The folks at American Built Arms Co. have never failed to impress. Though the past years have been more humble in their setting, the gear has always been impeccable. In year one, we traveled to hidden start-up range to shoot the Mod X rifle platform at 300 yards. The rifles were great. The technology in the Oakwood Controls Target systems blew us away. Dead Air silencers opened our eyes to the wonders of multi-caliber suppressors. You can see that article here.
In year two, we returned to returned to the least populated part of Virginia to shoot the Mod X Gen 3 chassis at a whopping 600 yards. The day seemed as hot as the inner most ring of hell but we still had a great time. AB Arms had managed to improve on a rifle design that I already found to be unstoppable in it’s ease of accuracy. They set us up at 600 yards and we knocked them down. The rifles were awesome, Oakwood Controls provided instant feedback and we were introduced to the devastation that is Gorilla Ammunition. Read more here.
This year AB Arms outdid themselves. The 3rd Annual Media Day took place in northern West Va. I had a bit of a drive and practically no cell service. I wasn’t sure if my GPS would even get me to the location. The address and facility name were a complete mystery to both Mapquest and Apple maps. Where was I going? Luckily, Google maps found the destination and somehow led me there even without cell service (I still don’t know how that worked).
The location was by far the best kept (legal) secret in West Virginia, Panthera Training Center.We arrived at the complex the evening before the shoot having turned down a narrow gravel road with no cell service in an area with mountains and trees as far as the eye could see and simply nothing else. We were quite happy to see the Panthera Training Center sign and direction markers that got us to the HQ. Once we pulled in we were greeted by the staff and owners of the center and given keys to accommodations for the night. The owners actually recognized me from some of my past website work and were very gracious. It’s obvious, they took the time to research the guests and make themselves somewhat familiar, even with the lessor known individuals like myself. That was a nice touch and seemed quite sincere. We attended a well catered meet and greet with the other attendees and got a chance to say hello to our hosts and it was off for a night’s rest.
Remember, they gave me keys to the accommodations for the night? Well as it turned out the Pantera Training Center owns an entire townhouse community in the nearby town of Moorefield WV. 18 townhouses were available for the evening, each sporting 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, kitchen, Direct TV and fiber optic internet and wifi access. Each was fully furnished and run like a hotel room, providing anything you may need. It was impressive to say the least. Judging from the facility, these homes temporarily house some highly skilled operators on a regular basis. (I can’t think of a worse place for some dumb thief to try and break in, OUCH!)
We were up and out the door bright and early to return to the training center for a fantastic breakfast at 8 am and then a briefing on the complex itself. It turns out Panthera Training Center is HUGE. 750 acres of any type of tactical training you may want to do. Heavily forested and extremely hilly, you can’t appreciate what Panthera offers until you start to explore it in parts or have the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view. They provide land navigation possibilities, helicopter training possibilities (due to their own FAA landing pad on site), covered 50 yard ranges, a 1000 yard rifle range complete with a tower and obstacle cars, both live fire and non-lethal shoot house environments, a giant skid pad for traction driving techniques, a difficult road course and more difficult unimproved driving course and most importantly a staff with experience in just about every major military and security field sharing that knowledge.
Since it’s too much to do it all, what did I squeeze into my day of training? First thing was to meet up with AB Arms and friends at the rifle range for some long range fun. This was where we got to stretch out the distance on the Mod X Gen 3 chassis system for a new personal record on that platform. I was shooting prone from four stories up a wooden tower at a target 800 yards downrange. At that range, it is a challenge against your own body just to keep the reticle from swaying off target with your breathing. Add to that the number of people at any one time that were milling about the landing of the tower. Each time someone took a step you could see a small quake in the scope. Despite all that, the Mod X Gen 3 performed the usual miracle and allowed me to land every Gorilla 308 bullet in the left side of the chest. At 800 yards, for a pistol guy, that’s a great day. It was nothing when compared to some of the talent on that platform and the grouping they were producing. In fact, on Mod X Gen 3 was set up in 5.56 for a 600 yard target. As I looked on in amazement, I saw shot after shot grouping on the Oakwood Controls screen to show a magazine load of heart shots! That was really something to see with that distance and caliber combination. AB Arms proves the ability of the Mod X is limited only by its shooter.
On top of all the fun shooting, John from Panthera shared some sniper knowledge with me and for the first time I was able to see the vapor trail of the bullets downrange. He was good enough to teach me how to set up a spotting scope to track those shots.
Below the tower, several companies gathered to share their wares and we were happy to see what was presented.
Propper was in attendance with samples of their regular gear and a variety of armored gear. I had several pleasant discussions with the Propper rep and learned enough to know I would like to explore more of what they provide.
Battle Horse Knives had a wide array of blades on display. They provide quality knives of O1 tool steel with various finish and customization options. I was quite fond of some of the designs on display. In fact, I don’t seem many of them on the webpage, so the webpage seems to be only the beginning of some exciting design and customization options. It should also be noted, they are working with Panthera in developing a custom covert Panthera blade.
Man-Pack was on display. The concept, as I grasped it, was to bridge the gap between the pedestrian and tactical bag market. The offerings consisted of sling bags, backpacks and smaller bags design for the active female. The styling is rather classic in nature with modern twists and surprising comfort and utility. The backpacks are specifically designed to be more comfortable for bigger bodies. The sling packs keep weight distribution in the forefront while being ambidextrous and allowing quick access to a firearm. All in all, I would like to further explore the offerings of Man-Pack, I’m intrigued.
Keystone Sporting Arms was there as well and with them came some of the bigger news of the day. Keystone is the maker of the cricket rifle, the first firearm in the hands of most youngsters. They’ve partnered with American Built Arms Co to provide a 22 caliber training version of the Mod X chassis! The resulting rifle is the Keystone PT. This little rifle is a scaled down version of the Mod X system in many ways and will provide a low cost training alternative in the $500 dollar range. Speaking of range, I stood by later and watched several people fire this little offering accurately at 300 yards. That’s a stretch for the light weight 22LR. Call me impressed. For a bit of further excitement, I was told they will be working on a 22 WMR version as well!
CTRL eyewear was set up as well and I nearly missed them. I’m glad I didn’t. Luckily I got more involved with them later in the day.
The afore mentioned Oakwood Controls had a display for those in attendance that were unfamiliar. If you read any of my previous articles about AB Arms you know how amazing this system really is.
All in all, I’d say it was quite the turnout.
After a break for lunch, I set out to see more of the complex. I got a look at covered 50 yard range where two local LEOs were on hand to introduce a few new products. The most notable of which was the line of UM Tactical muzzle brakes on various rifles. Everyone in attendance was raving about the effect of the brake on the resident AK. I personally didn’t fire the weapon but took note of the reactions of those that did. Not personally being an AK guy I didn’t have an accurate basis of comparison. For those that did, it was a revelation. I expect UM Tactical got a few extra orders that evening.
Then I made my way to a 300 yard range where the Keystone PTs were being tested to great effect. It was on this range, I caught back up with Jason from American Built Arms. I had earlier promised to share some fun with him and broke out two T&E guns I had with me. Jason and a few others, got to try out the Mossberg Shockwave
Next, I went to the 6200 sq ft live fire shoot house. This is where I got up close with CTRL eyewear. CTRL had eye protection for us to try in the form of the CTRL ONE safety glasses. These USB rechargeable glasses change tint level instantly.
At the shoot house I ran into my favorite Marine Corps Scout Sniper. John was running the scenario. The rundown on the shoot house: 6200 sq ft of floor space broken up into rooms and halls with doors intact (mostly). The walls were black with a rubber paneling that absorbs thousands of shots up to 308 caliber before wearing out. When they do, you just replace the panel. Above you the second floor is all catwalks for observation or alternative training scenarios. Therefore, all live fire runs require a low ready position so that you have muzzle control away from potential observers.
Our scenario, we have a building filled with hostiles. They have a hostage. The hostage was last seen near the back of the structure. We have one entry point on the side of the building. You are handed a Glock 19 and a spare mag. Off you go. You enter with as much gusto as you want and methodically clear each area before moving to the next. As you go you fire on armed targets and work your way to a designated target that represents your hostage. Don’t shoot the hostage. Each run, John changed the locations of the hostiles and the hostage. Each time we got a little more expert knowledge and a pointers dropped on us. I stayed there the rest of the day. The live fire shoot house was so much fun and so educational that I can’t stress enough how beneficial this training could be.