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Modern-Day Minuteman: Can You Keep Up?

THIS ISN'T A CLASS FOR NOVICES, BUT YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL TO TAKE IT

When you hear word “Minuteman,” it typically conjures up images of the Revolutionary War — hard men running out of their houses with muskets, possibles bags, and the rest of their sparse kit. But what about the Modern Minuteman?

Bill Rapier, of AMTAC Shooting, started teaching his Modern Minuteman course a few years ago, the concept presented itself to him while competing in the Sniper Adventure Challenge with a good friend of his. 

Before we dive into the course, a note on Rapier is probably in order. Broad strokes, he retired out of the Navy, spending the lion’s share of his time in the Teams and most of that with DEVGRU. Through that time, he accrued an amazing amount of skill and knowledge. After retiring, he started AMTAC Training, his vehicle for passing on those skills and knowledge to good Americans.

So, while AMTAC Training offers a lot of different courses, from integrated combative (pistol and blade work) to carbine and precision rifle courses as well as night vision courses, he has just opened up his Modern Minuteman course. 

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With two decades in the U.S. Navy, most of it at DEVGRU, Rapier is a repository of knowledge and experience. The course moved back and forth between lecture and practical application.

What exactly does “opened up” mean? Well, AMTAC Training is pretty particular about whom it trains. Thus, there are certain courses you won’t see listed on the website. Some are largely invite-only, classes reserved for students he has already vetted. The Modern Minuteman course used to fall into this category, and the “long version” still does…

But this year AMTAC Shooting offered the Modern Minuteman as an open enrollment course, an opportunity for people to sign up to sharpen their skills in a variety of disciplines and ultimately put them to the test in a competition. All over the span of two days.

This year’s Modern Minuteman course took place near Goldendale, an amazing piece of property in south-central Washington, complete with some awesome topography, deep gorges, and a rifle range that stretches out past 1,000 yards.

DAY ONE

Class started with some lecture time and background, initially covering the concept of the recce rifle and the evolution of the hybrid carbine. Rapier spent a lot of time doing recce work overseas and was on the bleeding edge of that firearm concept. Back in the day, he actually had his armorers machine a mount for a J-Point Reflex Sight onto the top of a Trijicon ACOG, before it was a thing — continually pushing and trying to find the best option for rifle and optic setups.

During that talk, Rapier went over a lot of material, including not only history of the gun but considerations in selecting your rifle. Granted, everyone would dance with who they brought, but they’d also walk away with some knowledge on a number of subjects and practical experience, which might drive them to change out certain aspects of their rifle or the entire gun all together. 

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Land navigation isn’t addressed in typical shooting classes. If you’ve never used a map and compass, Rapier provides a crash course.

He discussed caliber selection, optics, accessories, barrel length, ballistics, and more.

After that wrapped up, it was time to hit the range. We initially established (or confirmed) zeroes at 100 yards. Most students in the class were using a low power variable optics with either a BDC (bullet drop compensator) or a Mil reticle. Once everyone was confident in their zeros, we stretched them out. 

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Bill Rapier’s oldest son, stretching out his rifle.

Steel targets were arranged every 100 yards or so with varying sizes all the way out to over 1,000 yards. This gave the students the chance to walk their guns out and true out their reticle or holds at different distances. This left everyone with some solid DOPE (data of previous engagement) for their respective gun, ammo, and optic combination.

After that, we broke for lunch before meeting back up for another lecture portion. The second half of the day would be dedicated to land navigation.

Rapier presents this information very effectively, with broad strokes that get narrower and narrower. For example, he initially started with the history of navigation, explaining latitude and longitude before moving into different types of mapping systems such as UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator). This created a solid base of information for laying out concepts and principles. 

Eventually going into declination on maps, how to use a compass, and ultimately plot points, we covered old-school, non-electric nav, but, since we’re now in the 21st century, we also went over GPS use. 

Armed with this knowledge, we were given a series of points to plot. Once we did so, we checked our work, making sure we weren’t wildly off and then got cut loose. The day wrapped up with land-nav practice, using both map and compass, and GPS.

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The first day, students gathered dope at different distances.

DAY TWO

The morning of day two started with Rapier’s mindset talk and, in all honesty, the talk alone is probably worth the price of admission if you’ve never heard it. It’s a mental walk down the path of being a student of violence and thinking about all of the aspects that it entails. While I’ve heard it a number of times, he gives it during each of his classes and each time I get something new from it.

Then, upon wrapping up the mindset talk, it was about time to get the race underway. Everyone had packed and prepped their gear, which weighed around 25 to 30 pounds including carbines, with heavy emphasis being put on “useful” gear. 

Think water, food, warming layers — basic stay-alive stuff. Again, given the idea of the Modern Minuteman, we packed what we needed to sustain ourselves and deal with most any situation while not being overly heavy that we couldn’t move across a number of miles.

Rapier outlined the rules of the competition and the breakdown of how the points and scoring worked. Each waypoint you got was worth five points. 

Attempting a challenge was worth five points, while coming in the top three at a challenge was worth 20, 15, or 10 points respectively. The course laid out would consist of 12 different waypoints along with seven separate challenges. Some of the challenges were front loaded at the beginning of the course while others were at different waypoints further in.

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The waypoints didn’t jump out at you; you had to be pretty close to see them.

The race started with a run, or a walk, depending on your inclination. On the countdown of 3, 2, 1, everyone headed toward the first event. For my own part, I ran, getting to the firing line first, dropping my pack, and gassing up my rifle. That first challenge was to engage steel targets at 200, 300, 400, 500, and 650 yards, with two hits each and a 2-minute time cap. 

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The Modern Minuteman course did a good job testing your ability on a number of fronts beyond just marksmanship.

I shot off of an available tank trap, since the grass at the firing point was too high to go prone. Cranking the optic up to 8x, I did my best to create a solid shooting platform to get my hits. As an aside, I’ve been shooting “other strong side” this year to develop my skills. 

Being naturally right-handed, shooting left-handed was as an additional challenge. Between using my non-dominant hand/eye and being gassed out from the run, I dropped a number of rounds and didn’t finish getting my hits at 650 before I ran out of time. But I got what I got and moved on so the people behind me could get after it.

Immediately moving to the next challenge, you had to drag or carry a 150-pound sandbag out and back before engaging a number of pistol targets at 10, 15, and 25 yards with two hits each. Again, out of breath and shooting other strong side, that stage ate my lunch. I dropped a lot of rounds, but eventually got all of my hits before moving on.

The third event before the land nav started was pretty straightforward — get up on a pull-up bar and complete as many pull-ups as possible before dropping off. I knocked out 22 before my grip failed. Then, it was time to do some plotting.

Right before the race kicked off, Rapier set down a list of waypoints for everyone to take a photo. Once the race started, you could plot them but not before, so if you got to the first event and had to wait, you could plot them then. Since I rushed through the first three challenges, I knelt down and plotted my waypoints as the rest of the field tackled them.

Once plotted, it was time to step out and head toward that first waypoint. There were 12 waypoints, and you were allowed six uses of GPS during the course, encouraging the students to think about when best to rely on technology. 

I elected to employ GPS only when I was having trouble finding a waypoint or the terrain required me to take a roundabout way getting somewhere, preventing me from shooting an azimuth and pacing it out. The rest of the time was spent mostly relying on terrain association and map and compass skills.

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The competition was pretty straightforward — move to the waypoints and complete the tasks, including a firestarting challenge without the benefit of a lighter.

Over the next couple hours, I made my way through most of the waypoints and completed the other challenges, ranging from shooting your pistol out to over 110 yards on a silhouette, to getting a fire going using something other than a lighter. When it all wrapped up that afternoon, I had come in first place out of the group of a dozen or so men. There was no fancy trophy, no prize money, just congratulations all around — an accomplishment acknowledged by peers, who walk the same path. Solid.

WRAPPING UP

Overall, it was an awesome two days. The pairing of learning skills on one day and competing to apply those skills and more on the second was a winning combination. Personally, I like shooting. I like physical challenges, and I like a good friendly competition. This brought them all together. But it combined in a meaningful way with direct application to a wider philosophy of preparedness and self-reliance. 

While Rapier is an excellent instructor, there’s nothing to stop you as an individual from learning and applying all of these skills on your own. But if you want something more structured and plug-and-play, then we definitely recommend the Modern Minuteman course from AMTAC Shooting. 

GEAR:

For the class, I spread my gear between a chest rig and a pack. At the center of my chest rig was The Thing 2 by Spiritus Systems. 

On it, I had the JSTA Pouch with a two-mag pistol insert, a Medium GP Pouch carrying my compass and map pen along with a Kilo 5k Range Finder, and the S.A.C.K. Mk3 holding some med gear. Across the front was the Ammo Hub A1 by F9 Gear, holding three rifle magazines, and SureFeed Gen2 with Magpul baseplates.

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Courses like this quickly let you know what gear works and what needs to be replaced.

For my pack, I used the Tarahumara Pack by Hill People Gear. In it was an insulated, 1-liter water bottle, some food, Stanley Adventure Cook Set, small stove, 550 cord, fat wood, and Prometheus Design Werx Stratus Down Hoodie.

On my person was my Gen 5 Glock 19 with Radian Afterburner Compensator and Holosun 509 with ACSS Reticle in a Black Point Tactical holster. 

My rifle was a 16-inch Sons Of Liberty Gun Works AR with NightForce ATACR 1-8x in a Unity Tactical 34mm FAST Mount, B&T M.A.R.S. 5.56 Suppressor, Magpul Bipod, Rev Firearms Stoner Rifle Grip, Magpul Offset MBUS Pro Sights, and an Arbor Arms Sling.

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