses and smooth target transitions.

 The Tactical Link EBAL is great for clearing malfunctionsÖBUT I didnít like using it to send the BCG forward. The EBAL allowed me to quickly lock the bolt back without having to let go of the pistol grip (Iím right handed). Which made that step in the malfunction clearing process faster and a lot less awkward. HOWEVER, I found it hard to locate the EBAL with my trigger finger when letting the bolt go forward on say, a dry re-load. For this, I appreciated the bigger target the EBAL gave my support hand when slapping the Bolt Catch. Bottom line Ė I love this accessory; itís more robust than the Magpul Bad Lever and Iíve tailored my use of it to what works best for me.

 The GripStop on a Centurion Arms CMR rocks! This rifle feels like itís part of me when I shoot it. The combination of the CMRís diameter along with the GripStop, fit in my hand so frigín well, I couldnít get over it. The lip of the constant-on button on the Surefire SR09 pressure switch worked perfectly as an indexing point for my thumb overtop of the bore. I started using a GripStop only a few weeks ago, and I canít say enough good things about it.

 Reminder, Magpul Gen 4 magazines donít play well with the Noveske Gen 2 lower. I knew this fact at one point in my life, but Iím getting old and I forgot all about it when I was pre-loading ten brand new Gen 4 Pmags in preparation for this class. Luckily I had a number of older PmagsÖbut thatís an hour of my life Iíll never get back.

 The Battle Arms Ambidextrous Selector is BADASS. I knew this too, but my Department prohibits me from putting one on my duty rifle. Since most of the training I attend is Departmentally mandated, I usually use my issued rifle. I find that with the BADASS though, I use both my thumb and trigger finger to manipulate from Fire to Safe. Itís probably all in my head, but I feel like Iím faster doing it this way. I also like the fact that my trigger finger is consciously coming off the trigger to put the rifle on safe. Some may argue that Iím doing it wrongÖbut this really works for me.

 All I want in a rifle is a Battle Comp and a mid-length gas system. These two enhancements make a huge difference in performance to me. There is such a noticeable difference shooting my training rifle rather than my issued Colt 6920 Ė which uses a standard flash hider and carbine length gas system.

 Fired brass is effing hot when if flies out of the ejection port. I have several painful burns courtesy of the shooter to my left. Itís not his fault of course, and itís probably even beneficial to train while getting hit with hot brass. This reminds me that people shouldnít judge those shooters who show up to class wearing a shemagh. Itís not squirrelly. Itís smart. (I just donít know if I can bring myself to wear one without feeling like a chump.)

 [I]Be more like Matt Stagliano. The incredibly talented photographer behind Firelance Media was in this class. Frankly, he saved all our asses. Echo Valley Training Center is a great venue, but it has very few amenities. Matt brought two cases of water and a cooler of ice. (As well as kit and top-of-the-line photography equipment I was drooling over all day.) Besides being a great shooter and talented photographer, it was clear that Matt takes his training seriously. We should all try to be more like Matt.

Matt Jacques on the left presenting a class certificate to Matt Stagliano on the right...mine didn't look anything like this!

A final word on this class: it was a ton of fun. The entire group seemed to gel and get along together very well. Perhaps this isnít such an uncommon thing, but coming from a Law Enforcement training background, I really appreciated the fact that everybody WANTED to be there, and made the most of the day. As an LE trainer, I was often tasked with training people who were ordered to be there, and wore their indifference about it all on their sleeve; thatís no fun for anybody.

Finally, Matt Jacques of Victory First is an awesome instructor. He obviously possesses a ton of knowledge and passes it along easily. His teaching style is perfect for my personality. He knows how to joke around just enough to keep it fun but professional. He reads students extremely well, and seems to know exactly what each of us needed to maximize learning. If you have an opportunity to take a Victory First classÖseize it! Iíll be looking to take another Victory First class in the near future.

If youíre not tired of reading the 1900 words of this AAR yet, take a photographic tour of my training rifle belowÖ

18 July 2014, 14:44
My training rifle is something I built with parts I know and trust, and a few components that are new to me that I was eager to work with...


The upper has a specially marked "Triple B" receiver; a 16 inch mid-length CHF barrel and CMR rail from Centurion Arms; a UCWRG BCG; a Battle Comp; a Gripstop; Magpul MBUS back-up sights; and an Aimpoint T-1 in a Daniel Defense mount. The lower is a Noveske Gen 2 Chainsaw lower with a CMC Triggers 3.5 lb. single stage trigger; a Battle Arms Development Selector; and a Tactical Link Enhanced Battery Assist Lever.


I liked the EBAL for locking the BCG back with my trigger finger, but preferred a more traditional method for sending the BCG forward.


The light 3.5 pound pull of the CMC Trigger took some getting used to, but I liked it a lot. I need to train more with it though.


I bought my first Gripstop just a few weeks ago and I LOVE this thing!


The Battle Comp along with the mid-length gas system makes for such a soft shooting rifle. I put these on all of my personal rifles.

Many of the barrels I buy are shipped with a cover over the threaded muzzle and a larger one over the chamber. The cover on my Scout light is one of these covers trimmed up quickly with a pair of scissors.

I really, really like this training rifle, and can't wait to hit the range with it again soon!

18 July 2014, 14:58
Nice, I didn't even see this class come up in my travels. EVTC isn't far for me.

Thanks for posting.

18 July 2014, 21:00
Very nice AAR TB, thanks for sharing. I need to take some refresher training....its been too long for me.

19 July 2014, 07:15
Awesome write-up Triple B!

I'm really glad you like the GripStop, it's one of my personal faves as well. I'd encourage you to take a look at the Frank Proctor 2 point sling - I was a die hard BFG then Gear Sector 2-point sling fan, but the Proctor sling is slicker and faster. Food for thought.

19 July 2014, 23:16
Awesome write-up Triple B!

I'm really glad you like the GripStop, it's one of my personal faves as well. I'd encourage you to take a look at the Frank Proctor 2 point sling - I was a die hard BFG then Gear Sector 2-point sling fan, but the Proctor sling is slicker and faster. Food for thought.

Thanks!...I'll take a look at the Frank Proctor 2 pt.