July 24th, 2011 08:13 PM
Tom Givens of Rangemaster - Combative Pistol 1 - AAR and Review
Hello all, I attended Combative Pistol 1 with Tom Givens in Memphis, TN recently. Great training opportunity and I thought I'd share my AAR and narrative. Sorry it it's a bit long, but I think it's worth the read.
AAR: Combative Pistol 1
Tom Givens of Rangemaster
July 9-10, 2011
Toward the end of 2010, I began the search for my next handgun course for 2011. For those who frequent the more training-focused gun forums, you'll notice the name Tom Givens pops up quite often, sometimes accompanied by the record of Rangemaster students who have successfully defended themselves with a firearm (56 to date). After reading a lot of positive things about Tom and his training, and finding it hard to find much of anything negative about him at all, I began to weed out other gun schools for this go-around. I contacted Tom for some additional information about the course and before I knew it, I was enrolled in Combative Pistol 1 and headed 300 miles South to Memphis.
Upon arriving in Memphis and getting checked in to my hotel, I did what everyone does when they get to Memphis: I press-checked my Glock and put on two more spare magazines over my regular load-out. What were you thinking, ate Bar-B-Que? That's the second thing I did; and boy do I love Memphis Bar-B-Que. Then, I swung by Rangemaster to make sure I could find the place and went in to browse around. The first thing I noticed was every employee in the store was armed. I cringe when I'm in a gun shop or range where the staff doesn't carry; I liked these folks already. There was a Level 1 course going on and it was well-attended. The shop and classroom facilities were very nice.
As I was about to leave, I noticed Tom was in his office, so I went in and introduced myself. Tom smiled and informed me he was going to be working my ass off the next two days, to which I replied that I was ready. He asked if I had all my gear for the class, which I did, including a spare beloved Glock 19. Tom said that was good because someone's gun always breaks. “Really? Always breaks?” I thought. This was the first time I had met Tom and for those who haven't, he's hell of a nice guy. With Tom's words in mind, I headed back to get my gear ready and get some shut-eye.
I've attempted to start the course content with “Day 1” and an itemized list of every little detail, but although I knew I would be writing this, I was too busy listening and letting Tom's school of thought sink in to take many notes. I want to first say that we didn't clear any submarines, nor did I perfect my ninja roll. In fact, you could say that the majority of the gun skills in the class were all things I had worked on before, which can be a reservation for some with prior training when signing up for a class. Some folks worry about doing the same old things over and over with different instructors. Well, let me put that to bed right now; it won't be the same-old, same-old.
Day 1, Saturday, I arrived at Rangemaster what I refer to as “too damn early”. I didn't feel too bad, so did most of the other students. I was ready to go and didn't want to miss any excitement. At 9 am sharp, we started with introductions. Tom introduced himself and Mike who was assisting him for the duration of the class. Next came student introductions; we had a nice mix of men and women and everything from SWAT and patrol officers, firearms instructors, on down to me, Joe Blow CCW holder. Everyone in the class had some form of formal firearms training prior to this course.
We covered safety and the “get your head in the game for what we're about to do for the next two days” discussion, talked about some oh-so-important fundamentals, did some admin stuff and before too long, it was range time. We started with some dry work on presentation, etc. and talked about the importance of a good trigger press and using the sights to our advantage to hit what we're wanting to hit when we want to hit it.
Next came live fire. We started slow with short drills and low round count to get us all settled in. The targets continually changed in style. No B-27 targets in this class folks, sorry. If you want to shoot at something the size of the front door, buy your targets at Home Depot. These targets were the size of what an actual threat might be. Boy, what a concept!
As we progressed, we quickly kept adding more and more to the drills. There was no time to stand around and be comfortable mastering the same drill over and over, that's muscle memory, not using your skills and your brain. We would find that you can master the shooting part, but when you have to start thinking, things start flying apart and it's time to regroup! We also discussed some misconceptions about “getting off the X” and in what instances doing so might not be that much of an aid to you. We also discussed the cadence at which we shoot, depending on the range. If you shoot like an MG-42 all the time, you aren't hitting things all the time. We ran drills to demonstrate this and the proof is in the pudding.
One thing I'll add in is the reload. Tom is a fan of the speed reload, as many know. I was a bit hesitant of adopting this before the class, I'll be honest. It was at one point during the class that Tom randomly asked someone how many rounds they had in their gun after we had just finished shooting a drill. The shooter guessed 12, he had 9. I realized I didn't know either. Now, this was a drill where we loaded our mags full, shot a specific number of rounds at a static paper target that isn't shooting back while in a well lit range, on a flat concrete surface. How many rounds are in your gun after you just fought for your life in a dark parking lot against one or more attackers on a two-way range? Okay, I think I'll try that speed reload. Dropping partial mags to the deck might be a gamble, but fumbling a tactical reload and having two mags on the deck is a loser every time. So is having a slower reload and having a single-shot Glock for longer than necessary. Getting the gun to capacity NOW is priority.
Sure enough, Tom was right. A gun (I believe it was a Sig) went down on Day 1. But, it's good that these things happen on the one-way range and it sinks in that guns are mechanical devices and will fail, it's just a matter of when. We soon ended the shooting portion of Day 1 and would wrap up in the classroom.
In the class, we went back and forth between shooting and classroom discussion. It was almost like Tom had it set up as to say “You're shooting well, but get your head right.” Well, that's exactly what it did for me. I'd learn over the weekend that my gun handling skills would improve with positive repetition and I would feel even more confident in myself and my shooting, but my mindset would also change greatly. Tom's proclaimed learner's permit in Psychology became quite evident. This isn't just a shooting class, there is a lot going in your head in a fight other than just shooting fundamentals. I will add that no training has ever had me sitting in the evening with my head constantly spinning about the mental/psychological things were discussed during the day of training. Tom's just got a way teaching it that really makes you think.
The closing discussion was the difference between what happened with Deputy Kyle Dinkheller and watch shop owner Lance Thomas. Tom has a thorough presentation on these two cases and is very respectful to all parties involved. I don't care how many times you have seen the videos, you're going to rethink it all.
That evening, Tom invited the class to dinner and I'm glad I went. Several folks from the class were there and everyone was beat tired, except for Tom. He was having a good old time and pouring drinks in people's laps. At least that's the way I remember it! Tom's wife Lynn was one of the ladies in the class and if you Google “Tom Givens” about 90% of the time “Lynn Givens” is right there with it. Lynn is a very nice lady, a damn good shot, and a saint if she puts up with Tom. I finished feeding my face and headed back to my motel, conveniently located near the federal penitentiary. I cleaned my Glock and hit the sack.
Day 2 began working from concealment. I'm a firm believer in not cheating yourself by “gaming” the course as some call it. You will rarely ever see me with an open-front shirt, so I'm not wearing one in the class so I can do 300 repetitions of something that isn't identical to how I carry. I practice presentation regularly and was glad to do plenty of it during the class.
Next, we ran more decision-making drills. Thinking and shooting? Sounds yucky. I got humbled very quickly by some of them. Again, shooting is only part of it and only got me so far. In fact, some of the drills were similar to what we had done on Day 1, but just required some simple thought processes be added in. Sounds easy, huh? Well sign up for CP1 and try it cold, then call me back!
Then, we started working in malfunctions with dummy rounds. First set up by you, then set up by another shooter. This is when I noticed the shooting part becoming more automatic and before long we were shooting, moving, clearing malfunctions and still getting good hits.
Next, came scored and timed courses, shooting one-on-one against another shooter and shooting individually front and center in front of the rest of the class for time and score. That's right folks, Tom incorporates all those things that many instructors won't do because they don't want to hurt your wittle feewings. I loved it; some folks cheered, some folks wept (not really). Good thing we had on ear pro or the sound of egos being popped would have been deafening. When I take my next class that has no timers, score or ego-popping, I might be disappointed.
Tom calls my name, the rest of the class stares at me as I walk up front and center. “You make me nervous as s**t, Tom”, I reply. Note to self, know when to not talk. Tom says “Hey guys watch this guy, he's been shooting really well all day.” Thanks, Tom, no pressure or anything. Sure enough, I fumbled the reload on the drill, but did I dissect the problem and analyze it? No, I did what I thought was the quickest way to get the gun going again, fixed it, and still came in under time and made the grade. Everyone did, and there's something to be said there for what we were learning in the class.
We closed with the an extremely thorough presentation of the 1986 FBI Miami shootout. Man, this presentation was a mix between marksmanship, human anatomy, the reality of the effectiveness of handgun rounds and about 100 other things. My brain was on fire. You really have to be there and hear the presentation.
If you're still reading, I'll wrap up this novella with some final thoughts:
Tom is a very solid shooter, but I think his greatest strength is his ability to teach. Some people can teach and some people can't. If you want someone who can relay to YOU new skills, Tom is your man.
Tom is an intelligent man and it shows. He has spent decades building not only physical gun handling skills, but also researching every possible mental and psychological facet of violent confrontation from both the attacker and defender points of view. It turns out not everyone disappears into a puff of smoke when you draw your gun and tell them to go away and some defenders forget about important items like the bumpy thing on the end of the slide when violent confrontation is presented to them. Tom's training is shaped by these anomalies.
Memphians (is that English?), you have a true asset in Rangemaster and Tom Givens. Go there, train there, learn there. I'll be driving 300 miles for more in the future. For those out of state, look for Rangemaster's traveling courses, you'll get your time and money's worth.
Carry your dang gun, more spare ammo is more better, know when it's time to talk and run away, know when it's time to shut up and fight, use the sights and the trigger to hit what you want to hit and do so at the speed proper for that distance, hit the most important parts that you can and be ready to hit them again if need be, all while using your brain. Class dismissed.
To Tom, Rangemaster staff and CP1 classmates, thank you all for an excellent weekend of training. I met some great folks and learned some great things. Until we meet again, stay safe and keep your nose pressed to the window!
July 24th, 2011 08:29 PM
Nice review. Sounds like a great course. I would love to give one of these a try. Maybe I will look into this one and see how it looks. Thanks for taking the time to post the write up.
It's not a problem til they make it one!
July 25th, 2011 05:03 PM
Nice review. I also took Combative Pistol I back in the spring. Good course, great instructor (Tom Givens)...
Sometimes in life you have to stand your ground. It's a hard lesson to learn and even most adults don't get it, but in the end only I can be responsible for my life. If faced with any type of adversity, only I can overcome it. Waiting for someone else to take responsibility is a long fruitless wait.
July 25th, 2011 05:29 PM
Appreciate you stopping by guys!
July 25th, 2011 10:20 PM
Wow, what a great review. I would love to take a class like that.
.357 mag, When you care enough to send the very best!
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