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I'm an NRA Instructor in Handgun and Personal Protection.  I have had some success in competitive PPC shooting.  Tactical shooting is another thing altogether. 

One of my own credos is "When you don't know anything, it's easy to learn a lot."  This was my attitude and approach when I attended Randy Cain's three-day Tactical Handgun 101 class. Triad-Tactical does the organization of some training opportunities in Michigan, and they arranged to have Randy Cain come to my home club.  (Visit Triad's website.)  Randy Cain's company is Cumberland Tactics. You can see from his website that he has an impressive resume. I did quite a bit of Internet research and found no one that had anything negative to say about Randy or this course.

The first talk that we had was safety, as it should be.  The rules we learned come from Jeff Cooper and Gunsite, I believe. Thought provoking differences but similar to the NRA's Rules of Gun Safety. For example, the NRA's rule is "Treat every gun as if it were loaded." Randy's rule is "Every gun is ALWAYS loaded". On the third morning, I appreciated that Randy again stressed safety with us when everyone was tired and maybe not as mentally sharp as in the beginning.

During the introduction, Randy said something like: "If I tell you what we'll be doing mid-morning on the first day, you will think this course is too basic for you. And it isn't. If I tell you what we'll be doing mid-morning on the third day, you will think this course is too advanced for you. And it isn't." And with that we were off. Building basic skill tools, then adapting them to fit different circumstances. He said, "The purpose of shooting is to hit the target." So if you have all the best gear and you do everything right, but do not have good sight alignment and trigger control, the whole purpose is defeated. "Take the curve at the speed you can make the curve." Slow down, make the hits count.


Randy's approach is to strive for accuracy on the range in the relatively stress free environment. Then in the fight, which we all hope will never happen, when your accuracy will be probably be affected by conditions and stress, you should still be able to make your shots. This line of thinking resonates with my own competitive shooting experience.

By the end of the first day, Randy had stacked enough basic skills together that we were making head shots while moving. There were lots of different drills and repetition of steps to get to that point. I was disappointed in my own shooting at the end of the first day mostly because I didn't yet have good trigger control which is absolutely necessary to shooting well while moving or while the target is moving.  Fundamentals are crucial.


We started the second day on the indoor range and doing low-light work. This session changed my thinking about night sights and flashlights. The teaching was built around the purpose of the flashlight, which is to identify threats, and using it properly to accomplish that purpose.  Again, we simply adapted skills already learned for use while holding a flashlight. For instance, the tactical reload process, which we'd learned step-by-step on the first day, can be accomplished quite easily with a flashlight in hand with very simple adjustments.


Back on the outdoor range, we did some review of basics from Day one. Then we learned a 4-count draw stroke, by the count, and with the reasons why. Methodically loading, unloading, drawing the pistol, and holstering the pistol may be the most valuable things that I learned in this class. Then we learned how to deal with failure types I, II, and III. Again, handling failures is simply adaptation of skills learned earlier. Late in day 2, we did some longer distance shooting from positions. I shot well in those drills, so I felt better than I did after day 1.

The third day started with a very intentional and thorough review of safety. It's worth mentioning again, because I was impressed with the timing of this. We then did some shooting from a retention position, and more shooting while moving.

Randy brought out a moving target machine that he has rigged up. Randy controls lines that move the target stand on springs. One by one, the fifteen of us fired body shots, then went around again to fire head shots. After a break, there was a three-dimensional dummy on the stand, complete with shirt, cap, and hostage baby! Now we needed to pay attention to angles to vital hit areas, as well as having a very limited target area to work with. As far as I can tell, I came closest to hitting the baby, a fact that I am NOT proud of. It was a terrible trigger yank.  Remember how important the fundamentals are?


At the lunch break, I asked for and received 5 minutes of coaching help with trigger reset.  It seems that I've gotten in the good/bad habit of getting my finger off the trigger too soon and often.  I'll concentrate on that in my practice sessions. We finished the day by putting a lot of drills together, and getting more repetitions in of fundamental procedures.  I shot 652 rounds over the 3 days.

Randy does not cover legal issues or a lot of mindset training.  In my opinion, the mindset he wants us to develop is to make the shot.  After all, the purpose of shooting, whether target or defense shooting, is to hit the target.

I am glad that Randy Cain was the instructor of my first formal training experience.  The things I learned will be with me for the rest of my shooting life.  The skill tools will not only make me a safer and more skilled handgunner, but will help me when I teach others.


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Uploaded: 7/9/2006