I just got back from the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, which was held at the Direct Action Resource Center near Little Rock, AR, March 17-19. This was the 19th annual event. TacCon is the event where many of the big names in the private sector training community get together each year to present on new topics, test new material, cross train with each other, and teach short courses (classroom, live fire, force on force, unarmed, knife, medical and other topics) to the attendees. In addition to the instructors presenting material, many of the attendees are local and regional instructors and/or students of many of the trainers presenting and attending.
I’ve been an invited presenter at TacCon for the past 15 years, first running all the force on force scenarios and later transitioning mainly to classroom presentations on deep data analysis on topics that I don’t see anyone else thinking or writing about. The match was held at Tom Givens’ Rangemaster facility in Memphis for many years, then it moved to the Memphis Police Department training complex, and in more recent years it’s been held at the US Shooting Academy facility in Tulsa, and DARC. The 2018 conference will return to DARC.
My topic this year was “Beyond the 1%”, which explored the critical question of how to get more than 1% of carry permit holders and gun owners in general to attend training that goes beyond their state minimum requirements. I ended up doing over 40 hours of reading and study on it, looking at materials from the diet/exercise world, the video game and entertainment marketing world, psychology, sociology, census and poll data, membership and training stats from NRA, USPSA, IDPA, NSSF and other sources, and a lot of web searching to pull together what attendees told me was an interesting talk. I’ll be sharing that info, spread out over many posts, in the coming weeks. The full presentation was over 2 hours, over 100 slides. Some of my recommendations are already being implemented by trainers that attended.
(The classrooms at DARC were large outdoor event tents. Many of the photos show the presenter in shadow due to the lighting conditions inside the tent during the presentation.)
KR Training was well represented this year by multiple assistant instructors. In addition to my own presentation, Paul Martin spoke on incorporating preparedness topics into firearms and self-defense training. Dave Reichek, a graduate of multiple classes taught by Craig Douglas, was invited to assist Craig as a roleplayer in Craig’s “Experiential Learning Lab” block in the shoot house. Tracy Thronburg and Ed Vinyard attended.
Each year there is a live fire match as part of the conference. Over the past 15 years, KR Training has consistently placed an instructor or a student in the top 10, often in the top 5, each year. This year KR Training student Kirk Clark won the match for the 2nd year in a row, with assistant instructor Dave Reichek placing 5th overall. Final match scores have not yet been posted. There were just over 200 shooters in the match this year.
The first talk I attended on Friday was “Developing Force on Force Training Programs”, from Erik Pakieser, who runs a training school in Minnesota. As I learned from his presentation, Erik and his team have a scenario based force on force training program very similar to what KR Training has been doing for the past 20 years. Like us, their scenarios are armed-citizen focused, using Airsoft guns and realistic props. Anyone in their part of the country should definitely take a look at their schedule and consider attending one of their classes. Quality scenario based FoF training is in short supply and often hard to find.
Whether it was the morning hour or the topic, this talk didn’t draw the size of audience it deserved. One of the conclusions from my own presentation is that force on force training is the best way to minimize “negative outcomes” in armed citizen incidents, but it’s also the least popular form of training. This is because the real reason many people attend training is not based on realistic risk assessment, but simply to have a reason to go shooting, or be able to run shooting drills that are more fun than target shooting.
Hopefully Erik and his team will return in 2018 and get the opportunity to run some of their scenarios for conference attendees. I was able to catch the last half of Steve Moses’ presentation on Church Security. He has significant experience and expertise on that topic, and I always enjoy learning more about it, as it’s a topic I get questions on from time to time.
I gave my talk Friday afternoon, and spent the last part of the day answering questions from people who attended the talk and catching up with many friends I hadn’t seen since last year’s conference.
My Saturday started with Tiffany Johnson’s “UnSuck Your Power Point” session.
I spent my time in that session actually implementing some of her suggestions into my slides, enlarging fonts, splitting wordy slides into multiple slides, and changing background colors to enhance contrast. I use Powerpoint sparingly in my normal classes, but data-heavy presentations like my topic this year really do benefit from the supporting visuals.
Next up was Lee Weems’ talk on Police-Citizen Contacts. Lee is a law enforcement trainer, skilled shooter and a college instructor. A good portion of this talk was on searches, from both the law enforcement and armed citizen perspective. My favorite example: “If you have a warrant to search a house for a 60″ TV, you can’t look in all the drawers, because the TV obviously isn’t in there. But if you are looking for the 60” TV and the remote…that’s good search warrant writing”.
The first talk of the afternoon was from Manny Kapelsohn: Yale & Harvard educated lawyer, police officer, firearms instructor, expert witness, and long time board member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors. The topic of his talk was “Lessons Learned from Use of Force Cases”. He presented many examples from cases he had worked, along with general use of force concepts. I had not had the opportunity to train with Manny before. Hopefully he will return to TacCon in 2018 and continue sharing from his very deep pool of experience and knowledge.
The final talk I attended on Saturday was Andrew Branca’s “Law of Self Defense”. His talk connected well with Manny’s, as both discussed scenarios, use of force issues and legal concerns. Andrew’s talk was drawn from material in his courses and from his book.
Andrew and I have set a tentative date for him to visit KR Training in August 2018 to offer 1 or more of his courses. I like to schedule indoor-friendly classes during January and August when outside weather is the harshest.
Saturday night was the annual instructor/presenter’s dinner. Many of us have been regular presenters at the Conference for more than a decade. In previous years the dinner concludes with a round table discussion of a topic, with each person given a few minutes to comment on it, which provides an excellent way to survey the group and get a variety of perspectives. We didn’t do that this year. Hoping that tradition returns in 2018.
Gave my talk again at 8 am Sunday morning to a larger audience than my Friday talk. The Sunday folks got the improved slides. Up after me, in that same classroom area, was Kevin Davis, a law enforcement trainer with over 30 years’ experience, who was also an author and contributor to Officer.com and Police one.com.
His talk, titled “Training for the Fight”, focused on the steps involved in going from “no training” to “well prepared”. It fit well with the material I presented on identifying training courses based on realistic risk reduction. As with all the other talks I attended, it was well delivered and full of excellent content.
I shot the 30 round pistol match at the end of my lunch break. The level of shooting required to win the match has gone up steadily, year after year, to the point that it now takes IPSC Grand Master level skill, but with a carry gun drawn from concealment, to win it. The early days of the match included complex surprise scenarios shot in low light, using 3D targets, which took advantage of the event being hosted at Tom Givens’ indoor range, where the stages could be set up in advance, with plenty of locally based support to run and score, and the indoor range provided both a low light and surprise environment. As the event as moved to other venues, the difficulty of running that type of match has increased. This year’s match did not include any low light/surprise scenarios, and was a multi string, 30 round set of standards at 5, 7 and 15 yards shot on a target with smaller “A zone” than the typical USPSA or IDPA target, using time penalties for shots outside the center ring.
As I told someone after I got done shooting the match, I didn’t feel like I was fast but I didn’t feel like I was slow, either. Two shots at 15 yards strayed into the +1 second zone, adding 2 seconds to my total time, and in a match as tightly competitive at the top as this one was, that was enough to keep me out of the top 5. Some years I get motivated and train hard specifically for the match. My talk took longer to put together than I expected, and that cut deeply into my pre-conference practice time.
The final talk I attended on Sunday was a double-length block from Marty Hayes and Massad Ayoob on “The Firearms Instructor as Expert Witness”. Manny attended and shared his experience as an expert witness at many points during the talk. This talk was particularly interesting to me as I had been contacted last year about being an expert witness in a Texas case. They presented examples of what an expert witness does, explained what level of questioning an expert witness might face in court, discussed billing and typical rates, certification, and other topics. This was a unique topic that I can’t recall ever being presented at previous conferences.
Marty and Mas now co-teach a Deadly Force Instructor certification course. I am working with them to get a session of that course scheduled for early 2018 at KR Training.
There were a lot of hands-on sessions that I skipped: force on force and building search skills in the shoot houses, many different pistol courses, unarmed skills, medical skills. Many of the trainers giving those classes were people I’ve trained with before, or had hosted within the last year, so I focused my time on presenters I hadn’t trained with before, new topics and topics of specific interest to me.
The 20th anniversary of the Conference is coming up next year. It remains the best training value available to anyone in the country, offering access to dozens of trainers, and the opportunity to train with 10-12 of them over a 3 day event. It typically sells out within a few months of registration opening, so anyone interested in attending the 2018 event should keep that in mind. I’ll be sharing registration information with my students via the KR Training e-newsletter as soon as it becomes available.