This past weekend (Oct 30 – Nov 1) I had the good fortune to attend a Rangemaster Firearm Instructor Development Course in Wilmington, Ohio. I’ve been trying to fit this class into my schedule for a couple of years. I’ve been stagnant when it comes to attending shooting schools and I knew it was time to get back into the swing of things. I wanted a course that would be challenging, but also make me a better instructor. After reading several reviews from other attendees and having been exposed to the Rangemaster newsletter and having reviewed Tom’s DVD “Lessons From The Street”, I decided this was the class I wanted. I was lucky that a fellow Pistol-Forum.com member (gtmtnbiker98) hosts Tom at a range about 40 minutes from my house. The range is the Clinton County Farmers and Sportmans Association just south of Wilmington. It’s a great facility and for $65 a year it’s worth every penny to join if you need a place to shoot.
Let me say one quick thing about Tom. He surprised the hell out of me the first day of class when he said something about it was nice I was finally able to get into the class after 3 years of trying. I didn’t expect Tom to remember our previous conversation from 3 years ago, but he did.
There were 18 students in the class and we had some serious shooters in the group. We had everything from a 25 year old soon to be police cadet (he started the academy the day after the course) to a military guy, a couple pilots, a lawyer, a bunch of experienced firearm instructors and at least 3 law enforcement officers. Tom Givens was the main instructor and he did a great job instructing the class. This is not a “gimme” instructor class like so many that are out there. Just because you paid money does not mean Tom will pass you. Tom believes you must be a subject matter expert to instruct, so if you don’t know the material and can’t shoot to a pretty high level of performance, he will not pass you. That was refreshing to me since most of my instructor classes have been on the government’s dime at government facilities, which means I’ve seen a bunch of state certified “instructors” out there who can’t teach worth a damn, let alone shoot worth a damn. They should really be called “qualification officers” since that’s about all they know how to do – run people through the state qualification course. At the beginning of the class Tom told us that out of a group our size he expected 2-3 of us would not pass the class. We pleasantly surprised him and all of us passed the class.
To pass you the class needed to pass 3 different tests, 2 shooting tests and an 85 question written exam. The shooting tests were the current FBI qualification course and the Rangemaster qualification course. Each shooting test required a 90% to pass. Tom explained that he requires a 90% to pass on the FBI course because that’s what FBI instructors are required to shoot on that course to receive/maintain their instructor certification. The Rangemaster qualification course is shot on the same targets used for the FBI course, but it is scored differently, making it tougher than the FBI course. Me being me, I dropped 1 shot on the easier FBI course and shot a perfect score on the harder Rangemaster course.
Throughout the entire course Tom constantly reminded us that as instructors, our job was to not only teach a technique, but to be able to explain why that technique worked and be able to explain the history of the technique itself. Listening to Tom talk was fascinating. He is a wealth of information. I was constantly writing notes about little historical facts I never knew about a wide variety of topics. From shooting techniques to use of force issues to tactics to whatever topic we were talking about. Some of the best parts of the class for me were in the classroom. Especially the lecture on mindset and how to convey to your students (Tom was up front in saying this course was mostly geared towards instructing non-LE students) the need to be vigilant and carry your firearm whenever and wherever you are legally allowed. Tom injected relevant accounts of his students previous violent encounters into his lectures to drive the point home. He has plenty to choose from. As he says, his students have 62 wins, 0 losses and 3 forfeits (students died because they chose not to arm themselves that day).
The shooting part of the class was a lot of fun. I haven’t been pushed to perform like I was in this class in a LONG time. I didn’t learn a whole lot about the fundamentals of shooting during the class, but then again, that isn’t what this class is about. If you didn’t have the fundamentals down already you should not have even been in the class to begin with. What I did learn was how to be a better shooting coach, which is why I wanted to attend this course to begin with. Most of the shooting was within 7 yards. Tom explained why that was the case. Everything we did in the class Tom had a logical reason for doing so and could lay out in great detail why he drew up the course curriculum the way he did. The class was broken up into two different relays. When not shooting you acted as a shooting coach for the student you were paired with.
Out on the range we worked on the draw stroke, shot different cadences from different distances, reloads, malfunction drills and a bunch of other things. Many of the drills required the shooter to shoot and THINK at the same time. Tom stressed how important this was and once again, explained all his reasons for teaching what he does. Two drills that we shot stick out above all the rest. The Casino Drill and the 3M drill. The 3M drill is discussed in last months Rangemaster newsletter. Each drill focuses on shooting fast, moving and thinking, but does not allow you to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed, if done correctly.
With the help of my coaches, I identified a couple areas I need to work on to improve my shooting. I’ve never been much of a “ride the reset” shooter. After working on it this past weekend it’s something I’m definitely going to work on since I found I’m noticeably faster when I do it. The other thing I need to work on is distance shooting. Past 15 yards and I start to suck. I don’t do much 25 yards straight up accuracy shooting. That will change. Both test courses have 25 yard shots. And those were the shots I struggled with. My miss on the FBI course was the last shot I fired at 25 yards.
All in all, I can honestly say this is the best instructor course I’ve ever attended. All the others involved time, but not a lot of effort. This required both. If you are a pistol instructor, whether LEO certified or NRA, do yourself a favor and attend one of Tom’s instructor classes. It’s worth every penny.
For those of you that were wondering, it seemed like there was a wide variety of pistols used in the class. Striker fired pistols seemed to dominate. Glocks of various flavors, M&Ps, at least one VP-9 and one Sig 320. Also present were at least one 1911 of some sort, a CZ P-01, an HK P30 and my Sig 229. Three of us were using a slide mounted red dot. I had an RMR, one of the M&P shooters had a Leupold Deltapoint and one of the Glock shooters had an RMR as well (IIRC). Two of us shot from duty gear, everyone else shot from concealment. There were several fellow members of the AIWB cult in the group. The only gun issues I observed were from bad ammo. Three shooters were having problems (bad primers and squib loads) with Blazer Brass ammo. I decided to shoot my 229/RMR from my duty gear instead of my JMCK AIWB rig. I recently purchased a Blade-Tech duty holster for this combo. While teaching at the local police academy a few days before the class I screwed up several draws doing demos so I decided I needed the practice with this new set up. By the end of the course I was pretty comfortable with the idiosyncrasies of the BT holster. I shot Freedom Munitions 147gr remanufactured ammo and had no problems whatsoever. I shot just under 1K rounds over the three days. I’m still getting back into the swing of things with the red dot milled into the slide. With my eyesight, I’m not sure I would have passed the shooting portion with irons. The RMR definitely helped me on the long range shots.
It was a good weekend, met some nice guys and learned a lot from Tom. Now I need to figure out what’s next……