What & Where:
On October 26th through October 29th a couple of us attended Tactical Response’s annual Fighting Pistol and Fighting Rifle (mobile) classes near Atlanta, Georgia (just west of Cartersville, Georgia).
From Tactical Response’s website:
Tactical Response Incorporated was initially established in a gravel pit in 1996 with the sole purpose of providing the highest end firearms and tactical training possible. The company has grown slowly; but one thing has remained constant. We are as motivated to learn as we are to teach.
Today Tactical Response has instructors from all walks of life: military, private citizens, police, PSD contractors, computer professionals, and even a high school principal. The common thread among our staff is our never-ending quest for knowledge. Each year we receive hundreds and hundreds of hours of instruction from outside trainers and schools. We have vowed to never become marred down by traditionalism or the status quo. Tactical Response asks for an open mind from our students and we require nothing less from ourselves. We consider it a failure to not learn at least one new piece of information while we attend a class.
You will never see any technique named after one of our Instructors because we would have to justify it forever even if we knew it was substandard. If we want to name something we will buy a boat.
P.O. Box 385
Camden, TN 38320
Office phone: 1-731-676-2041
Fighting Pistol Course:
Class Schedule and Content:
The two-day class ran from 0900 to 1700 each day. The first day began with a welcome and introduction from James Yeager and his other instructors, Calvin Lim of Tactical Response, and Sean Brogan of Center Mass Tactical Training Group . Each student had the opportunity to introduce themselves. Experience levels ranged from several with no experience (never touched a firearm), a number that shot for fun but had never taken formal training, and several prior or active duty military personnel. Three of the 25 students were female.
The instructors discussed the emergency plans with the class. The inquired as to who in the group were medically trained and then designating the group’s primary and support medical first responders (one of the female students was a trauma nurse, so she was designated as primary). They disclosed the location of the medical equipment, designated which vehicle would transport the injured, who would drive, and verified that the location of the nearest hospital was entered into to vehicle’s GPS system.
Yeager then discussed the four rules of firearms safety and any other safety issues specific to our location. He and the other instructors covered how to load, holster, draw, reholster, and fire our pistols using proper grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. They also covered how to clear Type I, II, and III malfunctions. Throughout the day we conducted various shooting drills using at least one dummy round in each magazine so as to get plenty of malfunction practice.
The first three hours of day two consisted of a lecture on the role and attributes of the handgun, the legal aspects of deadly force, anatomical stopping power, mental conditioning for combat, and movement and communications.
The rest of the day consisted of live fire shooting drills that included both one and two-handed shooting, shooting on the move, use of cover and concealment, loading and reloading, handgun retention technique shooting, all at a variety of ranges and from a variety of body positions.
The majority of students ran some type of Glock pistol. All but one was a 9mm. One student ran a FNP-45, and one ran a Walther P-99.
I ran a Gen-3 Glock 17. I dragged the pistol through both the Fighting Pistol and the Fighting Rifle courses without performing any preventive maintenance. I wanted to see how well it would run when it got really hot and dirty. To be fair I started with a clean pistol that was properly lubricated per Glock’s specification with Breakfree CLP. I used inexpensive (relatively) Tula brand 115 grain steel-case FMJ ammunition. Throughout the pistol and rifle courses I fired 975 rounds without a single hiccup. It functioned perfect every time. At the end of the forth day of classe I inspected the pistol. It was filthy and all of the lubrication had long since burned away. Even dry, filthy, and consuming a junk food diet, the Glock ran like a top. Having performed flawlessly after neglect and abuse, I know that pistol will take care of me, especially when kept clean, properly lubricated, and loaded with premium ammunition. Should it still malfunction, though, I have the training to get it cleared and back up and running.
I carried my Glock, equipped with a Streamlight M3X weapon mounted light, in a Bravo Concealment BCA Kydex holster. I carried two extra magazines in a Bravo Concealment Kydex double magazine pouch. Because there wasn’t any low light shooting in the course of fire I elected to cover the light’s lens with a piece of painter’s tape so as to keep the lens clean. There are several methods to keep the gunshot residue off of your light’s lens when shooting large volumes of ammunition, including rubbing a small film of Vaseline or Chapstick on the lens prior to shooting, and simply wiping the lens clean when you are through. The tape accomplished the same task and remained on the lens for all four days. It didn’t impede the use of the light in holster.
For eye and ear protection I wore a pair of Crossfire protective sunglasses from Home Depot and a Peltor 6S noise cancelling headsets.
I sported jeans or Carhartt work pants, t-shirt, Merrell Moab lows, and sweatshirt and jacket when it was chilly. When the weather warmed up I stripped out of the sweatshirt and jacket and just wore the t-shirt.
Tactical Response advertises that you will shoot a minimum of 750 rounds during the course. I shot close to 800 in that class. Bring 1000 rounds to the course and then you won’t run out.
Fighting Rifle Course:
Class Schedule and Content:
The two-day class ran from 0900 to 1800 each day. Day one began with a welcome and introduction from James Yeager and his other instructors. Each student introduced themselves. Experience levels ranged from several with no experience (never touched a firearm), a number that shot for fun but had never taken formal training, two former police officers, two current police officers, and several prior or active duty military personnel. Three of the 25 students were female.
As with the Fighting Pistol course, the instructors discussed the emergency plans with they class. They inquired as to who in the group were medically trained and then designating the group’s primary and support medical first responders (one of the students was a Paramedic, so he was designated as primary). Also discussed was the location of the medical equipment, designation of which vehicle would transport the injured, who would drive, and that the location of the nearest hospital was entered into to vehicle’s GPS system.
Yeager discussed the advantages, disadvantages, and features of a “fighting rifle”. There was a lecture on marksmanship fundamentals, hold over, ready positions, loading, unloading, emergency reloading, Type I, II, and III malfunction clearing, shooting on the move, and shooting from cover and concealment.
Range experience included DEA Dot Drills, transitions, speed reloading, turning, shooting on the move, square drills and serpentine drills.
One day two we reviewed the medical plans and the safety rules. Range experience included pistol drills, rifle drills, off foot position shooting, transition from rifle to pistols, firing from cover and concealment, cover drills, team peels, leap frogs, forward bounding, and rearward bounding.
The majority of students used some type of AR-15 carbine. Two students ran Kalashnikov type rifles. One student decided to run a Beretta Storm pistol caliber carbine in a fighting rifle course. Most students carried ammunition on “battle belts”, plate carriers, or some other type of chest rig.
I ran a Smith & Wesson M&P M-4 carbine with a 13″ Troy Alpha forend, Magpul BUIS, Magpul grip, Vicker’s Blueforce Gear sling, and Eotech 552 holographic weapons sight, and Magpul 30-round magazines. All of the parts were secured on with Loctite. My brother ran the exact same setup, except that his rifle was equipped with an Aimpoint Pro red-dot optic. Both rifles were thoroughly cleaned and the moving parts lubricated with a thin film of high-temperature axle grease. Throughout the course I used 1000 rounds of Wolf Gold brass case ammunition and a little over 300 rounds of Georgia Arms 55-grain reloaded brass case ammunition. My brother ran approximately 1300 rounds of PMC Bronze 55-grain brass case ammo. Both rifles were run without cleaning or additional lubrication and operated flawlessly. Not a single malfunction. The axle grease lubrication, Wolf Gold, PMC Bronze, and Georgia Arms ammunition were all good to go. Even after five magazines of rapid fire the Troy Alpha forend was not too hot to touch.
I wore the exact pistol-holster-magazine pouch combination as I did in the Fighting Pistols class, except that I added a single Bravo Concealment AR-15 magazine pouch to my belt to carry one extra 30-round P-Mag AR-15 magazine. I ran a variety of rigs to carry rifle magazines. I wanted test the comfort level with different gear when running, rolling, crawling, and shooting and reloading from different positions. While most students ran some type of chest rig or armor plate carrier system, for the majority of the course I used a US Peacekeepers Rapid Deployment Bag (seen right). It carries four 30-round AR-15 magazines, two pistol magazines, and has enough room for a blowout kit. Some people referred to it as a “bitch bag” or “man purse”. I prefer to think of it as a satchel. Indiana Jones carried a satchel. I was expecting it to flop around and get in the way during sprints or during shooting from unusual positions such as supine. It never felt awkward, even when crouching down behind cover
My brother wore an inexpensive Blackhawk brand chest rig (seen right) that carries eight 30-round AR-15 magazines, and two pistol magazines. It worked great for him and didn’t interfere with the handgun gear on his belt. They are only around $50, and they work.
I wore the same type of clothes that I wore for the Tactical Pistol class. I would recommend wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and a bandana or shemagh around your neck to protect you from your neighbor’s hot brass. You will get pelted by your teammates’ brass. It is hot. It hurts.
Tactical Response advertises that you will shoot a minimum of 1500 rounds of rifle ammunition, and 250 rounds for your pistol. I shot a little over 1300 rounds of rifle ammunition and 175 rounds for the pistol. You should still bring 1500/250 rounds. You don’t want to be the guy that runs out.
Lessons Learned and Observations:
It is more important to move than to shoot.
- The key word in gunfight is “fight”, not “gun”.
- Inter-team communications are very difficult when multiple rifles are blazing.
- Shooting steel targets f-ing rocks!
- Pull a fresh magazine out of your gear before you eject your old one.
- With any type of tactical vest it is hard to use a belt holster. Drawing a pistol from the belt holster isn’t the problem, but reholstering the pistol without looking down at the holster (and away from any other potential threat) is problematic. I have heard of stray draw strings on these type vests getting caught in trigger guards and pulling the trigger as the pistol is reholstered into a belt holster. I think that a thigh rig would work better with this type of vest.
- AR500 steel plate body armor is heavy. One student roasted through the run & gun exercises in the 80 degree heat when running a plate carrier with front and back armor plates. You had better be in good shape if you plan on using this rig.
- Show up with your weapons properly cleaned and lubricated. You will be shooting them until they are blistering hot. Make sure that they are ready for the abuse.
- Tactical Response doesn’t care if you use steel case ammunition if you are running a Glock, but they discourage its use in AR-15 type rifles. When the AR-15’s chamber gets very hot then the steel cases expand and might not extract from the chamber. One student used steel case ammunition in his Spikes Tactical AR-15. When the gun got hot he experienced failure after failure. Stick with the brass case ammunition for your AR-15 at class and when the STHF. If you use a Kalashnikov type rifle then you can use steel case without any problems.
- One student (who bragged about his former enlistment in the Marine Corps) showed up with an AR-15 (manufacturer unknown) chambered for Soviet 5.45x39mm. The rifle didn’t make it through the first drill. It simply wouldn’t function. He thought that it might be because he was using Wolf brand ammunition and not true military 7N6 battle ammunition. Whether or not that is the cause, stay away from that rifle/caliber combination. Shame on him for showing up to training/battle with an unproven weapon. While I appreciate his service to his country, Devil Dog didn’t represent the Corps very well that day.
- One student ran a Century Arms AK-74 (5.45x39mm). It ran fine for a while and then locked up. An empty shell casing was found inside the gun down in the trigger group. How did it get there? Who knows? The gun ran OK after removing the errant shell casing.
- Noise cancelling ear pro (protection) works great, but when 25 AR-15 rifles are firing at the same time then the noise canceling feature will remain active during the entire string of shooting and you still will have trouble listing to instruction.
- Unrelated to these two classes, but still useful information, James Yeager said that they have never witness a Keltec KSG shotgun make it through the first day of a shotgun class. Stay away from them.
- Towards the end of the first day of the Fighting Rifle course I started tearing a painful hole in my left index finger from running the charging handle on my AR. Later in class I started wearing a light weight Mechanix brand work glove on my left hand (Michael Jackson style). It really helped. Don’t wear thick gloves or you will won’t have the dexterity to pull fresh magazines out of pouches or to fit your finger into the trigger guard on your pistol. You will especially want to wear gloves in you run a Kalashnikov. They get really hot and it is especially easy to burn yourself on them.
- Don’t run a cheap red-dot on your rifle. One student had trouble seeing their rifle’s cheap red-dot in the bright sunlight while during a run & gun drill. The instructor grabbed a screwdriver, ran up to the student, unscrewed their optic, and threw it as far as he could. Fortunately the student had a set of backup iron sights (BUIS) and they were able to complete the exercise the old fashion way. An Aimpoint Pro is only $400 and they work great. Eotech optics don’t cost much more. You can see either in the brightest sunlight. Lesson: It is better to simply run factory iron sights or BUIS than a cheap red dot.
- “If you are going to have a gang, you are going to need a midget in your gang.” -James Yeager-
- Take the Fighting Pistol class first. There is some carryover to the Fighting Rifle class.
- Pushups, dumbbell curls, and Burpees will really make a difference with your training experience. If you are fat and disgusting then you won’t get as much out of the class. There were a few fat-bodies that had trouble.
- Only bring a gun(s) that you have thoroughly tested and that you know will work. Training is not the time to shake down your gear.
- If you have two pistols and/or two rifles then you should bring them both. If one goes down then it makes it really easy to simply run to your car, trade out guns, and continue training.
- Although it is not listed on the required list of items to bring to training, you will want to buy a folding outdoor chair. You will be sitting for three hours during lecture, lunch, and reloading time. Ass in a chair or ass on the wet grass? You choose.
- It is recommended to bring a Camelback or similar type hydration system. If you don’t have one then I wouldn’t recommend that you go out and buy one just for the class. Most people had bottled water in coolers in their vehicles. A couple of people had one gallon jugs that they sipped on all day. Make sure to bring enough water, especially if it is hot.
- Wear a ball cap. It will keep the sun out of your eyes, and also keep the top of your head and some of your face from getting pelted with your neighbor’s hot brass when shooting on the firing line, or during a run & gun drill.
- Wear some type of shirt that won’t allow your neighbor’s hot brass to fly down your shirt. A V-neck shirt is dangerous, especially for females. A long-sleeved t-shirt is perfect to keep the upper body free of burns.
- I didn’t see any use for kneepads during the Fighting Pistol class, but during day two of the Fighting Rifle class you will find yourself on the ground quite often. A pair of skateboard kneepads will save your pants and your old knees.
- There were a few “Airsoft Heroes” that showed up in full kit, looking like a character in the Call of Duty video games. Current military uniform, boots, gloves, plate carrier and armor, battle belt with drop-leg holsters and pouches. One “kid” may have actually been wearing several thousand dollars worth of military gear. I expect for the military and police guys and gals to show up and train with the gear that they will use at work, but I can’t think of any reason for a civilian to have all that gear unless they are a goon. Wear what you would really be wearing if the SHTF, and then maybe throw on a plate carrier or chest rig to carry your spare rifle magazines. Leave the Airsoft gear at home. You look like an idiot to the people who really wear that gear at work as well to the other civilians.
- Bring your “range” tool box / cleaning kit. You may need it.
- Make sure that you have spare batteries for your optics!
- Make sure that every screw on your weapons are secured with blue Loctite.
- Make sure that your name or initials are marked on each of your magazines. After a long course of fire there will be empty magazines all over the ground. Marking them is the only way to tell which ones are yours. I used a paint pen from the local arts & crafts store. It is easy to later remove with Goof Off which can be purchased from Home Depot.
- Bring a “Booboo Kit”. You will need Band-Aids and Neosporin for torn and burned hands and fingers.
- There is a lot of profanity and loud noise in the class. You will need a good sense of humor to be able to laugh and learn from your mistakes and then move on. If you are easily offended or have a fragile ego then you need to stay home and not waste your time and money. These classes teach you how to use deadly force to stop multiple attackers from taking your life. If you can’t handle a few “F Bombs” then you certainly won’t be able to handle the situation when someone tries to kill you.
James Yeager, assisted by his instructors Calvin Lim of Tactical Response, and Sean Brogan of Center Mass Tactical Training Group, followed a written class syllabus. Training and lectures were not taught from the cuff. All of the instructors went out of their way to patiently instruct and answer any questions from students. Any time that you were not shooting, or during lunch breaks, the three circulated throughout the group and inquired as to whether you needed any help of if you had any questions. It was very apparent that they wanted to be there, and that they wanted to teach. Many times in my professional career I have had “instructors” that simply wanted to show you how much they know, rather than teach you what you don’t know. This was not the case with Tactical Response. There were several times that instructors loaned their own gear to students so that they could see if they liked how it fit and ran. (Bring your gear and don’t expect a handout, but their generosity was way above the call of duty.) All of the instructors were very astute at pushing the students out of their comfort zone so that they could grow and expand their defensive capabilities (from the novice to the cop), while providing a fun and safe learning environment.
Good times…learned a lot!