\From March 16-18, 2018, several of us from the KR Training team (myself, Dave Reichek, and Tracy Becker) attended the 20th annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference, held at the Direct Action Resource Center near Little Rock, Arkansas. This is part 5 of a series of posts about sessions I attended and taught, the match and products I evaluated as part of the conference.
Today’s post is about the 2018 match and the evolution of the match format.
The Conference began as the IDPA Winter Nationals, held at Tom Givens’ Rangemaster indoor range in Memphis. The match consisted of standard IDPA stages. When the event evolved into the Tactical Conference, the live fire match changed to an all-low-light, all-surprise-stage, multi-stage event. Competitors received very little/no information about the stages, and were instructed not to discuss the stages with others after shooting them. The stages used reactive 3D targets designed by John Hearne. I purchased 4 of them to use at my own range. They use the plastic 3D Tac-Man shells, attached to a pepper-popper type steel target that must be hit in the 6″ chest plate or small head plate to fall.
Stage scoring was simple. Total time to knock down all the shoot targets, with penalties for hitting no-shoots and a few other IDPA-ish tactics rules about use of cover. No limit on magazine capacity. No reload restrictions. Simply “solve the problem using your actual carry gear”.
In 2005 the conference was featured on an episode of Shooting Gallery. A sample of what the stages were like that year are in this video.
When the Conference moved to the Memphis police academy, the match began to evolve, combining a standards stage (simpler to run for more shooters in less time), with a decreasing number of surprise scenarios. In 2010, when the match was held at the US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, the match included a run in their shoot house.
The importance of the live fire match began to decrease, as the number of presenters and sessions increased. When the conference became a traveling event, logistics of the host facilities became a factor, as did the increasing number of participants. This resulted in a transition away from scenarios to a pure standards/qualification course of fire approach using a challenging course of fire intended to be very difficult to shoot a perfect score for a Master or Grand Master level shooter.
The 2018 match was shot using turning targets, and the first event was a variation of the FBI qualification course used in many courses taught by Rangemaster certified instructors.
You can see a simulation of the match course of fire by visiting dryrange.com and selecting Tac-Con 2018 as the course of fire.
186 shooters completed the defensive pistol match this year (many attendees opt not to shoot the match). This total included 160 males and 26 women.
38 of them shot a perfect 200 on the first stage, and progressed to the shoot off, which used the Five Yard Roundup drill I described in a previous blog post. All those in the top 16 were IDPA Master or higher level shooters. Under the stress of competition, only one shooter (Massad Ayoob) fired a perfect 100, and many shot less than 90 points. Scoring 90 points or better on this drill, with the small 10 ring on the NRA B-8, can be challenging even for the very skilled shooter.
(photo Tamara Keel)
from Tom Givens: The man vs man shoot-off pitted two contenders against each other on a mirror image problem based on the old Middle Race shoot. Each contestant had two mannequin type reactive targets, one at about 8 yards and one at 10 yards, plus a Split Popper at 9 yards. Shooters began while holding an empty cartridge box in both hands, chest high, to simulate a cell phone. On signal, the shooter must drop the cell phone, draw, knock down the closer mannequin, knock down the farther mannequin, then knock down his side of the Split Popper, all before his opponent could finish on his side. Two out of three falls wins the bout, and advanced the winner to the next level. This continued until the only two undefeated shooters met for the championship, when their bout was for best three out of five.
After that final stage was completed, Gabe White was the match winner, with Spencer Keepers 2nd and KR Training student KA Clark 3rd. Here’s video of their shootoff runs. Here’s more video of the shootoff that shows the 3D targets. For the ladies, Melody Lauer won this shoot-off, with Lynn Givens in second place, and Sarah Ryan took third.
The match staff tracked competitor equipment this year and found the following trends:
.38- 1.2% (2 revolvers)
.357 SIG- 1 example
Other 1.9% (Beretta, SIG, HK, Kanik, CZ)
Optic on pistol- 9.6% (Top 3 in both Open and Ladies Championship standings had no optic)
The top 3 male competitors all carried in the appendix position.
The One Point Down Club
I don’t practice as much as I used to, because 99% of the time I’m on the range I’m teaching, preparing to teach, or cleaning up from a class. It’s the irony and the joy of owning my own range. But I always use the TacCon match as motivation to tune myself up and evaluate gear. This year was no different. When I was on Mike Seeklander’s American Warrior Society podcast discussing red dot sights, I stated that I had planned to shoot the match using a slide mounted red dot.
When I started doing practice sessions using the previous year’s match course of fire, however, I found that I was consistently shooting better scores with iron sights using an OWB holster, so that’s what I used on match day. The performance losses were occurring at 3 and 5 yards, with one hand presentations and occasional failures to find the dot quickly. I went back to my notes from the 2017 match and focused on improving my “IDPA gamer” slide lock reload technique. Instead of using my dominant hand thumb to work the slide lock lever to release the slide, I experimented with using both thumbs, in a technique Massad Ayoob taught in MAG-40, and with simply using my non-dominant hand thumb, pulling down. That practice time paid off, as I not only figured out a technique that was reliable for me 100% of the time, but improved my understanding of variations on that technique I can teach others.
The other area I worked on that needed improvement was clearing an open front cover garment. When really pushing for speed I found myself sometimes getting the cover garment tangled up and fouling the draw. Again through lots of repetition, with attention paid to what worked and what did not, I cleaned up that movement so that multiple different cover garments that I wear on a regular basis were all clearing cleanly and consistently.
Most previous years were scored in Time Only format, with speed being a factor in the match score and time added for shots outside the center zone. This year’s match was shot on points using par times – par times that were slow enough that 38 people shot perfect scores.
I had a perfect score going until the final string at 15 yards, where I pushed my first shot up and right, maybe 1/2″ into the -1 zone, shooting a 199/200. There were a lot of us in the One Point Down club this year. The level of shooting required to finish in the top 10, or top 16 (this year), continues to increase, as does the number of attendees (most of whom are trainers) shooting at a very high level.
Tom Givens, on the full match results:
We’re not going to post the full results, but let me explain why.
First, for the men, this was a three-tiered match, which can get pretty confusing. The paper match was a series of standard skill drills, fired on turning targets, which increases the stress a bit. We had 186 shooters complete the match, and we needed to narrow the field. The average score was 188.86 out of 200 points possible. Of 160 males, 38 shot a perfect 200 out of 200 score on this paper match. Those 38 then shot a preliminary elimination round on a scored drill, again on the turning targets. The Top 16 shooters from this elimination went on to a man vs man shoot-off.
As you can see, especially for the men, the full results would be confusing, at best. Among the 38 men who shot 200 on the paper standards, for instance, that does NOT mean a 38 way tie for first place. Some of those men did not survive the preliminary cut and some who did were eliminated on the first round in the man vs man event. So, this year the only scores that really mattered were the top 3 in the men’s shoot-off and the top 3 in the ladies’ shoot-off. Congratulations to these six intrepid contestants who clawed their way to the top of a contest full of talented and dedicated shooters.
Raising the bar for handgun skills performance is one of the main legacies of the Rangemaster Conference – one that I expect to continue as the 21st annual conference happens in 2019, at a new facility near New Orleans.