Author’s note: This After Action Report/review is not all-inclusive. I want to give readers an idea of what to expect from not only the Rangemaster Instructor Course, but also Tom Givens' mindset without spoiling the entire course. Wanting to know what else Rangemaster has to offer? Go sign up for a class of your own!
Pioneer Gun Club's McBride Range, 40 miles southeast of Kansas City.
Weather varies from cool with thunderstorms to sunshine and heat with humidity.
Glock 17 with Brownells Optics Ready slide. Trijicon RM06 Type 2. Tenicor Velo holster. HSGI pistol Tacos and Esstac Kywi magazine carriers. OEM magazines with base pads from Henning, Shield Arms, Dawson Precision, and Arrendondo.
19 students from twelve states. Students travel from Washington to Virginia, and Wisconsin to Texas. Ages range from mid 20's to mid 50's, 3 are women, 16 are men. Experience ranges from a new shooter, to active US Army Special Forces, USPSA Master Class shooters, NRA Instructors, and Active Self Protection's Executive Officer Stephanie.
Rangemaster Instructor Development Day 1
After navigating my way through the back country roads of Western Missouri, I arrive at Pioneer Gun Club's McBride outdoor range. Students trickle into the classroom as the skies begin to unleash a flurry of rain and hail. Class starts promptly despite the weather.
Immediately I can tell that this class is very serious--more so than most others. Tom hits home that we are providing data that may be life or death for our students. We will be recognized as a subject matter expert by those around us regardless of our actual level of knowledge or skill. This tone persists throughout the entire weekend.
Early on Tom lays out his expectations of us, and the passing standard. There are three tests; two shooting tests, and one written test. On average, Rangemaster sees a 15% washout rate across his instructor courses. Students must achieve a 90% on both the FBI and Rangemaster shooting tests, and the same on the written. Each shooting test is attempted twice, with the lower score of the two getting thrown out.
In the morning we discuss standard topics, such as safety, gear preparation, and range commands. With no end to the rain in sight, Tom changes the schedule around to make the first day entirely in the classroom. Near lunchtime Chuck Haggard arrives to act as Assistant Instructor.
We start to get into the weeds regarding violence once lunch finishes, starting with videos on Kyle Dinkheller and Lance Thomas. Tom discusses anatomy, explaining where to shoot and why. This is complimented by a block on legal issues related to use of force. We learn about crime statistics and the potential repercussions of various levels of violence.
Next we spend slightly under an hour watching pre-recorded videos of Tom discussing holsters and safe storage. These are clearly dated, as the holsters shown are anything but the modern offerings many are familiar with.
The day wraps with lessons on coaching and the adult learning model. Tom mentions that our value as coaches will be shown in the results of our students. Teaching and speaking is important, but we need to know when to watch and listen to our students as well. In his words, "There's no 'I' in 'TEAM" but there is a 'U' in 'Shut The Fuck Up."
Rangemaster Instructor Development Day 2
Day 2 starts on the range with a safety brief and allocation of roles in case of emergency.
Shooting starts with focus on the draw. All academics are centered around strong side carry, with no time being allocated to appendix carry. Reps are performed very quickly--so much so that some students cannot holster fast enough to make each iteration, or are forced to rapidly jam the gun into their holster.
We conduct several drills to check the fundamentals and dial in our accuracy under slow fire. Demos are performed to show how big of a difference in our shooting subtle changes can make. Most shooting is conducted at 3-5 yards on 8 inch circles during this portion.
Next we begin to add speed to the equation by working on cadence and tempo. Distance increases to a maximum of 7 yards. Following this is strong and weak hand shooting and some time with B8s. During this segment Chuck noticed my undershirt balling up and potentially interfering with my trigger--showing how instructors need to keep from getting tunnel vision as well.
While on lunch Tom brings up video and audio recordings of violent encounters. The purpose is to show how indoctrinated people are into a lifestyle of victimization. Most students are visually disturbed by the content of the videos.
After lunch we return to the range to work on alternative positions and reloads. Tom insists that the slide stop/release is strictly for gamers and will not work in a real life situation. He is a big proponent of keeping your gun topped off, resulting in us reloading after nearly every string of fire. Our constant reloading builds training scars for some, immediately going for a reload even when unnecessary later in class.
Two hybrid holsters become unsafe during range time, with the leather flopping over into the mouth of the holster. One shooter has his Roland Special become massively unreliable due to using untested ammo. A not-so-subtle reminder to vet your lifesaving equipment.
Connecting the Dots
We begin to put everything together for various drills. We run one iteration of the Rangemaster qualification, essentially an intensified FBI qual. I score 98.5% on my first run. Next is the Casino Drill. Our top shooter completed his run in 15.68. I came in 5/19 shooters with a time of 18.11 plus a 1 second penalty for shooting a target out of sequence for a total of 19.11. Afterwards we move to the FBI qual in which I score 98.8%.
Toward the end of the day we move back into the classroom to watch an 11 minute video about ammunition selection. During this, Tom calls .380ACP a "ballistic binky", and "not a real gun" among other names. The video is slightly dated, but otherwise fine.
As we pack up for the day Tom tells us to clean our guns. "You've fired 500 rounds today, your guns aren't worth a damn right now. You're really pushing your luck after 500 rounds."
Rangemaster Instructor Development Day 3
The final day of class is plagued by on and off rain, ranging from a light drizzle to torrential downpour.
We start the day cold with two FBI quals in the rain. I score a 100% and a 93%. Eleven students score perfect, with a 98% average. Afterwards we shoot two Rangemaster quals. I score 95% and 97%. Two students shoot perfect with a 96.5% class average.
During shooting my RMR window becomes obscured with water from being forced to keep my pistol at low ready. I mention this to Tom afterwards, to which he replies that red dots don't belong on handguns. For what it's worth, I did not have this problem during Scott Jedlinski's portion of the Shooter Symposium. Keeping your gun in the holster works wonders for preventing junk from getting into the optic.
Back in Class
We discuss the Adult Learning Method regarding standards in training. Most agencies have a (low) standard to accomplish, which drives their level of training. Civilians do not have a standard which leads to either training junkies or laziness. It is up to us as instructors to identify the how and why of training for ourselves and our students.
We watch a forty minute film of the 1986 Miami shootout and discuss. We go over mindset, proper holster use, and how training influences our performance. Many classmates are unfamiliar with this incident, or unaware of its existence.
Define the Threat. Tom discusses various sources of data and what is reliable and relatable for civilian gun use comparisons. We wrap up with crime statistics, from likelihood of how and where you'll experience violence, to what kind of person the perpetrator is likely to be.
Our final test is a written exam--primarily fill in the blank and multiple choice. Two students score 100% on the written test, and I pull of 95%.
While Tom scores our tests, Chuck takes us outside to discuss revolvers. He goes over various types of ammunition, holsters, action types, and more. We go over both modern and historical examples of revolvers, and the pros/cons of their use compared to modern semiauto pistols. A handful of students have never touched a revolver before, with most having very little experience.
Tom tells us that overall we are one of the more successful classes he's had, especially regarding the shooting portion of the course. Two students fail to earn certificates. Three students tie for Top Gun, which was a first for Tom.
Final Thoughts on the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course
The strongest portion of this course is the focus on the criminal element. Clearly many of my classmates were not familiar with the nature of the dregs of society, and this course was a wake up call for them. This has definitely changed how I instruct my students. So far no other class I have taken has focused as much on the violent realities, nor the legalities of self defense. This is something that must change.
Initially I was very dissatisfied with the Rangemaster Instructor Development course, as I had heard how challenging the material was. My expectations were that I may be on the bleeding edge of passing, but that was not the case. That being said, my mind was in the wrong place. This is not a tactical shooting course, this is an instructor development course. This is for you to more effectively teach those who the uninitiated. Once I changed my mindset, my appreciation for the material grew.
Tom said and did a lot of things in class I was not a fan of. We spent at least an hour of class time watching videos of him speaking instead of getting actual lecture. His data isn't necessarily bad, just dated. Tom is clearly a man of the era in which he was brought up regarding his tactics and tact. The jokes are for him to make, and he does not tolerate much input from the students. The lack of AIWB material is a shame considering it's commonality and advantages. He frequently interrupted Chuck Haggard which cut short important lessons.
As someone who frequently instructs non-traditional gun owners, I found some of his language to be that which could drive away potential 2A allies who need a softer start into the gun world. The term "liberal faggot" was thrown out on multiple occasions, among other things. While it may help to drive certain points, that also can turn allies into adversaries in the fight for gun rights.
This is a valuable class. While Tom Givens may not do much in the way of improving the marksmanship of certain breeds of shooters, his focus on mindset and legal aspects is the best I've seen to date in shooting focused courses. I have adapted multiple aspects of Tom's courseware into my own. I plan on attending additional Rangemaster instructor courses.
The Rangemaster Instructor Development course completely obliterates the NRA's instructor course. I encourage all firearms instructors to check out Rangemaster.