Even though I had assumed I knew enough, almost everything I had...
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The Scoped Carbine Class at Ridgeline Defense in New Hampshire has been on my to-do list for a long time. A scoped carbine is the Goldilocks porridge of choice, so to speak. Not dedicated for close-quarters or true long-range use, the scoped carbine can do most of it well, as long as you understand its realistic limitations. Configured with a Low Variable Power Optic (LVPO) and the right balance of bolt-on parts, this style of AR is a great contender for the “if I can only grab one” scenario. Shortly after I signed up for the class, COVID-19 hit, along with ammo shortages and social unrest. This situation reinforced the value of a scoped carbine for protecting my family or traveling discreetly to help someone else. The class came at the perfect time to help me level up my skills on a platform that fits easily into a RUSH100 backpack from 5.11 Tactical.
Photos by George Franek Photography
The RUSH100 is a large internal-frame backpack. The design is very straightforward with plenty of adjustment straps to keep the bag close to your body. The side pouches are removable, allowing the user to run the bag slicker, and they can be converted to a shoulder bag if necessary. A top pocket is fleece lined for eye pro, and the bottom pocket is compressible for a sleeping bag or, in my case, the forward and rear shooting rests. The bag comes with attachment straps at the bottom for a foam pad or sleeping bag. The aluminum stays and semi-rigid frame held the bag in place and also could serve double duty as a rifle rest taller than my bipod’s legs.
5.11 Tactical RUSH100 Specifications:
With a backpack this big, it’s easy to overpack. Extra room means you can carry more, but that isn’t always positive. For a two-day scoped carbine class, I knew I could pack light, and I had plenty of room to spare. Ridgeline Defense sent students a final packing list a few days before the course, and the 5.11 Tactical RUSH100 could carry all that was required.
Weather is always an uncertain variable. What you wear should allow you to change your body temperature accordingly — a notch up and a notch down. This shooting course lined up perfectly with Tropical Storm Fay; the forecast predicted scattered thunderstorms, humidity, and a high chance of rain on each day. Pair this with the state bird of New Hampshire, the horse fly, and what that meant for me was packing long-sleeve shirts and pants for protection. I also wanted to leave room for a watch cap, gloves, neckerchief, and a spare set of socks. Rounding out clothing is a set of dedicated rain pants, gaiters, and rain jacket. Other considerations for the environment include bug dope and sunblock.
The most important consideration for this pack was the scoped carbine it would contain. My rifle is a combination of an older (pre-’94 since I live in Connecticut) Eagle Arms lower with Geissele SSA-E trigger, Super 42 buffer, and a Bravo Company Kyle Defoor Spec Upper. This upper features a specific 1:7.7-inch twist barrel optimized for 77-grain Black Hills Ammo. It’s a solid minute of angle rifle with that ammunition, and other ammo in that ballpark does well too. Due to the COVID crisis, I had a hard time acquiring enough Black Hills ammo, so I packed 75-grain Hornady Black ammo instead. The optic for this midrange class is the Trijicon 1-8 AccuPower in a GDI P-ROM mount. The only other accessories added to this rifle are a set of Troy BUIS, Streamlight TLR-1 HL, Blue Force Gear Vickers sling, and a Harris Bipod. A scoped AR-15 carbine is easily broken down and carried inside this pack. A makeshift divider can be fashioned from spare clothing, an old camping pad, or in my case, a folded shooting pad from Crosstac. With this rifle broken down and carried in the pack, I easily walked right into the local hotel each night without raising any concern.
The benefit of using this particular pack for this course was the ability to organize with the multitude of pockets it comes with. I was able to separate my electronics, including a Kestrel, Leupold 650-yard rangefinder, and sensitive optics from my heavy and clunky metal water bottle and other items that could damage them. I also carried active ear pro. Electronics were carried in water-resistant Ziploc plastic bags along with a cotton rag to wipe any moisture from the optics.
Above: The RUSH100 pack easily carried spare ammo, loading equipment, cleaning gear, electronics, and more during the duration of the Ridgeline Scoped Carbine course.
Ridgeline’s packing list included a rifle, a minimum of four 30-round magazines, ammo, a shooting pad, and support equipment. I also loaded my pack with basic daily use gear — granola bars and water, a small possibles pouch with emergency gear, a trauma kit, some firearms maintenance/cleaning equipment, flashlight, knife, and other kit. Each day, spare ammo was carried in stripper clips with a StripLULA loader. Generally, as you tack on more miles, a pack feels heavier, but when you burn through the ammo you carry, the opposite is true.
In any martial arts or combatives training, you should always seek a better weapon and better position. What’s better than a pistol? A rifle. What’s better than a standing long-range shot? A more stable shot from a supported position. I used the 5.11 Tactical RUSH100 backpack to carry all of my essentials for approximately 20 hours over two days. I had a surplus of room, and discovered I could remove the two outboard pockets and use them as internal storage organizers instead. For a course like this, that meant I could use them to separate short-range ball ammo from my longer-range precision ammo. As predicted, on day two, the skies opened up and poured, with lightning halting our training temporarily. The pack repelled water well, and the contents stayed dry. The lower separated compartment worked great to stow wet rain gear when the weather finally cleared in the final hours of the class.
The RUSH100 pack served a secondary purpose: to create more stability in the kneeling position behind barricades by straddling it like a saddle. This tip was one of many offered by our instructor from real-world experience using his ruck in the same way while deployed overseas. Another tip Rudy offered was using the pack, positioned straps-down with the opening toward the shooter in a prone position, as a gradual ramp to gain elevation and angle for shooting uphill. The training we were given worked well too. Rapid engagement techniques utilizing a 0.1 mil or 3 MOA hold at different ranges resulted in easy hits out to 400 yards with simple holds. The rifle worked extremely well with easy and fast controlled pairs with careful manipulation of the Geissele SSA-E trigger at close range and controlled careful shots at longer ranges. During the culminating events involving unknown distance target engagement from 15 yards out to 600, the pack carried all I needed it to and the rifle responded as predicted with the DOPE we applied. At the end of the course, the pack easily swallowed up all my gear as it was policed and packed away for the drive home.
Above: Torrential rain and thunderstorms tested the willingness of the students and the water resistance of the gear the author carried.
Of course, I didn’t like everything about the pack — most of this came down to personal preference rather than design flaw. The waist belt buckle is only 1-inch wide; I’d prefer a more comfortable and secure 2-inch buckle. I also would've liked to see a compression strap on the waistband to pull the lower half of the bag closer to the body. The only other issue I encountered was with the layout of the zippers. I'd like to see an additional set on the main compartment to allow access to the side of the bag without “running” the zipper all the way around the track. Besides those little requests, I was pleased with the way it carried, held up, and organized my rifle gear.
The 5.11 Tactical RUSH100 and this rifle are perfectly paired. From this point forward, I won’t keep the bag loaded for a training course, but rather for a modern minuteman scenario where I need to travel discreetly to a family member’s aid. I can ditch the spare clothing for just those environmental layers and have spare room for warmer gear in cooler months. I can keep this bag prepped near my gun safe, so all I’ll have to do is grab the appropriate carbine for it. I never expected a global pandemic and civil unrest double whammy, but I can be better prepared for the next time something of this scale hits again. With the contents carried and skills learned, I can easily reach targets up to the “rifleman’s half K” without issue.
Ridgeline Training > ridgelineshooting.com