I took this course recently and thought some might find this review of interest.
Tom Givens was a LEO for 25 years, then ran a range plus training in Memphis for 18, and now does training only at ranges around the country.
For those just wanting the bottom line, it is a very well thought out and exceptionally well run course, which I definitely recommend for those interested in teaching entry to mid-level civilian handgun skills, even just to family and friends, or to improve one’s own skills. This course definitely requires significant prior experience and some prior formal training. This class has a couple of critical differences from other classes run by retired LEO’s or military trainers.
Mr. Givens has analyzed civilian, mostly CHL, engagements and tailored the lessons and drills to the findings of those engagements. The most important difference is that most civilian engagements, 92%, occur at 3 - 7 yards and last 3 - 4 seconds. So, the majority of skills and drills focus on those distances and times.
There was some shooting at 10, 15, and 25 yards over the three days, but the vast majority was at 3, 5, and 7 yards. 99% of shooting was drawing from concealed carry as the point was to learn to teach concealed carry to adults.
His handgun instructor course caught my eye because of an emphasis on adult learning theory in addition to the usual skills drills.
All drills were for score and against the clock. He made a point repeatedly that shaving 0.100 second was not the goal, but learning to measure and test progress as well as inducing mental stress in the drills to challenge the student. We were either shooting, coaching, loading, or studying the 200 page manual with minimal down time.
Day 1 - a half day of classroom, introductions, adult learning theory, and explanation of the difference in engagement patterns for CHL’s vs LEO’s vs military and how and why his drills are focused as they are. The afternoon of day 1 was initial assessments and then shooting FBI drills on the clock to record baseline performance. Round count 250.
Day 2 - on the range almost all day. Learning how to build one skill on another, how to coach, and building speed and accuracy. Again, everything is shot from concealed carry setups, not IPSC match rigs. A SWAT officer shot with his duty belt and set-up. A few used IDPA type shooting vests and OWB holsters, which kind of cheated themselves of the full value of the practice of drawing from a concealed carry setup. Round count about 700.
Day 3 - Shoot the FBI qualification to their instructor standard, 90% needed to pass. 3 of 18 failed to pass with two attempts. FBI agents need 80% to pass, and the students cleared the agent standard, but not the FBI instructor standard of 90%.
Then shoot Tom’s course of fire, 90% needed to pass. 1 more fails to pass this test with two attempts. There were a couple other shooting activities, which I won’t spoil the surprise. Round count 250.
The remaining subjects are covered in class.
100 question test, mostly fill in the blank, closed book. 90% to pass, 18 of 18 pass this segment.
One person dropped out after day 1. 4 of 18 failed the shooting tests = 26% failed to meet certification. They really went home without paper, no kidding. This certification meant something to me. I had to work hard, and I was challenged. I never heard anyone say the course was easy. A young SWAT officer was top of our class and definitely earned his recognition, but not even he had a perfect score on the shooting tests.
Seeing others over the three days, everyone was competent and proficient, but most were pushed hard and challenged. There really was almost constant mental challenge, shooting, coaching, or studying.
The range was very sandy and mags and pistols were experiencing mag related stoppages often - all brands. Anyone that thinks your pistol will never quit, feed it mags full of sand for 1,000+ rounds over three days.
Recommendations for those going. Practice shooting the FBI qual test before going. Take cleaning equipment and Gun Scrubber. Stay close to the venue. Time is a precious commodity and there is no down time. Evenings are spent overcoming a tired body, more tired mind, cleaning the pistol, studying or sleeping. I commuted with a 1 1/2 hour drive each way. This was a major mistake, which left me sleeping four hours a night after cleaning and studying. I passed, but my tail was dragging by the end. For context, I am on the back side of my 50’s, most all were late 20’s to early 40’s. Interestingly, one of the students who did not pass was in his early 20’s. He “knew” so much, he was not open to changes or new techniques. They made a minor change to my grip, which took some getting used to, but proved to be more solid after some practice. So be teachable and open to coaching.
Really wring out all equipment before going. My usual EDC pistol is a Les Baer full-size 1911. Day 1 he gently encouraged everyone to use “a modern pistol.” “Do we have any World War 1 re-enactors here today?” Got it. I paid for advice and instruction, so this was time to follow it, so changed to a M&P Compact 9 2.0. This bordered on a serious mistake. I had only shot it once months earlier and have it as a loaner. The mags were very hard to load from the beginning, and more so when the sand started creeping in. The slide was failing to lock back reliably, so I had plenty of practice with tap rack. A can of Gun Scrubber blasting out the inside and down the mag well had it running again. The mags were disassembled and thoroughly degreased and cleaned the night of day 2 and it ran better, so running near dry was better than with lube, at least in the coarse sand. The transition from a nice 1911 to the plastic pistol trigger was a significant challenge for me, but I felt I needed to be able to pass with this gun, so stuck with it. I also have a Glock 19, but the trigger reset spring broke during practice once, and I have never completely trusted its reliability since. My EDC Baer has 10,000 - 15,000 rounds and never broken or gone down. To me, reliability is the most important factor, so it is what I carry, and the accuracy is nice too.
Tom kept a smile on his face and a good nature despite multiple challenging moments. The assistant instructor, Lee Weems, is a excellent instructor in his own and deserves a big thumbs up.
So, back to the bottom line, this course is tailored to teaching entry to mid-level civilians who carry concealed for self-defense. It is physically and mentally demanding. Paper is not handed out just because the fee was paid and one showed up. There is a very heavy emphasis on mastering presentation, speed, accuracy, and staying in the fight. Of the courses I have been to including my LTC Instructor’s certification, this certificate is the one framed and displayed on my desk.
The course is not “fun,” and not intended to be entertainment. He is there to teach a life-saving skill. He does so in a positive, interesting, and reassuring way, but it is a very real challenge and education on how to fight and shoot, and how to teach it.
The real proof of the quality of his teaching methods is out of 43,000 students taught, 65 have won gunfights including with multiple attackers, 0 losses, 3 defaults-killed because they left their gun at home.
Professionally trained and certified pistol and license to carry instructor.