I recently completed the 64-hour Rangemaster Master Instructor program at the fabulous Royal Range in Nashville, Tennessee. The Master Instructor Certification is awarded when an instructor completes all three Rangemaster Firearms Instructor class certifications, passes a written test, and passes three difficult shooting qualification courses.
I took the Basic Instructor Course in 2019, the Advanced Instructor course in 2020, and just finished the master instructor course a couple weeks ago. I think that with these courses, Tom Givens has created the best civilian firearms instructor program in the country. Rangemaster instructors are generally a few steps ahead of most NRA or USCCA instructors I have seen.
I’m happy to say that I finished tied for second place in the class on the very demanding timed and scored shooting tests. There were some serious shooters in the class. I scored a 99.5% on one test and a 100% on the second and that wasn’t good enough to take the “Top Gun” award. My friend Rick Remington shot perfect 100% scores on both tests and took home that honor.
Without a doubt, the Rangemaster shooting and written tests are far harder than any of the dozens of police instructor certification courses I’ve completed. Unlike most police instructor classes, Tom actually fails students on a regular basis.
I was honestly a bit worried about passing the class. Long-haul Covid-19 symptoms have made it rough for me to go shooting. I now have rather serious muscle tremors in my hands and arms. I find it difficult to even hold the gun up to eye level on extended strings of fire. Before the course last weekend, I had shot exactly two times (about 100 rounds each) since Thanksgiving. That combination wasn’t going to make it easy for me to pass.
The first day shooting was a bit tough for me. I had real trouble keeping my hands from violently shaking and didn’t shoot all that well. But in days two and three, I was on. It’s like I finally remembered all the stuff I needed to do and was able to execute fairly flawlessly. For the first time in six months, I feel like I’m now shooting back at the level I was shooting before Covid.
The Master Instructor Course is rather unique in that it covers a lot of topics most firearms instructor classes never touch. Tom spends a great amount of time discussing the historical trends of firearms instruction over the last 100 years. Other than Karl Rehn’s “Historical Handgun” class, absolutely no one is currently teaching this material.
It’s priceless to understand where we cam from and why techniques have changed over the years. With some younger firearms trainers coming up knowing little about history beyond YouTube, it was nice to hear Tom lecture about the great firearms instructors in the history of our art. If you are looking for some of this information, check out my article Institutional Memory.
The class also covers revolver use. I hadn’t seen that material in an instructor class since I took my police revolver instructor course in 1999. It’s a subset of knowledge that is rapidly going extinct. Tom is doing his best to ensure that the techniques learned throughout history don’t rapidly disappear. Students still show up to classes with revolvers. We as responsible instructors need to be able to teach those students how to successfully use their wheel guns.
Besides the revolver material, the other unique aspect of the course was the “mirror image” shooting drills. Tom required us to bring a holster for our primary handgun to be carried on the support side. While I have done a lot of support hand shooting, I’ve done far fewer support hand draws and reloads. This class helped me out with that skill set immeasurably. As a right handed shooter, I was forced to learn best practices for operating a standard “right hand gun” with my left hand. That knowledge will help my future left-handed students quite a bit.
In addition to the phenomenal instruction, the class was also an extremely valuable networking opportunity. It’s always nice shooting guns with dedicated instructors who share similar mindsets.
I got a chance to hang out with old friends from Gunset Training Group. I had previously met some of the guys from Apache Solutions Training. It was nice spending more time with their crew and getting to know them better. I also met a lot of people that I’d only known online until the class. The connections you make at these courses are invaluable.
I also met Royal Range co-owner Art Cason in person for the first time. Art runs a fabulous operation at one of the nicest indoor ranges in the country. If I lived in Nashville, I would be spending a lot of time there.
Art graciously invited me to sign the trainer and celebrity wall of fame prominently displayed in the range’s retail area. I was honored to add my name to the list of amazing instructors, Hollywood celebrities, music icons, and politicians who have shot at Royal Range. I’ll be working with Art to host some of my classes at Royal Range in the future.
I would be remiss not to mention Tom’s amazing assistant instructors Aqil Qadir and Chris Norville from Citizens Safety Academy. Both men are top-notch instructors and quality human beings. I think Citizens Safety Academy is a hidden gem in the training industry. You can’t go wrong taking any of their classes. Look for a future interview with Aqil highlighting some of CSA’s training philosophy.
For you gun and gear nerds, I shot the class using my stock (except for sights) Glock 19 carry gun in a Keeper’s Concealment Cornerstone appendix IWB holster. I used Raven’s Lictor double magazine pouches and EDC Belt Company’s excellent Foundation gun belt.
During the revolver segment, I shot a four inch S&W Model 64 and a vintage Colt Cobra that I won in a lottery at the first class I ever took from Tom Givens. I used a Galco thumbreak strong side belt holster for the 64 and a DeSantis ankle holster for the old Colt.
I used South African Denel 124 grain FMJ 9mm ammo. In the .38s, I ran Magtech 130 grain full metal jacket. Over the three days, I shot 548 rounds out of my Glock and 164 rounds out of my revolvers. I had one malfunction. It was a failure to extract in my Glock. I’m blaming that one on a dirty gun. I hadn’t fully cleaned that Glock for about 6000 rounds. The chamber was getting pretty gunked up. I ran a bore snake down the barrel and had no more issues.
In closing, I’ll say that the Rangemaster Instructor classes are the pinnacle of teaching credentials for those of you focusing on the armed citizen market. The series of classes was better than any of the police instructor classes I took in my 25-year career.
Even though Tom and I have been friends for a long time, I paid full price for the class out of my own pocket. I drove 13 hours each way to get there. That should tell you something.