Review: ZUES (Zero Under Eighty Seconds) Shooting Mat

Part of the CAA Train the Trainer class I recently took involved basic training in how to teach IDF shooting techniques. Specifically the course centered around the AR-15 and Micro RONI platforms, and the techniques to shoot them are directly from the IDF Shooting Doctrine developed by Lt Col (ret) Mikey Hartman. The shooting style has very specific checkpoints that do, in my opinion, add stability to shooting across a number of positions, especially with lightweight, low-recoil, shoulder indexed arms.

The normal way of teaching involves getting into a "bored kid watching TV" position. Using the ZUES helps enforce good positiioning.

The normal way of teaching involves getting into a “bored kid watching TV” position. Using the ZUES helps enforce good positioning.

Like all good first concept ideas, the ZUES was developed on a napkin (by Lt Col (ret) Mikey Hartman). The idea was born after he was invited back to assist with an IDF basic training class. The students in the class had a number of problems getting into the correct position. Finally the current commander asked Mikey to put a single student in the correct position so they could take a picture and post it on the range for the other students and range masters to reference. Mikey went back to his office and sketched out the first version of the ZUES on a napkin.

Construction

At the base it is very simple. It is a mat that folds up, much like other shooting mats. On the ground side it is made of a durable water/mud/sand/blood resistant material. On the top it was constructed of loop fastener. The main body panels are padded and have a number of flaps that form the sides when zipped up.

It comes with a set of numbered, shaped, high-density foam blocks (that all have hook fastener on the bottom) referred to as “lego pieces”.

The mat can be used with the blocks or without. The whole kit folds up and zips shut containing the blocks, and has convenient carry handles. The whole package is under 20 lbs (I am guessing at this).

The blocks basically give you 100% support in the proper IDF position for prone shooting. Your arms are supported. Your chest is supported. Your legs are constrained to the correct angles. The bottoms of your feet have reference points to push against.

Observations

Okay, yes, it is basically a tactical shooter’s “Liberator” kit. That said, it works very well. It really helps to position the shooter in the correct orientation, and once set for a person, allows them to very rapidly reacquire that position.

ZUES shortly after being unpackaged. It comes with a handy photo reference for repacking it.

ZUES shortly after being unpackaged. It comes with a handy photo reference for repacking it.  It will not come with the boots, tactical pants, or tripod seen in this picture.

The blocks are numbered in the order to fit them to the person. You start off with the mat bare naked. There is a white strip on the front which should be parallel to the target, and over which the rifle will cross. The rest of the mat is then naturally oriented at the 45 degree angle that is taught by the IDF. The shooter lays down on the mat and blocks 1 and 2 are attached to the material at the bottom of the shooter’s feet. Block 3 is pressed into the shooter’s crotch, and enforces a good 90 degree angle. Blocks 4 and 5 are fitted to the junction of the torso and leg, and “lock” the lower body in place. Block 6 is set under the chest with a rest for the right triceps (at the correct angle). Blocks 7 and 8 constrain the outer limits of where the arms can go. The final two blocks are tall triangly-pyramid thingies that provide a rest for your right wrist and left forearm.

Triangly-pyramid thingies for stabilizing your arms and wrists.

Triangly-pyramid thingies for stabilizing your arms and wrists.

At first it was a little awkward, and felt very limiting. After a few sets of shooting, though, it really became more comfortable. Like extremely comfortable. Like nappy time comfortable. And the padding was sufficient enough to completely dampen the crushed rocks that made up the firing positions.

One problem we had at the course was that there were only enough mats for every two people. Which meant a lot of time was taken adjusting and resetting between each shooter. Fortunately my partner Larry and I were about the same with respect to our body positioning; we were able to leave the “lego blocks” in place. We had some minor adjustments with the wrist and forearm blocks, but otherwise we left it set up.

The IDF prone shooting position as it looks outside of the ZUES. Marty Holder about to lay down some virtual pew-pew.

The IDF prone shooting position as it looks outside of the ZUES. Marty Holder about to lay down some virtual pew-pew.

I will attest that this mat did in fact greatly speed up the indoctrination of the IDF prone shooting position. I initially kept trying to force my way back into my trained (over countless hours) position. Once I relaxed into it, it really made sense, and my shooting actually improved.

One thing I found that I really like about the 45 degree shooting position is the much lessened strain on my neck. Inline shooting has always forced my head to be at an angle that makes my neck uncomfortable. And wearing a full sized helmet? Forget it. The 45 degree is a much more comfortable position to hang out in.

I would love to see this mat configurable for shooting inline with the weapon. I think there would be some definite benefit for beginners in precision shooting (especially if the mat could be configured to use a sandbag as a recoil dampener).

[EDIT (12/31/2016):  TacDaddy just released a new video showcasing the ZUES]

Conclusions

In the context where this was developed, the ZUES is an awesome force multiplier. The common draftee to the IDF doesn’t come in with any shooting experience (unlike a significant percentage of US Forces). The ZUES will help the instructors rapidly teach and enforce a proper shooting position.

It works for rifles and the RONI (or sub gun of your choice).

It works for rifles and the RONI (or sub gun of your choice).

I see a system like this making a lot of sense (outside of the IDF) for beginning shooters of all nationalities. Teaching and learning good positioning suffers from the same problem–early consistency. As an instructor you want students to do the same thing through hundreds of repetitions until they are capable of doing it on their own without instruction. Using a tool like the ZUES will greatly improve the time to muscle memory, and will actually save instructor time for other shooting fundamentals. And they can be fit to shooters of all sizes (e.g. kids).

If you ever encounter one in the wild, I would highly recommend giving it a try with an open mind. I think you’ll be surprised at how rapidly you can get into a comfortable and stable shooting position.

They are not yet for sale–in fact the models we used were the only eight in country. When they become available they will most likely be sold through CAA: http://caagearup.com

If you are going to be at SHOT, you will likely have them at booth #12571.  And I was told they will have them at Range Day.

Images in this article are courtesy of Kevin (TacDaddy) Reichard.



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


Advertisement

  • 🐒👊

    This is really quite interesting.

    • Doc Rader

      Yeah. At first I didn’t really get it. Then I used it. Makes a huge difference in training.

  • uisconfruzed

    ” the 45 degree shooting position is the much lessened strain on my neck. Inline shooting has always forced my head to be at an angle that makes my neck uncomfortable”
    I’d like to see a overhead comparison.

  • Bill

    I can’t decide if this is absolutely brilliant, or an abomination.

    “Marty Holder” looks like Sasquatch.

    I can’t shoot a rifle in line. My neck doesn’t like to bend that way.

    • Doc Rader

      It looked abomination-esque at first. But proved itself to be brilliant. I think this is something that is really great for new shooters.

  • Bill

    “Which meant a lot of time was taken adjusting and resetting between each shooter”

    Obviously each part has a number, but does the mat have positioning marks or numbers on it, similar to the numbers on a Pic rail? That way each user could just record their “formula.”

    What’s this bondage device cost?

    One concern I’d have is getting the shooter out of it relatively quickly after they learned their individual positions, so that they’d have to learn how it feels without support, and learn which muscles are used and need development.

    • Doc Rader

      The mat does not have positioning marks. But you could use tape. Or maybe some enterprising fella could develop some thin colored strips with hook fastener that could be used to set the positions.

    • Frank Grimes

      It’s 2016, they can legally get married in all 50 states.

      If they want to hang out on weird pillows and spread their legs for other dudes, more power to them.

  • iksnilol

    Legs look wrong from what I’ve been taught.

    Not even a receiving partner spreads their legs that wide.

    • Frank Grimes

      It’s the Israeli technique.

      Which basically means take everything you know about shooting properly and don’t do it.

      Anybody teaching the Israeli crap should be legally required to wear oversized yellow shoes and a red nose that squeaks.

      • Different doesn’t mean wrong——

        • Frank Grimes

          Stupid generally means wrong though.

          All the Israeli crap is a bunch of unnecessary flamboyant ballerina nonsense that you would see taught down in Camden, TN.

          • Doc Rader

            Uhhhh… You know that “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” is not a documentary, right?

          • Frank Grimes

            Tell that to any of the clownshoe crew pushing Israeli crap and their airsoft grade rifle accessories.

          • Doc Rader

            Ha! You got me. I thought you were serious for a minute. Good troll!

          • Frank Grimes

            Gotta love it when the goobers can’t make a valid point so they use the pretend talking point of “troll”.

            Israeli technique sucks, Mako accessories are airsoft crap.

            This can not be disputed.

          • Doc Rader

            Oh! You were serious. I don’t remember seeing you at the class, which would explain why you have no clue as to what you are talking about.

            There was no “flamboyant ballerina nonsense” anywhere. Not sure where you are getting your information from since you are just throwing out uninformed “flamboyant” nonsense statements.

            Have you actually taken any IDF training where you can speak from a position of knowledge? Can you actually speak intelligibly about a technique you dislike and why? Please do enlighten us with something other than vague statements of “suck”…

          • Frank Grimes

            I haven’t been to a Tactical Response class either.

            You don’t need to experience a class to know the people teaching it and the techniques being taught are of ZERO credibility.

            Anyone willingly associating themselves with an “Israeli technique” class is a grade A loser.

          • Doc Rader

            I’d say this thread points out the person with ZERO credibility *wink, wink*.

            Techniques taught by the person that wrote the doctrine, and techniques that have twenty plus years of use with greater than a half million students and tested in an active war zone I would argue has earned their credibility. Orders of magnitude more so than someone that can’t, at the very least, describe one legitimate technique they disagree with and the reasons they disagree with it.

          • Frank Grimes

            Paying a few hundred bucks to hang out with some dumb-dumb conscript who carries an unloaded gun while you lay in his weird padded apparatus that looks like something from a club where Freddie Mercury would hang out, isn’t exactly indicative of someone with good training who has even the most basic understanding of what they are doing.

            I would have more respect for some who takes a class from that Russia guy who shoots his own students sometimes.

          • Doc Rader

            Thanks for validating my point!

          • Frank Grimes

            Yep, another non-valid argument from a loser fanboy who wants to make the rest of the virgins in his airsoft club look up to him by pretending he has “exotic” gunfighting skills from a second rate conscript army.

            Bet you have about the absolute BEST Bud-K Katana collection in 11th grade, don’t you little guy?

          • The comments that you posted and have been deleted were done because you don’t get to insult the writer. Civil and honest disareement is fine this insulting garbage is not!

          • Frank Grimes

            That’s because you’re all thin skinned and can’t handle criticism.

            Maybe he should be a man and fight his own battles or, at the very least, you can let the little guy remove the comments himself.

          • Doc Rader

            No battles left to fight… You clearly “got nothin” or you would respond with something other than insults and vague pompousness.

            I’m all for constructive criticism if you are capable of providing any.

          • Mrninjatoes

            @ Frank You are just talking out of your ass and not really saying anything. Nothing conclusive. No evidence. No specifics.

          • Frank Grimes

            No, you’re right, the outfit that trains you to carry an unload gun is totally legit.

            My mistake.

          • Mrninjatoes

            Maybe they taught that at one point. Doctrine and TTP’s are constantly changing. Even here in the States, tactics are always evolving.

            I almost sense a vitriolic hate for Israel.

          • Frank Grimes

            I have no issues with Israel as a country, I would love to see them wipe Palestine and everyone in it off the map.

            I take issue with the fact that their training is stupid, their military is stupid, they act like everything they do is this amazing feat because they are a religious nation, kind of like all those people that constantly go on and on about going to church or yap about how much of a “good Christian” they are (even though they are Catholic), it’s really laughable.

            Then they have the balls to come crying to Big Daddy USA for more handouts.

            Maybe they need to harden up and start producing something worthwhile instead of basing their entire economy on how much free money they can get or how much chip dip they can export.

          • Mrninjatoes

            So…you just don’t like Israel. That is a political discussion. Wrong forum.

          • Very much the wrong place for that.

          • I agree that’s old history and not relevant any longer. Things do indeed change and change fairly often.

          • I’m far from thin skinned(another insult). I didn’t teach the course so what has criticism toward Tom or I got to do with anything.
            Writers can’t delete comments that’s my job.

      • Doc Rader

        You are coming from a position of experience with IDF infantry shooting doctrine I see… :/

        Actually the IDF technique works very well. Unless you have spent some hours giving it an honest try (and for that matter any alternate technique) I’d say it is a opinion of ignorance.

        I would also say that the guy that wrote the doctrine is the most qualified to teach it.

        • Frank Grimes

          The fanboys of the losers teaching the “Israeli technique” use the exact same silly excuses as the Center Axis Relock weirdos to defend crappy techniques.

          • Joe Schmoe

            As someone who actually used this technique in the field:

            1)- It is not crappy or stupid, try firing uphill on loose soil/gravel and be stable. The wide leg to the side acts basically as a stopper for all movement forward or back, while the one centerline with the rifle acts as a great recoil absorber and stability.

            2) – Get off your high and mighty horse…

          • Frank Grimes

            Yeah man, really need to get all that ass behind the shoulder shattering recoil of 5.56mm carbines and 9mm GLOCK SBR things.

          • Joe Schmoe

            You know what, you’re right… I bow to your armchair wisdom. I don’t know why I bother commenting anymore, everyone seems to be a commando these days whose only job seems to be to criticize everyone and everything.

          • Frank Grimes

            Actually I don’t even have an armchair because my arms fell off because I shot a 5.56mm carbine and a 9mm SBR without spreading my legs so far that my pants split.

            Learn from my mistake! When shooting guns in calibers that generate massive recoil like 5.56mm and 9x19mm, you want to spread your legs as far as you possibly can to disperse the massive 6 ft/lbs of recoil forces.

          • Mrninjatoes

            You have no credibility on this forum. You are not contributing anything. Go away.

          • Frank Grimes

            Oh ok little buddy whatever you say, isn’t Sunday a football day? Maybe go brainwash yourself with more silly televised sports so tomorrow at work you can refer to the team as “We”.

          • Mrninjatoes

            Nice generalization. I have no idea if sports are on today. I rarely watch sports.

          • Frank Grimes

            Generalization huh? Yeah I mean you have some kind of football logo as your picture, totally unreasonable for someone to call out the crap that lunatic National Felon League fans do.

          • Mrninjatoes

            You are dumb as f***. That is a logo from a College sports team. Going off avatars, I assume you are a middle aged WASP who suffers from myopia and hepatic failure? lol

          • iksnilol

            Ummmm… isn’t College sports, y’know, sports?

          • Mrninjatoes

            But it’s not the NFL, and he mentions the NFL.

          • Frank Grimes

            A what who does what?

            Is that some kind of crazed football fan lingo that they use on whatever goofy team you’re obsessed with (and refer to as “We”) when they do a touchdown from home base?

          • He has——

      • Mrninjatoes

        Do you have any facts to back up that statement? I have watched all the videos recently posted, and I don’t see anything that is remotely controversial. Very methodical presentation.

        • Frank Grimes

          Yes.

          Scroll up from the comments section, then watch the video.

          Hope that clears things up, cupcake.

          • Mrninjatoes

            I see a tool that is used to rapidly teach conscripted soldiers proper rifle technique. Israel must be doing something right, or else they would have gotten pushed into the sea by now.

            Cupcake?

          • Frank Grimes

            Yeah man, such a great military.

            You need the absolute cutting edge training to fend off all those old ladies and 11 year olds throwing rocks.

            Israel has the world’s best anti-cavemen units, we should be in awe.

          • Mrninjatoes

            Okay…you are just talking out of your ass. A country with a paltry few million holding off 100 million hostile neighbors has to have a good military. Our elite units constantly train with theirs and vice versa. Might I remind you of the 6 Day War, in which Israel defended herself from 5 different countries attacking her? You should put your money where your mouth is and go tell an Israeli that their military sucks. You would probably get curb stomped in heart beat. The CAA/Hartman crew is going to be at SHOT this year. Go tell CAA/Hartman how much their TTP’s suck.

            You are just a fool hiding behind a keyboard with a bag of Cheetos and an orange d**k. Sad miserable existence. Trolling other peoples work and not actually contributing to the conversation. You could have said, “hey Doc…was x technique used? What were CAA’s thoughts on technique Y?.” All you contributed was some borderline antisemitic ranting and some BS generalizations.

          • He’s done—enough is enough.

    • Bill

      I don’t think the position is as set set in stone as the device might imply, but the principle I was trained under was to get as much of myself as possible in contact with the ground in as stable a posture as cover and terrain allows, hence a spread.

      • Doc Rader

        Strict technique as taught was right leg parallel to the weapon, left leg at 90 degrees to the right if at all possible. If not, legs equidistant apart, but maintain the 45 degree to the rifle.

        And yes, as much as possible in contact with the ground, and five points of contact with the rifle.

      • iksnilol

        I don’t disagree with spread, ut just looks like too much spread. Since you have to be comfortable as well to maintain a position.

        • Joe Schmoe

          When you do this often, as well as when you are in good shape, there is no problem, it’s not uncomfortable, and I’ve been in this position for hours at a time.

          • iksnilol

            Meh, I just feel the legs are awkwardly spread.

            But I done reckon it is individual.

          • Mrninjatoes

            Cheers to that. Happy new year Iks!

          • iksnilol

            Happy new year to you as well. Want to bet it’ll be better than 2016? 😛

        • Mrninjatoes

          When I shoot long range, that is where my legs are.

  • Dual spor

    Several things never cease to amaze me:

    1.” There is nothing new under the sun.” – Google shooting from prone and look at the various images. Most will show shooters angled away from the line of fire, but may show one leg bent as opposed to widespread. IIRC, some instructors advocated keeping a straight line for various reasons, including better control of recoil or the making of a smaller target(I remember the last part from an FBI training film in which the FBI instructor was wearing polyester pants and side zip boots.)

    2. Humans fear change. – grimes and Yeager are excellent examples of this. “If you don’t do it the way I am teaching it must be stupid and therefore wrong.” An excellent reason to spend your money with other instructors.

    3. All humans are different. – there is no wrong way to shoot small groups from a certain position if you are in fact shooting small groups. There is an UNCOMFORTABLE way to do it. Great instructors realize this. Find what works for you. Straight back and head held high does NOT work for me. My skeleton just doesn’t allow it.

    4. A great tool is not enou. You must have people who understand the pros and cons of each tool. – I think this is a great invention that could help someone find a comfortable prone and learn to use muscle memory and reflexes to repeat that position. If the instructors using this tool actually allow students the time to adjust to their preferred position if will help in leaps and bounds.

    • iksnilol

      Straight back is stupid IMO, you should always be at angle to the target. That’s how you’re most relaxed.

      Relaxing is a good starting point to developing a shooting position. Can’t shoot small groups for long if you’re uncomfortable as well as you would if you were in a comfy position.

  • I’m retired Frank I think almost 30 years is enough. You just can’t do anything but insult people can you.

  • Edeco

    The tactical corgi position 🙂