Since the early 2000’s I have been attending and teaching at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conferences. They were originally held at “the mothership” (Tom’s indoor range in Memphis), later moving to the Memphis Police Academy and other outdoor ranges in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas before finding a new home at the Dallas Pistol Club.
This year 5 of us from the KR Training team taught or worked the event: Karl and John Daub taught sessions, Tracy Thronburg and Dave Reichek worked as range staff, and Dave and Ed Vinyard were roleplayers in Craig Douglas’ force on force sessions.
As of April 14, 2022, registration for the 2023 Rangemaster Tactical Conference has been open for a few days, and the event is already 80% sold out. It will be March 24-26, 2023 at the Dallas Pistol Club. You can register here if it hasn’t sold out already.
I taught one of the first sessions of the conference, starting at 8 a.m. on the first day. My “Becoming a Better Drawstroke Coach” session was mainly for instructors, discussing all the different problems I’ve observed in 30 years of teaching the skill of drawing to a wide variety of students.
I started with gear: does the holster attach to the belt properly (belt thickness, belt width, belt loop width)?, and is it riding at an acceptable height and angle? The importance of getting a good firing grip on the pistol while it’s still in the holster was discussed at length. I see a lot of appendix-carry holsters set to ride too low, preventing the users from getting all their fingers on the gun without doing some sort of pinching/palming movement to partially raise it. In addition to being slow and awkward, it can lead to the trigger guard being exposed as the fingers are curling around the grip, which could result in negligent discharge and serious injury. I also see strong side holsters designed for behind the hip use (angled forward) worn too far forward of the hip, causing the users to curl their wrists to grip the pistol and “bowl” the gun out of the holster rather than lifting straight up.
We continued to work through the steps of the draw, ending with what I call “hand chasing”. This occurs when the support hand doesn’t join the firing hand until the gun is at full extension. This usually begins with the support hand not moving at the same time as the firing hand, with the hands failing to join close to the body. This occurs most often to people that do not use the support hand to clear their cover garment.
The morning was cold so I had on multiple layers, which were shed as the day went on.
After finishing up my session I listened to training legend John Farnam discuss his thoughts on instructor development. His talk focused on the language trainers use during classes: “Us” vs “you”, “we” vs. “I”, and perhaps most importantly, “when” vs. “if”. John is a great trainer with more years experience as an instructor than anyone else still teaching. John Daub and Ed Vinyard took his instructor certification course recently, and I trained with John a few years ago.
My next session on Friday was the excellent “Concealment Tune Up” presented by Jon and Sarah Hauptman of PHLster.
After developing the innovative Enigma chassis, which allows carry without a belt or pants with belt loops, they turned their attention to the broader topic of concealment. The notes and slides from their talk can be found here, and I recommend them to everyone reading this post. Whether you carry strong side or appendix position, the principles and concepts in their talk are applicable. Talking with Jon after his session about the uses of wings and claws to assist the holster in following the body’s contours better, he suggested that I try adding some washers to my belt clip on my strong side holster, to turn the grip of the gun farther inward, closer to my body. When I got home from TacCon I implemented that change, which helped reduce how much the grip of the gun poked out.
I finished up Friday by teaching a two hour “Low Round Count Training” session, structured around our Three Seconds Or Less test. I showed students how to build a 100 round practice session from a 20 round test, using dry fire, live/empty drills, dummy rounds, and other variations on each string of the test, to work on specific skills firing less than 10 rounds per topic.
After an early Friday that ran late (the KR Training crew went to a Brazilian steakhouse and filled up protein.), I started Saturday by skipping the 8 am sessions in favor of being well rested before I shot the pistol match Saturday at 10.
The pistol match at TacCon has become very competitive, with a few points or fractions of seconds separating each place in the overall standings. Over the past 20 years the level of shooting required to win the TacCon match has advanced, with Grand Master level scores required to get into the top 10.
This year’s match was no different. As with previous years, there was a timed fire standards course with turning targets. 49 of the 175 shooters shot perfect scores on the standards. The tie breaker was a 5 yard, 4″ circle comstock drill. Draw and shoot 5 shots. Points divided by time.
I debated this year whether to shoot the match from appendix carry or strong side, knowing that at some point draw time would be a factor. My draw time from appendix carry is faster and less likely to be fouled from garment clearing, but despite everyone in the world insisting that AIWB is “perfectly comfortable”, my experience, after buying 5 different holsters and an Enigma, and spending dozens of hours experimenting with wedges and claws and foam pads, that AIWB remains uncomfortable if I’m sitting down for more than few hours. So I opted to shoot the match from strong side carry, using a lightweight open front cover garment. As I explained to students in the draw stroke coaching class, using one hand to clear a lightweight open front cover garment is fast when it works, and a mess when it doesn’t and you end up with a handful of shirt when you grab the gun.
So I knew better.
On the one string tiebreaker test, when drawtime mattered most, I pushed my draw and flubbed it, losing a full second, was aware of that and fired my first shot outside the 4″ circle, then hit the brakes to make sure the other 4 were inside…ending up 38th/49 out of the group that cleaned the standards.
On the plus side, my score was 95.8% of the 1st place score. But it took a score of 97.3% of the 1st place score to make the top 16 shootoff. KR Training instructor Dave Reichek made the cut for the shootoff.
After lunch, I attended a Progressive Folding Knife session taught by Chris Fry of Shivworks. It was an excellent review of material I had learned from John Holschen from InSights, Allen Elishewitz, and Craig Douglas in their knife and close quarter classes. Because I had to teach another drawstroke class for the final session of the day, I didn’t get to stay for the whole knife session.
I got one of these cool “Slowpoke Rodriguez” patches from Tony from JM Custom Kydex, who attended my Saturday session. After the sessions ended, I attended the annual trainer’s dinner.
If you are unfamiliar with this classic Warner Bros. cartoon character, here’s a short clip.
I started Sunday by attending Darryl Bolke’s excellent “Police Guns of the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush” presentation. He dug deep into the history of all of the shooters, and guns they were known to have carried, and the history of how some of the guns others claimed were used in the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush may not have been.
After Darryl’s talk I went to Erick Gelhaus’ talk about ready positions and “mistake of fact” shootings.
He reviewed many recent studies about the use of different ready positions affecting shooter ability to make correct use of force decisions. The high ready (gun near face, muzzle pointed up) is perhaps 0.1 sec faster to get gun to target than lower ready positions, but in well designed experiments, shooters using the high ready position made 30% more errors in shooting decisions. On the street this translates to “they shot people that should not have been shot”. Erick made the argument that lower ready positions sacrifice very little speed to provide significant reduction in unjustified use of force.
Sunday after lunch I taught one more session of my Low Round Count Training block, before slipping out early, to get downtown to attend a concert from Little Feat, one of my favorite bands whose tour schedule put them in Dallas that night.
The NRA’s Kevin Creighton and Tamara Keel were at Tac Con taking pictures and gathering content for articles. One of Kevin’s TacCon articles, about the Managing Unknown Contacts training provided by several different Shivworks trainers during the conference, is here. It features a nice pic of KR Training assistant instructor Wiley Swift about to pepper spray someone.
TAC CON 2023
The Rangemaster Tactical Conference is a great opportunity to train with dozens of different instructors teaching topics spanning the full spectrum of self defense concepts. Trainers that were there, that I didn’t train with this year included Tom Givens, Massad Ayoob, Wayne Dobbs, Gabe White, Scott Jedlinski, Tim Herron, Ed Monk, Craig Douglas, Eve Kulcsar, Chuck Haggard, Jeff Gonzales, Tatiana Whitlock, Tim Chandler, Ashton Ray, Andrew Branca, Tiffany Johnson, Greg Ellifritz, Cecil Burch, Tim Kelly, John Murphy, Hany Mahmoud, John Hearne, Sherman House, Tim Reedy, John Holschen, Lee Weems, Larry Lindeman, Steve Moses and Scott Oates.
I’m already looking forward to 2023, as this is always a great time to reconnect with many of my favorite trainers and longtime friends.