Tom Givens on Training Parameters for Civilian Gun Carry

Having started to listen to Mike Seeklander’s American Warrior Show podcast more closely, I find myself going all the way back to Episode #5 from 17 April 2015 to find an interview of Tom Givens of Rangemaster Firearm Training Services. Having attended the Polite Society Tactical Conference at Rangemaster (the physical incarnation of it) in Memphis in 2014, I am acquainted with Givens’s work. But the podcast interview on “The Way of the Gun” still pays dividends beyond just reminding me of what he said in his seminar back in 2014.

Photo of Tom Givens from

One of Givens’s consistent points is that training parameters should be defined around what is likely to happen in real life. Questions such as the following need to be asked and answered: What is the context? What is likely to happen? What am I trying to do? The same questions we want to answer when selecting a gun or a holster need to be answered for training as well. Am I training for sport? Police? Military? Or self-defense as a private citizen with a concealed carry permit?

If the latter, then your training needs to be tailored to your circumstances, which differ from LEOs, police, and other armed professionals.

Givens argues that the gunfighting circumstances of a police officer and a private citizen are very different, for example, so drawing conclusions for private citizens from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report is problematic. He specifically notes a greater average distance from attackers for private citizens compared to police officers.

Givens also highlights the fact that most of the crime faced by law-abiding armed citizens is “parking lot crime” not “street crime” — shopping mall lots, convenience store lots, office building lots.

Likewise, although alot of crime happens after dark, most of it involving private citizens does not take place in the dark since most places we go — including the dangerous parking lots — are lit at night. (Lesson: worry more about learning to draw your weapon and shoot it accurately than about how to use a tactical flashlight.)

If I had to point to one brief takeaway about why to carry a gun it would be Givens (quoting an unnamed other): “It’s not the odds, it’s the stakes.”  He implies what I call Pascal’s Wager in armed self-defense in saying that you can carry your gun for 35 years and never have to use it once and not be any worse off for it, but if you don’t carry it one day and you need it, you’re screwed (my word, not his).

There’s much more in the podcast than this, but these things stood out to me in my quest to understand the private citizen gun training industry. Givens is without question one of the Gen 1 private citizen trainers I want to learn more from and about.






  1. Pascal’s Wager also applies to bicycle and motorcycle helmets. Which is why I shake my head when people say that helmets telegraph the idea that riding a two-wheeler is “too dangerous. Likewise, a CHL doesn’t mean that life in your city is “too dangerous”. Its a personal risk v benefit calculation.

    I’ve been riding a bicycle extensively since 1978, my second year in graduate school. Last time I used a helmet was in 1990 but that, and the time I used one in 1986, were during training crashes back when I raced. Back in 1979, I didn’t “have it on me” during a bumbling commute to the university when a motorist turned across my path. That crash cost me about six months of graduate school and a forced change in dissertation project. I was screwed, so to speak. My words.


    • I have never heard anyone use that argument about wearing helmets. I am risk averse (now) so in my adult life I always wear helmets while riding, including the time I was in graduate school and went over crossing a railroad track and slammed my (thankfully protected) money maker on the pavement. Many things in life are dangerous but I do try to do what I can to reduce the potential downsides. Glad you learned your lesson and the costs of the lesson weren’t greater! Keep on!


      • Actually, I had never thought of it explicitly in terms of Pascal’s Wager prior to reading your blog posts although I used the odds v the stakes idea pretty much verbatim.

        But it makes sense. One of the constant arguments against helmet use in the bicycle community, at least among the “Streetsblog” crowd, is that Europeans don’t use helmets and they are “safe” and that helmets make cycling seem dangerous in the US. But it really is a matter of the stakes controlling the decision, not the odds. I have gone 27 years without helmet meeting pavement (and have never had a motorcycle helmet meet pavement, famous last words…), but the stakes of a one time event are catastrophic in terms of TBI, especially for an old coot who relies, like you do, on my brain as my money maker. Needless to say, I didn’t contemplate a crash this morning while donning my brain bucket nor did wearing a helmet convince me that I was doing something all so risky. But actually, most bike crashes are not the result of being hit by a car. They are often simple “fall down, go boom” crashes on wet pavement, a hidden pothole,etc. You could hit your head and at low speeds typical of simply accelerating to the ground from standing height, a TBI can happen. Most of bicycle and motorcycle training is designed to get people to think pro-actively so that one never gets to use one’s helmet. We call it the Five Layers of Safety.

        Likewise, for most CHL folks who “don’t do stupid things…..etc, etc.” the chances of a defensive gun moment are pretty small unless you are running a gas station in the South Valley of Albuquerque. But the outcome of a need to act in self defense can call for critical decision making on a very short window of time. Whether or not one is armed, one is better off if one is mentally prepared with a plan. You addressed that in a more recent post, I think.

        My daily commute takes me to a large facility where I cannot legally carry, so daily carry is not an option, even if I thought Los Alamos was a risky place, which it is not. As far as mitigating the chances of something like a workplace active shooter, there are many pro-active things an institution can do such as provide emotional counseling, train the work force to work constructively with colleagues when stressful situations develop, ensure that those subject to domestic violence have resources at their disposal so that DV situations don’t arrive at the workplace (e.g., San Bernadino), work constructively during contract changes, avoid RIFs, train people in positions of power not to be a$$holes, and other strategic actions that diminish the chances of a violent episode happening rather than trying to mitigate the carnage when the shit hits the fan.


  2. David,

    I attended both of Givens’ lectures at this years TacCon, and also caught the second half of his shotgun class (I attended a session with Claude Werner which ended earlier, so I just wandered over to the range to catch the last half of the shotgun class hoping for more tidbits of greatness).

    Givens knows his stuff, has a wealth of anecdotes AND data to draw upon, and is a great orator. Though I’ve listened to the podcast you mentioned above along with all of his several appearances on Ballistic Radio (and have a signed copy of his book!), hearing/seeing him in person was worth it. I feel like both the seminars I attended really grounded me back to what I need to know, the practical skills that I should be working on the most.

    My review of TacCon, including the sessions I attended with Givens, can be found here:



    • Good stuff, Robert. Appreciate the references very much. Tried to load Ballistic Radio in my podcast player and can only get episodes in 2017 (and too lazy/too busy to use a second podcast player). This does get me their interview with William Aprill, though, which will be good. Looking forward to being in touch more as I continue on with the training chapter of my work!

      Liked by 1 person

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