Last weekend I attended my second Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

If you’re not sure what that is, just imagine every self defense trainer you’ve ever wanted to train with under one roof for three days and you get to choose from any number of blocks of instruction you want to go to from couples tactics to use of cover, to knife defense and more. You can also compete in a match, win door prizes, rub shoulders with some of the greatest minds in the industry and meet some amazing, like-minded new friends.

Last year I was five months pregnant and constructed my schedule around things I felt I was lacking in my training. This year, while there wasn’t a single block of instruction I did not want to go to, I chose to invest most of my time into the blocks of instruction that offered experience vs knowledge. In other words, the live-action blocks.

On Friday I attended:

Teach ‘Em A Lesson with Tiffany Johnson

Tiffany gave instruction on constructing presentations that engage students and convey your content without boring or confusing. I found this block of instruction inspirational and helpful as it showed a lot of the mistakes presenters make and how to avoid them. I realized I’d made many of those mistakes in my own presentations and immediately set about to fix them upon returning home. Bettering my presentation because of it.

Next, I attended Lethal Encounters taught by Jim Higginbotham. This entire block seemed very familiar and I realized it was because I’d attended the same block by a different name the year before. It was a good reminder, however, on what actually incapacitates attackers and how to construct your training to maximize effectiveness with something as potentially incapacitating as a handgun.

Spencer Keepers teaching Critical Handgun Skills

Spencer Keepers teaching Critical Handgun Skills

My afternoon was supposed to be Critical Handgun Skills with Spencer Keepers but ice on the range shut down the afternoon and I headed over to Paul Sharp’s Weapon Retention and Disarms. My husband, John, and I only got to stay for a few minutes, however, as it was our turn to shoot the pistol match. We were both hoping we would be right back into class but they were running behind which kept us stuck outside of the range.

It wasn’t all bad, however, because I got to spend that time listening to Claude Werner talk about his recent research into the OODA loop. I was absolutely fascinated by his research and kind of bummed when they finally called us into the range. I can’t wait to hear about the rest of his research.

After the match we headed over to Massad Ayoob’s class on Witness Dynamics. A fascinating look at how fallible people are at recalling what happened in any given situation and how their perceptions can be used in court to make it seem as though you are lying.

With that in mind we were done for the day and met up with some pretty high class people down at a local eatery for some great fun and amazing food.

I was lucky enough to get sat across from Spencer Keepers and John Hearne and got about two hours worth of shooting advice from both of them. I was just a bit start struck.

Saturday opened with Southnarc’s Experiential Learning Laboratory. Craig Douglas, known as Southnarc to many, sets up a blind scenario based upon plausible, real-life scenarios. After all live weapons are removed from participants you are given a brief scenario and a regular task. In this case, “You’re leaving WalMart. Your task is to get in your car and go home.” Along the way you are presented with a challenge that may or may not require the use of a firearm. The point, of course, is to test your ability to gauge and handle potentially life-threatening situations. I wasn’t quite sure if I’d make the cut as only about 15 people get to participate but eventually I made it into the group of 15 that would participate. The experience was enlightening as well as humbling but vital in its use for self assessing my progress on this self-defense journey.

From there I headed over to Spencer Keeper’s Critical Handgun Skills class. I’d been looking forward to this class since I’d heard he was teaching it. He had promised to challenge me and my shooting ability as I expressed to him I’d been feeling a bit like I’d plateaued. Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain and even though we worked as much as we could, the rain really hampered things like speedy work from the holster. It was a unique experience to have my gun so wet that water was running off the muzzle and down my pant legs whenever I holstered it.

I was supposed to assist Lynn Givens with the woman’s Primary Marksmanship Skills class in the afternoon but it was cancelled due to the rain and even though Spencer offered to keep working with people who were willing to stand in the rain, I was loathe to miss the end of John Hearne’s lecture on Performance Under Fire. I had attended John’s four-hour version the year before and knowing that he’d added two more hours of information was too much to pass up. I snuck in just in time to hear him talk about some of the sacred cows the shooting industry still holds on to in regards to things like fine motor skills, the inability to see sights in gunfights and heart rate dictating performance.

The med bag, approved by Caleb Causey

The med bag, approved by Caleb Causey

In keeping with my theme of wanting to focus on live, action based training and assessment, I started my Sunday morning in line for Caleb Causey and Karl Rehn’s Low Light Force-on-Force incorporating medical scenarios. I had cornered Causey in the hall way the day before, telling him I was an EMT and looking forward to his block of instruction. His response was, “Oh, good! I have a scenario I want to use you for.”

I got nervous.

Not only would this be a pseudo-assessment of my problem solving and tactics and chaos management but also my medical skills. I felt I’d left a lot of the angst in regards to scenarios behind me when I walked out of the door of Craig Douglas’ learning lab and was ready to take on this new challenge.

While these scenarios would be blind they would also be dark and be dealing with a portion of self defense that a lot of people don’t consider–how to treat yourself or those you love if you are injured in a fight.

I plan to go into further detail later. For now I’ll just say that this class was a great lesson for me as an EMT as well as a civilian. Working scene security and tactics as well as treatment and scanning was a new adjunct to the skills I got to practice, however briefly. It was also great to have Caleb there to look over my medical kit and give his suggestions. I fully anticipate seeking out training from him and Karl Rehn in the future.

To finish out my weekend I went to Greg Ellifritz’s Close Range Handgun Threat: Empty Hand Skills class. I’d attended his Extreme Close Quarters gunfighting class in October of 2013, the day before I found out I was pregnant with our third child. Feeling I didn’t have the chance to practice a lot of the skills he taught I felt this was a good opportunity to refresh as well as keep with my theme of attending action-based blocks of instruction.

My sparring partner and I did get a little rambunctious now and then (apologies to everyone we ran into) but it’s a relief to get paired with people who actually aren’t afraid to tussle with a small female.

I won a holster as a door prize and Lynn gave me a belt! I didn’t place so hot in the match but that’s okay, too.

As the conference progressed I took notes in the back of my notebook as to the things I wanted to do or improve upon in the coming year.

They are as follows:

Redo my babywearing and carrying powerpoint presentation (done)
Start carrying my spare magazine on body
Start carrying a fixed blade forward of my hips again
Get new sights on my Shield
Achieve a 1.5 second draw/shoot time from concealment with one good hit on chest of a 7-yard target
Work more strong-hand-only drawing and shooting
Work more low-light tactics and shooting
Work more movement and drawing or reloading

I also want to keep teaching, keep running EMS and continue with my hand-to-hand training as well.