July 19, 2024

I have previously written a review of the Warrior Poet Society streaming service. And, after much deliberation I bought the expensive (to me) in-person training for “Rifle 1”. What follows is my experience, some suggestions and lessons I learned.

The Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) Summary

Warrior Poet training is excellent value for your money. I have zero regrets paying the money, Scottish genes notwithstanding. It has already made me a better shooter and set me on a path to get even better. I’ve seen other casual shooters changed for the better after trying Warrior Poet training. I hope to become like them and I will work so that I will be.

I received no products, discounts, or benefits from this positive review. I did ask the lead instructor if there were things he would prefer I leave out or make sure to include in my After Action Report and he said: “No, just give your honest opinion” and so I will.

Coherent Cumulative Curriculum

Warrior Poet’s curriculum is built around the idea that loving protectors may, with ethical and legal restrictions firmly in mind, have to use force to protect life. This means a gunfight, and to get better at gunfighting you must at least simulate gunfighting. The 1 and 2 level courses are aimed at giving you the fundamental skills to shoot, move, and utilize cover so that you can then simulate gunfights at their level 3 force-on-force courses.

The curriculum is specialized. They are teaching you how to use AR-style rifles, quickly, at close range, while in and around structures. They emphasize rifle use in what many consider pistol distances because they believe that is the use case most relevant to prepared citizens. The longest shot inside your house is probably the longest shot you will face. If you are primarily interested in reaching past that distance this course will be of limited value to you, although they are exploring a separate more long-range rifle course which piques my interest. For now, the rifle curriculum is focused on close range.

Since an 8-hour day is inadequate to turn beginners into professionals they focus on achievable skills that can build to something more. In Rifle 1 they teach fundamental skills and have you practice them. A lot. Some skills you will look at and say “This is incredibly useful” and others you have to take their word that it will be useful. Although since you’re reading this you could buy a month of WPSN to see for yourself if the skills build in a coherent cumulative manner. Having watched the courses it seems (albeit with my inexperienced eyes) that they do. Having taken one course and seen how well each skill leads into the next, I trust their design over multiple courses.

High Quality Instructors

This course was taught by Paul and Sam. They are both highly knowledgeable and experienced people but that matters less than the fact that they are both excellent teachers. Their instruction started gentle and scaled up. If you were getting yelled at you deserved it (you’d done something egregiously wrong) and you had missed the several other corrections they’d given you.

Paul and Sam worked together to try to help every student they had. Even the ones that many other teachers would have just sidelined and ignored. They did not sacrifice the group for the weakest link nor did they cut the weakest links out. They really wanted to help and even where they were harsh (which was rare) it was obviously done for the good of the student and group. It speaks well of them that they were as patient as they were.

They also did a good job of explaining what each drill accomplished instead of just having a drill for you to be better at. The Rhythm Drill (one sight picture one shot for a six-shot string) was to see how fast you could see and train your eyes and brain to see faster. The double tap or hammer pair drill (one sight picture two shots) was to see where you were failing to control recoil. They weren’t there just to see how fast you could shoot. Each drill had a purpose and the instructors explained it.

Finally, the instructors balanced teaching a specific curriculum while allowing variance among the shooters. Paul repeated many times that it was 75% science 25% art and that he didn’t argue with results. In this video he explains his philosophy so you can get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Starting at the 16 minute mark. In person I found there was a good balance between having us do a certain thing, a certain way, at a certain time and also letting the students learn from results they were generating.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Speaking of generating results: the course description says to bring 500 rounds of ammo and they mean it. It’s the most rounds I’ve ever fired in one session. At a certain point it became work. Good work, enjoyable work, but work nonetheless. How else to improve without work?

I had seen Rifle 1, 2, and 3 on the network before I went and so I had an idea of what would be covered. But that was in no way the same as putting 500 rounds of ammo downrange under supervision. There is a lot going on with each position they teach and you can’t remember it all at the same time. A coach coming around, looking at your target, watching you shoot, and then giving feedback is something individual practice can’t provide, especially at first.

The practice shouldn’t stop after the class. I went to the range with a couple classmates the next day to repeat the curriculum. After getting the initial training and repetitions I think you are then at a point where individual practice begins to benefit. You have enough adequate repetitions that you can start to self diagnose what went wrong and improve.

I don’t know when I will take my next course, it’s not cheap, but I will have practiced a lot with live and dry fire before I do. If I’m trying to remember the fundamentals I won’t have enough bandwith to absorb new material so I am laying a good foundation now.

Required, not suggested gear:

  • AR-style rifle with zeroed optic (Red dot, LPVO or prism) and installed sling
  • Magazine carrier with adequate belt
  • At least 5 magazines
  • 500 rounds of FMJ ball ammo (NOT green tip)

Their house their rules. I can’t imagine showing up with an M1 Garand and expecting them to adapt to me but I’m sure the equivalent has happened. That’s just ruining it for yourself. Their method may adapt to another system but that’s not how they are teaching it. So take it as they present it and then adapt on your own time.
None of those requirements are stupid. If they have students use a steel target you’ll destroy the target and endanger your classmates by shooting green tip at it. The sling is needed because there will be plenty of “Cease fire! Gather round and listen up!” and they do not have you clear and leave your rifle unattended. The instructors expect you to be moving where you’re told in a safe manner with your firearm. That means a sling. Similarly, the multiple mags are because you are going to be shooting a lot and there is no time to go and reload just two 30-round magazines 16 times. That would be a lot of downtime when they’re trying to make good use of your time.

Already having a zero and just confirming it will save everyone a lot of time and get you to the new stuff. Any idiot can shoot off a rest, that’s not why we’re here. So save time. They suggest a 200 yard zero with a “good enough” zero at 50 yards. If you don’t know what you’re doing, zero at 50, confirm at class, and they’ll explain other options for your future use there. For this class, I highly suggest that you show up with a good 50 yard zero.

My suggestions

Cargo pants or cargo shorts are amazing. I used 5 magazines when coming to the firing line. One in the gun, two on my strong side cargo pant pockets, and two in magazine carriers. That worked really well for me. Having an empty cargo pant pocket on my weak side was a good place to put empty mags. Once I had 2 empty magazines I would move all the loaded mags to the mag carriers and in the firearm. At that point, I knew that the mags in my pockets were all empty.

Speaking of magazine carriers: buy a nice one. I got a double Blade Tech pouch and that worked nicely for me. It worked with a stiffened concealed carry belt and just a thicker everyday belt. I was dubious about magazine carriers but I’m entirely sold. I saw someone use the less expensive (and thus more attractive to me) fabric carriers and while those worked, they were not nearly as efficient or comfortable. I’m really glad that I followed my friend’s advice and got a better one.

Use Electronic Hearing Protection. Yes, foam ear plugs (“foamies”) would kind of work but some guys bring shorter-barrelled rifles and even if everyone brought long-barrelled rifles, 20 of them going off in short succession is more than I want foamies to handle. Construction muffs are great and it’s what I originally bought, but as I mentioned there is a lot of “Gather round listen up!” and having to take the muffs on and off would have been annoying. Having electronic hearing protection also means that the instructor can give you personalized coaching while the firing line is active. My friend’s electronic hearing protection he lent me is well worth it. I’ll be buying my own shortly.

Treat small corrections like big corrections. If they are bothering to tell you something, it’s probably the biggest mistake you are making and something that needs to be fixed. The faster you fix it the faster you’ll improve. So when I was told “Nice grouping. Go faster”, how I interpreted that as was: “You’re moving waaay too slow. Pick it up.” There are a lot of students, you won’t get a ton of individual coaching, so make the most of what you get.

Shouldn’t need to be said but…

Make sure your gun runs. There are only two instructors and they are not there to help you troubleshoot your rifle. You need to have already run enough rounds through your gun that you know it will work. Otherwise, you’ll miss instruction. Same story as bringing your rifle zeroed.

Triple-check your packing. Make sure before you leave that you have the rifle, ammo, magazines, eye protec, hearing prtection, any equipment needed to change zero on your optic (it may prove necessary), spare batteries for anything electronic, lube for your AR, your belt and magazine carrier(s), and any other necessaries (lunch, water, medication). Make your own list based on the course requirements then triple check it before you leave the driveway. Especially if you are traveling to get there. If you realize you forgot something going to get it may put you an hour or two behind. Or you might have left it a state or two away. You might not be able to recover from a mistake like that.

Take correction well. When I screwed up (nothing unsafe but something that stopped the class) I felt an all but overpowering desire to explain why I had screwed up. But the truth is it doesn’t matter. I screwed up. I needed to acknowledge it, take my lumps, and prove that I had learned through my subsequent actions. Talk is cheap. Ego is strong. Acknowledge, don’t explain unless asked, and do better. That’s what the instructors want to see. That’s what your classmates want to see. I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying it’s necessary.

Surprises

It was physically taxing though not exhausting. I’m south of 40 and I work out 5 days a week, but I was feeling it by the end of class. I’m just not used to standing in the sun for 4+ hours at a stretch. You get some breaks and you spend them listening and stacking mags except for lunch. So a baseline of physical fitness is assumed.

The age distribution left me firmly on the young side of the group. That makes sense, people in their 20s generally balk at dropping 250 bucks on ammo, 450 bucks on the class, plus any equipment you need and don’t have, plus travel and lodging if applicable. It’s not chump change. But if you’re past 65 and taking the course, most of your risk is over. The 40 years you were most likely to need that skill (thank God you didn’t) have passed.

I’m not ragging on the older guys taking the course, actually it’s the opposite: I’m razzing the young guys who weren’t there. It’s always good to learn, better late than never. Absolutely. But to the rare young guy reading this blog: training is a priority. An adequate rifle and then training. We (because I’m guilty too) want to instead buy more firearms. Maybe body armor. Maybe a better bug-out bag. Maybe a nicer car. Maybe an ATV. Maybe a vacation. Maybe a good time at a bar. Whatever your particular poison is; there’s a point where you should have spent that on training. Especially if you claim to believe that something bad might happen.
We need fun, we need balance in life, yes. But training is a priority. Even better, training is something that you can continue to invest in and grow in and no one can take it from you. It doesn’t take up room in your apartment. It’s not something someone might accidentally see in your apartment. Training travels free.

Conclusion

I consider Warrior Poet Training high-quality training that was worth my money. Their training won an award at this year’s shot show and their network effectively allows you to preview what they are offering. A more limited preview is available on YouTube. I really appreciate that. It lets you try before you buy. And if you do buy you won’t feel “I already learned this virtually”. In-person training is a different world and one well worth visiting.

For young men: make it to class before middle age hits you. For everyone else: well worth your money if you are in a position to take advantage of it.

For everyone else: well worth your money if you are in a position to take advantage of it.