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Class Review- Fighting Pistol at Tactical Response

July 4, 2018

Style versus substance-

Some self-defense classes try to impress you with attitude. This two-day fighting pistol class at Tactical Response impressed me with its content. The instructors treated us as adults. That was true if you were a beginner or a police academy graduate, and we had both in our class. There are always compromises in a large group class. The focus was on quality rather than convenience. The course focused on self-defense with a handgun rather than on subjects that are easier to teach in the group setting. I recommend the course, and I don’t think the class can be refined much more in its present format.


There was a lecture session each day that covered the simple mechanics of the course.  It also introduced the legal and psychological aspects of defense with a lethal weapon. Most of the class was spent on the firing range. After all, we are learning and refining a physical skill that involves hands-on manipulation.  The range work was done efficiently and safely. They also ran a hot range. That means your gun was loaded and had a cartridge in the chamber at all times. That is another example of treating the students as responsible adults.

A motion to move is always in order-

Let me talk about the compromises that you have to make in this class setting. In class, you can’t run away from a threat. That would not be safe with 20 armed people on the firing line at one time. The instructors do require that you move. You can shout as you move. You can present your firearm as you move, but you must move..even if it is only a few steps as constrained by your fellow classmates on the firing line.

When you’re shopping for a self-defense class, ask how much movement they include. In the real world, the bad guys shoot back, and often shoot first. Plan and practice to get of the way.

You fight with your mind-

The course is as much about what you do with your head as what you do with your hands and feet. That means you have to think about conflict before it happens. You’re planning to avoid the fight. Once the fight is unavoidable, then you are planning to win. The person with the best plan wins. The class is not timed, so people who are unfamiliar with the material have time to consciously think it through step by step. I like that. It is better to practice the drills perfectly than to stumble through them. No one was criticized for being deliberate, nor did I see anyone wasting time on the firing line.

Getting down and dirty-

Instructors helped beginners master the basics, but they were teaching us to fight with a gun rather than to shoot bullseye targets. I’ve had classes that taught different stances and grips. Tactical Response did not. Those classic poses go out the window as you shoot on the move. You won’t have a classic stance as you crouch behind a car, kneel behind a bench, or lie down behind a concrete planter. I appreciate that focus, and I got to practice those positions on the range.

Look behind you-

We were told to fight one attacker and then scan the environment. Take that a step further. We were trained to turn all the way around and examine our surroundings. Is there another threat? Is there a safer location? Those practical skills will save your life. Please learn them, and learn them the right way.

When you’re shopping for a self-defense class, ask if you will turn all the way around with a loaded gun in your hands.

Up close and personal-

The classic range-drill is to draw and shoot at a target that is 3 to 7 yards away. Since many self-defense encounters start with a physical assault, some of these drills should start in contact with the target as you then shoot your way clear. That is exactly what we did. A few drills started with us leaning against the target and shooting from a compressed position.

We also had drills where the target was to your side or behind us. This is another real-world skill you probably won’t find in other classes, and probably won’t get to practice on your local range.

It is easier to manage a class when all the students start the drill facing the target, but that isn’t how the the real world works. Tactical Response did not compromise quality for convenience. They taught real-world skills their students might need.

Their motto could be “simple but effective”.

Where should we go from here-

This is a well thought out and professionally presented class. This was also the first class a beginner would take even if the student had never held a handgun before. Plan to be overwhelmed and not learn all the material the first time you see it. That isn’t the fault of the students, the course, or the instructors. It is simply a practical limitation of 16+ hours of material presented in two days. You come away with a course book, and you need it. You have to take notes and re-teach yourself over a longer period of time. That is the real shortcoming of any two-day class.

If we really wanted to learn armed self-defense, then we’d teach the material the same way we teach piano, singing, dance, or judo. We’d go once a week for a 45 minute lesson. We wouldn’t go on until we’d mastered the basics. I’d sign up in a moment if I could find a local studio that taught that way. We’re not there yet.

The two day class at Tactical Response is as good as it can get in this multi-day format. Imperfect or not, I’ll be back.

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