“Context, you’re going to hear that word a lot for the next few days, so pay attention people” was one of the many memorable quotes said by Mr. Tom Givens. He said that to use on day 1 of the Rangemaster – Instructor Development Course and applied it throughout all 3 days.
My name is Levi Nathan and I am an Assistant Instructor at KR Training, the owner of Rainbow Tactics and one of the most recent graduates of the three day Instructor Development Course as created and taught by Mr. Givens. Class ran from April 23rd-25th 2021 at the A-Zone Range, KR Training Lincoln TX.
Day 1, Academic Lecture
Weather was grey skies, gloomy and quickly turned into a torrential downpour with 3 inches of standing rain (this becomes relevant later on) we entered the classroom at KR Training and got seated prior to 9 AM. Mr. Givens started handing out spiral bound books to everyone. The book in question is 237 pages long, bears the Rangemaster seal on the front and was updated in December of 2020. Mr. Givens introduced himself and gave us a glimpse into his professional background, with a career spanning 5 decades. After that, he introduced us to his Assistant Instructor, Dr. Troy who also had been teaching for some time and was also prior law enforcement. After that, Mr. Givens called each student to the front of the classroom, one by one, to state their name, city, any agency or school they are associated with, their current training background and then what they hoped to learn from this course.
Mr. Givens made a few things very crystal clear to us. His classes have an average 15% wash out rate, the written exam is very difficult, you must study every single night when you go home, no exceptions and no distractions.
After introductions, we went straight into academic lecture. We started going over the four rules of firearms safety, why there are only four, and safety considerations that must come into play in every single range session, private or a class.
- All guns are always loaded
- Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
- Always be certain of your target and what is beyond it and around it.
He explained those in depth, the context behind them and gave a safety tip to instructors, which I have personally found to be true long before he said it, due to my background in EMS. “Never, ever say to yourself, no one could be so stupid as to do that, someone will take that as personal challenge!”
Earlier I mentioned class started at 9 am SHARP and he was very serious about that, punctuality is everything. What he normally does is teach from 9:00AM to 2:30PM and then we do some range work, but because we had a torrential downpour that was not possible. It was actually a perfect example of how instructors must be able to adapt and change things on the fly, so we continued with academic work for the remainder of the day. He made sure that everyone was under no illusions. When you go home, don’t go out to dinner with friends, don’t watch a movie with your spouse or any of that. Study, study and keep studying every night. Lots of material in the book to review.
Day 2, Range Training
Weather was sunny, blue skies and cool. We spent nearly 8 hours on the range making up for lost time and fired approximately 500 rounds. We shot drills from the Parrot Drill, the Rangemaster Bullseye Course, the Casino Drill and many others, all which different areas of focus. The purpose was to teach us how to properly warm up students in Basic level courses, test our own skills and learn coaching techniques. It was difficult because we would shoot, hurry back to the tables to reload magazines, stuff loose cartridges in pockets and then hurry back. This was not a leisurely pace, it was GO! GO! GO! Nearly all the time. To add to the difficulty, he would then point at a target with an unacceptable hit (commonly referred to as a miss) and then demand an answer as to why. So we’d be standing there with racing hearts, having just fired 50 rounds, still loading magazines and going back to the academic side of coaching. Was it from squeezing the trigger? Milking the grip? Eye sprinting? But it was enjoyable to do that. Another phrase he would throw out to make certain we were not getting to wrapped up in a single unacceptable hit or over thinking what the answer could be was “c’mon dumbass, this ain’t rocket surgery!”
When we were seated in the classroom during the last hour, he could tell that some people, myself very much included, were stressed over shooting well on Day 3, which is Qualification Day. He was very kind but firm and told us that every shooter in class had made excellent progress and that tomorrow would be the best we had ever shot and explained the why. The why in this case is that, at the time he said that (roughly 5:45PM) he said the blood in our brains was in the front, we were learning new skills, applying them and processing new information. By midnight, the blood would be in the middle of the brain “while the data processes and starts saving to your hard drive” and by 5AM, it would be in the back, saved and ready for immediate use.
Day 3: Qualification Day
I just want to provide some quick context, I had been training and sharpening my skills for nearly a year before class day and for the last 3 months, the focus was all about getting good hits on a B8 target at 25 yards, which is something I was struggling with. We went into class and Mr. Givens called for all of group 1, which I was a part of, to come outside, load magazines and get on the firing line.
We shot the 2019 FBI Pistol Qualification course first, cold. I remembered was Tracy from KR Training (a Master Instructor graduate of Rangemaster) told me. “Play a movie in your head. Perfect draw, perfect sight picture, perfect trigger press. Bang bang bang”
And then the whistle blew. I came out of the holster faster than either of the gentlemen next to me and got those perfect hits. We kept shooting and then at the end, the dreaded 25 yard line! And I got 6 out of the 8 shots at 25 yards into the desired scoring zone. I scored a 98 out of a possible 100. When Mr. Givens gave the command to walk to our targets, my hands started to shake a little. I made it! We then shot the exact same FBI qualification again. This time, 100/100. We loaded magazines and too the Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Qualification Course, 2019 version. And for more context, Mr. Givens jokingly referred to passing the FBI Qualification course (at an 80% skill level) as a sobriety test. That was not the case for the Rangemaster test! For which I scored a 237 and 241 out of a possible 250.
He sent group 1 inside to study and took group 2 outside. It was a team effort inside the classroom as well. One gentleman from a local police department immediately went up to the had of the classroom and started quizzing us and discussing the points of self defense law, for which we would later be tested on. We broke of into little groups. I was with my partner known as Q and we kept going over everything we could. Mr. Givens called group 1 outside after about an hour and we shot one more course of fire, non-graded.
It was part of our academic work for later. We took a very quick 30 minute lunch and then spent the next 4 hours going over more lecture. How to lecture, how to design a good presentation, how to hold yourself, how to coach and develop people and many more topics, concluding with Self Defense law.
And then came the dreaded written test! I won’t put to many details here but it is worth noting, only roughly half the test was multiple choice and the rest was fill in the blanks, with an S at the end. I took almost the entire allotted hour and turned in my test and left the classroom as ordered.
Assistant Instructor Troy came and got all of us. Mr. Givens stood up and appeared to be pleased as he said that every student in class had passed. I personally scored a 97.5% on my test and was one point away from being an honorable mention (barely missed 3rd place!)
The entire room erupted in applause and stayed that way when each graduate was called forth to get their certificate and a picture, if they asked for one. It was an amazing, difficult and eye opening 3 days and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who either is an instructor already, or looking to become one. You will learn so much, make some new friends and push the boundaries of your skills with a handgun.
Below are some highly recommended pre-requisites for the Rangemaster – Instructor Development Course:
- Make sure you can shoot the 2019 FBI Qualification at 90% or better, before coming to class.
- Make sure that your draw is smooth, fast and safe.
- Study self defense law, including terminology, from both your local state and other resources like Massad Ayoob (MAG, Second Amendment Foundation) and Andrew Branca (Law of Self Defense)
- Possess at least one NRA Instructor certification. It’s not nearly as good as a Rangemaster certification, but it will make some of the basics a lot easier to learn and understand if you already have a good foundation.
In summary, this class is really hard, worth every dollar, every cartridge, you should prepare prior to taking the course and take it if you have a real interest or passion in teaching others self defense.
“Mastery is a journey, not a destination” – Tom Givens, Rangemaster
About half of the students in the course were KR Training assistant instructors, affiliate instructors, or people soon to be joining our assistant instructor team. Many more were former KR Training students, including several instructors from other schools. We will be hosting the next course in Tom’s instructor development program, the Advanced Instructor Course, June 4-5, 2022.