“If gunfire is called for, then hits are called for.” – Tom Givens
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Tom & Lynn Givens’ Rangemaster Combative Pistol Course at the OK Corral Gun Club in Okeechobee, Florida.
Tom Givens is a subject matter expert in firearms and firearms training who has been training sworn law enforcement officers, security guards, military personnel and responsibly armed citizens for well over forty years. He is a court-appointed expert witness in cases involving firearms and firearms training and also serves on the board of directors for the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. (ACLDN) Tom understands and can explain physiology, psychology, and biomechanics better than most Ph.D.’s in the field. His course of fire focuses the student on efficiency, speed, and precision. His classroom presentations are well thought out and put together in a manner that gets the students attention. (More on that later) Lynn Givens is a subject matter expert on firearms and firearms training as well, with over 2,000 hours of professional firearms training to her credit, if she tells you to do something while you are in class, it would be a good idea to just do it. Lynn served as an Assistant Instructor this weekend, both she and Tom make a great training team.
TD1 began in the Ranch House at the OK Corral Gun Club with Colonel Jeff Cooper’s four basic rules of gun safety. Muzzle discipline and trigger finger discipline are absolutes in a Rangemaster course, Tom and Lynn run a “Hot Range” with all guns being always loaded. The emphasis is on safety and is non-negotiable with only three places a gun should be while on the range; In the holster, at the ready or on target.
After a short break, Tom asked a question that he has been asked many times, “Why do you carry a gun?” he told us the correct answer, “Because I may have to shoot somebody.” As a responsibly armed citizen, you never know when or where you may need to use your self-defense firearm to save your life or the life of your loved one. Unfortunately, someone else decides that for you and they do not give you any advance warning. Understand that a handgun is a life-saving piece of equipment, it does you absolutely no good if it is not on your person when you need it. So, carry your damn gun! (These are nearly verbatim quotes from other courses I have taken with Tom over the past several years)
After another short break, we got into the defensive mindset and Tom used several real incidents as examples. These included an actual 9-1-1 recording of a woman and her toddler being brutally murdered over an open phone line; next was a dash cam video of a Sheriff’s Deputy in Georgia who took thirty-three shots at his killer missing him each time from about a car length away just to be murdered in cold blood; finally an interview with a jewelry store owner in Los Angeles who in his own words, “refused to be a victim of a violent crime.” These short audio and video presentations definitely got the attention of the course participants, and even though I had heard and seen them before, they served as a grim reminder to me of the evil that exists in our world, and how I must be prepared to deal with it when it comes calling. I apologize; however, you will need to take the course to fully understand the gravity of these presentations, they are something that cannot be illustrated to the student in the written word, nor should they be.
Next up was Tom’s Elements of Defensive Shooting.
- Firing “Fighting” Platform (Stance)
- Sight Alignment and Sight Picture
- Trigger Press
After explanations and presentations on each area and their importance to defensive shooting, we broke for lunch.
A buffet style lunch was graciously sponsored both days by one of the students. The OK Corral has a large dining room and full kitchen. The choices on Saturday included a variety of items like Chicken Marsala and Beef Pepper Steak, some really good red skin mashed potatoes and on Sunday it was more of a brunch buffet with 1/2 breakfast and lunch items.
After lunch, we started the course of fire. Before each exercise, Tom explained and demonstrated them for us, and then coached us through the exercise as all of the great instructors do. He knows that following this simple teaching principle is the key to connecting with his students and unlocking the adult learning theory.
We started with dry fire presentations using Tom’s four-step method of presenting a pistol from a concealment holster. One access the pistol and make sure you get a firing grip on it. Two is pulling the pistol out of the holster to your pectoral muscle (If you are carrying strong side hip) and rotating the pistol to the target by dropping your elbow. Three is joining your hands together to get a two-handed firing grip. Four is pushing the pistol straight out toward the target.
While we were in the middle of this dry fire exercise Tom and Lynn were observing and evaluating each individual student for their safety awareness (Muzzle and Trigger Finger Discipline) our skills and equipment choices, and they were quick to make suggestions that led to improvements in everybody where it was appropriate.
Once the line went hot, we ran exercises from the low ready, firing single shots, then moving on to pairs and then multiple shot engagements all on either a verbal command or the sound of a whistle that Tom keeps attached to his stopwatch. For this class, Tom used the Federal Way Washington Police Department Vital Impact Area Target because its scoring zones are well suited for defensive shooting instruction.
Tom then explained and demonstrated a sight deviation drill further dispelling the myth put out there by the gun pretenders on the interwebz that you don’t need or will not have time to use your sights in a gunfight. The one thing you don’t have time to do is miss your intended target in a gunfight, so it is important to position the “bumpy things” on top your slide to get a hit on the person that is threatening your life.
Speed reloads and going back to the low ready position before holstering is commonplace in a Rangemaster course, this way all students can keep a full gun and get in the habit of reloading their gun quickly and efficiently. Important Note: If you ever attend any Rangemaster course, make sure you keep a pocket full of ammunition so you can keep the magazines that are on your belt topped off as well.
By this time it was getting later in the afternoon and we were on to the importance of using the correct cadence while shooting. Tom first explained and then demonstrated many different cadences explaining that as your distance increases so must the time in between shots. After he felt that we had an understanding of cadence we then progressed to strong hand and weak hand only shooting exercises. the last exercise of the day was to present our pistols from concealment and fire three shots within three seconds from three yards on the stopwatch, we did this drill several times and many people got faster as the drill progressed. TD1 ended with a round count a little over two hundred fifty rounds in total.
TD2 once again started in a classroom environment inside the clubhouse at OK Corral. Tom started out with some facts and figures on the percentage of hardcore criminals incarcerated based on USDOJ statistics and then we watched the FBI’s own AAR on the April 11th, 1986 shootout in the Pinecrest neighborhood of Miami-Dade County that ended with the deaths of special agents, Jerry Dove and Ben Grogan along with their killers, Michael Platt and William Matix. Tom is very respectful of the agents involved; however, he points out all of the mistakes that were made and the lessons learned from this incident and how we can apply them to our everyday life as responsibly armed citizens.
We departed for the range just after 10:00am and started with some warm-up drills shooting multiples from the holster then transitioned to cadence drills.
We then shot the Rangemaster Combative Pistol Course Qualification, everyone scored over the 80% and got to stay in the class. (That was a joke, I’m sure had someone not passed they would have been coached more and given another opportunity to qualify) Bryce Bishop and I only dropped one point scoring a 249/250 on the qualification which made us first up on the dueling tree. Bryce cleaned my clock with his Glock 34, scoring the three hits needed to end the fight just as I got my first hit. Not taking anything away from Bryce, but I really broke the cardinal rule in a gunfight, I was the one who missed the most and he or she who misses the most usually ends up dead.
After having a little friendly competition on the dueling tree we started on basic command drills using the Discretionary Command Training Target DT-2A. There are three versions of this target, and I like to use all three in my courses to keep my students guessing, and so they don’t get complacent on memorizing where they are needing to get their hits.
After running several of the command exercises we ran another fun competition to find the last person standing in each relay, by having people drop off after misses and whoever shot last, then we moved to the Casino Drill. Twenty-one shots in under twenty-one seconds with no misses, shooting each target in order and performing two emergency reloads. We ran the drill several times and pasted our misses by doing the walk of shame after each exercise. Then we ran it for time, with the lowest time in each relay winning a Rangemaster pocket knife. Just so you know the record for this drill at the time of this class was 12.09 seconds, it was not in jeopardy this weekend.
Total round count for two days was just under the expected 800 rounds.
I ran my Generation 3 Glock 19C outfitted with Ameriglo I-Dot Pro sights from a Safariland ALS holster. I used a mixture of FMJ ammunition, mostly Winchester white box 115gr FMJ purchased at Walmart and the rest was Federal American Eagle 115gr FMJ. I had one ammunition induced stoppage (Failure to Fire) with the Winchester white box.
The course concluded at just about five o’clock with certificate presentations and the three questions Tom and Lynn always ask of their students at the end of every course. No, I’m not telling the questions, you will just have to attend one of their courses to find out for yourself.
A few final thoughts: Over the two days of training I identified two weaknesses that I must get better at, and I have already developed a plan to turn these weaknesses into strengths. This course is one that will help get you refocused on basic fundamentals and will sharpen your strengths; however, as I said above it will also expose your weaknesses as well.
Lastly, it is my goal to convert back to a more conventional thumbs up style grip with my support hand wrist locked, the same grip that Tom teaches. It won’t be easy due to being habituated to the thumbs forward grip for so long; however, I am going to be working very hard to retrain my brain before the 3-day Rangemaster Advanced Combative Pistol Course next month outside Atlanta.
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Until next time …
Stay Safe & Train Hard!