Rio Salado Team 3 Gun 2015

My team took second place at the annual Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club team 3 Gun.  Each team was allowed one open shooter.  In our case that was me, so I spent most of the match shooting my VEPR-12 with a little rifle and pistol at the end.

Team KE Arms (left to right): Russell Phagan (me), Danielle Vermeulen, Sam Travis.

Congrats to Kelly Neal, Dale Averkamp, and Kyle Schmidt on first place!


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Misc Summer Matches 2014

Phoenix Rod and Gun 3 Gun 7-26-2015
3/5 Open

2 Gun Action Challenge Match 8-15-2015
8/50 Over All

3 Gun Nation 8-23-2015
9th/49 Overall

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Training and Manufacturing Resources Coming Together

Several months ago one of Suarez International’s Staff instructors, Jon Payne, came to me with a problem; build a rifle for a student that was missing his left arm. The student, Brad, had lost his left arm in an accident many years ago and had not shot a rifle since then. Making the rifle as lightweight as possible while maintaining a reasonable cost were critical concerns. Using my resources at KE Arms, contacts at GWACS Armory, and consulting with Gabe and Jon we came up with a package that met the right price point and performance.


Features include:
CAV-15 MKII Polymer Receiver
Suarez Recce Trigger and Lightweight Handguard
Lightweight contour 16″ barrel
Young Manufacturing low mass bolt carrier group
Suarez Kompressor to reduce muzzle jump

Weight without the optic was 5 pounds 6 oz.

For Brad the addition of a BAD lever was obvious to control the bolt catch and aid in malfunction clearing. We know that a charging handle can be racked against a surface or by otherwise bracing the rifle against something. Neither of those things is convenient. I modified a charging handle to attach a sling directly to it. With the other end of the sling around the shooter’s body, running the charging handle was accomplished by simply pushing out or down.



Working on a consistent repeatable manual of arms was critical. I experimented with different techniques in dry practice at home. Some techniques worked, others had to be modified once we were on the range training.



Working through the manual of arms for various conditions including sighting in and recreational range use was part of the training.



This project was a success. Brad was very pleased with how his rifle turned out and being able to use a rifle again was clearly satisfying for him. I was personally very pleased to bring together these manufacturing and training resources to facilitate this project and help Brad accomplish his goals.


Suarez International will be applying the concepts learned in this project to the Light Fighter Rifle. If there is sufficient interest, the charging handle sling may enter production.

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Gun Profile: KE-15 Trooper

KE Arms has continued to bring new products online since I built my first KE Arms Rifle using their components.  I built this rifle after SMM3G 2015 with the intent to use it at the Ironman 3 Gun Match.

11412234_577298639077394_668746770021787108_nLower Receiver: KE-15 Billet
Trigger: KE Arms TiN DMR
Selector: KE Arms Ambi
Buttstock: Mission First Tactical
Sling Attachment: QD Socket and Loops on stock, QD Socket and hook attachments on receiver end plate

Upper Receiver: KE Arms
Bolt Carrier Group: Young Manufacturing SLC
Barrel: 16″ Daniel Defense Mid-Length 5.56mm NATO 1:7 Twist with KE Arms low profile gas block
Handguard: KE Arms 15″ Delta-S Keymod with SHTF+ Wrap
Charging Handle: KE Arms Charging Handle
Muzzle Brake: One Source Tactical Kompressor
Sights: Magpul MBUS Pro, Vortex 1-6x Razor HD Gen 2 JM


To get ready for Ironman 2015 and make sure my rifle was adequately broken in, I used it at a few local matches first:

I then used it at the Suarez International Ultimate Combat Rifle Camp.  Before this class I just relubed the rifle.  I relubed it before the start of training each day.  The last day of class I gave the bolt a quick wipe down and relubed it.  1200 rounds fired during the class with zero malfunctions.




Before Ironman, I did detail clean the rifle and relube it.  At Ironman I only experienced one malfunction when shooting sideways through a port after doing a reload with retention; I think I simply didn’t seat the magazine all the way during the reload.  Simply racking the action fixed the problem.

The use of the low mass carrier has been particularly interesting to me.  I have heard that they can make AR15s less reliable.  I have not yet experienced any limitations with reliability attributable to the low mass carrier.  In fact in the first 3,000 rounds fired through this rifle, the only malfunction I experienced was the one in the middle of the stage at Ironman that I mentioned above.  I have noticed that sight picture was disturbed significantly less under recoil than with a standard mass carrier.

The KE-15 Trooper is a good do everything configuration for competition or tactical classes.  It continues to serve me well in either role.

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Independence Day Action Rifle Match 2015

I started off strong at this years match.  By the last stage I was ready to be done after spending all day in the heat.  My USGI mags double fed and the malfunction combined with heat exhaustion made me lose mental focus.image

I still placed 2nd/15 in Trooper and 10/76 Over all.


Karl Kasarda of InRange TV placed 1st in Trooper and 6/76 Over all with his substantially abused GWACS  CAV-15 MKII with KE Arms upper and DMR Trigger.

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2 Gun Action Challenge Match June 2015

3rd/48 Over all


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Suarez International Ultimate Combat Rifle Camp


At the end of May I had the opportunity to attend the Suarez International Ultimate Combat Rifle Camp in Prescott, AZ taught by Gabe Suarez himself.  The class was an over view of a lot of subjects related to use of the rifle in a fighting role from basic manipulations, stances and ready positions to close range gun fighting, intermediate distance shooting, and basic team tactics.  The class was 4 days long and required a minimum of 1000 rounds.  While I have been using Suarez gear since 2010, and I have been representing the Suarez Group at shooting competitions since 2012, this was the first Suarez class I have taken.


Gabe discusses close range use of the rifle.

I have taken a lot of tactical/defensive training from various sources over the years, so some of the material was similar to what I had been exposed to before.  Shooting fast and effectively is shooting fast and effectively: I have little difficulty switching from match mindset to tactical training mindset.


Shooting and moving drills at close range

Learning New Things

Some portions of the class were a significant departure from what I had experienced before.  Particularly when it came to employing the rifle fast and efficiently off both shoulders at close range while moving.  I could see the benefit to Gabe’s method within the context he was teaching it.  Gabe’s methodology for transitioning shoulders is based upon making reasonably good hits at close ranges while moving; the methodology I had been previously taught was based upon working around barricades and making more accurate hits on targets at 50 yards+.  So while what I had been taught before wasn’t necessarily wrong, it was less efficient in this context and I found myself struggling to unlearn the process I had practiced for so many years.


Gabe doing some durability testing of the GWACS CAV15 MKII with KE Arms lightweight upper.

Gabe himself isn’t an absolutist and looks at all techniques with a critical eye.  He cautioned the class to beware the instructor that tells students there is only one way that is the best way for all situations at all times.  The techniques and procedures Gabe teaches have been worked on and refined at multiple levels; range work, force on force, and sometimes validated in actual gun fights. 0003 008 The students in this class were very, good particularly for the number present.  Normally classes have one goofball for every 8-10 students, and this class had none.  Everyone that came was serious and safe about their gun handling.  The students  represented a broad cross section of Americans; farmers, construction workers, photographers, law enforcement, and other gun industry people like myself.


Transition to Pistol vs Reload Rifle at Close Range? Pistol transition always beat reloading the rifle.

Instructional Method


Gabe running the new Suarez Direct Action Lower with Recce Upper.

Gabe’s instructional method is very adult education oriented.  Techniques are discussed in detail, then demonstrated cold, then demonstrated live.  Students then try the techniques cold, receive correction as necessary, then try techniques live, then receive more correction as necessary.  This is a stark contrast to other venues I have attended where it was almost as if the instructors wanted students to fail so they could yell at them and “add stress”. There was none of that present in Gabe’s class.  People were professionally informed of what they needed to correct both on and off the range and that was all.  In some cases I saw people struggle with physical limitations and fatigue by the fourth day.  Gabe simply told them to dial back on the speed and do things safely and not hurt themselves. They’re there for knowledge and getting hurt doesn’t help learning. Gabe is a wealth of information for firearms instructors to learn how to teach and manage classes.  I learned a lot about how to improve my own classes by observing this one and in my discussions with him.


Team work drills started the end of the third day and carried through the fourth and final day.

Team Drills

Gabe told us that part of learning to use a rifle effectively is employing it as part of a group.  If a disaster did occur that resulted in the break down of social order, as has happened a few times in recent history, the ability to defend one’s family and friends may be dependent upon working as  a group.  Some students posed the question, “what do we do if the people we are with have no training”…Gabe’s answer was in that kind of situation it would be incumbent upon the most experienced person to give instruction and direction.  There are a lot of people that are decent enough at doing things, that simply need the go ahead from someone to take action.

Movement and communication procedures were discussed and practiced along with patrolling formations and react to contact drills.  These were not comprehensive, but meant as an introduction to concepts should students want to take higher levels of training.  Everything was rehearsed dry several times before going live. One thing that became apparent to me during this portion of the class is that most people don’t like telling others what to do, or were uncertain how much direction they should be giving.  After seeing some team mates struggle with this, I filled in as “squad leader” for our group.  I had some previous experience doing similar activities in other venues so that definitely helped.  Being mentally aware and confident in ones own abilities and equipment allows looking at a larger picture and giving the team direction.

Range Conditioning Russell-07 Aside from the knowledge gained at the course, it was a great physical prep for doing the Ironman 3 Gun a week later.  Wearing 50 pounds of gear running around in 100 degrees for 4 days and shooting 1200 rounds of rifle in a tactical class was remarkably good practice for doing the same thing a week later in the match environment.  Normally the first few stages at a big event I feel like I’m getting settled in, this time I felt primed and ready to go.

Should You Take This Class?

People interested in the martial application of the rifle would benefit from taking this class.  How much so depends on your previous level of training.  What I can say definitively though is Gabe runs his classes professionally and he is serious about delivering a quality product to his customers.  There aren’t a lot of people teaching professionally today that have won multiple gun fights as a lone individual (not part of a fire team or SWAT unit).  Gabe is one of the few that has.  I am willing to make the assumption that this makes his training more relevant for the private citizen than many other venues.


Author (left), Gabe Suarez (center), Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons (right)

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