One of my favorite podcasts is Civilian Carry Radio. Every week, a panel of top-notch shooters and instructors host one of their industry peers. (If you aren’t listening, add it to your podcast list. It’s broadcast everywhere.) At the end of each show, the guest is asked a series of “rapid-fire” questions. My favorite one these days is: In the home: pistol, rifle, or shotgun?
My answer has changed the more I’ve learned. I choose shotgun.
I wrote about the one-day Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun class I took at KR Training in April, and lots of you responded with great questions and comments. I took the class to prep for the 3-day Rangemaster Defensive Shotgun Instructor course October 18-20 at Dallas Pistol Club in Carrollton. Even though I needed a few thousand more reps with the shotgun to handle it smoothly and efficiently, I just couldn’t miss this opportunity to develop my skills under the tutelage of Tom Givens.
We’ll call him “The Oracle of the Scattergun.” I’m sure he’ll love it.
After that initial class with Tom, I purchased a used Remington 870 Police 12-gauge pump with an 18-inch barrel. Taking Tom’s advice, I installed a Magpul SGA stock (super easy) to reduce the length of pull from 14 inches to 12 inches. I even saved some of the dog hair that was stuck to the original stock from its time riding in a K9 unit and stowed it in the new stock for good juju. Jason Armstrong of Hammerdown Sports in Belton replaced the extractor and polished the chamber after a few extraction issues with cheap Winchester birdshot. I added a 5-round butt cuff. I was ready to learn more, and I’m so glad I did. Here are a few lessons learned from three distinct perspectives.
What I learned as a woman
Lesson 1: If you want it, you’ll make it happen. Taking this class wasn’t an easy feat for me or my family. It’s football season and I’m married to a high school football coach. It’s marching band contest season and I’m a big supporter of my favorite baritone player and his “band-aide” younger brother. Add in church, deadlines at work, and household chores and repairs that have been put off for way too long, and when it came down to it, going to this class was a challenge. I recruited family and friends to cover for me, paid for my class ticket, bought the ammo, reserved the hotel and took a day off work. I decided that it had to happen now, or I wouldn’t ever make it to the class. My village was prepared to step in, and they did in a big way.
Lesson 2: Sometimes you’ll be the only chick. And that’s OK. It wasn’t a huge surprise to me that I was the only woman out of 18 students. At this point, I don’t let that intimidate me, which was a surprising discovery I made when we were introducing ourselves at the start of the first training day. Just a few years ago when I started shooting (and realized I sucked and started training), the thought of taking co-ed classes was scary, and that was probably due to some misconceptions I carried about “gun guys” and their “boys’ club” mentality. Some of that holds true for a majority of people who don’t train, and while as a woman I still experience some push-back from fellow students now and then, the majority of guys in the training community are just there to learn.
Ladies, let me state this simply: the guys aren’t going to care that you have different parts. When you’re in the classroom or on the line, everyone is simply a student. A student’s job is to demonstrate safety, have a teachable attitude, and do the work.
Was there some good-natured ribbing about my gender? Sure. But see, I showed up with my big-girl panties on, and those don’t get in a wad about guy humor. Most of it was hilarious, and it made me so much more comfortable that the guys were willing to be themselves around me and made no special concessions.
I was there to do the work. The guys were there to do the work. We all did work.
What I learned as a student
Lesson 1: Standards prove that learning has occurred. Training classes that don’t have clear-cut standards and measurements of skill aren’t worth your time or money. Tom Givens begins each of his classes by communicating what students need to know to get the most out of the class:
- What they’ll learn
- How he’ll teach it
- How they’ll prove they learned it
We knew from day one that in order to pass the class, we had to pass both a written exam and a live-fire qualification with a score of 90 percent or better. We shot about 400 rounds total during the class, taking breaks (because shotguns are heavy) for lecture portions of the class. We worked a lot on administrative gun handling, loading and reloading, timed drills, a man-on-man shoot-off, a casino drill for the shotgun, and a couple of different qualification courses of fire. We learned about and fired all kinds of shotguns. We shot birdshot, buckshot (all different manufacturers and loads), and a few slugs. We all improved some aspects of our gun-handling and accuracy, and we all took away tons of great information to share with others.
Lesson 2: I have room to learn more. I didn’t score 100 on either the shooting qualification or the test, but I’ll take a 96 on each with room to learn and improve. I even won a man-on-man shoot-off, which was a first! (Heard on the line: “Becky is no longer a defenseless female.” “Dude, you got beat by a GIRL!” ROFL. Good times.) I’m excited to continue learning, and hope to always be a student.
What I learned as an instructor
Lesson 1: Teaching requires much more than what you know as a shooter. Because this was a 5-day instructor class jammed into 3 days, we studied adult learning theory and public speaking (my favorite), safe administrative handling of the shotgun, and different techniques for articulating the why behind the lessons we would be teaching. That involved quite a bit of history, nomenclature, and dry- and live-fire applications. On the third class day, every student gave a presentation on a topic Tom had assigned on day one. I wasn’t thrilled with my “mounting the shotgun” dry-fire drill, which was much more eloquent in my hotel room. Lesson learned (more practice!), but at least I got all 17 guys on the line to yell out “butt cheek,” which was entertaining.
Lesson 2: Good instructors recognize teachable moments. Every time Tom saw an opportunity to reinforce a lesson in real time, he would stop the class, bring it to our attention, and explain the why behind it:
“See this Federal 00 buck pellet at 15 yards? You MUST INSIST that everyone on the range wear eye protection.”
“Look at this Remington shell! It has no primer. You MUST INSPECT your defensive ammo and emphasize that to your students.”
“See your target? That’s why we don’t use birdshot for self-defense. BIRD SHOT IS FOR BIRDS.”
Lesson 3: Every student’s time is precious. Tom doesn’t pull any punches when there’s an important lesson to be learned. If your gun sucks, he’ll tell you. If your mouth is running when he’s talking, he’ll call you out. I appreciate his no-nonsense approach to teaching and his respect for his students’ time and investment, and that’s probably one of the biggest take-aways from the training weekend. Here are some others:
- Guys talk too much on the firing line.
- Birdshot is for birds.
- Your length of pull is too long.
- Federal 00 Buck with Flite Control. Order it.
- You DO have to aim a shotgun.
- Ammo requires inspection every time.
- A 16-gauge shell (as well as a 20) will chamber in a 12-gauge and allow a 12-gauge round to chamber behind it.
- Remington is the best at making ammo that doesn’t fire. (Dummy rounds.)
- Women should always shoot 12-gauge.
- Don’t shoot the range medic.
- Grex looks like snowfall after a few thousand rounds.
And, most importantly:
- “With great power comes great accountability.” – Tom Givens
Stay safe, shoot straight, and train for real life.