As some of y’all know, one of my goals for 2022 is to attend a Rangemaster Instructor Development course and become a certified Rangemaster Instructor. Well, the scheduled class is around on the horizon and I’ve spent the last few months preparing for the qualification course of fire. Preparation for the course of fire has had some challenges to which I have done what I can to adapt and I suspect there are some lessons in this that folks may find useful. Whether or not these preparations will yield success remains to be seen, but either way let’s take a look.
When I first signed up for the course, the very first thing I did was ask friends and instructors who happen to be Rangemaster certified instructors what I could expect from the course of fire and how I should prepare for it. One person mentioned the course of fire was very similar to the FBI qualification course of fire and so I looked it up. The course of fire is made up of several strings which require one handed shooting at three (3) yards, two handed shooting at five (5) yards, more two handed shooting with a reload at seven (7) yards, a little bit of shooting from fifteen (15) yards, and a final string that switches from shooting while standing to shooting while kneeling at twenty-five (25) yards. All the strings include time pressure and some strings start from a draw while others start from a ready position. There are no multiple target transitions to worry about and virtually no movement (short of the kneeling that occurs in the 25 yard string) to contend with.
I later confirmed the similarity between the Rangemaster Instructor and FBI qualification courses of fire when I remembered that the Rangemaster Instructor course of fire is documented in Tom Givens’ Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics book. The only notable difference I noticed was the addition of a sidestep to the draw for a handful of strings.
After having a good idea of what skills will be tested under pressure in the course of fire, my preparation focus shifted into choosing the equipment I would use for the shooting test. The course sets out some crystal clear equipment requirements which specify:
- a serviceable sidearm, revolver or semi-automatic, of at least .38 Special or 9x19mm caliber;
- a serviceable uniform duty or concealed carry holster, worn on the belt, of leather or kydex construction, with a covered trigger guard;
- at least three magazines or speedloaders.
For me, the decision was a given:
- Sidearm: H&K VP9
- Holster: IWB Incog Eclipse
Not only is this my everyday carry defensive set up that I am very familiar with. It’s also the gun that I’ve used in just about every training course and match I’ve attended over the past two years.
Now knowing what skills would be tested and what equipment I will use, I was able to formulate training and practice guidelines to help me prepare for the qualification test. In an ideal world, I would simply shoot the specified course of fire using live ammo using a shot timer over and over until I could pass it on demand. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a world that allows me to do that. I can only afford so much ammo. The local ranges that I have access to do not allow me to draw from the holster nor do they allow me to shoot while kneeling. However, there are plenty of things I can do and tools I can use to practice and develop the skills required in order to sharpen them enough to have a good chance at passing the qualification exam.
The first guideline that I set was to use the VP9 as exclusively as possible in matches, live fire practice sessions, and dry practice sessions. The goal of this guideline is to ensure I maintain familiarity with the VP9 as intimately as I can. Does this mean I haven’t fired or touched other pistols or firearms? No. That would be near impossible given I run this blog. However, I would say that so far 80% of my gun handling has been done with either VP9 or the VP9 Match over the past couple of months and the VP9 will dominate virtually all of my gun handling in this last stretch of time before the class.
The next guideline I set was to focus static range time on shooting groups at 25 yards. Again since the local ranges prohibit me from working from the holster and limit my rate of fire to one shot per second, I figured the best use of this practice resource was to work on shooting the tightest groups I can at 25 yards. Shooting tight groups at closer distances gets easier as the distance decreases so this slow fire practice should, in theory, help with that as well. Furthermore, this will allow me to dial in a 25 yard zero on the pistol mounted optic which by the way requires that I shoot the exact same ammunition I plan to use in the class.
There are few guidelines I established for dry fire practice. The first was to ensure I dedicated time to practicing drawing from the holster and working out of battery reloads. Next was to dedicate some time drawing and/or pressing the trigger in response to a stimulus. Finally, I placed a heavy emphasis on one handed and two handed trigger control. All of these dry fire practice guidelines have allowed me to plan sequences of drills using the MantisX system which helps me by providing objective feedback in regards to my trigger work, holster work, reload work, and response times.
The very last guideline was to attend as many local competitive matches as possible using the same gun, holster, belt, magazines, and ammo that I will use for the qualification test. The premise for this was three fold. First, it helps reinforce intimate familiarity with the weapon system. Next, it allows me to get comfortable shooting that weapon system under competitive pressure. Sure competitive pressure isn’t exactly the same as test pressure, but it is time pressure nonetheless. Lastly, if provides scored feedback for my performance under pressure. That feedback helps me identify accuracy deficiencies that I can use to further adjust dry fire and live fire practice sessions to iron out the kinks.
Using those guidelines, I’ve been pretty consistent about daily dry practice (about 15 minutes per day) and live fire every weekend (be it a match or time at the static range). Will that be enough? I will find out soon enough. In the meantime, I can say that match results have improved considerably over the past couple of months.
In summary, my preparation has consisted of a few distinct steps:
- Identify the goal
- Identify the equipment that will be used to achieve said goal
- Establish and execute practice and training plans
- Develop intimate familiarity with the equipment
Let’s see what comes of it.