Course Review: Rangemaster Advanced Firearms Instructor Development Course; August 26th & 27th, 2017 – Culpeper, Virginia (Host: FPF Training)

Last Friday morning I boarded a Southwest Airlines jet in Tampa, and after a plane change in Atlanta, I arrived at Dulles slightly before noon. I picked up my rental car and I sped off to the National Rifle Association Headquarters in Fairfax for two reasons; First, I wanted to see the twelve Thompson’s that were donated for display at the museum on the first day that they were put out on display. I am a big fan of the “Tommy Gun” and to see twelve of them in one location, even if they were under-glass was spectacular.

The second reason was because I wanted to get some lunch. They have a darn good cafeteria at NRA Headquarters and I thought what the heck, let me get some vittles before making the drive down to Culpeper.

The photo below says it all, just look at them beauties.

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OK, after getting my “Tommy Gun” fix and filling my belly I headed out to Culpeper. Upon my arrival I checked in for a two-night stay at the Holiday Inn Express using my IHG reward points and then I was off to Walmart to get a few essentials for the weekend.

Friday evening, I met Tom, Tim, Ashton, and a couple other Rangemaster Graduates at Foti’s Restaurant in downtown Culpeper. Foti’s is an American, Mediterranean/Greek style restaurant and is highly rated on Trip Advisor. I enjoyed the meal and more importantly the conversation.

After dinner, it was time to get some rest; however, truth be told, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I just love to train with good people, so I really did not sleep all that well on Friday night.

Saturday morning (TD1) started promptly at 0900hrs with Tom welcoming us and setting our level of expectation for the weekend. Many of you have asked via email and private message why I would take this course a second time so soon after graduating from it in March 2015. Well, I can tell you that there are two very good reasons. The first is because I somehow lost my workbook and certificate from that course in 2015, and the second is because I know Tom to be progressive in evolving his curriculum. I saw this right away in the comprehensive student/instructor candidate manual that he provided us. By the way, you can find my original course review here.

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Let’s talk prerequisites, to be invited to this particular course you must have graduated from one of the three-day Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Courses that Tom & Lynn hold around the United States.

Assisting Tom over the weekend was Skip Gochenour. Skip is a licensed private detective and founder of S. R. Gochenour & Associates in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Skip has consulted on hundreds of civil and criminal cases involving firearms and use of force, and he has appeared as himself on documentary television shows such as Forensic Files, Autopsy, and Murder by the Book. Skip also founded and serves as the Director of the American Tactical Shooting Association (ATSA) and the National Tactical Invitational (NTI).

When Tom introduced Skip he said, “if Skip tells you to do something, it would be a good idea to just go on and do it.” That is good advice, Skip gave me several tips over the weekend that I am very grateful for. By the way, Skip wears a darn cool hat and knows a fine cigar as well.

On to our agenda for the weekend. Tom covered all of the classroom information on Saturday and that allowed us to go to the range in the afternoon, and then stay at the range for the remainder of the course.

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Let’s talk prerequisites, to be invited to this particular course you must have graduated from one of the three-day Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Courses that Tom & Lynn hold around the United States.

Tom had us stand up and do a little public speaking, introducing ourselves and giving our names, our training companies/where we were from, where and when we took the three-day Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Course. Lastly, we were asked to describe what was our biggest takeaway from that course.

What I learned from the introductions was, we had eighteen very diverse students/instructor candidates (seventeen men and one woman) many from the Northern Virginia area and several of the original thirteen colonies; however, one man made the trip all the way from Oregon, now I call that dedication to training and professional development.

I should add that one of the instructor candidates, Adam Gochenour, a very modest young man, and son of Skip is the youngest person to ever attend and graduate from the Gunsite Academy, Pistol 250 Course at the age of 10 or 11, I do not remember which. (The adult class, not the Gunsite Youth 250) What an amazing accomplishment at such a young age and one you will never see again at Gunsite. Adam is a heck of a good shooter and makes some very fine leather holsters as well. Check out his company website at: Panolpy Holsters and Equipment.

After a short break, we got started with the curriculum. Tom suggested that we answer when he asked questions during the presentation, and if you have never trained with him before, think of Tom like a father figure, when he suggests you do something, it’s not really a suggestion. Active participation in the leaning process helps you and everyone else around you learn more from each other and adds to the overall experience.

As we discussed human anatomy as it relates to dangerous people, we all have an understanding that good hits must be made in the upper thoracic cavity on the human who is threatening your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. These hits must be in the area marked from nipple to nipple up to the collar bones. We also discussed “the vault” as it applies to the facial targeting area, and how the target stays the same when the threat turns sideways to us.

Tom also said, “If you think you’ve been shot, that’s not a good thing, and a .380ACP is just fine unless you need to shoot someone.” I have read many books on this exact subject and seen plenty of police reports where a .380ACP failed to get the job done. (That means stop the threat from doing what they are doing to you or someone that you love) This does not mean that I want to take a few shots to the upper thoracic region from a .380ACP. Remember, criminals can afford to miss or get lucky with a unintended and un-aimed shot, they do not care about you, or the devastation they cause through their felonious behavior.

You on the other hand, cannot afford to carry a gun that does not stop “Dude” when you need to stop “Dude.” As “Old Brother” Massad Ayoob says, “Friends don’t let friends carry mouse guns.”

We then transitioned to ready positions and the pros-cons of each. Tom teaches the “Traditional Guard” better known as the “Low-Ready” position. It was popularized by Lt. Col. Cooper at Gunsite and is used by many well-known agencies across the country.

Many other Instructors have their favorites, from the “Air Marshal Ready” and “High Compressed Ready” oh, let’s not forget “Position SUL.” The last is one of the most misused ready positions of all.

“Bootlegger Ready” is a ready position that a lot of Law Enforcement Officers use in many different situations; however, as Tom pointed out, it is much slower than just having your master-hand on a holstered gun. The master-hand on a holstered gun is a popular technique taught in my Defensive Tactics courses for Law Enforcement Officers.

We covered a few other ready positions, and then moved on. Remember one thing … If nobody is using the technique outside of the training courses where they are being taught, then you are just being a beta-tester.

After another short break, we jumped into the other agenda items, and cadence was up next. Finding the right cadence to use in defensive marksmanship is easy if you remember that you should only shoot as fast as you can guarantee hits and no faster. It’s quite simple when you think about it; however, teaching newbies about cadence and trigger control can be extremely difficult.

Heck, I had trouble with this new gun I am shooting over the weekend, I wasn’t taking up enough slack in the trigger and I was crashing through the break, causing my sights to deviate. That will earn you a “miss” each time, and what can we ill afford to do in a gunfight?

Creating skill drills versus tactical drills and how they can be used to train the student was one of my favorite subjects, think of the Casino Drill, the 3M Drill and the El Presidente. With less than a full box of ammunition you can test yourself in everything you need to be able to do competently as a defensive shooter.

Before lunch we discussed Firearms Instructor Liability Insurance and how many Firearms Instructors dig themselves a hole by teaching outside their lane, these instructors would do much better to stay in their lane.

[On my Soapbox] In Florida we have a very serious problem with both NRA and USCCA Certified Instructors delving into legal issues as they skirt a fine line in giving legal advice which can be considered as practicing law without a license in this state. Just so you know, that is a third-degree felony, and if convicted it is punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine. Do you want to be a test case? If you answered, no, then stop teaching the laws associated with concealed carry in Florida and stick to giving a “Firearms Safety Course” as codified in Florida Statute 790.06 2. (h) 7. By the way, many are still are teaching without having the proper certifications and some are teaching without Firearms Instructor Liability Insurance, which I find to be reckless and puts their students in danger. Always check the credentials of your Instructor and ask to see a copy of their Firearms Instructor Liability Insurance as well. [Off my Soapbox]

In this block of instruction, we discussed how the Instructor has a duty to provide a safe learning environment and to oversee training while providing a standard of care that is above the industry standard.

I asked Tom to interject as we discussed Lockton Affinity (NRA Endorsed) Insurance and how it does not indemnify Firearm Instructors when they engage in Simunitions/UTM/Airsoft/Force-On-Force type training.

Instructor Note: If you need to shop for a rider to your policy for Simunitions/UTM/Airsoft/Force-on-Force training, look at Joseph Chiarello & Company, they will give you a rider for $150.00 per year to cover you for this type of training.

After breaking for lunch, we watched and listened to a ninety (90) minute presentation by a well-known police psychologist. This was a riveting presentation that caused me to have my head down typing notes in my phone and writing them down in my notebook just as fast as I could.

The Doctor’s catch phrase was, “do you follow?” Yes, I followed, but there was so much that I missed by trying to take too good of notes. I should have brought my laptop and touch typed my notes, lesson learned.

After the presentation was over we saddled up and headed to Stone Quarry Range about twenty minutes away.

Once at the range we did some dry-fire work to ensure safety awareness and to polish out some wasted motion in our presentations.

Instructors Note: Remember the saying that most Gun Pretenders use? “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” – Well, I will tell you that slow is slow! You have got to get the gun out quickly and efficiently with little to no wasted motion. You can do this by dedicating yourself to diligent, deliberate, perfect practice.

Our shooting started with many drills that you would be familiar with if you have trained with Tom and Lynn over the years. We got in work from all distances and my scores improved each time we shot a qualification; however, to be candid my scores were dismal to my standards even with the “informed expectation” I had going into the course.

Personally, I identified that I need a lot more bulls-eye work during the course. This is something known to me, and thus I see my Pact Club Timer III and a lot of timed bulls-eye target drills in my future.

We ended TD1 with “The Test” by Ken Hackathorn, you can find it by using your Google-Fu. Ending with all hits in a five-and-a-half-inch circle from 10 yards is a good thing.

The TD1 round count was somewhere just under 200 rounds.

After we adjourned, many of us headed to Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant where this happened, the “El Gordo Burrito.” I laughed when I saw this because, El Gordo means “The Fat” in Spanish. Guess what? I smashed that Fat Burrito.

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Sunday morning (TD2) Sunday started with the host, Gary Jakl from FPF Training being gracious enough to meet me at the range at 0730hrs to bench-rest my GLOCK 34 Gen 3. This is the second time I have had to push the rear sight on this gun appreciably to the right to bring my grouping over enough to be on center. It’s really getting ridiculous with this gun and I shipped it off to GLOCK for them to address the issue for me.

I forgot to mention my gear considerations for this course. Obviously, the GLOCK 34 Gen 3 was my firearm of choice, I carried it AIWB in a V-Development Group Seraph holster with the large foam wedge. (See the photo below)

The ammunition I chose for the course was CCI/Speer Blazer Brass 124gr FMJ. Because of federal law, I couldn’t fly with thirty (30) pounds worth of ammunition, so once again, our host Gary Jakel came to the rescue and accepted my ammunition shipment from Target Sports USA.

FPF Training is an excellent host, and Stone Quarry Range is also a great place to shoot. We missed you last weekend John Murphy!

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Once we had targets up and were toeing the line Tom made sure we were clear in the holster and we started on dry-fire practice using the coach/pupil method. After all this is an Instructor Course and Tom had us coaching and instructing our new best friends.

In the photo below Tom is having a little fun with Ashton demonstrating a drill while Tim supervises.

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Here is a good suggestion that you need to commit to memory, “If you line up the bumpy things on top of the slide and press the trigger properly, you will get a hit.” – Tom Givens

After a short break to get some water in and water out, we then started working on more drills from all sorts of distances. As you see below, my target was getting better and that’s what I like to see.

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“The presentation puts the gun on target, the sights are used to verify alignment.” – Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper (No truer words ever spoken)

Next we shot a few qualifications and afterwards we had some fun shooting steel. Shooting a little friendly “mano e mano” competition on steel during a course is a good thing and makes you work for what you get.

Then it was back to more work from various distances, we worked hard on a lot of drills up until time for lunch.

When we reconvened after lunch we worked together in teams using the coach/pupil method with our coach giving us encouragement on our techniques.

See the photo below: Tom is a master at hitting the adult learning theorem and here he is demonstrating a two-handed shooting technique from position #3 of the presentation, also referred to as “high compressed ready.”

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After this we did a few movement drills, presenting our pistols and getting off the “X” so to speak.

We then shot the course qualification. I scored a dismal 239 the first go around and 245 on the second. My 245 score is posted below. Again, not my best effort; however, it is exactly what I had on Sunday afternoon. I have a lot of work to do…

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We had a lot of guns that had problems in this course. A GLOCK trigger spring broke, Winchester White Box hard primers causing a failure to failure to fire repeatedly. Another shooter had a magazine spontaneously disassemble during a load or reload, I cannot remember which, and then there were feeding problems and cycling problems in a variety of guns, it was brutal to watch. As Tim Chandler put it, “The Rangemaster Advanced Firearms Instructor Course eats guns.” [Paraphrasing]

Let this be a “teachable moment” for everyone. Bring a spare gun to #GunSchool, no matter what course you are taking and regardless of the instructor.

In summary, once again Tom Givens knocked it out of the park. He evolved this curriculum from the course I attended in Fort Lauderdale back in March 2015. I enjoy Tom and Lynn’s courses immensely, and will continue to challenge myself to be the best shooter and Instructor that I can be.

TD1 & TD2 round count by me was just under 700, with all the dry-fire practice we got in plus the 100-150 dry-fire presses I did on Saturday night in the hotel I had to be close to 1,000 or more trigger presses.

On a personal note, attending this course allowed me to reconnect with a man I highly respect and look forward to training with again soon, Mike from Green Ops. He was our “Top Gun” last weekend and he also earned a Master Class Rating in the handgun core skills test. Nice job Mike!

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Photo above: Mike with his 250/250 on the course qualification, this man can flat out run his gun.

Finally, I’ll leave you with these nuggets. My remaining 2017 personal training schedule includes courses with:

  1. Dave Spauldingfrom Handgun Combatives.
  2. Ken HackathornAdvanced Pistol Course in Los Angeles.
  3. Two courses with Patrick McNamara.
  4. The First Annual Rangemaster Instructor Reunion Conference in Oklahoma.
  5. Two closed enrollment courses for LEO Trainers only in September and October.
  6. The new three-day NRA Practical Pistol Coach School at NRA Headquarters in December.

All of this in between teaching courses throughout the week and on select weekends. Yeah, I’d say that my plate is pretty much full.

 

Until next time …

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

 

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Course Review: Rangemaster Combative Pistol Course April 1-2, 2017 Okeechobee, Florida

AAA Combative Pistol Okeechobee April 1-2, 2017

“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 Cub 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 bio-mechanics better than most PhD’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.

  1. Marksmanship
  2. Firing “Fighting” Platform (Stance)
  3. Grip
  4. Sight Alignment and Sight Picture
  5. Trigger Press
  6. Breathing
  7. Follow-Through

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 is 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 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 uses the Federal Way Washington Police Department Vital Impact Area Target because its scoring zones are well suited for defensive shooting instruction.

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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 common place 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 upon 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 every day 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) Myself and Bryce Bishop 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.

AAA DT-2A

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 whomever 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 preforming 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 is 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 theses 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.

You can find Rangemaster on the worldwide web at:

http://rangemaster.com

On Facebook you can join their closed group at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/234643425923/

 

Until next time …

Stay Safe & Train Hard!

Do you have specific goals when at the range? Think S.M.A.R.T.

Yesterday evening Tom Givens posted this to the graduates of his RangeMaster Instructor courses and I thought it was way too good not to share. For those of you who follow the Trigger Control Dot Org Facebook page, you know that we share a lot of content to help make you a better defensive shooter along with many other things focused on the responsible armed citizen.

When I am at the range, I am there with a plan in mind to work on a specific skill set that is important to me. Sure sometimes I am there to “shake out” a gun that I might be using for training or a new concealed carry gun that I bought, but let’s face it, these days with the cost and availability of ammunition, range memberships, gas to get there etc… we all need a plan with some goals to work toward in improving our defensive shooting skill sets.

I give the “floor” to Mr. Givens.

What are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

A critical step in increasing your defensive shooting skill is to be able to set up S.M.A.R.T. training goals. Think of it as driving your vehicle from your home to some other destination. You could drive around aimlessly and hope you eventually arrive at the address you seek. A better solution would be to get directions, plot them on a map, and follow those directions directly to your destination. That is our goal in S.M.A.R.T. training.

I’ve been teaching people professionally for over 35 years, for 18 years I owned a range where people often came to practice, and I teach almost every weekend somewhere in the US. On my range I frequently saw people come and practice with no plan, no goal, and little or no organization. When they left they were not one bit better than when they arrived, and they could have accomplished every bit as much with dry practice at home. In our classes no matter what part of the country we are in I see the same errors by shooters who have had a fair bit of prior training. The problem is, after the training their practice is unorganized, haphazard, and without real goals. Since they practiced so inefficiently they come to class shooting no better than when they came to the last class. We basically start over with these folks every time we get them in class. For your practice regimen to be of any real value you have to set goals and attain them. You can’t just say your goal is to be a better shot, or to be “really good”. That is so vague as to be meaningless. We need a standard to achieve and road map to get there.

For a goal to be effective and useful to you, it should be S.M.A.R.T…. S (specific), M (measurable), A (attainable), R (realistic), and T (timely). Broadly general goals, generally speaking, will not be achieved. So, let’s look at each of these criteria and see how they apply to the defensive shooter.

Specific– each range trip or dry practice session should be planned around working on and improving one or two specific skills. The skill should be identified in advance so that you can have the correct supplies, targets, and any other equipment you need to work on those specific skill sets. Trying to work on everything at once leads to improving nothing significantly. It is far better to concentrate your attention on one or two skills in each session. In advance of your range trip or dry practice session identify the skill set you want to work on and then identify the drills that would help polish those particular skills. For instance if you want to work on accuracy, a bull’s-eye course of fire may be in order, or perhaps one of the small dot drills.

Measurable– a time and accuracy standard gives you a metric for seeing if you are actually getting better or not. Never just blow rounds down range. Every drill fired and practice string should be critiqued and or scored, and targets taped or replaced so that you can see exactly where hits are going. Never rely on your subjective idea of how fast you’re working, you will just about always be wrong. You can have a training partner with a stopwatch, or if you practice alone you can use an electronic timer to verify your progress. Many smart phones now have timer apps available, so there’s really no excuse for not using a timing device in your range trips. To accurately measure your progress you can use standardized drills, exercises, and courses of fire. By scoring your targets and noting your time it’s pretty easy to track progress or the lack of it. There are a lot of standardized drills that emphasize discrete skills with well-known time/ accuracy requirements. The FAST drill devised by Todd Green is just one example. You either get your hits into the 3 x 5 card and the 8 inch circle or you don’t, and you either make the time specified or you don’t. It’s a great idea to use a small notebook as a log and note the date and time of practice, the individual drills worked on, and your scores/times. Tracking your progress in this manner gives you an accurate idea of how you are progressing.

Attainable– be realistic when setting your goals to avoid frustration and burnout. If you’re just starting out as a defensive shooter, a 1.2 second draw from concealment to a hit at 7 yards is probably beyond your reach. Find your current baseline by shooting scored drills, record your score or time and set a reasonable goal for improvement. For instance, if a slide lock reload currently takes you four seconds, make your goal cutting your time to three seconds. Once you achieve that goal, make your next goal cutting the time to 2 1/2 seconds. Each time you have a major improvement, it is going to be harder to make it to the next level, so work in increments that you can manage. Trying to go from that four second reload to a two second reload in one jump is a lot to ask. If you shot the current FBI pistol qualification course at 75% today, make your next goal shooting 85%, rather than 100%. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Realistic– when setting goals take into account your physical attributes, your training resources (time, ammunition, and money), your equipment limitations, and the context for which you are training. For instance, it is counterproductive to set goals built around what Grand Master USPSA shooters do with match gear worn openly if you are wearing a compact pistol concealed under clothing in an IWB holster. If you are older or have physical limitations take those into account realistically in your training plan.

Timely– set a real-time goal for your desired improvement. This helps you stay on track and put in the work. If you want to improve one specific skill such as the slide lock reload mentioned above, you might set a goal of shaving the time from four seconds to three seconds in three months of combined range work and dry practice. If your goal is to reach a certain score on a broad course of fire that covers a lot of different skills, you might set a time limit of say, six months. As mentioned before, use a logbook to record your efforts and your achievements as you work toward your goal.

Using the S.M.A.R.T. approach you can make the most of your training resources and I assure you, you will progress faster and get a lot more out of your limited training time.

Tom

Stay Safe and Train not just Hard, train S.M.A.R.T.!!!

– Gordon

Course Review – Rangemaster Advanced Instructor Development Course – March 14th & 15th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Rangemaster Advanced Instructor Development Course

Saturday and Sunday; March 14-15, 2015

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida at a “Sub-Optimal” Range Facility which will remain nameless…Inside joke between the Instructors and Students.

This course picked up where the three day Rangemaster IDC that I took last August left off. We (Myself and 11 others) started on Saturday morning and got straight to work. The demographics were ten (10) men and two (2) women, all previous graduates of the three day Rangemaster IDC. Students came from as far away as northern Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois and Ohio; however, the majority were southerners from Georgia and Florida.

Day one began with a little review of the three day Rangemaster IDC and then we hit the range for some dry-fire drills to make sure our presentations were sharp because a significant percentage of the course of fire was from a concealment holster, very little work was done from the low-ready position. Once we loaded our firearms we were in warmup mode to get the blood flowing into our trigger fingers. The day one course of fire was mostly bulls-eye drills used to diagnose our misses and get us “back in the black” so to speak. We fired several bulls-eye courses at varying distances out to 25 yards. After that we shot the Rangemaster bulls-eye qualification and BATFE qualifications not knowing if or what might be used as a “record score.” You see, at Rangemaster they put your actual scores on your course certificate.

Once we were done shooting for the day we had some classroom time with a presentation on Active Shooters and the statistics associated with them. Some really interesting stuff in this presentation, all of the data collected was from a study done by the Counter-Terrorism division of the NYPD. They researched 281 active shooter cases and we discussed quite a few of them that many people may not remember or weren’t even old enough to know about. The shootings that were studied all had at least four (4) victims or more and happened in a public place, and within a twenty (20) minute time frame. Excluded were domestic violence murder suicides etc…

Day two was just as fast-paced with us hitting the range immediately in the morning and running drills until lunch time, then back at it later for low-light shooting techniques. One thing about taking a course with Tom Givens, you will know he has specific goals in mind for himself and his students and both he and Lynn give coaching and encouragement to everyone, but when it’s time to get your hits, they tell you. The day two course of fire also included a “Changing Gears” drill, the “Parrot Drill” and the “Parrot Drill +P.” We also ran several variations of the “Casino Drill” as well. These drills all make you think about getting your hits as the targets vary in size, shape and color. The Casino Drill incorporates two slide-lock reloads and we made it even tougher by sticking a dummy round in our magazines and having our shooting partner mix them up so we would not know where it was in the drill. We also varied the magazine size, the drill uses twenty-one rounds and thus we made uneven magazines and mixed them up instead of just filling our three magazines with seven rounds each time.

Getting your timing down and being accurate at distance or on a smaller target is difficult, Tom showed us ways to help the new shooter all the way to the advanced shooter get their hits from various distances and target sizes. We wound up the morning with another BATFE qualification for score. (I had shot 96 on day one and 100 on day two, an improvement that I will take any day of the week) Two classmates tied for “Top Gun” honors 100% both days and thus they split the Top Gun award. Once back in the classroom we were given a presentation on low-light shooting techniques and then fired them in the range, obviously under low-light conditions.

Once we finished the low-light shooting techniques we were back in the classroom to talk about curriculum development and selecting the proper targets to use in training. As Instructors we must create the right mindset in our students where to properly get hits on the target when training.

In summary, I highly recommend both the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course and the Advanced Instructor Development Course, you won’t be disappointed as it is money well spent on your professional development. Additionally in training with Tom Givens you can be sure that his curriculum is well thought out, researched and presented in a manner that you can understand.

Notes: I used a Glock 17L for this course and it preformed as Glock’s always do, flawlessly. The ammunition I used was both Federal American Eagle and Magtech 115gr FMJ. The Federal American Eagle preformed flawlessly, the Magtech not so much. We (My friend who traveled from northern Wisconsin and who relied on me to provide his ammunition) experienced several “failure to fire” malfunctions using the Magtech ammunition, far too many in a 1,000 round lot. I won’t be buying anymore Magtech ammunition unless it is at a serious discount.

Learn more about Rangemaster at www.rangemaster.com

The final thought belongs to the Chief Instructor at Rangemaster…

“Shoot only as fast as you can guarantee hits, but no faster.” – Tom Givens

 

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