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View Full Version : Tactical Response Fighting Pistol 10-11 Jan AAR (Camden TN)


Ace
30 January 2009, 14:43
First, SOCNET and the Admin's would like to thank SOTB for taking part in this on behalf of SOCNET. We value his membership here, and obviously his experience level to evaluate such a class.
The below AAR SOTB provided is intended to give those that could not attend, or wanted more unbiased info before attending, a comprehensive evaluation of the course taken (Fighting Pistol).

We will also send one more member in the near future. Another member was scheduled to go at the same time but, due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts, was unable. We hope to get his AAR soon.

We (Admin's) would also like to send a nod to James Yeager (owner of Tactical Response) for the generous invite to the course (Mr Yeager provided everything needed, to include lodging).

Tactical Response Fighting Pistol Course AAR/Review

Between 10-11 January 2008, I attended the Fighting Pistol Course offered by this company: www.tacticalresponse.com (http://www.tacticalresponse.com/).

My attendance was in response to an offer by James Yeager for two long-term SOCNET members to attend the course, and write a subsequent AAR of their opinions. Our task was to go to the course, ignore any previous commentary or otherwise distracting/prejudicing information, and comment solely upon what we observed. While the initial intent was to have two board members attend the same class and offer individual opinions, unfortunately work duties only allowed one of us to attend at this time. I understand that a future AAR will be forthcoming from the other board member once he is able to schedule a course that coincides with open work dates.

About this review:

It is probable that there are readers who are seeking comments outside of the course material that I was exposed to, but I again refer to the tasking mentioned above. The admins of this board, and the mod of this forum (Silverbullet) have repeatedly stated that critiques of the class attended and critiques of past events do not belong in the same writeup, and if you are looking for that type of a critique, you should really stop reading right here. It is also likely that readers are interested in an insight as to the "tactical mindset" of the school/instructors. Where it is possible to honestly do so, I will comment on those topics, simply because they did indeed come up during the course, and therefore are relevant. But I will only do so where they were clearly topics I was personally exposed to. During the course of this review I’ve also tried to compare it to a couple of different shooting schools I’ve attended to give the reader an idea of the tempo and difficulty. As best as I am able to relate, the course was oriented along the same lines as I have seen at defensive/concealed carry pistol courses at Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, and what I have read in regards to Lethal Force Institute.

Attendees:

We had a mix of military and civilians in our 8-person class. Five were male and three were female. Two were a husband/wife team, two were construction guys, a couple were associated with Tactical Response (TR), and then a few stragglers such as myself. I believe about half of the students were former military. Everyone was shooting some sort of a Glock, except for one person shooting a Wilson CQB 1911. Calibers seemed to be across the board. From my memory, everyone was shooting from a concealed-carry rig, including one person who shot from what I think was a Maxpedition shoulder bag. I shot a Glock 17, with a plastic pancake holster, worn on my strong side -- towards my back -- under a jacket. I asked the instructors about the type of person who comes to this class, and the answer was that it is geared towards the person who owns a gun, has a CCW, but is not satisfied with the level of training they previously had. IMO, this is not much different than what I have seen going through Thunder Ranch's Concealed Carry Weapon class, or Gunsite's Defensive Pistol class, with the majority of students not being current/former LEO or mil types, and rather being your "normal" civilian seeking formal training beyond that of the local gunstore.

Instructors:

For range training, the mix was a class of eight students and 3 instructors/Day 1 and 2 instructors/Day 2. The instructor/student ratio was about what I have seen at Gunsite and Thunder Ranch (I've seen it with less of a ratio at other places). The range instructors were former military and police (Jay/USMC SOTG, Kyle/USA Ranger, Chester/LEO). There was one other instructor who showed up on Day 2 at the range, but I honestly do not know his background, except that he was from "Rangemaster (http://www.rangemaster.com/)". I found the range instructors to be knowledgeable, personable, and professional. The only non-range classes were taught by James Yeager. I did not see the first class, taught on Day 1 (which I will explain in a moment), but I did sit through his 3-hour mindset/whatifIshootsomeone class -- which I thought he did as well a job as what I have seen anywhere else. I think being a former (or current) LEO is a credibility advantage to giving the class on what to do AFTER the shooting. Maybe being a judge or a prosecutor might have as much credibility, maybe.

Course Content:

Both days began at 0900 and continued through 1700 on Day 1 and roughly 1630 on Day 2.

Day 1

We started with shooting at DEA Dot targets, and then later moving to shooting at humanoid targets, with designated head and "heart" boxes. The firing distance was from roughly 1m, which the instructors explained as being the statistically predominant range at which pistol fights occur. Each student was given roughly 5 plastic snapcaps, and instructed to load them anywhere within the "middle" of each magazine. I wore two mags on my belt, one in the gun, and carried the other two in pockets of my jacket.

This day covered the drawstroke, which for TR is a 3-count movement. I've seen it elsewhere taught as a 4 or 5 count movement, and really, I think it is a 4-count movement here as well, since the finger is not on the trigger during any of the 3 movements of the TR drawstroke. Heavy emphasis was given to the TR-choice of clearing clothing from the holster/gun to allow access to grasping the weapon, essentially pulling up the clothing high with the non-shooting hand and getting a sound/solid grip with the shooting hand on the grip of your pistol (this is the first count of the drawstroke).

The instructors explained that they had no interest in discussing which STANCE the shooter took, but only the manner in which the student held the weapon. Their explanation was that they wanted the student to be moving as much as possible while shooting, therefore the stance chosen by the student was not as relevant. To force this concept, during a shooting scenario, when the student was not actually firing at the target, then he should be moving. Movement side-to-side was initially done (ie, upon the command to "fight", students took a large step either right or left and then proceeded to engage the target(s) with the number of rounds called for, afterward the student then performed a 360 rotation while scanning for other targets, topped off their gun with a fresh mag, and then holstered), and later movement to the rear or forward was incorporated.

Reload drills were covered with the TR reload being ALWAYS inserting the fresh magazine into the gun and allowing the replaced mag to fall to the ground. Also, emphasis was made to keep one's eyes up during reload and holstering.

Additionally, this day's information covered malfunction drills, with Type 1 and 2 malfunctions cleared/managed as taught pretty much anywhere else (tap, rack, bang) -- with an emphasis on hand and gun positioning/movements. However, Type 3 malfunctions were taught in two manners. The first just like anywhere else (slide locked to the rear, extract mag, cycle slide 3-5 times, insert mag, rack, bang), but the second was somewhat different -- I won't go into detail. The explanation was that the first will work for all semi-auto pistols and the second for Glocks and some 1911s, and some other semi-auto pistols. I didn’t like the second technique and believe it is better to simply use the previous “universal” option. I saw a similar technique taught at the Glock factory course and didn’t like that one either.

Also covered were shooting from either or both knees, as well as when supine. Then all were incorporated together, so as to have the student moving from supine to kneeling to standing and engaging the target throughout.

Targets were engaged with anything from 2-6 rounds, and malfunctions were constant due to the inclusion of the snapcaps, necessitating the students clearing the problem, while emphasizing continuous movement of the student when the gun was not shooting.

This day ended with the students moving to either Jame's house or their hotels to clean weapons and then to a class dinner at a restaurant in Camden.

Day 2

This day's class began at the TR "shop", which is a tactical store selling equipment, ammo, clothing, etc. James gave the previously-mentioned mindset-whatif class.

Students then moved to the range where we covered moving forward and backwards while engaging the target.

At some point targets were replaced with precision targets requiring the students fire slow/aimed fire at dots of 1-2 inches diameter. This was a short-lived exercise and was followed up by exercises where the students fired weapons retention style drills, ie, at a distance of inches from the target and while protecting their guns and heads – I won’t go into detail, but there were two things that I especially liked about the weapons retention firing techniques taught/demo’d.

Next, students shot at targets while walking from left to right/right to left. Later, students then fired at targets while moving in reverse to “cover” and then engaging the targets with a type of “pie” technique of exposing one’s self while shooting the target (the idea being exposing the least amount of one’s self as possible and engaging the targets that were available – ie, legs, arms, etc. – vice insisting upon only chest or head shots). Instructors discussed shooting from sides of cover vice over the top, the reaction of rounds when striking cover, and how long one should consider cover as viable.

The day ended with a graduation exercise – which is not possible to discuss, even via PM, a summary of the past 2 days activities during a Q&A session, a final policing of the range, and handing out of certificates.

The certificates were unique in that ON the certificate was written the type of training covered in the class, the round-count, etc. During James’ class on mindset/whatif, he clearly mentioned several times that this class can/should be mentioned to inquiring LEO (or better, your attorney) and that any alumni of TR can call upon James for expert witness testimony in the event of a shooting incident. I think the certificates are an extension of this service, and one that I honestly think was pretty cool.

Pros
The instructors. None of the instructors ever showed anything less than a professional demeanor. Jay and Kyle seemed to be the primary instructors during the course, with Chester being perhaps an AI. All gave their presentations in not only calm and professional tones of voice, but were articulate and in all examples that I remember, were careful to reference specific examples when explaining WHY or HOW something was to be done. I do not remember even one instance of “because” or “this is how we do it here.” James’ class was as good a mindset/whatif class as I have seen anywhere else, including from what some would consider as the originators of that class – Gunsite (translation = Jeff Cooper).
The students. It is easy for me to forget that those who are shooting with me do not hail from a similar background or even have common interests with me. My fellow students, for the most part, were normal Joes seeking additional formal instruction on how to use their pistol to defeat an attacker. Whatever their backgrounds, they were a motivated, attentive, and friendly group of people. This even though it was fucking COLD and rainy. Mud was everywhere and was very much getting into people’s gear and guns. Malfunctions were the rule, not the rarity (even without the snapcaps), and people did their jobs with no whining. Did I mention that it was COLD? Hmm, maybe the only person whining was me.
The ranges. It is easy to see a cut-out-of-the-woods range and look down upon it. I think it would be a mistake to do so here. The ranges are essentially cut into the sides of tall hills. The nice thing about them is that the impact area was REALLY very tall for our class. It allowed for targets to be moved close to where the covered area was (keeping us out of the COLD rain), while still allowing for very easy placement of head and chest shots – even with the angles these presented. Furthermore, while I did not participate in any “tactics” training, from videos that the TR staff showed me, talking with the staff, and my own walking through the area – it is apparent that MANY very cool scenario-based instruction can be obtained on these ranges. Distances and space are not shortcomings at this place.Cons
The ranges. From what I gathered, this is NOT TR’s range. They lease it, and while it is their primary range in Camden, it is not their property. So they might have some liability or even permission issues regarding my following comments – they should discard what is moot or not relevant/possible. In any event, clean the ranges. Trash on the ranges, or the unkempt appearance of a range may serve as a distraction at the least and even if not, clean and well-kept ranges are appealing and only serve the school’s image better. Readers should not misunderstand my writing – the ranges were not reminiscent of the firing line at one of the ranges at Marez (in Mosul). But while I would not care – in the slightest – about grass, mud, etc., I do think that shotgun hulls lying in the hundreds/thousands on a range, intermixed with just about every other type of casing, look like shit. At least on a bay-type range. And the thing is, it really takes practically nothing to clean it up – and then keep it clean. Also, there should be sufficient barricades for all students to utilize during practically any portion of the course. As it was, while much emphasis was given to moving to cover, cover was only presented at the end of the course – and amounted to one position built from 4 stacked plastic water barrels (they were pretty well shot up) and students were to move behind them one at a time. For a comparison, Thunder Ranch has their entire line of students shooting and moving to their own covered positions (built from plywood – of which I saw at least two of the same at TR’s ranges, although they were not utilized) on either the end of the first day, or at least during the second day of training. The first time I saw it, I admit to freaking out with the idea of 20-some odd chicks and their hubbies moving backwards (or forwards) to cover (and subsequent standing/kneeling/prone firing positions) while firing, but it became apparent that this was ONLY my arrogance preventing me from realizing that shooting and moving is not high-speed, and when taught/managed correctly, should be mandatory for ANY shooting school (and their students).
The targets. The first day’s targets were fine. But the second day was spent on shooting targets that became the targets the whole class would fire upon (when moving laterally or to cover). This meant you had no idea of your impacts. IMO, the simple answer is to conduct THOSE training events on steel. All that is required is to move the students to a distance where this is acceptable. If there are no steel targets available (or one does not want to put the students to shoot at distances they might not be yet capable of), then IMO, we should have moved to round-robin type situations where each bay was set up for a particular scenario, and students engaged and then pasted their shot paper targets. Furthermore, the lack of moving targets was “noticeable” if you had experience attending courses at competitor’s schools. I’m not a fan of neato toys just to have them, but systems such as swaying or rotating targets are not expensive and are simple/reliable additions to a range that serve to both challenge a student’s ability as well as – and I do think this is relevant – increase the “look” of a school. Hell, pepper poppers aren’t either expensive or complicated, and would have solved the problem I am referring to easily.
Downtime. Because of the lack of additional bays set up to cover the lateral and moving to cover segments, it meant that what previously was non-existent became the norm for the final 2-3 hours of training – that is -- where only one student shooting and the rest with their hands in their pockets. I know that James commented to me at least once how TR prides itself on little stand-around time – in my class’ case, there were several hours of it. It was noticeable because it was COLD.
Instructors in front of the line while taking photos. This has been mentioned elsewhere, and I’ve given it much thought as to how I would write it here. Simply, it IS a distraction to anyone who has safety on their mind. In my class there was at least one instance of a student flagging the class (however, the instructor caught it and rectified the situation immediately) and several of the students had very rudimentary weapons manipulation skills. Why take a chance and stand in front of those students to get that photo? Obviously, no one got shot – otherwise, I would have led off with that as my comment. But I don’t think that the lack of someone getting shot signifies that something is safe. Do I accept situations where instructors AND students will be in front of other students who are firing in their general direction? YES, unequivocally. But NOT junior students, and NOT students that I have not seen demonstrating tons of uninterrupted great weapons handling skills. And certainly not just for a photo op.
The "emergency reload only" technique for reloading a pistol. James gave a statistic during the class which discussed that apparently if one has a gun holding 8 rounds or more, stats show that he should be OK with that type of gun/mag capacity for a personal/civvie style pistol gunfight. I think it makes sense and I do not disagree. But I also do not see it wise to dump completely viable mags to the ground when there is that "lull" in activities and when replacing mags in the gun. This is especially so for those that will be working in environments where they might be shooting at many targets, for long periods of time. Police officers, mil types, even the occasional private security type in Astan/Iraq may have no ability to easily resupply neither ammo or magazines. To discard the "tactical reload" because knowing one technique is easier -- in this case -- just seems like the wrong thing. To reiterate, the "speed" or "emergency" reload is very much a part of any shooter's requirement to learn. I just feel that so is the slower and more equipment/ammo retaining "tactical" reload.Miscellaneous Commentary or “I am too stupid to know which category this best belongs so I made one up”
I showed up the first day at the wrong place. James had previously emailed me and stated clearly that the meeting place was the TR shop. I had not paid attention and instead copied the TR website’s grid co-ords of the range to Google Maps and drove there. While I was on my way, I ran into a local Sheriff’s deputy and asked him if he knew where the class met for training. He then took me to the range and stated that the TR staff would be by to open the range for the students at 0900 (my run-in with the deputy was at 0800). Obviously NO ONE came to open the range at 0900. At 1000, the two primary instructors showed up and were most considerate in not berating me for not paying attention to instructions. Why is this important? Well, it is where I discovered that AT&T doesn’t work in this place. I could not call anyone to ask where I should be, where the students were, or even proclaim that I was an idiot. There is NO AT&T cell coverage PERIOD in this AO. Once the course was over and I was on the interstate headed towards Nashville, I discovered a very pleasant voice mail (from the day before) from James asking me if I had any problems and if I needed help getting to where the class was taking place. Yeah.
The 360 scan. When I first saw this on YouTube, I KNEW that I was going to hate it completely and find no earthly rationale for it’s use. OK, I was wrong. I understand why TR uses it, and it is certainly NOT unsafe. Still, I don’t think it is what I would prefer to teach a student, since we KNOW there is a badguy we have just dealt with to our front, turning our backs to him doesn’t make ME feel warm and comfortable – but one should not over-read my comment. This is a difference in opinion on techniques – nothing else.
I like XS Big Dot sights.
The hospitality of the staff, and of James, is simply fantastic. They are genuinely nice people who go to great lengths to ensure the students are made to feel welcome. Whatever I have just written to describe this is not going to replicate reality. Very cool atmosphere towards the students – and this was all of the students, not just the dude from SOCNET coming to write an AAR.
That I am aware of, my fellow student's Wilson .45 never hiccuped.
I have never had so many Type 3 malfunctions in my life. Those snapcaps ate my ass up. They would cause a Type 3 malfunction and then because of the way they were constructed, I could not get the extractor to grab the case and pull them out. I gave up cocaine for one of this New Year’s resolutions and therefore didn’t have that long pinky nail to pry it out either. Eventually the case would come out, but you had to work at it.Summary

I would rate the overall course a 7 out of a 10. It would have been higher, but that downtime I referred to simply cannot be ignored. If there was one thing that I would suggest to the TR staff that they address for the course I ATTENDED, it would be to attack that downtime aggressively. Don't misread my commentary about the safety concerns, but personally, I would address them too -- although I think only someone with previous training is going to notice. I have no problems suggesting the course to anyone that meets the general description of clients TR orients this class towards (as described above). The techniques and tactics taught were sound, including those where I would advocate using something different. Students were neither ridiculed nor coddled, which I have seen take place at other places. How many of you “old school” types remember a certain shooting school that would put all 9mm shooters on the far end of the line, because they weren’t “worthy” of being with the rest of the shooters? For someone with a strong shooting background, they might not enjoy the course, due to it not being challenging enough. For ME, I always seem to get something out of every course I attend – and this one as well. Overall it was good value for the cost indicated on the TR website.

I’ll close with the following, and hopefully this will clarify my thoughts of attending a TR Fighting Pistol; many people on this board are familiar with TEES/OSTC -- so for those that attended Olive’s HRE course (in West Memphis, AR) during the winter of ’05 – the weapons instruction given during this class at TR was far and away superior. There is no doubt in my mind about this. Also, I would have no problem sending my wife to learn from any of the instructors that taught the course I attended. I hope this last paragraph sums up my AAR sufficiently.

Questions?

Disclaimer: This post/AAR may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or posted in full or in part without the prior written consent of the "SOCNET Ownership Group"

James Yeager
30 January 2009, 23:15
SOTB,

Thank you for coming to the class with an open mind. I appreciate your thoughts and will take all of them into consideration. I feel honored that you would entrust us with your wife. Please tell her she is welcome as my personal guest at any time.

PanaVet
2 February 2009, 11:48
SOTB...
Thanks for the AAR.

Get Verizon for cell service...it has NEVER let me down...LOL

James Yeager
5 February 2009, 01:45
SOTB...
Thanks for the AAR.


Dude you are a stone's throw away. Come over and shoot with us sometime.