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Old November 12, 2010, 11:48 PM   #1
pangris
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Review - Tom Givens/Rangemaster - Baton Rouge, LA Sept 10-12

Tom Givens of Rangemaster – 3 Day Defensive Handgun

I was privileged to attend my third class with Rangemaster in the form of a three day Defensive Handgun class. As usual, the class was very well run, full of great content, and everyone left with a tremendous exposure to the practical application of self defense with a firearm.

The attendees of this class were a diverse group ranging from training junkies to people with very little formal training. Nonetheless, Tom provided a class that advanced everyone and provided insight as to where everyone needed to focus their skills.


A relay at the ready


Friday morning Mr. Givens goes through introductions and gives the safety lecture. Many people roll their eyes at the safety lecture, and inevitably they are the ones that need it the most. In my opinion, arrogance and complacence are more dangerous than ignorance – at least the ignorant might recognize it in themselves and proceed with caution. After a review of the four safety rules and what they really mean, we begin a discussion of nomenclature and what fighting with a handgun really means. This discussion will eventually include caliber, size, quality, and how you carry. Tom carries a Glock 35 and two extra magazines, and a back up gun beyond that every day. He dresses around it and makes the point that if your goal is to be able to protect yourself, your priority needs to be how you are going to organize your wardrobe around carrying a gun, not figure out if you can find a gun that happens to coincide with your fashion sensibilities.

The format of the class transitions back and forth between the classroom and the range. On the range, we begin some basic drills to determine what students are where, how equipment is working, and so forth. Once all that is sorted out, we get to the real work.
I’ve trained with several “big name” schools, and they all take a different approach to teaching you how to fight. There isn’t a right or wrong way – In my experience, you can’t go wrong with Thunder Ranch, Shootrite, or Louis Awerbuck (YFA). Any of those will leave you capable of defending yourself or a loved one.

That said, as an analytical person, I really enjoy the approach Tom takes. Being stationed in the particularly violent city of Memphis, Tom’s students have engaged in nearly 60 gunfights. Detailed analysis of a cross section of those shootings is provided throughout the class, and Tom’s curriculum is constantly adapting to what they see in actual shootings. In the 4 years I’ve known him, Tom has changed a few things – a progressive curriculum is a sign that an instructor has an open mind as to what is best suited to HIS target audience. Some training schools are out to let you have a “Mancation” and play soldier – but what might be appropriate for Iraq may not apply in the mall parking lot or the ATM (“The salt licks of the suburban world” as Tom says). Therefore presentation from concealment, how to stand, how to move, when to shoot, where to shoot, how fast to shoot, what to do if the gun won’t shoot – it is all a part of the class.

There is a lot of one handed shooting. Actual shootings and simulations show that if you are in a gun fight you are likely to get hit in the hands and arms, so you should practice strong hand only and weak hand only drills. We did that extensively.


One hand, weak hand, over and over.

Tom constantly changes targets to emphasize you shouldn’t have a pre-conceived notion of what your target will look like, what you will have to shoot, or what will be available to be shot. This is not a “two to the chest, one to the head” experience – you will have to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.







A phrase you will hear repeated is stress inoculation. Mr. Givens states emphatically that there is a timer at every gunfight, and the Grim Reaper presses the start and stop button. Time adds stress to the situation. Competition adds stress as well. You will have to complete a drill before the whistle. You will shoot against other students to see who will make a mistake first. We work on every type of drill on the clock, including drawing from concealment. Regarding concealment, we learn how to draw from several types.


Father and son - who can clean the plates faster?


Mr. Givens lectures on low light techniques and how the gun works in low light – specifically, the exact same way as during the day – line up the sights and press the trigger. The issue is in lower light tracking movement becomes difficult. Dusk is when “night” sights pay their rent. Aligning your sights is MUCH easier with a little tritium.

The class is issued dummy rounds to use in failure drills. Failure to fire, stovepipes and double feeds are addressed. The first clearance drill is the tap rack bang, or in Memphis, the “smack ‘em, jack ‘em, whack ‘em”. T-R-B can be done very quickly. There is a demonstration of how to clear double feeds on the clock, and the methods take between 3.5 and 5 seconds. Since the “average” fight is over in that amount of time Mr. Givens suggests you run flat out to cover or concealment if experience a double feed so that you can clear it en route, once there, whatever - become a moving target, and get behind cover.

There is an excellent video portion of the mindset lecture. We watch and discuss three videos – the unfortunate experience of Deputy Dinkeller, a 60 minutes segment on Lance Thomas, and the FBI report on the Miami shootout. The details of these incidents provide critical food for thought.

The content of the class distills to two points –

A) Your mindset, marksmanship and gun handling skills are all equally important when it comes to surviving a confrontation.
B) You must be able to deploy a handgun capable of speed, power and accuracy to defeat an opponent.

Results are difficult to argue with – of the nearly 60 self defense confrontations Tom’s students have been engaged in, only two have lost the fight – and they were the only two that failed to have a gun on them when the fight occurred.

In other words, Rangemaster students have a 100% track record if they have a firearm when the confrontation begins.

The more I have trained, the more I have come to believe that most of the things “gun guys” bicker about – caliber, stance, preferred gun – are irrelevant when compared to having training, a plan, and *a gun*.

Some of the other issues our class addressed that are commonly discussed…

Your Stance – Mr. Givens does not endorse Weaver or Iso. The preferred method is the “fighting stance”. Weak foot forward, lean into the target, etc.

Your Grip – You learn how to grip your gun regarding lateral and linear forces, where to put your extra digits, etc. We are encouraged to get our fingers WAY off the trigger when not on target, specifically to rest them on the slide. 1911 shooters are cautioned to keep thumbs on the safety and pointers off the slide stop pin.

The Draw – Weak hand to the solar plexus, strong hand on the gun with a firing grip while still in the holster. Bring the gun straight up, rotate 90 degrees into a retention position, punch out, bringing the weak hand onto the grip in the process, reach full extension. Holstering is the same in reverse.

Semi-auto manipulation – To load, unload, and clear malfunctions - take your weak hand and come over the top, grip the entire slide and rip it to the rear. You will not break your gun. This works on every semi auto every time… it is also a gross motor skill you should be able to handle under a lot of stress. Mr. Givens, Clint Smith, Louis Awerbuck and Tiger Mckee all advocate this technique without exception regardless of skill level.

Breathing- As long as you are doing it, how you are doing it is a non-issue for up close and personal encounters.

Mindset – Excellent presentation and reminders throughout the class. This class confirms that pistols are a notch above worthless. There is a discussion of projectile weight and velocity, anecdotes from personal experience, and video/discussion sections.

If you are in a gunfight, you might get shot. If you are shot with a handgun, you can probably function and keep fighting. Handguns are woefully underpowered, hence 80% of people shot with them survive.

If you carry a gun, you should realize that one day someone may force you to shoot them. You need decide a course of action long before you are faced with the situation.

Don’t be polite, don’t let people get close to you. It might get you killed. Criminals take advantage of our disposition to polite behavior. If you don’t feel right about someone or a situation, say so and take a fighting posture. Let the opposition know without doubt you are a wolf, not sheep.

Tom and his crew will be back in Baton Rouge February of 2011. I can’t emphasize how strongly I suggest anyone who wants a comprehensive overview of what it means to fight with a gun attend.
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Old November 13, 2010, 02:01 AM   #2
pax
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Great review. Thanks for posting it!

I took a three-day instructor development course from Tom Givens back in August. Tom gives a terrific presentation. He's a thinking man's trainer, no doubt about it.

I'll second the OP's recommendation: If you have a chance to take a class from Rangemaster, do it. You won't regret it.

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Old November 13, 2010, 07:58 AM   #3
Spats McGee
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Very informative review. Thanks.
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Old November 13, 2010, 09:55 AM   #4
ZeSpectre
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Great review and it's nice to hear some reality injected into the training.

Quote:
There is a lot of one handed shooting. Actual shootings and simulations show that if you are in a gun fight you are likely to get hit in the hands and arms, so you should practice strong hand only and weak hand only drills. We did that extensively.
Fantastic!

Quote:
If you are in a gunfight, you might get shot. If you are shot with a handgun, you can probably function and keep fighting. Handguns are woefully underpowered, hence 80% of people shot with them survive.
80% sounds a little high but still the combination of the inherent limits in the power of a handgun, the durability of the human body, and the capabilities of modern medical care do all combine to make gunshots considerably less lethal than they used to be. My point being that YES, you should continue to fight even if you are wounded. If you can make the bad-guy stop attacking then medical help will, in high probability, be able to save you. If you give up and let the bad guy walk up and shoot you in the head it's probably over. Never, never, never ever give up!

Quote:
If you carry a gun, you should realize that one day someone may force you to shoot them. You need decide a course of action long before you are faced with the situation.
I've lost track of how many times I've used that old quote "After the whistle blows is no time to come up with a game plan". (Remember that part of that game plan is, have a lawyer).
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Old November 13, 2010, 04:58 PM   #5
Glenn E. Meyer
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Tom's awesome, thanks for the report.
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Old November 13, 2010, 11:33 PM   #6
Deaf Smith
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And note gange.... 56 students of Toms classes have been in gun fights. 54 prevailed.

Two didn't.

Those two didn't carry their guns that day and paid the price for it.

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Old November 14, 2010, 11:14 AM   #7
pangris
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That, IMO, is the takeaway - mindset, confidence, and having done it before are all more important than the TYPE of gun - but have A gun.

Tom makes a compelling argument to carry a "real" gun, but any gun beats no gun.
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Old November 14, 2010, 01:41 PM   #8
KenpoTex
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Great review, thanks for taking the time to share.

I particularly like this little gem:
Quote:
if your goal is to be able to protect yourself, your priority needs to be how you are going to organize your wardrobe around carrying a gun, not figure out if you can find a gun that happens to coincide with your fashion sensibilities.
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Old November 15, 2010, 09:54 AM   #9
markj
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Weak hand and one hand is something we have always practised and seen as a usefull thing to know how to do. Sounds like a good class.
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Old November 15, 2010, 10:00 AM   #10
Glenn E. Meyer
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Yep, years ago I decided to practice weakhand and one hand by breaking my wrist before I was scheduled to take coincidental a wounded shooter class at KRtraining and then LFI-1 with Stressfire. Quite informative.

I have a picture of me somewhere shooting a Desert Eagle with the other hand in a cast. But it makes me look fat - as well it should!

Again, I highly recommend a Givens class. He gave me an insight into a mistake the plagued me. I even bought a 1911 for a real gun.
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Old November 15, 2010, 01:26 PM   #11
Ruark
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Sounds like a terrific class; I'd like to take it! You didn't mention if he covered any legal aspects, e.g. the "aftermath" issue, or that "point of no return" - when you make the decision to draw and aim at somebody, and all that that entails.

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Old November 15, 2010, 06:16 PM   #12
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Nothing like a great training class. I was fortunate to take a 2 day Defensive Handgun class with Tiger McKee of Shootrite Firearms Academy in N. E. Alabama last month. 4 instructors, including Tiger, to 7 students, 5 were from Baton Rouge, LA.

His training seems to mirror Tom Givens, particularly in the stance, grip (that finger better be off that trigger unless you are firing), manipulations and malfunctions clearing and draw. I'm going back for more. Hopefully a Concealed Carry class in Feb. 2011.
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