Last year, I decided my focus in 2016 would be on training. I wanted to be strategic with the time I spend on this hobby, and thought training could help me more long-term than scattering my focus in a few directions, shooting random matches, and learning things the hard way. By training, I meant that I wanted to not only fire more rounds at the range practicing, but I also wanted to get professional instruction on long-range shooting.
“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers
Over the next few posts, I plan to share some in-person training and events I’ve attended, and tell you about a really advanced training tool I was shown earlier this year by a rifle shooter who took home two Olympic gold medals in the Rio.
Honestly, I wasn’t even planning on doing a post about training DVD’s. But occasionally I’m so impressed with a product, that I become evangelical about it. I almost felt guilty if I didn’t share this with you guys, because I know this could help a lot of people.
You can see in the photo above, I’ve purchased several different sets of training DVD’s over the years. I bought all of these out-of-pocket at full retail price, so rest assured this isn’t a paid advertisement. At this point, I’ve literally watched all of them multiple times. Each one takes a little different approach. What I appreciate is each instructor has a little different focus, background, and expertise, and they’ll inevitably offer a helpful tip the others didn’t mention. Here’s a short synopsis of what I appreciated about each of them:
Todd is one of the most respected and sought-after long range rifle instructor in the world. Todd trains our best military snipers, so this is a unique opportunity for a civilian to come as close as they can to taking a personal class with Todd. While Todd understands the technical side of long range shooting, he has a very practical approach, and several simple, matter-of-fact ways of explaining the nerdy science and math side of things. You essentially follow a few guys going through one of his classes, which captures the coachable moments as Todd helps them understand the art of hitting small targets a long way off. (Unfortunately, this DVD set has been discontinued.)
As an aerospace engineer, world champion shooter, and industry-leading ballistician, Bryan is arguably one of the most knowledgeable guys in the long range world. He’s made unprecedented contributions to further the knowledge of the shooting community through his books, video-based training, software, and tools. It’s very comprehensive on the big topics you need to understand. Bryan does an excellent job explaining all the equipment you need, and practical checks you should run to set up your rifle and get shots on target at long range. This can help you side-step all the little gotchas that can creep in and leave you frustrated. Bryan has a unique approach of classroom explanations followed by live fire in the field, which helps close the gap between theory and application. Parts of this video feel like you’re going to the range with Bryan and he’s going to help you work up good dope … which is pretty valuable.
Jacob is the owner and lead instructor of Rifle’s Only, which is a sprawling, premier training facility in Texas where they offer courses for everyone from elite military units to civilians. In Disk 1, Jacob walks through an organized step-by-step approach to the fundamentals of precision rifle shooting, covering proper prone position, driving the rifle, bipod deployment, and more. Disk 2 is focused on field positions, which is a topic none of the other DVD’s covered. In real world situations, you simply can’t fire every shot from prone. Jacob illustrates a variety of shooting positions, from kneeling to standing to sling-supported shots, and how to adapt your position for what works for that location and time. The positions content is very relevant and helpful for guys looking to get into the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) style of rifle matches.
Update: A reader mentioned that Rifles Only now has a series of online video-based training, which you can subscribe to for $15/month, or download individual segments for $8 each.
As you can see, each set of DVD’s had different strengths when it came to content, instructors, and approach. Because of that, when someone asked me which I’d recommend, I always struggled to come up with which to recommend … until recently.
A couple of months ago, I bought Accuracy 1st’s Long Range Made Easy, and have to say I was VERY IMPRESSED! The tagline on the DVD is: “Go from basic to advanced with the guy that has trained our best military snipers for the past 10 years.” That’s a pretty good description! Todd Hodnett is the primary instructor, and Bryan Litz joins him in several segments.
It’s the best of both worlds: Todd Hodnett’s pragmatic “the-bullet-cannot-lie” approach, which has been field-proven by hundreds the world’s best snipers combined with Bryan Litz’s engineering approach based on the latest developments in external ballistics and verified using the scientific method and thousands of carefully instrumented live-fire experiments. The two styles complement each other well, and offer an extremely well-rounded and comprehensive overview to hitting targets at long range. It’s a duo like Lennon & McCartney, Han Solo & Chewbacca, or David Spade & Chris Farley. They’re good solo, but it’s something special when they come together.
The DVD set is split into 2 volumes, which contain 2 discs each. All together that is almost 4 hours of instruction from the most respected guys in the industry. And they cover a lot of ground! Honestly, you’d never be able to cover as much content in a one or two-day, in-person class, but the benefit of a DVD is you can easily hit rewind to hear them explain something again or re-watch the whole thing 2 or 3 times to help it all soak in.
I bought the Volume 1 & 2 Bundle for $76.95. That’s what I’d suggest, because if you only bought one or the other, you’d miss out on some important topics. Here’s what is covered:
Disc 1 (62 min)
Disc 1 helps understand how to select a rifle platform, scope, and bullet, based on their application. Accompanying Todd on the discussion of ballistics is Bryan Litz. Once the shooter has determined the type of ammunition, rifle and scope to be used Todd will run through a good technique to zero the rifle.
- Intro to Long Range
- Gear Purchases
- Gear Options
Disc 2 (56 min)
Disc 2 starts off by instructing the shooter on the optimal shooting positioning to be able to watch bullet impacts through recoil. Proper recoil management is essential to quick re-engagements, and improving your wind calls. Also in this DVD Todd will cover how to set up the rife and his quick and easy wind formula.
- Technique for Position
- Optimal Gun Setup
- Wind Formula
- Spotting with Will
Disc 1 (65 min)
Disc 1 introduces the Applied Ballistics Kestrel wind meter, which is a handheld took that captures real-time environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed) and uses those to calculate an accurate ballistic firing solution. Who better to review the operation of this device than the two guys who helped design it?! Other topics discussed on this DVD relate to bullet diameters, truing the ballistic algorithm so it matches your impacts in the field, drag scale factoring, and Weapons Employment Zone (WEZ) analysis.
- Applied Ballistics Kestrel
- Bullet Diameter
- Truing Ballistic Algorithms
- Drag Scale Factoring (DSF)
- WEZ Analysis
Disc 2 (52 min)
In Disc 2, Todd takes the shooter to the range to help learn how to make wind calls. Todd will take the shooter through various methods he uses to read the wind, and explains in practical terms how the wind moves over various terrain features. Todd also explains how to use the Accuracy 1st Whiz Wheel to achieve an accurate ballistic firing solution, just like the Applied Ballistics Kestrel. Todd then concludes this series by reviewing different scope reticle types and taking the infamous, One Mile Shot.
- Wind Course
- Wiz Wheel with Alice
- Reticle Types
- The One Mile Shot
I’ll always prefer in-person training over video-based training, because in-person training allows for questions and the instructor can provide personalized coaching tips. Unfortunately, I still haven’t received my invitation to go shoot with Todd and Bryan! 😉 So if we want to sit at the feet and learn from the leading minds in the industry, Accuracy 1st’s Long Range Made Easy is our best option.
And there is a huge upside to DVD training. First, the cost is close to 1-2% of most in-person training events, especially if you include travel costs and ammo in there. The 2 Volume set for Long Range Made Easy is $76.95. Earlier this year a friend and I attended a multi-day in-person training, and the total cost for flights, hotels, rental cars, and meals was $3,000 … EACH! That didn’t even include the cost of the training! Now I will say I got more value and had more fun at the in-person training, but the cost difference is astronomical! This DVD training is less than 2% of the cost, and I think I got way more than 2% of the value. So for guys who aren’t in a position to spend thousands on training, or even for those of us that are … I feel like this was a great investment. In fact, I’ve felt all these training DVDs were a good investment, and have helped me become a more well-rounded shooter.
Also, DVD training allows you to go back and watch it again … and again. If you didn’t understand something, rewind it and listen again. I’m not a guy who’s embarrassed to raise my hand and ask a stupid question in a classroom setting, but I know most people might not feel comfortable doing that. So this is a very good way to try to get down the fundamentals without having to admit you don’t know something in front of a group of guys.
This particular DVD set also talks a lot about gear choices and equipment. Most people who talk about those things have an overly dogmatic view, and might not present it as objectively as they should. I can say that I don’t feel that way about this one. Todd knows what he’s talking about, and shows a variety of gear and setups that might be ideal for different applications. So if you’re about to invest in a precision rifle, or thinking about investing in scopes, barrels, or other gear … this could actually save you money in the long run! Nothing is worse than buying something, and then after a month or two you realize you made the wrong decision. Ask me how I know!!! 😉 By purchasing this DVD, you’re essentially purchasing advice from Todd Hodnett on what equipment you should buy. I’d certainly pay $80 for that!
Hey, I realize I may sound like a fan boy. But, remember I paid $77 out-of-pocket for this. I don’t have any type of relationship with Todd. I was never planning to do a post about this … but after watching it, I just know it’d help a lot of my readers. So I felt compelled to spend a few hours crafting a post to get the word out so you guys were aware of it. I’m not a guy with a lot of spare time on my hands, but hopefully this shows how much I believe this would help you. I know it’s helped me!