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 teaches wilderness medicine and writes for a number of publications, including The Prepared, a site devoted to self-preparedness. 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.

    You can reach him at tom.r AT thefirearmblog.com


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