BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Jose Carlos Coruna does not look his age.
He is 39.
Babyfaced. Like a freshly-scrubbed college grad.
Until he motions how to grip a pistol, fingers clenched.
Not the typical index finger stretched and thumb up gesture non shooters make.
Not only a shooter he is.
He is also a former soldier.
But he is no ordinary grunt. He used to be a captain.
With a degree in Psychology.
The way he talks says he is not some simple jarhead.
He served as executive officer of the Marksmanship Training Center of the Philippine Army.
For three years – 2014 to 2016.
Under his watch, the Army shooting team won international competitions, including the ones where it beat shooting teams of the US, Great Britain, and other first-world countries.
He has trained marksmen who have earned the right to wear the badge of Ang Manunudla, marksmen who are proficient on the battlefield and shooting range who have competed internationally.
Simple terms: not the guys you mess with.
Capt. Coruna deserves a separate feature.
This story is not really about him.
It is about his new breed of trainees, those who train under Downrange Daddy, one of two ventures he founded with a buddy and retired banker Manolito Del Castillo.
We found “Cayo” on a gloomy Friday morning at the NIR Shooting Range inside the once-famous Sta. Fe Resort with his new grunts.
“When I say load, you charge your rifle and when I say ‘up!’ you shoot all the targets,” Cayo tells one of them as he points to four steel targets set up downrange at NIR Shooting Range Bay 2 where he and Manolito run the training program.
The grunt nods and proceeds through a dry-fire sequence – charging the weapon, an M&P15 chambered in 22 Long Rifle and pressing the trigger, a process repeated four times.
The magazine with four, just four bullets is then loaded.
Up! Cayo orders.
Ping! Metal hits metal.
First target down.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
“Drop magazine! Close bolt! Press trigger!” Cayo barks, the grunt follows.
Range is cold, he says.
The range boys run in to put up the targets once more.
The grunt takes off the ear muffs and shakes her long hair bunched in a ponytail.
And fist bumps with Cayo.
“Good, baby,” he says.
“Baby” is Cayo’s secondborn, Sysco, an abbreviation for Sofia Ysabel Coruna.
Eight years old.
Sysco hits targets at least 15 meters away from a benchrest. Meaning the shooter is sitting and the rifle is propped up on a backpack.
No fancy scopes. Just the iron sights.
After Sysco on the firing line came Miggy Del Castillo, Manolito’s son, 9; then Gabby Calderon, 8; and Sysco’s kuya (older brother), Riguel.
Four bullets each, four targets down.
Didn’t we tell you that they shot it after being stressed?
The rifle shoot is the tailend of a stress shooting drill and cold bore at that.
It goes like this.
Before the child shoots, he or she runs a total of at least 100 meters, two sets of going back and forth, fist bumps Cayo, then does four jumping jacks.
Elevated heart rate.
Elevated heart rate affects breathing and pulse, bad news for a shooter.
How to control breathing and pulse is something Cayo used to teach at Army shooting school.
It ain’t simple shit.
These kids are learning it.
And applying it successfully.
Natural breath cycle, Cayo says.
Squeeze the trigger upon exhale.
For more of Downrange Daddy’s training, stay tuned for our video short and to inquire about training schedules and fees, inquire from Downrange Daddy’s Facebook page.