*This article is a guest post from my friend Jonathan Willis. Jonathan is a retired paramedic and fire lieutenant who teaches with Dave Spaulding for Handgun Combatives. Jonathan has extensive firearms training experience, but this was the first shotgun course he took.
I took the class as well and echo the author’s comments. The class was extremely well done. If you want to learn how to run your “gauge,” taking a class from Rangemaster would be a great place to start.
As many folks will do when heading into a new year, I set goals. Goals for my business, goals for my fitness, and goals for my shooting. My goals for shooting primarily revolved around disciplines I had not yet focused on, specifically precision rifle, and things I knew I wasn’t performing as well as I felt I should.
Every shooter puts together their training year as early as possible, and as is human nature, my season ended up heavy with things I was good at. Primarily carbine and pistol. This represents a lot of great opportunities for quality reinforcing work, but isn’t necessarily pushing myself. We push ourselves by doing things we haven’t done, making ourselves vulnerable by voluntarily engaging in something in which we may not excel. God forbid.
A couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine informed me of an upcoming course he was taking. Or in his case, repeating. It was Tom Givens’ Defensive Shotgun Course. “Never done that before, I’m in!” was my reply. So in the next ten days, I had to scramble to acquire a shotgun, and required accoutrements needed for such a class. A tall order, but with a little help from friends I rounded up an elusive Beretta 1301 Tactical (Gen 2), sidesaddles by SOE, the required 150 rounds of birdshot, 50 rounds of 00 Buck. Clearly the firearms Gods wanted me to make this class.
I had, for a few years, intended on catching some training opportunities with Tom, founder and Chief Firearms Instructor of Rangemaster Firearms Training. His reputation preceded him as an “instructor of instructors” a “trainer of trainers.” This reputation is both accurate and deserved. Many in my network had spoken highly of their Tom’s courses, so I was excited to participate. This offering would be formatted to one day that was tagged onto the back of the two- day Rangemaster Advanced Instructor Course.
Up In The Classroom
Like most classes, we started the morning off in the classroom for some PowerPoint. Unlike many classes, it wasn’t the typical “death by PowerPoint” type situation in which eyes glaze over and a half-conscious dude beside you is drooling. The classroom content was very interesting. Topics covered included: Safety, Shotgun nomenclature, History of the shotgun, Useful and useless modifications and Enhancements, and a deep dive into shotgun loads that I found particularly helpful. Something else that was particularly helpful, and often entertaining, was Tom’s sincere interest in dispelling so many myths of the shotgun. He has a reverence for the shotgun as an incredible defensive tool and clearly does not want to perpetuate nonsense. More on that when you take his class.
Out On The Range
Classroom completed, it was time to hit the range. Now that it’s time to get it on, what’s everyone shooting on the line? If recollection serves the breakdown was:
– 7 Remington 870s
– 1 Benelli M4
-1 Benelli M-1
– 1 Mossberg 930
-1 -Remington Versa Max
-11 Beretta 1301 Tacticals
I could be off, but that’s close. Although the average skill level of the guys present in this class was VERY high, the course content and range expectations would be favorable for any first timer interested in learning the tactical shotgun. I would say this class skill set was skewed upward due to so many advanced instructors being present from the previous couple days.
Tom does an excellent job of “stacking” skills atop one another. He puts the class through many empty gun reps of presentation and dry fire before ammo even comes to the range. This serves as a good refresher for the experienced and a way to build a foundation for the new shooters. By the time you go “hot” you’ll feel like you’ve been there before. No sweat.
The tempo will increase throughout the day. Much like running a snubby, which I love, so much of everything you do comes down to reloads and your ability to focus and get the weapon topped off. Tom must throw some Jedi mind stuff out because it was amazing how quickly every individual was able to switch from target engagement to various reload techniques without the slightest hesitation. I won’t pull back the curtain on any secrets, but you will go on the timer, you will compete against your peers, and you will love it!
As the day moved along, we started working with our buckshot. The vitally important aspect of patterning your chosen defensive load was referred to often. Ignorance of what your shotgun does with your chosen buckshot could have devastating consequences. It was very interesting to see the vast difference in performance between bulk nine- pellet Fiocchi and Federal eight- pellet Flight Control.
Where I’m At
Going into this class, I hadn’t given much thought to the employment of a tactical shotgun, and necessary skill set, in my “toolbox”. Through this course I now have an understanding of certain holes in my pre-planning and how they can be filled. The shotgun is an absolutely devastating tool for personal defense, and quite frankly, an extremely fun gun to operate.
Before taking the leap, I would encourage anyone to talk to an experienced shooter about weapon selection and set up. Getting this right from the beginning will positively impact your training experience, your operational capability, and your wallet by not having to replace a shotgun that sucks. I look forward to a lot more shotgun work in my training schedule and look forward to taking Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun Instructor class with Tom as soon as I can.