Class Review

Review: The Complete Combatant (and Sundry Others)

I first became aware of The Complete Combatant due to their hosting Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics for one of his medical courses.  Caleb is a a regular presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, and that is how I met him.  I attended the course, that is how I met Brian and Shelley Hill, the owners of The Complete Combatant.  This introduction resulted in Brian and Shelley hosting two of my Police-Citizen Contacts courses.  They have another class with Caleb coming in September; so, be sure to check their schedule IF you aren’t planning to spend that weekend with me at Social Levergun.  Quality medical training should be a part of your personal safety plan, and Caleb has a solid program.

Another example of the classes that they are bringing in to augment their own offerings, they hosted Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense course.  Andrew’s material is a “must” for the armed citizen.  He provides valuable information that is grounded in actual statutory and case law without getting wrapped around bogeyman and interweb fantasy stories.  Also of note, Brian has completed the Law of Self Defense instructor course.  I have attended Andrew’s presentation at the Tactical Conference, and this was a good opportunity to get the full two-day presentation.  I have purchased his book, and hope to do a stand alone review of his material at some point, but again, it is a “must”.

This weekend, the timing finally worked out for me to take their 1.5 day The Complete Combatant course.  This class is taught at their facility in Marietta.  The first day begins at 4:00 PM and runs for four hours.  The second day begins at 9:00 AM and runs until 5:00 PM.  It’s a full day of training as there is a presentation during lunch.  For this class, the presentation was me talking about Police-Citizen Contacts.  I have presented on this dozens of times, but this was the first time I had to do so after getting smacked in the head.

The course material was intense, but the teaching style was relaxed.  I very much appreciated this approach.  While the material did involve striking and  ground fighting, it wasn’t a gladiator camp with a bunch of MMA folks having fun with fresh meat, and the coaches weren’t screaming or telling students, “If you can’t execute a perfect rear naked spinning death punch your are going to die.”  It was solid, simple techniques that one didn’t have to have a martial arts background to learn and actually utilize.  The lessons built upon one another culminating in a final scenario.  There were numerous alumni in this class session (customers who came back, that’s a clue), and their scenarios took this into account.  I liked this approach as it put an added value on students who wanted a refresher in the course work but who wanted to face greater challenges.  The more we master physical techniques, the more our brain’s processing power can be devoted to the problem.  Likewise, students weren’t thrown to the wolves.

Brian Hill, Claude Werner, and Lee Weems

Finally, noted instructor, Claude Werner, audited the course at Brian and Shelley’s request.  This indicates two things.  First, they are confident in their material as they aren’t afraid of asking someone who isn’t bashful about his opinions to look at their coursework.  It also shows that they are seeking a learned opinion to offer suggested improvements.

They have other course offerings that would work well for those who can’t devote an entire weekend to such a class.  Give them a look.

Class Review: Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun

“When people get shot with a shotgun, they tend to stay shot.”  –Tom Givens

Tom Givens

Tom Givens

For the second time this year I had the pleasure of participating in the Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun course.  The first time was as a student.  This time, due to the lovely and gracious Lynn Givens being occupied in whipping all of the male shooters in a Gunsite 250 Pistol class en route to an Expert rated certificate, I had the honor of being Tom’s assistant.

The class was held on the same picturesque range as the previous day’s Defensive Revolver Skills course.


My favorite thing about Tom’s teaching style is that he puts everything into context.  There is a reason for every drill, technique, etc, and it is thoroughly explained.  In his shotgun class, everything is put in the context of a person using a shotgun for personal defense within their home or business.  For instance, a business owner isn’t going to take the time in the middle of a hold-up to attach shell holders to their belt; the problem will have to be solved with the ammo in and on the gun.  This is a much different context than the use of the shotgun in a military environment

As problems with operating a shotgun are typically shooter induced, the class is strong on robust manipulations and repeated drilling on the fundamentals of operating the weapon and loading techniques.

Yes, You Have to Aim

The pictures below show two separate targets shot with Federal Flite Control OO buckshot.  As you can see, the patterns are tight enough that the shots clearly have to be aimed.

Flite Control: One round at three yards

Flite Control: One round at three yards

Elite Control

Flite Control: Three rounds at 15 yards

Chris Baker of the Lucky Gunner Lounge was a student in the class.  He wrote an article on choosing buckshot for the home defense shotgun and created the video embedded below.  The video has good information on different loads, and they currently have a series underway focussing on shotguns.

Patterning & Set-up

Following all of the shooting drills, the class patterned their shotguns out to 15 yards with the buckshot loads they brought with them as well as with Flite Control.  Tom also discussed his preferred set-up regarding sights, magazine extensions, etc.  This too was in context as he discussed this topic with personal defense in the home/business in mind and not a peace officer on a manhunt.


For some reason the mention of a shotgun as a personal protection tool offends people who prefer a carbine or other option, and they feel honor bound to justify their choice.  Usually, their reasoning is fueled by misconceptions or misunderstandings of the capabilities of the shotgun (that should set some such people off).  The fact is that the versatility and the fight-ending effectiveness of a proper shotgun load can’t be denied.  I personally have more confidence in a magazine tube full off Flite Control than I due a magazine of 9mm or .223 to solve an immediate close to intermediate range problem.  If you choose otherwise, be happy in your choice.  If ever I have to shoot someone; I want them to stay shot.

Class Review: Rangemaster Defensive Revolver Skills

“The situation doesn’t change because of what you brought with you.”  –Tom Givens

Tom Givens during his Defensive Revolver Skills course

The setting was pristine: a cool, crisp fall morning on a private range nestled up to a mountain just outside of Franklin, TN.  The road into the range was so steep and rough that those participants driving a car had to leave it at the top of a hill and be ferried to the range by someone in a truck.  The narrow road wound through a thick stand of trees ultimately ending in a clearing containing a cabin, a barn, and appropriate facilities.

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The clearing was cut by a stream, and a footbridge provided access to the range.

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The berm was provided by nature, and the classroom consisted of folding tables and chairs.

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Why a revolver class?

The class began with the instructor, Tom Givens, asking each student why they were in the class.  My answer was that I believed the revolver would soon be a lost art, and I wanted to learn the skills of running the wheelgun before the primary sources of the information are gone.  (When it comes to firearms knowledge, a source doesn’t get more primary than Tom Givens.)

I attended a regional police academy in 1999.  The academy served 10 counties, and of all of the agencies sending cadets to that academy, only two were still issuing revolvers to their personnel and only then to those assigned to the respective jails.  Those agencies have since made a complete transition to semi-automatic pistols.

My agency has two deputies that carry revolvers as their primary duty weapon.  My sheriff is in his sixth term, and one of those two deputies “came with the office”, and the other one has been in the profession for close to three decades.

It should be noted that the standard qualification course for Georgia’s peace officers is a revolver neutral course meaning that it is designed to accommodate the limited ammunition capacity of a revolver.

The Sheriff’s Office runs numerous free citizen’s firearms safety classes per year, and revolvers are common in those courses; however, this is mainly due to their being inherited nightstand guns or because husbands, boyfriends, and gun shop employees are an unwitting anathema to ladies.

Tom Givens showing collection of revolver gear.

Tom Givens showing collection of revolver gear.

Warning: Upset Apple Carts Ahead

In the section above, I mentioned that the instructor wanted to know why we were in the class.  As to why we should learn to run a revolver, his answer was simple: it was so that we could demonstrate why not to choose a revolver as a primary defensive firearm.

It is a very common misconception that revolvers are more reliable than a quality semi-automatic pistol.  In truth, they are a much more complicated piece of machinery.  When they do malfunction, it usually takes time and tools to fix them whereas an immediate action response (malfunction clearing technique) typically fixes the problem with a semi-automatic pistol, and this usually only takes a few seconds.  Such problems with revolvers happen much more often than revolver aficionados will admit.  We had three instances in which wheelguns in the class failed to the point that they had to be taken out of action, and this mirrored another recent class taught by the instructor.

According to Tom, the old saying “six for sure” referring to the reliability of wheelguns actually hearkens back to the days of mercury based primers when ammunition was so unreliable that misfires were expected, and with a revolver, the shooter simply pressed the trigger again to rotate to the next cylinder rather than clearing the malfunction.  Mercury based primers haven’t been used since the World War II era, and this issue is now moot.

Tom Givens demonstrating what the gasses from the cylinder gap will do.  He turned the target and held the revolver along side of it and fired a shot.

Tom Givens demonstrating what the gasses from the cylinder gap will do. He turned the target and held the revolver along side of it and fired a shot.

Ammunition Capacity

The quote at the beginning of this article holds true.  The situation doesn’t change because of what you brought with you.  Carrying a five or six shot revolver isn’t going to limit your problems to those that can be solved with such a tool.  In over 40 years of teaching firearms and researching the subject matter, the instructor hasn’t found any documentation of anyone being able to successfully reload a revolver in a close range gunfight.  He contrasted this with prolonged, barricaded gunmen situations.

The late Jim Cirillo, member of the NYPD Stake Out Squad, is famous for his answer when asked about his preferred revolver reload technique: grab another gun.  This has come to be known as the “New York Reload”.

I tested this on one of the timed drills, and I was faster by several seconds in getting a second gun into action than I was in reloading the primary.  Of note, the two revolvers combined have less capacity than a single Glock 19.

A fellow student accessing a revolver in an ankle holster.

A fellow student accessing a revolver in an ankle holster.


Some of the students shot the entire class with a service sized revolver, but some used either a small revolver or alternated between the two.  Attention was given to drawing from the pocket as well as an ankle holster.  Staying true to the theme that “the situation doesn’t change because of what you brought with you”, the time limits on drills and courses of fire where not changed to accommodate those carrying in an ankle holster.

As usual, Tom was a gold mine of information.  In my brief stint of shooting IDPA, I dabbled in the revolver division and even managed a match bump with my wheelgun, but I was always inconsistent on my reloads.  One nugget from Tom resolved that issue (take the class 😉 ).

The class did just what I hoped it would do in that it provided exactly the experience that I was seeking.

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.

Review: Rifle/Pistol Low Light with Erik Lund

“If you are going to take the time to look, take the time to see.” -Erik Lund on scan processes

This was my third formal class with Erik Lund having previously taken his Dynamic Fighting Rifle and Performance Shotgun courses.  Erik was assisted in this class by Tod Lit.

Erik Lund

Erik Lund


The class consisted of 11 students and began in the mid-afternoon and went well into the evening.  We began by practicing various handheld flashlight techniques in conjunction with our pistols.  We then practiced handheld light techniques with our rifles.  All of this was done while we still had daylight so that we could focus on the techniques.

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Erik demonstrating the Harries Technique with a pistol

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Erik demonstrating the Harries Technique with a rifle

Of note, Erik recommends having some sort of retention device on a handheld light to aid in weapon manipulations.  He personally used a lanyard and would simply drop the light, perform a reload or malfunction clearance and then retrieve his light.  Another option demonstrated by Tod Lit was a light with a ring on it.  I didn’t have any such devices; so, I put my light back in the holder on my belt during manipulations initially, but later in the class I switched to stowing it under my arm.


After we had practiced the techniques, we broke for dinner and then had a lengthy discussion on different low light technologies available including lasers, night vision and thermal.  The discussion included demonstrations of all of these technologies.  Some of this stuff is a language all of its own, especially for a guy that still runs iron sights on his rifles.


Infrared seen through night vission


Pistol fire seen through night vision

night vission

The author and Erik Lund


After the demonstrations were concluded, we moved back into a live fire segment using the same progression as in the beginning of the class.  After each of the handheld light techniques were used under live fire, we were allowed to begin using our weapon mounted lights.

The final live fire portions of the class involved shooting at 50 yards first to see how accurately we could place shots.  Then we ran a few evolutions in which we had to negotiate a barricade and hit partially obscured targets.  It is important to note that seeing the targets and making the shots was not difficult at all.  However, and this is a key point, true target identification at that distance was difficult.  Had the drills been judgement drills, I wouldn’t have taken the shots as I couldn’t definitively determine that they were “hostile” targets.

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My equipment:

I shot my issued shorty Colt M4LE carbine.  It is equipped with a YHM-9670 handguard.  I received and installed the handguard earlier this week.  I recently met the owners of YHM thanks to my friends at Sight Picture Media.  I like the feel and profile of the product and think it is a good addition to my carbine.   My lights were provided by Jamie Wiedeman of Surefire.  On my rifle was an older Surefire Scout light, and for my handheld, I tried two different versions of the Surefire Peacekeeper (dual output and the tactical).  I’ve been running the Scout light for several years, and it has been on more than one bad guy hunt.  This was the maiden voyage for the Peacekeeper lights.  I preferred the dual output light due to the “click on, click off” tail cap switch.  With the tactical version, my thumb came off the switch a couple of times during recoil; thus, the light turned off.  The tail caps can be switched, and I will play around with the clickable switch on the tactical version.  Thanks to Jamie for setting me up with the lights.  It was “almost like cheating.”

Thanks to this guy for the night vision pictures.

Thanks to this guy for the night vision pictures.

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”











Class Review: Tactical Pistol Skills with Ernest Langdon

“Your best cover is accurate fire on your adversary.” –Ernest Langdon

Ernest Langdon shooting a demo.

Ernest Langdon shooting a demo.

Ernest Langdon of Langdon Tactical Technology brought his Tactical Pistol Skills to class to the area, and thankfully, I was able to get a spot in the class.  If you have read any of my previous class reviews, you may have noticed that I tend to seek out training from instructors who can walk the walk with equal credibility in both the “tactical” and competition worlds.  My thinking on this is that such people will have refined their techniques for maximum efficiency, but they will have done so with an understanding of what happens in violent encounters.   Ernest Langdon fits this bill.

A short list of his credentials include the following: USPSA Grand Master, IDPA Distinguished Master, winner of multiple national and world championships, service as a Marine Scout Sniper and Scout Sniper Instructor, service as an Instructor in the USMC’s High Risk Personnel Program, and a host of others. You can read his complete bio by clicking here.

Sheriff Mark Moore and Ernest Langdon discussing Beretta 92 variants

Sheriff Mark Moore and Ernest Langdon discussing Beretta 92 variants

The class was limited to 12 students.  Three of the students were peace officers; the rest were armed citizens who are all regulars in such classes.  The small class size allowed the instructor to observe and coach each individual student.

In some parts of the world, there are four seasons in a year.  That is not the case in Georgia. We have summer and not summer.  September here is summer.  The temperature on both days of this class topped the 90 degree mark, and day two included a thunderstorm in the afternoon that upped the already substantially high humidity level.  Not only did we get roasted; we were boiled a bit as well.  This presented considerable teaching challenges, but he handled them well, and the students all seemed quite pleased with the product they received. One of the breaks evolved into a lengthy question and answer session which I enjoyed very much.  During the thunderstorm, he set up barrels underneath our shelter and taught proper use of cover, well, he did until the rain started beating on the metal roof so hard that it was impossible to hear anything other than a shout.

The shooting drills were very much accuracy focused with a lot of time spent shooting at tiny dots painted on the targets under a time or cadence standard.  We did some work on steel targets as well.   Attention was also given to shooting on the move as well as with strong and support hand only work.

target dots

Tim getting coached on being able to move one's eyes without turning one's head

Tim getting coached on being able to move one’s eyes without turning one’s head

In the opening paragraph, I referenced seeking training from people who have both competitive and tactical shooting backgrounds.  As my friend Erik Lund says, “A gunfight is solving a tactical problem at speed.”  He also says that “competition process can be applied to tactical applications.”  With that in mind, there was one topic that Mr. Langdon touched upon in regard to the so-called “tactical turtle” stance that is derided by competition based shooters. I’m not going to fully delve into it at this point as I want to discuss it with him to make sure that I am accurately reporting what he said, and I have a training class upcoming later in the year with a favorably credentialed instructor who presents yet a different approach to the question, and I would like to bounce educated questions off of both individuals before putting it all in writing. If you can’t wait until then, seek out Mr. Langdon and pay for a class.  It’ll be worth it.

Finally, for you Beretta fan boys:

pistol case

Rangemaster Instructor Development Course

“Cover may be your friend, but it does not need a hug.” –Tom Givens

Twice this year I have been present for historical moments in the shooting community. The first was witnessing not one but two perfect runs on “The Test” at the Rogers Shooting School. The second is bittersweet as I was a part of the last class at the Rangemaster facility in Memphis, TN. Thankfully, the Rangemaster banner will continue on the training circuit, but the range has closed its doors. That was the bitter part. I’ll save the sweet part for later.

We hosted the Rangemaster crew for Combative Pistol I (CP1) in March of this year. The boss was impressed with the course, and he, thankfully, decided to send me to Rangemaster’s Instructor Development Course (IDC) to continue our efforts in stepping up our in-house firearms training program.  Thanks boss.

As I wrote in my review of CP1, the Rangemaster program focuses on efficiency and precision. The IDC is true to this with the addition of teaching and coaching tips and graded shooting and written tests as well as presentations by each student.

We started on Friday morning with introductions and some work in the classroom. Then we moved over to the range. We were each paired with another student with one shooting and the other coaching. After a few drills, we would be paired with a different student. Rangemaster instructors were plentiful and they would coach the coaches as needed.

Saturday was range intensive with a few blocks of classroom instruction mixed in, and we continued to work as both shooters and coaches.

Sunday was game day. We shot for score, took our written test, and made our presentations.

In order to graduate, students had to pass the current FBI qualification course (PQC 13) with a minimum score of 90% (FBI instructor standard), the Rangemaster course with a minimum score of 90%, and pass a written test with an 80% minimum score.

For a little added pressure, each student’s scores are written on their diploma.




The student with the highest aggregate score in the class is the Top Gun.


Tom Givens presenting me with the Top Gun award.

Tom Givens presenting me with the Top Gun award.


Anyone need in help in figuring out the sweet part?

Class Review: Performance Shotgun with Erik Lund

“Every shotgun is a snowflake.”  –Erik Lund

Having previously taken a rifle class from Erik Lund, I welcomed the opportunity to take his Performance Shotgun course.  Erik was assisted in this class by Tod Lit.


Of note, I have been firmly camped on the Remington 870 side of the Remington versus Mossberg question for several decades, but I won a Mossberg 590A1 in a drawing, and rather than learning my way around it in privacy, I thought it a much better course of action to trot it out in front of a group of people so that they could witness the process…

I did carry along a trusty 870P just in case I needed my security blanket.

The 590A1 in question has been upgraded to a Magpul forend, a Dave’s Metal Works aluminum follower and a Big Dot sight.  From previous experience, I have found that the Bog Dot sight works really well for buckshot, but slugs at 50 yards start to become a challenge as the sight covers up so much of the target.


This class was not a basic or introductory class in that we didn’t spend time on basic loading and unloading drills or rudimentary discussions on shotgun ammo.  Erik did take a few moments to dispel a couple of shotgun myths.  One of these was the oft repeated notion that the sound of a pump shotgun action being worked was enough to win an encounter.  Another was the myth that a pump shotgun was more reliable than a semi-auto shotgun.  While this may be mechanically true, it is not true of shooter induced malfunctions.

As for technique, Erik is a proponent of consistency across platforms.  As such, his stances for pistol, carbine, and shotgun are all similar.  He stresses being balanced and having your hips oriented towards the target.

After the introductions and safety briefings, we jumped right into the shooting.

We began with a patterning drill.  Erik described shotguns as “every shotgun is a snowflake” stressing that even across the same lines of ammo and firearms that they will perform differently in each shotgun.  This was proved correct during the patterning drill.  As for buckshot, the clear winner for tightest pattern was the Federal Flight Control 00 buckshot.

From there, we did a few basic manipulation drills making sure that everyone was up to speed with the operation of their particular shotgun, and then we moved to reloading drills; a lot of reloading drills.  Both strong and support hand drills were taught.  After we worked through all of theses different drills, Erik told us to pick the one we preferred and to use it for the remainder of the class.   We worked predominantly from a sidesaddle.  Most of my previous shotgun work has been done using a belt mounted ammo carrier.  While I prefer loading from a belt mounted carrier, I do believe that working from a sidesaddle makes more sense as the ammo goes wherever the gun goes.  It is a much simpler equation to simply grab the shotgun and go than it does to take the extra steps of affixing belt carriers.

Personal note:  I strongly suggest using a sidesaddle that attaches by means other than the action pins.  These are often installed incorrectly, usually due to over or under tightening  of the pins, causing malfunctions.  I’ve also heard of the additional stress on the pins leading to their breaking.  I once had an issue to where the action wouldn’t lock, but everything looked fine. 

As to reloading techniques, we predominantly focused on those that would be used by the typical armed citizen or peace officer, but we did get to play around with a few of the competition oriented techniques, and Erik and Todd worked individually with any of the three gunners who wanted to work specifically on those techniques.


After the extensive reloading work, we shot slugs at 25 and 50 yards and practiced slug integration (slug exchange, select slug, etc) techniques as well as handgun transitions.  A note on the Big Dot sight is that using the top curving edge of the sight at distance makes getting hits at distance a more reliable prospect.

We wrapped up with a few fun-and-gun drills.



As for the 590A1, all in all it performed well.  I experienced no mechanical malfunctions.  The difference in the location of controls did get me a couple of times.  The guy shooting next to me commented on one such occasion,  “It looked like you got into your truck but somebody had moved the seat.”  As the day went on, it did begin to become less awkward.  It never quite got to the point where it pointed as naturally for me as does an 870.

A couple of things that I prefer about the 590 are the lack of a loading gate and the fact that the ejector can be replaced with a screwdriver rather than returning the firearm to the factory.  I will also grudgingly admit that location of the safety switch has some advantages.   If an identically equipped 870 and 590A1 were next to each other on a rack, and I had to grab one and go, I’d probably grab the 870, but after this class, I would feel comfortable picking up the 590A1.

Class Review: Advanced Tactical Pistol with Ken Hackathorn

“Under stress, you have got to have skill… Situational awareness is the single most important skill.” –Ken Hackathorn


Eighteen shooters turned out for a rainy Saturday and beautiful Sunday of shooting with one of the foremost instructors in the business. Participants came from at least three states, and the class was a mix of private citizens, federal agents, and the Sheriff of a Georgia county.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia


We began with a discussion of common elements found in self-defense incidents. That was followed by a discussion of current trends in the firearms industry and the firearms that he is most commonly seeing coming through his classes now.

We then moved on to the live fire portion of the class and did some basic shooting and assessment drills so that he could see where we all were as shooters. The drills were pass/fail drills shot against a standard. We shot these as a mix of individual competition and the entire class shooting the drills altogether. We also shot some pivot/turn drills as well as some reloading drills. After a supper break, we had a low light session.

Sunday was a full day of shooting. The focus was primarily on shooting while moving. Added to that was some strong-hand-only and support-hand-only work.

Of note, we shot some point shooting drills. One of these drills involved a lot of movement and with our sights taped over. We then shot the same drill using sights. The evolution in which the sights were used had better results. Imagine that; that little bumpy thing on the muzzle end is actually there for something…. might as well use it. (Note: that is a poke at people that say you don’t need your sights inside certain distances. It is not a poke at the drill or the instructor.)

As for what he was packing, Mr. Hackathorn was toting a Hackathorn Signature Series 1911 from Wilson Combat. There was quite a bit of friendly banter back and forth on this issue as he is an unabashed fan of the 1911 platform.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a couple of days with someone as venerated as Ken Hackathorn. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth banter and all of the historical insights.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

And now for a bonus science lesson: