A camp for serious shooters who want to incorporate battle proven techniques into their training
When I told my friends that I was going to attend an all-inclusive four day tactical camp in the middle of the New Mexico desert, responses ranged from “That’s awesome!” to “Are you crazy?” The truth was that I didn’t know what to expect. To start with, I would be the only woman attending and I didn’t know if my presence would be welcomed or resented by the other shooters. I also recognized that my previous training would not necessarily reflect the conditions of the camp. The Camp provides a comprehension exposure to Tactical Training. Encompassing Force-on-force training, Room Clearing, Hand-to-hand combat, Field Medicine, Fitness, and working in teams of two. Despite the unknowns, I knew for certain I was stepping outside my comfort zone.
You know you arrived at the Ghost Ring basecamp when you see the Stars and Stripes flying high. I arrived to find Nick, the CEO, helping everyone find their rooms and get oriented to the camp. Then I met the other students. Everyone seemed friendly, but reserved. We were a motley crew of veterans, former police officers, and civilians, ranging in age from 14 up to around 55.
Nick eventually suggested we take a look at the obstacle course situated near the camp house, and I immediately recalled what a short-statured MARSOC veteran had once said about passing his grueling selection process: “It’s not about your size, but your mental attitude” Right then and there, I resolved to persevere. “Just don’t give up” became my mantra.
- Glock 19 Gen 4 with an Overwatch Precision DAT trigger and Trijicon fiber optic sights
- LWRC IC with a Nightforce ATACR 1-8 and Holosun 407C V2 and Cloud Defensive and OWL stand for optimum Defensive light
- Arbor Arms Salt battle belt system
- Arbor Arms Minuteman Plate Carrier
- Arbor Arms Cass Plate Carrier
- SKD Tactical Pig Gloves
- Comp-Tac mag pouches
- Walkers Silencer R600 Rechargeable Ear Buds
- Walkers XCEL 500BT
- 5.11 Stryke pants (multiple pairs)
- 5.11 Raven Range Pants
- Merrell Moab Tactical Boots
- Surefire EDC-L2
- T-REX Arms Ragnrok Kydex Holster
- Safariland Leg shroud (Hanger) drop and QLS system
Obstacle course: The objective was simple, maneuver through the course without skipping any obstacle and find your baseline time. The Team with the shortest time and full completion of each obstacle wins. This course would come into play later during camp… we just didn’t know it yet. The instructors asked us to choose partners and a former Green Beret, Norm, picked me. We worked out a quick game plan for tackling the course and got to work.
When the instructors shouted “go”, Norm and I traversed the course like a bunch of fat kids chasing an ice cream truck. We leapt over the first three foot high wall, and dove under the second. When we reached the monkey bars, Norm crossed first before returning to help me. I reached for the bar, but the nerve damage in my hand made it hard to secure my grip. At this point, Norm and I didn’t communicate very well. I mumbled something to him about assisting me, but he thought I had said to let go. Before I knew it, I fell fourteen-feet flat on my back. My self-doubt returned, but I shook it off and reminded myself, don’t give up! I got back up on the bars and swallowed my pride. This time, I directly told Norm to assist me. The rest of the course went smoothly, as Norm and I now communicated clearly on each remaining obstacle.
Lesson 1 from camp: Communicate with your teammates.
Winded from the exertion and altitude (the range sits at a modest 5,000 feet of elevation), everyone was relieved when Nick announced that we were headed to the range. Today we would concentrate on Pistol. We started with the basics, grip, stance, sight alignment and so on, then added basic marksmanship drills (controlled pairs, hammered pairs, failure drills), which allowed the instructors to gauge our varied skill levels. After that, the fun work began. We covered engaging multiple threats from difficult positions, moving and shooting, navigating hostages/ friendlies/ no shoot scenarios.
That evening, after the guys had cooked us dinner, we went back out for night training. We covered working with handheld flashlights, and the advantages and disadvantages of various grips. That’s when I realized that my Surefire EDC-L2 had broken. The endcap was permanently depressed and I could no longer utilize the dual stage feature. Luckily, another shooter offered me his spare flashlight, and I was back up and running.
Nick ended the course by demonstrating the value of various light techniques in the shoot house. It was both an illuminating (yes, I went there) and spooky experience. Nick was able to manipulate the low light to his advantage, fading in and out of the darkness until he finally appeared and “neutralized” each one of us. I’m relatively certain that Nick is a Ninja.
Lesson 2: Check your gear often and have spares.
Hand-to Hand Combat: We went back to the range and found the sand pit waiting for us. Brian, a Martial Arts expert, got us warmed up and partnered off. We first covered basics of strikes and blocks. Then we progressed into more advanced techniques, including grappling, basic knife fighting, and disarmament (for both bladed weapons and handguns). I quickly realized that I could not muscle or use my strength against my opponents. Brian donned a fight suit, and we were able to engage him in sparing. I left that session with the sobering awareness that I needed to enroll myself into some form of martial arts Brian, however, did an excellent job of breaking down techniques step-by-step and he gave us a lot of time to practice each maneuver. I now needed to go home and start practicing on a daily basis.
Lesson 4: Discover your weaknesses and address them.
The day was far from over, and Force-on-force training was next, along with Tactical Medicine which ran simultaneously as the Instructors cycled us out. Nick and Micah we our Instructors for the combat portion and Gabe ran the Medical training. We were broken up into three relays, rotating between force on force and medical training throughout the afternoon.
Force-on Force came first for my relay team, and I won’t even try to pretend I wasn’t giddy at this point. We used Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) rounds in firearms loaded and handed to us by the Instructors We ran multiple scenarios that were all grounded in real life, everyday carry situations. My first scenario was having to park my car and then traverse through a corridor, leaving me to encounter a disgruntled threat (demanding I approach him). I wore my Arbor Arms Minuteman plate carrier and it did an excellent job of protecting me from some nasty hits, while providing me the maneuverability I needed punch out and engage the threats. It was remarkably lightweight and comfortable throughout a long, hot day. I kept it on as we moved into house clearing. At this point, everything Nick and Micah had taught us started to coalesce. I learned that the movies do a poor job of portraying real-world house clearing. Slow, methodical movements have their place, but aggressive advances can mean the difference between life and death. At one point, I got beamed twice in the lower back by an opponent who had laid an ambush. My failure to move quickly between cover got me killed in a heartbeat. We both had a good laugh and shook hands. Nick then went over what went wrong and what could have prevented that from happening.
During the rotation, Gabe taught us numerous life saving techniques, such as applying a tourniquet, how to address a sucking chest wound, and how to pack wounds. We utilized chicken thighs as our surrogate victims. The amount of gauze you can plug into a small cavity is baffling. It was like a macabre magic trick.
Lesson 5: Defenders have a big advantage over attackers. Oh, and those UTM rounds leave one hell of a welt!
Rifle Day: After a hearty breakfast we headed down to the range for the carbine lesson. I wore the same Arbor Arms Minuteman plate carrier with combat wombat that held three AR Mags. The Arizona based company had graciously given me the opportunity to test out their gear, therefore, I tried to run the carriers throughout the majority of the day. For my primary carbine, I deployed a LWRC IC 16” middy equipped with an OWL light , Nightforce ATACR 1-8, and offset Holosun 407C V2. I slung the rifle on my comfortable Blue Force Gear sling. The weight of this snazzy set-up quickly caught up to me, and I swapped out to a lighter rifle about midday.
Rifle Day started with similar drills to Pistol Day. Controlled pairs, hammered pairs, and reloads, as the Instructors assessed our skill levels. The next drills tested our ability to get on target efficiently from low ready, acquire a sight picture, and break an accurate shot on a 25 yard target. On my first run, I had a time of 0.76 seconds. I definitely felt the heat of the sun and most of us at this point were getting pretty fatigued.
As the day progressed, the course content became more advanced. We covered shooting around barriers from standing, kneeling, and prone, moving drills, and tactics for engaging multiple threats. We worked on transitioning from rifle to pistol and discussed when and why you would employ that technique.
The day concluded with a run-and-gun course that allowed us to practice our new skills with an accelerated heart rate, simulating physiological duress. It was AWESOME (yes, I was pretty amped up to work in a two-man team and engage multiple targets while on the move). Targets were placed at varying distances between 15 yards and 45 yards, on the side of a road that spanned a quarter mile in length.
Nick sat in his quad and looked at my teammate and myself with a wicked smirk. As soon as he gave us the command to “Go!” and we hauled tail down the path. As I sprinted along, holding my rifle at low ready, wondered if I should have paced myself, but I brushed off that notion. I reminded myself to control (or attempt to control), my breathing as I ran. It helped to get a clear sight picture during each string of fire. Nick would call out “Contact, Shooter 1” I thumbed the selector switch off safe as I brought the rifle to my line of sight and let off two shots per target. Then Nick would tell my teammate to engage and he would do the same. This course was challenging, and the sun sitting directly in front of us, impeding our vision added an extra level of difficulty. However, the point was to complete the mission, not complain about the obstacles.
During the course, my ear-pro ran out of battery life and I could no longer hear my hits on the 45 yard steel, but Nick stood behind me to call hits. At any rate, this particular event was remarkably fun, and I wanted to run it about ten more times (no, I didn’t get to do that).
Lesson 6: No matter what you encounter, push through, complete the mission.
Now, I won’t reveal the secrets of day four, because you need to earn that knowledge by experiencing it yourself. In an attempt to keep this vague, I will divulge that Escape and Evasion training will come into play. If this Camp is calling to you like a tactical beacon, my sincere advice is to rest up on the third night. The Ghost Ring cadre will test your abilities and push your limits. Everything that they taught you will come into play, and if you pass, you’ll truly have bragging rights.
Lesson 7: When you’re under stress, you will revert to the techniques you have practiced most.
This camp taught me that I’m capable of more than I realized. It was remarkably comprehensive and I walked away understanding areas where I need improvement, areas where I’m strong, and the gear corrections I need to make. As an instructor, I learned a lot from watching Nick and Micah teach. They have the unique ability to explain the same technique from multiple perspectives. They also allow their students to problem solve and use what works best for them. There’s no ego in their teaching style, which is refreshing. They are also hilarious and keep the class upbeat but very safe.
Now, the cold hard review: Ghost Ring Tactical designed this camp for serious shooters who wanted to incorporate battle proven techniques into their training. This camp will test you both mentally and physically. You’re going to get a little banged up, but you will walk away with sharpened skills, new friends, and amazing stories. And when you get home, you’ll check your email regularly for the note that says you’re invited back for Level 2.
Finally, I was impressed that Ghost Ring Tactical does not let every shooter progress to the next level. They care about their student’s safety and ability to succeed, and are not just pushing students through their courses to make money. That says a lot about their integrity. Not everyone gets to progress and a few from our group didn’t make it to the next Level on this go-around. I am proud to say that I passed Level 1.
Honorable mentions on gear:
My Merrell Moab Tactical boots were remarkable. My feet stayed comfortable throughout long days of constant activity. They held up against the harsh environment, and I never even got a blister.
My Arbor Arms Salt Battle Belt maintained excellent stability throughout constant usage. It evenly distributed the weight of my gear throughout my hips and kept my back comfortable. Everything stayed in place, even with me rolling around like a ninja.
The shemagh I purchased from the Ghost Ring Tactical store became my best friend during those intense, hot days in the desert.
The outstanding T-Rex Arms Ragnarok holster securely retained my sidearm throughout strenuous physical activity. Likewise, the Safariland drop holster shroud (also known as a hanger) and QLS shingles held up to everything I threw at them.
My Gen 4 Glock 19 ran flawlessly, without a single stoppage, even while it was inundated by desert sand and dirt. The round count throughout the course was surprisingly low, at 500 rounds for Pistol throughout the 4 days. That being said, I watched other Shooters experience malfunctions, and my faithful G-19 ran without a hiccup.
Finally, Surefire’s customer service was remarkable. I contacted them when I got back from camp, they sent me a code so I can send the flashlight back to them for repair