Tom Givens on Designing Training Programs for Reality

Following up on my (long) lost post yesterday, I found some notes on a session I attended at the 2014 Rangemaster Tactical Conference led by Tom Givens. Although posted here 3+ years after the fact, Givens continues to make the same point today (as as I saw at the Rangemaster Instructor Development course I attended earlier this year).

Photo of Tom Givens from

Near the top of my list of sessions to attend at the 2014 Rangemaster Polite Society Tactical Conference was host Tom Givens’s talk on “Defining the Threat, Designing Training Programs for Reality.”

Tom Givens’ bald head, stout mustache, and steely expression give him a commanding presence befitting his years of experience as a police officer and trainer. When he speaks, especially about the fine line separating life and death and how to stay on the right side of that divide, he compels attention.

Givens is dressed up for his presentation, wearing a sport coat over a black shirt (no tie), slacks, and dress shoes. Standing at the front of the room and speaking without notes, Givens begins his talk at the beginning. “One cannot find a correct solution,” he states plainly, “until one defines the problem.” [Update: a point I have made recently about gun training.]

The problem faced by armed citizens – criminal assault – is not the same as that faced by soldiers or law enforcement officers. Training needs to be modeled on the reality of criminal assault, not vice-versa. The reality of the criminal assault paradigm that Givens preaches is based in large part on the experience of his 60-plus students who have used their guns in self-defense.

It suggests the typical event faced by an armed citizen will be from three to five yards distance and involve four shots fired.

Learning to jump out of helicopters, run carbines, and other forms of “edutainment” or “edutrainment” in the training community only serve to confuse students into hesitation – hesitation that in a criminal assault can be fatal. Instead, the training program Givens promotes emphasizes fast, reliable access to a concealed handgun and reliable hits with the first and successive rounds.


  1. Identifying the target and getting first round hits is straight out of the fire commands for an M1 as fast as possible. Makes sense it would apply to a defensive shooting situation as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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