I hadn’t really planned on writing this, but I’ve had a few friends and some readers reach out to me for advice on getting ready for their initial certification. As such, I figured some of y’all might benefit from reading about what I would do today, with hindsight, to prepare for the certification. If nothing else, this will be a starting point that I can share with any friends or readers who ask for help.
First things first. The certification isn’t a “give me” by any means. There are standards that have to be met. Meeting the standards requires work. It’s not a crazy amount of work, but I can’t imagine there being many folks who attend the class, pass the shooting qualification, and the written test without any preparation or showing up with inadequate equipment. And that is exactly what I intend to cover in this post.
The entire point of the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course is to ensure one is prepared to develop courses and coach others in the employment of a defensive pistol as an armed citizen for the purpose of self defense in the gravest of circumstances. The lectures, homework, student handbook, and range work are laser focused on that. Granted, there is a lot to that, but the point is that the student is expected to show up not only being prepared to learn, but to put in work at the range with equipment that is suitable for concealed defensive carry. Open carry in a duty belt with a duty pistol is also acceptable, but I won’t get into that since I’m a civilian who carries a concealed handgun and I’m focused on teaching other civilians who are looking to do the same. Both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols are acceptable, although I strongly suggest sticking with the platform that one is most familiar with in order to have the best chance at passing the class and maybe walking away with a challenge coin or with the top shot award.
The sidearm should be serviceable and in proper working order. Bringing a backup to complete the course just in case the sidearm goes down isn’t a bad idea. While I’ve yet to have to depend on a backup sidearm to complete a course, I’ve seen enough guns go down in classes to think that having a backup is a good idea. I will add that all of the guns I’ve seen go down in classes have either been fixed or the student was able to complete the class with a loaner gun. However, I don’t want to bank on that. Not having a backup is not a reason to put off taking the class. Chances are things will be okay and the gun won’t go down. Either way, bring a freshly cleaned and lubricated gun to class.
A good holster is an absolute must as well. If one is unaware that bad holsters are an endemic problem in the market (or what constitutes a serviceable defensive firearm for that matter), then chances are one isn’t prepared for this course and, I’d argue, isn’t ready to be an instructor in this arena. Not to worry though, this is something that can be remedied by some light reading by visiting the links on this post or doing the recommended reading I will get to later in this post.
In terms of ammunition, start by checking the latest published round count in the course description found on the Rangemaster site. I like to add 10% to the round counts just in case. I also recommend bringing good quality practice factory loads to the class. This isn’t the time to be testing your new hand loads or rolling the dice on Bubba’s Secret Recipe that was found at the latest local gun show for a heck of a deal. Reliable quality ammunition can make all the difference when it comes to passing the qualifications. It should go without saying, but it behooves you to ensure the sights or dot on the pistol is zeroed to the ammunition that will be used in class.
Aside from other required and common range equipment, make sure to pack what you need to clean and lubricate the gun between each day of class. A lot of lead is going to be sent down range each day. Giving the handgun a little TLC each day to ensure it keeps running well goes a long way in keeping the gun running and completing the class successfully.
Last but not least, bring electronic hearing protection and put some fresh batteries in it. I wasn’t going to mention this as I assume folks who are interested in this course already know how important it is to be able to hear range commands and instruction in a class. However, I decided to mention it because I believe it is critical.
There is a fair bit of range work in this class and that range work will most certainly tune up one’s marksmanship skills. This will be beneficial for the shooting qualifications, but won’t be enough if one isn’t already a competent marksman. The obvious question here is, how much pre-existing competence is required? Let’s see if I can answer that question.
The standards are straight forward. One has to be able to complete the FBI Pistol Qualification course of fire and the Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Qualification with scores of 90% or better. The courses of fire can be found in the last chapter of Tom Given’s book, Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, which is one of the books I’ve included in the recommended reading section at the end of this post. If it is at all possible, then I strongly suggest practicing both of these courses of fire before taking the class.
Keeping in mind that one will be under qualification pressure and not just under time pressure when shooting the qualifications. I urge prospective students to participate in either IDPA or USPSA matches before taking this course. Shooting for score under time pressure while peers are observing is very similar to the pressure that will be felt when shooting the qualifications in class. The more exposure one has to shooting under pressure, the better prepared they will be to shoot the qualifications.
When I passed these qualifications I was classified as D-class in USPSA and as a Marksman in IDPA, but I was well on my way getting classified as C-class USPSA and as a Sharpshooter in IDPA. According to writings from Karl Rehn, my performance level suggested some automaticity. I would categorize my performance level as intermediate. There was still a lot of room for improvement and I was nowhere near being a hotshot, but I wasn’t a slouch who couldn’t hit an 8″ target at 25 yards without time pressure. While I was concerned about the qualifications as a student, I got pretty close to shooting them clean (at 100%). Even though this is anecdotal and very subjective, I believe it paints a sort of picture for what is required. A student with some automaticity should be able to pass the qualifications.
The pressure is the hardest part about the qualifications. Each string of fire in both courses of fire provides ample time for a student with a modicum of marksmanship competence to clean the string. The trick is being able to remain process focused – get the gun up, see what needs to be seen, press the trigger. That’s all there is to it as long as the pressure can be kept at bay and one doesn’t let it get in one’s head.
I would argue that the written test is the most difficult component to passing the class and getting certified. There is a fair bit of vocabulary and some memorization involved. The good news is that everything that is on the test is found in the student handbook supplied in class. While the handbook is lengthy, a study guide is provided that genuinely helps focus the available study time between class days to what will be on the test. The thing is attention has to be paid in class and studying has to be done. At least, by the average person like me.
Be prepared to take notes during lecture and place attention to things that are repeated more than once. As Tom Givens’ would say, “some may call that a clue”. The clue refers to something that will be on the exam. I suggest sticking to whatever note taking mechanism and medium works best for you except for taking pictures or video in class. That will be frowned upon. Sternly.
Study your notes and the student handbook (according to the study guide) as much as possible between each class day.
In my opinion, the one book that I strongly suggest reading from cover to cover at least once before class is Tom Given’s Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics book. A lot of what will be in the written test is also covered in that book. Additionally, that book will explore what makes a handgun a serviceable defensive weapon as well as discussion that makes a holster good.
An additional book I suggest, given that the essence of the course and what will be covered in the exam, is reading Massad Ayoob’s Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self-Defense. There will be lecture time on the legal aspects of self defense and the test will also contain questions on this topic.
Are You Ready?
If you’ve read this far, then chances are you are ready. That is under the assumption that one has either read through this post and firmly believes they have the right equipment, a modicum of marksmanship skills, and a willingness to the work or have taken steps to shore up gaps this post may have identified. If my assumptions are correct, then go for it – sign up for the class and go get certified. If they aren’t, then go work on whatever needs to be worked on first. This certification is a big step and is very attainable given one has a good foundation to build upon. You can do it. So get after it.