Review: Tom Givens' Combative Pistol Concepts
I just returned from taking a two-day Combative Pistol Concepts course from Tom Givens at Rangemaster , so I thought I'd post some feedback. It's not my home range (it's 400+ miles away, actually), so I'm a marginally unbiased observer.
A little background, since it probably puts things in perspective. The first formal training I had was a few months ago when I took the 5-day DH1 course at Thunder Ranch. I learned a ton in that class, and really wanted to go back for DH2 at Thunder Ranch, but I couldn't spare the time, and honestly wasn't ready for DH2 yet.
My primary goals were to:
Gain additional proficency with the skills I learned at Thunder Ranch
Transition to a 1911 from the Glock platform I'd taken to Thunder Ranch.
Fill in any holes in my basic skills that might have slipped through the cracks in the TR course (for example, we ran out of time and didn't get to cover retention at TR)
Get a slightly different take on things. I think it's always important to get multiple opinions on techniques, tactics, etc.
I saw that Rangemaster was offering the Combative Pistol Concepts course in Memphis, so I figured I'd just sign up for it and drive over there. It's roughly 7 hours from Oklahoma, so it was a bit of a haul.
As a general summary, the class was superb. Tom covered a pretty broad scope of topics in the class, and managed to hit on about 80% of the topics we covered in my TR class, and some more that we didn't. Of course, a fast-paced two-day course doesn't give you enough time to get a ton of repetition in. However, it did give me enough tries to figure out what I was doing right and wrong, and what to focus on in practice.
There were specific areas where Tom's views differed from what I learned at Thunder Ranch, and while I liked some of it, and disliked other bits of it, I can say without a doubt that every one of them was at least worth trying. It was harder than I thought it would be to switch even smaller techniques that I'd picked up at TR (for example, speed reloads instead of tactical, or bringing my support hand to my belly instead of my belt buckle during presentation). I'm pretty sure that gets easier with more training.
As far as what specific improvements I made over the weekend, Tom helped me clean up my one-handed shooting a ton, I'm now very comfortable with the 1911 as a defensive firearm, I managed to improve my presentations quite a bit, and I think my defensive mindset was improved quite a bit as well.
Rangemaster's Memphis facilities were quite nice. It's an indoor facility, which means that while it may get a little warm at times, it's frickin nirvana compared to Texas in the 100-degree sun. Oh, and brass call involves a broom instead of twenty minutes on your knees. For wussified city boy types like myself, that's a big plus. On the flip side, it's not a huge bazillion-dollar world-class range. There's no shoothouses or five different rifle ranges. They're entirely different facilities designed for different purposes.
If I had to make broad, sweeping generalizations that are entirely unfair to everyone involved, I'd say that Rangemaster seems very specifically targetted to civilian CCW holders. Thunder Ranch splits the middle between a civilian and LE audience. I learned more about shooting from concealment at Rangemaster. I learned more about clearing rooms at Thunder Ranch. Both useful skills, just with a slightly different focus.
Tom Givens did a great job, and I'd definitely take another class from him. He was very responsive to every silly question I had, and actually extended the class a little to cover a few skills that I had hoped to get. Considering that he spent close to two full days around me and never once tried to strangle me, he's a fairly patient instructor.
No complaints here, and it was well worth the time (including the drive) and money. While my defensive shooting isn't nearly consistant enough for me, I'm a lot closer to where I want to be after taking this class. It met all of my goals and exceeded my expectations in a couple of other areas, so it was well worh the trip.
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