After Action Report: Rangemaster Tactical Conference


I just returned from the Rangemaster Tactical Conference 2017, held this year at DARC in Little Rock AR, and as usual had a great time. I was a speaker again this year, thanks to the kind invitation of Tom and Lynn Givens.  I gave a two-hour talk that was a combination of covering the five elements of a self-defense claim and about an hour on providing some important legal context that I hope was helpful in understanding how use-of-force cases actually work and how use-of-force law is actually created.  By the time I finished answering questions and such at the end, another hour had passed, so I guess people liked it.  (Fortunately, I was an end-of-day talk, and so had the luxury of staying longer than my allotted time.)

If anyone is interested in obtaining a copy of the handout version of my slides for this presentation, click here.  (135 slides, printed-and-bound six-to-a-page, $10 w/ shipping included, use TACCON discount code at checkout.)

The conference was run, as always, in multiple tracks, so it's impossible to watch everything, but I did manage to attend a whole bunch of classes, including:

Tom Givens: "Defining the Problem"

The "Defining the Problem" talk was focused on providing context to the likely self-defense scenarios civilians were likely to encounter.  I've heard Tom give variations of this talk before, but it was nevertheless very informative and a useful reminder to keep our practice and preparations realistic.  Although I took extensive notes, sharing them here would feel like stealing Tom's presentation.  Instead I'll merely note that a pretty good plan is to focus on the "3 steps, 3 shots, 3 seconds" paradigm that is typical of civilian self-defense events (although there are, of course, outliers).

Also, have a damn gun. Of the 66 former students Tom knows to have been in gun fights after his training, 63 won their fights.  Three chose not to carry a gun that day, got jumped, complied with their attackers, and were killed anyway.  You can, of course, find Tom and Lynn's excellent training at

Tom Givens: "Active Shooters"

The "Active Shooters" talk was new to me, but again full of Tom's common-sense approach to such matters.  The real take home message was that active shooters generally stop killing people the moment they are confronted by armed opposition.  Often they simply kill themselves upon realizing that a "good guy" gun is in the mix.  Also, there tend to be far fewer victims when an armed civilian intervenes than when a police officer intervenes, for the simple reason that the civilian generally is already on scene and the cop has to first get there.

Take home message? Have a damn gun. The only way to be sure that there will be a good guy there with a gun is to be the good guy there with a gun.

Claude Werner: STOPP

I also attended Claude Werner's "STOPP: Strategy, Tactics, and Options for Personal Protection" talk.  This talk is focused on helping folks develop personal self-defense strategies that work for them.  As usual, Claude's talk was comprehensively thought out, and presented as a robust conceptual framework for his audience.  You can find more of Claude's work at the Tactical Professor.

Caleb Causey: Tactical Medicine for EDC

Another great class was "Tactical Medicine for EDC," presented by Caleb Cause, of Lone Star Medics. Caleb focused on teaching us how to identify and treat immediate life-threatening injuries sustained during a violent attack.  Implements included use of the tourniquet (Caleb recommends only the SOF TT-W or the Combat Application Tourniquet, CAT), the use of hemostatic agents, and chest seals.  Caleb also covered some rudimentary tactics of dealing with trauma victims in the context of a violent engagement (e.g., whether and how to move the patient in order to safely treat).  Caleb also advocated keeping at least a tourniquet on your person as EDC, and demonstrated several means of carry, including an ankle rig, a pocket "shield," and a belt "pouch."  Caleb brings considerable knowledge and humor to his presentation, well worth attending--the two hours went fast.  Lone Star Medic also teaches far more intensive classes, which are well worth a look. Remember, you're far more likely to use first aid skills in the real world than you are to use your gun.

Emanuel "Manny" Kapelsohn: Lessons Learned from Use of Force Cases

This was one of the law-oriented sessions I attended.  It's always helpful to hear how other folks are covering the same kind of topics on which I focus my own efforts. Manny did a great job providing a general outline of the legal principles of use-of-force law, in a manner similar but not identical to my own approach (as would be expected, given we're covering the same space).  He also brought to his presentation interesting real-world examples drawn from his decades of experience as an expert witness in various use-of-force trials.  This was another jam-packed two hours.  You can learn more about Manny and his Peregrine Corporation by clicking here.

Greg Ellifritz: Recognizing & Neutralizing the Terrorist Bomber

Greg, Active Response Training, gave a very informative talk on bombs and bombers, with lots of photos of bomb components and devices, their characteristics and potential, and their threat profiles.  He also explored the various ways in which terrorists tend to deploy bombs (including the use of secondary devices to kill those responding to the scene of an initial bombing, and the use of bombs to distract from active shooter attacks elsewhere), and the hazards involved in attempting to identify and neutralize bombs and bombers.  In short, there really were no good answers, except to be sufficient distant from the device that you were beyond it's reach.

Skip Gochenour: Training Decisions

Skip was among the first speakers on the first morning of the conference, always a challenging slot, and he presented another law-focused talk on winning the legal fight after the physical fight.  Skip's talk was, unfortunately, a bit abbreviated due to some transportation problems getting to the DARC facility.  In hindsight, given the other law-type talks given at the conference, it would have actually been more interesting to this lawyer to hear Skip talk about his many years as a detective, as well as his founding role for many years at the legendary National Tactical Invitational (NTI) events.  Those are experiences, surely rich with great lessons learned, that I doubt any of the others giving legal talks could have come close to replicating.  Perhaps we can have the opportunity for Skip to give a talk along those lines at a future Tac-Con. (My apologies, Skip, but I couldn't find a link for you to share here.)

I also managed to catch bits and pieces of some of the other presenters, all of whom were excellent, including John Murphy's "Street Encounter Skills" class and Karl Rehn's "Beyond the 1%" presentation.

Finally, I managed to shoot in the pistol match associated with this event, which this year was a 30-round standards type of event.  (Thanks to Massad Ayoob for his gift of the necessary 9mm rounds to enable me to shoot the match: Massad Ayoob Group.)  I shot about as well as one would expect from a guy who used to know how to run a gun, but now spends all his time sitting at a computer and talking rather than shooting.  In other words, not great.  I haven't seen the final scores yet (except I heard Ka Clark came in first place, naturally), but do know I dropped 11 points, so meh.

There were also plenty of opportunities for socializing, with most of us staying at the same hotel, and large groups going off to dinner together, as well as the trainer's dinner hosted by Tom and Lynn on Saturday evening at which some very, very nice gifts were raffled off, including a $1,400 pistol (no, I didn't win anything).

If that all sounds like a busy three days, I can assure you it was. Nevertheless, there was a TON of stuff I very much wanted to do, that I simply couldn't participate in because there wasn't sufficient free time.  These included Chuck Haggard's (Agile Training) less-lethal class, John Hearne's combative shooting class (live fire), Fletch Fuller's handgun retention class, Lee Weems' police-citizens contact class (Lee won the gun, by the way), John Farnam's (Defense Training International) gun accident prevention class, Spencer Keeper's (Keepers Concealment) AIWB class (although I did get a chance to bend Spencer's ear elsewhere on site, and garnered great AIWB insight), Craig Douglas' (Shivworks) hands-on/simunitions experiental learning lab (which looked just awesome when I got to observe a bit from the catwalk), and much, much more.  It's just a firehouse of information, training, and experience.

OK, that's it for my after-action report. Word is that the Tactical Conference 2018 will be held about the same time next year, and likely at the same DARC facility in Little Rock.  I don't know whether I'll be speaking again next year, but I suppose there's always hope.  Regardless, you're a fool if you don't make it there yourself.


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