Training & Shooting

Class Review: FLETC Use of Force Instructor

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) has a program that allows state, local, tribal, and territorial officers to attend classes at FLETC along with federal agents/officers, and I was afforded the opportunity to attend the Use of Force Instructor Program.


The Students

Other state/local agencies represented in the class were the Alaska State Troopers, the New Orleans Police Department, and the Gwinnett County (GA) Sheriff’s Office.  Federal agencies represented in the class included Immigration and Customs Enforcement, National Park Service, Diplomatic Security Service, Federal Protective Service, Federal Air Marshals, Treasury Department, Customs and Border Protection, Defense Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security, and the United States Coast Guard.  Numerous FLETC staff instructors also attended as students.

Academics and Testing

The course was two-weeks in length and included numerous testing points along the way.  At the end of the first week, students had to pass a written test covering the academic blocks presented in the first week.  During week two, we had graded practical exercises, an individual oral review board with a panel consisting of an instructor and a lawyer, and each student made a 30-minute presentation on an assigned topic.  A failure at any testing point resulted in dismissal from the program.  Not everyone made it to graduation.

A note on the testing: this was not a “gimme class”.  It was not taken for granted that a basic instructor training had prepared students to develop and deliver presentations.  This had to be demonstrated in the class.  The practical exercises were no joke.  The oral review boards were the real test.  While the written test measured recognition, the oral board required recall and the ability to explain the material.  Some of the questions were simply knowledge checks, but there were others in which applying and explaining the course material was required.  Students had to truly know, understand, and be able to explain the material.

The academic training included blocks on legal aspects of use of force, liability, human performance factors (Force Science Institute stuff), and procedures for training with non-lethal training ammunition (NLTA) and developing training programs.  The first week also consisted of numerous laboratories in which students were exposed to drills and scenarios.  During the second week, we ran drills and scenarios that were developed by the class.

Drills, Scenarios, and Practicals

The training methodology involved the initial use of drills.  The student would be given specific instructions for a response such as the use of a baton or a firearm, etc.  Sometimes the drill would include a transition from one implement to another.  Each drill would be followed by a debrief in which the student articulated the actions of the role player as well as their own actions.

After the drills came scenarios in which students were given a pre-brief such as a type of call and other pertinent information and sent into the training area to handle it.  Sometimes the role players would comply; sometimes they wouldn’t.  The student was expected to respond in an objectively reasonable manner.  As previously stated, each drill/scenario would be followed with a detailed debrief.

The purpose of the dictated response drills, particularly those involving transitions, were to “build the files” for responses to avoid the euphemistic “404 file not found”.  The courts describe such incidents as tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.  The facts of an incident often change during an incident, and when the facts change; the response changes.  For instance, in one scenario, I was sent to arrest a person on a warrant for not paying child support.  I found the suspect at his job site.  It so happens he was a groundskeeper, and he didn’t want to go to jail; a point of view he emphasized with his shovel, but he reconsidered his opinion once I drew my pistol; however, at that point he decided to resort to fisticuffs.  I countered his argument with a baton.  Of course, a debrief followed.

The scenarios didn’t require a specific response.  The response had to be objectively reasonable based upon the interpretations and procedures of the Supreme Court.  The responses to such incidents are not cookie cutter responses.  Where one officer my utilize a baton while another officer might utilize pepper spray in the same instance, what matters is that the response is objectively reasonable based upon the facts of the situation.

Our graded practical exam involved functioning as the instructor to include giving the pre-brief, observing the scenario, and then conducting the debrief.  The “student” for the scenario was a FLETC staff instructor.  This was followed by going through a scenario as a student to test our application of the material to the facts presented and our ability to articulate our actions.


Ample of use of the Student Centered Feedback Model was the method of debrief.  This method, if used properly, is a very effective tool in both drawing out the details of the incident and breaking free from “cop speak”.  For instance, there is a difference between “he took up a fighting stance” and actually describing a fighting stance so that it is clear exactly what the person did.

In Closing

To any agency heads that read this, I strongly recommend that you get people from your training units through this class and allow them to come back and implement what they learned.  Also, don’t get a case of sticker shock when look at the costs.  The published costs are a worst case scenario for if no on-center housing is available and the student has to stay at a contracted hotel, and there may be other ways to offset the costs fully or partially.  Even at the full published amounts the training is worth it if you allow your personnel to implement the material across your entire organization.  Don’t look at it as an expense; look at it as an investment, and I would put this class alongside the Force Science Institute program as far as the quality and usefulness of information, which reminds me, you need to get your training staff through that course as well.

Class Review: Rangemaster Advanced Instructor Course

“We want to shoot as fast as we can guarantee hits.”  –Tom Givens

Broward County (FL) is home to one of the most modern indoor shooting facilities in existence.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t available, and our class was held at an indoor range built in the 1940s.  It made for a very interesting shooting experience. The class consisted of 12 students; all graduates of the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course (IDC).

Tom Givens

Tom Givens

The class began with a review of some of the material from the IDC particularly that we need to reject the notion of an “average” gunfight in favor of the term “typical” in that training programs should be designed around the things that we see occurring regularly.  Tom also stressed that shooting shouldn’t be a contest of a speed versus accuracy; it should be a blend of speed AND accuracy.  As he says, “There is a finite amount of time in a gunfight.  Misses won’t help you.  Misses are wasted time.”

The first range work consisted of some dry presentations and then quickly moved into accuracy and trigger control drills.  This was followed by some diagnostic drills, and then several runs on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course.  Posted below is the target from my best run, a 295 out of 300, with my other two runs being a 284 and a 288.  The 284 was my first run.  I had a good group, but it was clustered high in 8-ring and the 9-ring.  After that, I went with a “six o’clock hold aligning the top edge of my front sight near the bottom the black, and this put the shots where I wanted them.

295 on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course

295 on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course

We finished up the shooting on day one by shooting the Rangemaster Instructor Qualification Course followed by a run on the ATF qualification course.  I really liked the ATF course.  My first run, pictured below was a 96.  The inner gray area as well as the white oval are scored at 2 points each.  The outer gray area is worth one point.  Anything outside of that is zero points.  The high shots are from the 15 and 25 yard lines.

The rest of the day was in the classroom.

96 on the ATF course.

96 on the ATF course.

Day two started with another run on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course followed by a run on the FBI Bullseye Course.

My target from the FBI Bullseye Course.

My target from the FBI Bullseye Course.

After that, the pace of the shooting picked up quite a bit.  We shot a drill called the 6-5-4 Drill that required the shooter to alternate between precise shots and shooting at speed.  I really liked this drill and will be using it a good bit.  The target had three different sized targets on it.  Within a time limit, we had to put two shots on each target with only hits counting.  Following that, we shot the Parrot Drill, which is similar to the 6-5-4.  There were also several runs on the Casino Drill.

We did a classroom session on the evolution of low light techniques (and of flashlights) followed by a range session to practice them.

The final shooting portion of the class was another run on the ATF course.  I managed to pull a 100 this time.

100 on the ATF Course

100 on the ATF Course

The “Top Gun” award was based upon the two runs on the ATF course.  We had two shooters score perfect 100s on both runs, and they split the award.

The day wrapped up with some more classroom work covering target selection and design and scoring methods.

This was another great course from Tom Givens and was well worth the trip.  I picked up several teaching points and techniques and will be incorporating them into upcoming training.  I continue to be impressed with Tom’s teaching style and class organization, specifically, each of his teaching points is well thought out, researched, and explained.  There is no extraneous material.  Furthermore, he provides historical context on the development of techniques.  He also explains why there are things that he doesn’t teach and gives the context for that as well.  It is unfortunately rather common for instructors to merely parrot things they have heard elsewhere without understanding the whys and wherefores.  Tom is a legit source that not only understands what he is teaching, he knows exactly why he is teaching it.

Class Review: Way of the Gun Pistol Class

“If you are missing, you aren’t getting the work done.” -Frank Proctor

Frank explaining the Shake and  Bake exercise

Frank explaining the Shake and Bake exercise

I first met Frank Proctor of Way of the Gun when he taught a block of the FBI Police Firearms Instructor course that I attended in 2013.  When the members of our “C Shift” told me they had arranged for a private class with Frank, I quickly jumped on the spot offered to me.  It was a long day, but it was well worth it.  We left at 5:00AM so that we could get through Atlanta prior to rush hour traffic and didn’t get home until 9:00PM.  One additional challenge to the day was the weather as we experienced an overnight temperature drop of 25 degrees.  The temperature never got above the mid-40s, and it was windy.

As I have written previously, I prefer to train with instructors who have backgrounds in both the “tactical” and competition worlds, and Frank certainly fits this bill being both Army Special Forces as well as a USPSA Grand Master as well as an IDPA Master.

As the above video demonstrates, Frank is very much into “processing”.  This involves seeing and processing everything that is happening around you, and this translates into seeing the sight picture, tracking the sights during recoil, breaking the shot at the right time to so much more.

We began the day shooting an exercise on paper targets, and after each string, Frank would ask us questions about what we saw during the string, and he would then offer teaching points.  We also worked on properly gripping the pistol as well as recoil control.

Frank explaining property grip with Corporal Sparrow

Frank explaining property grip with Corporal Sparrow

Frank makes a point of saying that he utilizes exercises rather than drills as exercises can be “compounded” to add other things to them.  Throughout the day, we would shoot an exercise, and then he would add a twist or variation to the exercise building upon the previous work.  After the initial exercise on paper, we shot steel targets for the remainder of the day.

Frank Proctor coaching the author on the Shake and Bake exercise

Frank Proctor coaching the author on the Shake and Bake exercise

One of the first exercises that we shot on steel was the “Shake and Bake” exercise in which barrels were stacked upon top of each other to create a vision barrier.  The shooter had to move side to side completely compressing the pistol and then punch back out to the target.  The barrels were not “cover”.  They were there simply to block the shooter’s vision and to force movement.

We shot the exercise in the above video, but he had us moving through a row of staggered barrels as we did so.

Another exercise involved an array of targets with numbers painted on them and the shooters having to move through a row of barrels with each barrel having an index card with information on it telling us which targets to shoot.  As an example of compounding, this exercise was introduced with our simply moving through the barrels and shooting the targets in sequential order.  We then moved through the barrels again putting the number of hits on a target corresponding with the number that was painted on it, and then finally the exercise involving the information processing.  As a twist, the same exercise was set up in the an adjacent bay but with a different target array to avoid memorization of the information while at the same time providing for additional repetitions.

Deputy Brank shooting an exercise

Deputy Brank shooting an exercise

There was not any downtime during the day.  Frank told us to bring 600 rounds with us, and I think we all exceeded that number as we all were stuffing magazines as fast as possible to bang some more steel.

Deputy Thrower shooting an exercise

Deputy Thrower shooting an exercise

Deputy Pasdon shooting an exercise

Deputy Pasdon shooting an exercise

Frank’s teaching style is extremely relaxed and humorous.  You’ll also get serenaded and peppered with sound effects as well as movie one-liners that lead to teaching points.  As I wrote above, there isn’t any downtime in the day.  If we weren’t shooting, we were loading magazines.  You’ll get a lot of material thrown at you, but it will be in a manner that you will readily understand and is often a tweak or a unique insight on something the student has already heard previously, but the presentation “compounds” the previously obtained information.  Also, he breaks things down to be done efficiently with the subconscious mind being allowed to control the simple things with the conscious mind focussing on processing.  To drive this point home, “Walking isn’t hard until you think about it”.  In others words, just walk and don’t think about walking while you are walking.  Another example would be driving a vehicle and looking through the windshield.  You are making constant inputs to control and steer the vehicle, but you really aren’t thinking about them as you do them.  This can be applied to shooting as well.  Focus on the things that need focus and just do the other stuff naturally.  Oh yeah, and PROCESS.

Frank Proctor and "C Shift"

Frank Proctor and “C Shift”