Rangemaster Instructor Reunion and Conference; November 11-12, 2017 – Shawnee, Oklahoma (Host: Jack Barrett/BDC Gun Room)

In this the twentieth year of the Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Program, Tom and Lynn Givens held their first Instructor Reunion and Conference. The event was attended by sixty Rangemaster Certified Instructors and Staff. Forty-nine of whom participated in the range exercises and scored qualifications.

My weekend started by flying to Will Rogers, Oklahoma City Airport on Southwest via Houston Hobby Airport and once I got acclimated to the 45° weather (That’s cold for a Florida boy) I was on my way to the Oklahoma National Memorial & Museum in downtown Oklahoma City. My experience there in a word was, emotional. To see the site for the very first time where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood gave me cause to reflect on the 168 lives that were lost that day in and just outside the building. Of the 168 lives lost, 19 were children and seeing the smaller chairs in the memorial dedicated to them was difficult. Additionally, many chairs had flags next to them, those Americans were either active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Marines or they were Veterans. If you are ever in the Oklahoma City area, you need to go, this is a part of American history that needs to be remembered.

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(Photo: Oklahoma City Memorial viewing from East to West. There are nine rows of chairs designating the floors on which the deceased were on at 9:02am April 19th, 1995)

TD1 (Saturday) of the conference started at 8:00am sharp with Tom welcoming us and outlining our agenda. We then geared up and headed to the range. The BDC Gun Room has two separate bays for shooting, one bay was led by Tom and Cecil Burch, the other by Lee Weems and John Murphy. We shot some bulls-eyes, casino drills, and an abbreviated Rangemaster Instructor Qualification. (If I gave you the entire course of fire then you wouldn’t have a reason to attend next years conference in Athens, Georgia)

Once we were back in the classroom we got an excellent presentation from Warren Wilson of Defensive Training Services on Gangs and the Armed Citizen. Warren is a subject matter expert being assigned to a Gang Task Force with a Law Enforcement Agency in the state of Oklahoma and is very familiar with Gangs and the feral humans who are members and prospects in this sub-human culture. The information Warren presented is proprietary to his company and none of the attendees were given a release to share specifics outside of the conference. Again, you snooze, you lose… I suggest that you contact Warren in the link I placed above and schedule him for training, it will be well worth it.

This brought us up to lunch. Tom gave us long lunches both days so we could network and catch up with friends we have made in the courses we’ve previously attended. After lunch, we got back after it with Tom and Lynn introducing the Rangemaster Staff Instructors.

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(Photo Credit: Lee Weems. The Rangemaster Staff Instructors. Left to Right, Tiffany Johnson, Lee Weems, Tom Givens, Lynn Givens and John Hearne. Lynn is holding a photo of John Murphy so he was included)

For the balance of the afternoon, Tiffany, Lee, John, and John presented “The Legacy of the Rangemaster Instructor Training Program” and “The Ten Principles of Teaching Rangemaster Doctrine.” Once again, we were not given a release by Tom and Lynn to share this information outside the conference, don’t you wish you would have attended it now? As attendees, we were given access to the powerpoint presentations, and if you attend next year in Athens, you will have access to this information yourself.

We adjourned TD1 just before 6:00pm local time.

TD2 (Sunday) of the conference started again at 8:00am sharp with Tom answering any questions from the previous days’ presentations and then we were off to the range for a short warm-up and to shoot a scored Rangemaster Instructor Qualification and the Casino Drill. It’s important to note that nobody came close to James Hale’s record Casino Drill time set earlier this year in Watkinsville, Georgia.

The B.A.D.A.S.S. (Benevolent And Didactic Association of Surviving Shootists) of the weekend was none other than Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment in Moore, Oklahoma. The man with “AIWB 1” on his license plate topped the list of the forty-nine shooters using his Langdon Tactical Beretta 92A1 to score a combined 384.75.

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(Photo Credit: Spencer Keepers, Keepers Concealment)

I used my Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry with Federal Premium American Eagle Syntech 115gr TSJ. My chosen holster was the Henry Holsters AIWB/IWB. Other gear I carried was a Sig Sauer Magazine Pouch, Surefire Y-300 flashlight, Fury Pepper Spray in a Griffin Pepper Strike, Benchmade Reflex (Automatic) and my Medkit with CAT Tourniquet. (These are EDC items for me)

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(Photo Credit: Tom Givens, Rangemaster Firearms Training Services)

Now, I don’t mean to rub it in; however, if you had attended the conference you would have had the chance to win a few door prizes. Jody Box from Arkansas won the grand prize of a new Smith & Wesson Shield M2.0, pretty cool door prize huh?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent job that Jack, Rachel and their staff at the BDC Gun Room did for us over the weekend. My friend Steve and I are looking forward to returning in January to train with Dr. William Aprill, Craig Douglas (Southnarc) and Mr. Givens, et. al. in Establishing a Dominance Paradigm. Oh yeah, in January, I will be renting some of Jack’s Class III weapons, I can’t let Spencer Keepers have all the fun…

The Rangemaster Instructor Development Program has less than eight hundred graduates, compare that to the National Rifle Association with 125,000+ Certified Instructors, and the USCCA with 2,000+ Certified Instructors. This is not a “gimmie” certification, a prospective Instructor candidate must pass two shooting qualifications and an eighty-two question closed book test at 90% or better to graduate from the Firearms Instructor Development Course, not everyone makes it.

So, when is the next Rangemaster Instructor Reunion and Conference you ask, the weekend of June 9th and 10th, 2018 in Athens, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. You can lock in your seat now by clicking on the link below, but remember, you must be a graduate.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rangemaster-certified-instructor-conferencereunion-tickets-39451499497

 

Until next time…

As always, live life abundantly; train hard so you can fight easy!

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(Featured Photo Credit: Lynn Givens)

Course Review: SIG SAUER Academy Bullets and Vehicles; October 23rd, 2017, Epping, New Hampshire.

After spending a couple absolutely beautiful fall days in Green Bay, Wisconsin teaching my Handgun Essentials course, it was back to SIG SAUER Academy for my third trip this year. (I previously attended the Master Pistol Instructor course in June and the P320 and M400/M-16/M4/AR-15 Rifle armorer’s course along with the Low-Light Pistol Instructor course in August)

Upon my arrival at Manchester airport, I was immediately embraced by all the fall colors that New Hampshire has to offer, and for someone who has not seen a change of seasons in seventeen years, this was certainly a welcome sight.

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(Some of the fall colors found on property at SIG SAUER Academy)

Our training day started promptly at 0830hrs in classroom #6 with ten students with various backgrounds in firearms training. Both of our Instructors, Dylan Kenneson and Chris “Cav” Cavallaro were excellent and spent a lot of time coaching us all throughout the day and as with all SIG SAUER Academy courses, the lead instructor explained and demonstrated all the drills before having students run them dry-fire and live-fire.

Once we got our “chow plan” figured out and completed all of the Academy paperwork, we got into introductions and then on to the range. Before we started any range exercises our Primary Instructor Dylan Kenneson outlined our Emergency Procedures, this was also reiterated after lunch.

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(Our Course Emergency Plan)

Once on the range, our first exercise was a modified version of David Blinder’s Dot Torture drill that was made famous by the late Todd Louis Green of Pistol-Training.

After being dot tortured (Pardon the pun) we got into some dry-fire exercises from seated positions on the range. We practiced all of the exercises dry-fire with a strict emphasis on safety and then moved on to live-fire once both Dylan and Chris were confident that we had the proper technique down.

Once we got in the first vehicle it was all about getting solid hits on the SSA-BM1 “Brett Target” named after Brett Martin, a former SIG SAUER Academy employee. Each student got the opportunity to be in the driver and passenger seat, engaging targets from two different distances. You couldn’t just point and shoot in this drill, you needed to take well-aimed precise shots especially from the passenger side of the truck as the target was about fifteen yards away.

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(SIG SAUER Academy Instructors Dylan Kenneson and Chris “Cav” Cavallaro watching closely over our live-fire exercises. Coolest license plate ever … “-SIG-” New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”)

After a short break, a vehicle was delivered on a flatbed truck with major front-end damage, yet it had all its glass still intact to give us the chance to see how certain projectiles fared through windshields and of course side the window glass. In the course description, we were asked to bring some duty/carry ammunition and this proved educational as to what projectiles do when traveling through windshields.

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(On this target you may be able to see some of the markings as to what brand and the specific load that was used. We shot from the driver’s seat and the target was placed at a distance of five (5) yards away with the majority of shots taken with the muzzle positioned back from the glass. Our point of aim was to be the square box underneath the eight-inch center chest area circle. Look closely at the hole at the very top of the target, that shot was taken with the muzzle directly on the windshield using the Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P load. The high deflection was due to the design of that particular projectile with its “Flex-Tip” design. The second shot with that load from back about six inches away from the windshield hit the target just to the right of the zipper, in the neck/collar-bone area)

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Important Note: When presented with a threat like this, your best option might be to mash the accelerator and run them over. If they have a weapon such as a handgun you would more than likely be justified in doing so as long as you can articulate and authenticate the presence of a threat of death or great bodily harm.

The course also included a block of instruction on escaping a vehicle in an emergency using many different tools to help with extraction. This block of instruction also included some innovative solutions to gaining access to a vehicle from outside as well. Personally, I carry a Benchmade Houdini Pro in the console of my vehicle and I also purchased a ResqMe in the SIG SAUER Academy Proshop to carry on my keyring as a backup. (See photo below)

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(In the photo above Victor from Sierra Element is engaging a threat through the rear window with Instructor Chris “Cav” Cavallaro coaching during the SIG SAUER Academy Bullets and Vehicles course October 23rd, 2017 in Epping, New Hampshire)

After lunch, it was on to some debussing drills and using cover to engage threats outside the vehicle. Our scenarios led by both Instructors and were all done with the utmost concern for the safety of the students and of course to ensure that learning was taking place while offering feedback on our techniques and more importantly keeping us focused on our performance.

(Just a couple guys out for a drive on a nice fall day in New Hampshire and then we start taking gunfire)

Teachable Moment: Getting out of the driver’s side seat and over the console of this Jeep Grand Cherokee proved difficult for a big dude like me. In this scenario, I was to engage our threats and provide cover for Victor to exit the vehicle. Once he was in position, he did the same for me as I exited the vehicle. This drill was very educational in the fact that if you’ve got to de-buss you need to do it quickly from any position inside the vehicle even if it is climbing out over the console. I also found that my Comp-Tac holster needs a little tightening down on the retention screws so it will hold my SIG SAUER P320 X-Carry a little more securely.

Lastly, several of us were given the opportunity to shoot through the Saturn in specific locations with several different calibers from .22LR to .45ACP in pistols and then a variety of long guns including a suppressed SIG SAUER MCX, M400 (AR-15), a Century Arms AK-47, a 7.62×51 sniper rifle, a 12 gauge Mossberg pump gun loaded with birdshot, buckshot, and rifled slugs. Then lastly, there was the behemoth below that Cav is point shooting without a scope, the .338 Lapua.

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In summary, the Bullets and Vehicles course does an excellent job in establishing some foundational skills for fighting in and around vehicles. Once again, SIG SAUER Academy does not disappoint and their Instructor Cadre, both Dylan Kenneson and Chris “Cav” Cavallaro proved themselves as two of the top trainers in this industry with their excellent instruction and positive coaching every step of the way. I also owe a big thank you as well to SIG SAUER Academy Training Coordinator Kathleen Randolph for getting me a seat in the course when it was already sold out. I wish that my schedule would have allowed me to stay for a few more courses before returning home to teach this past weekend.

Another benefit this trip gave me was the ability to reconnect with my friend Victor from Sierra Element. We took a little side trip to Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, Maine and had a couple good dinners together at places like The Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub. I can see Victor and I attending many more courses together in the future, he is a high-quality individual whom I will not hesitate to recommend as a trainer. If you live in Southern California, you can find a list of his courses by clicking here.

Lastly, this will probably come as no surprise; however, I am already looking forward to returning in 2018 in order to work some more on my skills and learn a lot more things that I can bring back to my students.

SIG SAUER Academy is a world-class training facility with world-class people that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Until next time …

As always, live life abundantly; train hard so you can fight easy!

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Course Review: Training with a Legend! Ken Hackathorn Advanced Pistol Course; October 7th & 8th, 2017 – Los Angeles, California (Host: Aztec Training Services)

Back in late April, I spent some time with industry giant Ken Hackathorn at the NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta and during our conversation I asked him if I could get in a course he was teaching in Couer d’Alene, Idaho in June. Ken said, “no way, the course was way oversold by the hosts” and we both said, “See you at Burro Canyon.”

Fast forward to last weekend. In between visiting family that I don’t get to see very often and meeting with some television executives about providing technical advice to them on firearms and empty hand skills for their network actors and actresses, I attended Ken’s Advanced Pistol course at Burro Canyon Shooting Park high up in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

On Saturday morning I woke up early because my body clock was still on Eastern Daylight Time, three hours ahead of the local time and because I might have been just a little excited to train with a man so well respected in the firearms training industry that everyone should do their best to get in one of his last courses before he retires full-time. So, shortly after sunrise, I found myself driving up to the range so I could be ready to learn from a man who has been on my list to train with for years.

Burro Canyon Shooting Park has nineteen bays ranging from forty-five yards to just under one-hundred ten yards in length.

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(The photo above is courtesy of the Burro Canyon Shooting Park website.)

At 0900hrs we started with Ken greeting all twenty of us and holding a short classroom session on the range before we got down to business running our handguns.

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(The photo above is of Ken giving a short classroom presentation at the back of the range on TD1.)

During the classroom presentation, Ken spoke with us about how he has been a “Student of Weaponcraft” all of his adult life. He said that current training is in decline right now due to oversaturation, and I agree. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the firearms training community have no business instructing anything at all, they either have untested POI (Program of Instruction) or they cannot explain why they teach what they teach and how it applies to the responsibly armed citizen. Sadly, many of them cannot figure out the adult learning theorem either. These same folks are the ones that get into arguments to raise their social media status and are desperate to sell tickets to Gun School.

Ken started instructing after meeting United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper at a course he was teaching in Colorado a few years before the Colonel started the American Pistol Institute, you would recognize that institution now as Gunsite Academy. The story of how Ken got in that course was excellent and you will need to attend a course with Ken in order to get that story from the man himself.

By happenstance, United States Army LTC Robert K. Brown publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine was also attending that same course in Colorado back in the early 1970’s and a short time after the course Colonel Brown offered Ken the opportunity to become a regular contributor to the magazine, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just so you know, Ken is very serious about retirement. Yeah, many people have heard him say that he is retiring over the past several years; however, this year he conducted four courses and next year it will be only two and only one is open enrollment. So, fair warning to you, I suggest that if you want to train with Ken you had better find a way to get in that one open enrollment course. (There are hints all over this blog postings with links to the course registration) Ken told us that he has goals in life to see some things like Yosemite, and the Cody Museum and one can’t blame him, for Ken has been training members of the United States Special Operations community, sworn Law Enforcement Officers and of course responsibly armed citizens for over forty-three years, he’s due a break.

Once we were on the range Ken started us with a drill shooting five shots at the “A” zone of an IDPA target from the ready position of our choice. Ever the evaluator and coach, Ken doesn’t miss anything on the range and he is constantly coaching his students. He is well prepared and has a course of fire planned out in his head, I never once saw him refer to any notes, this kind of experience is what you pay for when you attend a course with an industry giant like Ken Hackathorn who was one of the founding members of both I.P.S.C. and I.D.P.A.

Over the two-day course I never once heard him “undress” a student for not doing things his way as you see with some of the “traveling road show instructors” these days. Ken showed us techniques that he has perfected over his career as a sworn Law Enforcement Officer and as an industry expert; however, while we were shooting his drills he left it up to us to us to figure out what techniques we were comfortable with.

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(The photo above is typical of the weekend, Ken on his way to give some personal coaching to one of the students on TD1.)

We were constantly evaluated by the timer and by our target. Ken’s scoring system is based on time measurements, and you must add time for misses outside the designated target area for the drill. There are two things don’t lie in the shooting world, the timer and your target.

Speaking of that, Ken told us a few stories about how some top level shooters and even some regular Joe’s would boast in his courses how they can run certain drills and score times that are absolutely over the top ridiculous. Ken said that he used to tell them, “Well, today I am from Missouri, and you’ve got to show me.” More often than not these folks would make excuses and or embarrass themselves by not being able to perform as they said they could just minutes before.

Many of the drills we shot over this two-day course are drills that you have heard of, e.g., the Bill Drill, the El Presidente’ and countless others. What made this educational was the fact that we shot just about all the drills individually on the timer in front of everyone else, talk about pressure to perform, that was some kind of pressure. We then evaluated our targets, pasting our bad memories and adding up our scores using Ken’s scoring method.

Ken’s 20-second pass/fail par time.

A = 11 seconds and under
B = 11.1 seconds to 14 seconds
C = 14.1 seconds to 17 seconds
D = 17.1 seconds to 19.9 seconds
20 seconds and above identifies the shooter as someone who needs a little more personal coaching.

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(The photo above is of Ken demonstrating his slide-lock or empty-gun reload technique on TD1.)

My scores over the weekend were consistently in the B/C range, as with everything when you apply yourself and focus on what’s important now at Gun School, you can do well. Once again, attending a course of this caliber helped me identify some things that I can work on to increase my skill level and also gave me a lot of things that I can pass on to the students that I train as well.

During the two-day course, Ken taught to the adult learning theorem of explaining, demonstrating, and then coaching students through his drills each and every time, and as I have said many times before, this style of teaching works really well for me as both a trainer and of course as a student.

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(The photo above is of Ken using his own personal Wilson Combat Lightweight Commander to demonstrate his “Strong Hand Only” shooting technique.)

My gun of choice for the course was my SIG SAUER P320 X-Carry, using a Comp-Tac OWB holster. I ordered one thousand rounds of Remington UMC 115gr FMJ ammunition from LAX Ammo and had it delivered directly to my hotel. The ammunition and the gun ran flawlessly; however, I did have a small hiccup with my X-Carry when some sand and dirt got in it from putting it on the ground to run the weak hand only shooting drills. The “Lightening Cut” in the top of the slide is certainly cool looking, but if you get any dirt inside the action, bank on it creating stoppages in the cycle of operation.

Additionally, I ran all the drills in the two-day course from concealment as did one or two other students who were from counties where the Sheriff will issue a California License to Carry.

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(The photo above is courtesy of Aztec Training Services.)

Speaking of Aztec Training Services, Chen and Andrew did a great job as hosts. You may know that when Alias Training & Security Services “closed it’s doors” Aztec was formed almost overnight and they either represent or host some of the biggest names in the firearms training industry, e.g., Ken Hackathorn, Larry Vickers, Jeff Gonzales, Buck Doyle, Daryl Holland and Matt Graham. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have been in this course without being able to speak with Ken at the NRA Annual Meetings, but Aztec Training Services played a significant role by always being there to answer questions for an out of town traveler like me. Check out their website and course schedule in the various links I have placed in this posting.

In summary, this course is all about building your skills as a combative shooter. If you apply yourself and take good notes you will take away a lot of information that you can use in your personal range training sessions when you get back home. Again I encourage you to get in Ken’s open enrollment course next year if you want to train with him before he fully retires from teaching.

 

Until next time …

As always, live life abundantly; train hard so you can fight easy!

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Photo Disclosure: Featured photo courtesy of Aztec Training Services.