December 5, 2018
It’s been a rough time for many of us in the community. We’ve lost some of the real greats, a number of them trainers, most recently Pat Rogers of EAG Tactical. I received an email making reference to Pat’s passing and the correspondent asked who I’d recommend for training.
It would probably be easier to list who I wouldn’t recommend, but it’s as good a time as any to make a list of some of the certified good guys. Doing so, I run the risk of missing some, but it’s a chance I’ll take. I mean no slight to those not on my list. Failure to be on this list is more likely my unintentional oversight than it is a failing of a particular instructor.
In the law enforcement days, I attended training conferences and got classes from the great Jim Cirillo (RIP) as well as Mas Ayoob – one of those at the excellent Firearms Academy of Seattle -- Mike Boyle and Dave Spaulding.
Nothing stays the same and none of us are permanent. I know trainers in the field making noises that it’s about time they close up shop. They’ve been at it a long time. The message is, it’s not the time to sit on your duffel bag and cry about missing out on training with one of the greats – you have the time right now to get scheduled up.
Some of these folks put on a traveling show. Others have a fixed base. You won’t be near all of them, but it’s probably appropriate that you set aside some time and make the effort. The worst class I ever had from the worst national class instructor I ever met was great, as the joke goes, and seriously brimming with learning opportunities. I was greedy and took from all of them.
I’ll start this list with people I know, people I’ve worked with in the past. If your taste is more to competition shooting, that would be another list just for that group. This is more for the defensive shooting trainee.
Home to our own Tiger McKee, he can take you from the basics of gunhandling and shooting all the way to team tactics. If you’re not reading his regular column in Thursday editions of TheTactical Wire, subscriptions are free, shame on you. You have a lot of catching up to do. Tiger’s one of those who believe that the largest part of winning the fight is the activity between the participant’s ears – making it essential that gunhandling is reflexive.
Dave Spaulding’s Handgun Combatives courses concentrate on the handgun. Dave Spaulding has a long history of written work in magazines and books and was awarded the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year award at the “The International Law Enforcement Education and Training Association” (ILEETA). A retired deputy sheriff, Dave was a founding member of his Agency’s SWAT Team and he spent 12 years as its training officer. He’s been a contributor to our wire services. I took a training segment from him when he was affiliated with the HK International Training Division and I recommend him without reservation.
I’ve known Chuck Haggard for many years. He has a broad area of expertise spanning from unarmed control and defense tactics through chemical agents, baton usage and firearms including handguns, shotguns and carbines. He’s been a user of the AR15/M16 weapon system for many years and he’s a certified armorer on a number of firearms. He’s a thirty-year veteran of law enforcement and military service. Chuck offers basic marksmanship, workplace violence seminars, courses in the proper use of oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray) and other courses. He’s a National Trainer (instructor-trainer) in Lindell courses including Handgun-Long Gun Retention and Disarming, Control & Defensive Tactics, OC Counter-Assault, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint and others. He’s my friend, a contributor to the Outdoor Wire Digital Network and a great trainer.
With a few others, I attended a media event in Texas at Combat Shooting and Tactics. I met MSG Paul Howe (Ret’d), the owner and lead instructor. While I only got to spend a short time with MSG Howe, I came away with a great deal of information and with admiration for this Senior NCO and Special Forces veteran. I fear I strained his patience some as well. He provides a range of classes from law enforcement only (tac rifle/pistol, hostage rescue, shoothouse instructor) to nonsworn citizen (Citizen Response to Active Shooter, Home Defense, Urban Defense and hunting courses). He’s truly a national-class instructor and instructor trainer. Highly recommended.
Tom Givens is one of the mostly highly trained and respected firearms instructors in the United States. He had a fixed location in Memphis and his graduates have faced lethal combat – he’s one of the few instructors to have a data base of gunfight results from his students and used it to refine the training program. That data base likewise showed what he was doing right – any of his students who were armed when the fight started prevailed. The Rangemaster location in Memphis was closed and Tom has taken the show on the road. While I’ve not trained with him, people I know and trust – some of whom are on this list – highly recommend him. I’ve read his book. Take a class from him, do what he says.
I met Darryl Bolke during that trip to CSAT. His partner, Wayne Dobbs, is well-known and respected in the industry. They’re both outstanding shots and very experienced. They teach classes for law enforcement, military and private citizens, with an emphasis on surgical shooting under time constraints and safety. Darryl Bolke retired from a Southern California police department and Wayne is retired from the Richardson, TX Police Department, where he spent an extremely active 25 year career. They are in the Dallas area and have worked with friends of mine – some of whom are likewise on this list.
I’ve not met Karl Rehn, but his KR Training operation offers high quality, affordable firearms and self-defense courses in Central Texas. He and his staff teach courses for all levels: beginners, average gun owners, CHL students, serious shooters, instructors and uniformed professionals. Karl has trained with Tom Givens, Jim Higginbotham, Mas Ayoob and is a certified good guy.
Add to this list, a pair of standards, Massad Ayoob and John Farnam.
Massad Ayoob has been a personal friend of mine going back 22 years – though I’d been reading his material back another 10 or so years before that. Consider Jeff Cooper’s take on concerns about the legal difficulties after a use of force transaction: “Staying alive is Problem A. Problem B is explaining it to the (person) in the black robes.” Both problems are serious, life-altering events, but you have to pass the first test to face the second. Mas Ayoob teaches both sides of that equation and arguably does the best “aftermath” training in the psychophysiological and legal aspects of deadly force encounters. Not taking an Ayoob class is unthinkable. Under his former company, I took his Stressfire class and his Deadly Force Instructor class. Simply outstanding. Can’t take the time for the full class or just don’t want to shoot? Take his MAG-20 “Armed Citizen’s Rules of Engagement” class room session. Once you’ve done that, I feel certain you’ll want to take one of the shooting courses as well.
John Farnam is one of the real pros as well as being a true gentleman. Schooled, skilled, knowledgeable and articulate, you’ll learn more than ‘running and gunning.’ He has the air of the classically schooled intellectual with the practical skills of a military veteran. Not willing to stand on “the way we always did it,” he examines the “new” methods. He doubtlessly finds that most of the “new” stuff has been there all along, but he’s always willing to learn. He provides training in the shotgun, carbine and handgun along with a particularly interesting “Tactical Treatment of Gunshot Wounds” class.
This is list is not all inclusive. There are other great trainers out there – Ken Hackathorn, Larry Vickers, Mike Pannone and others come to mind. Just because someone’s not on this list doesn’t mean they’re not good. I have space limitations and this was done “off the top of my head.”
The message is “don’t wait.” If you snooze, as Pat Rogers often said, you lose.
- - Rich Grassi