2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the Rangemaster Polite Society Tactical Conference. I had only attended “TacCon” once before, in 2014. Even over the short period of four years, much about the event has changed.
When I attended the 16th annual TacCon in 2014, 140 individuals – including me and my wife – paid $249 to join 22 presenters in Memphis. Significantly, it was the last year the TacCon would be held at Tom and Lynn Givens’s Rangemaster facility.
Each day there were four two-hour time slots from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with 30 minutes for lunch between the second and third slots. In each time slot, three sessions ran concurrently in the classroom, airgun range, and upstairs room, for a total of 12 sessions each day. Because some sessions repeated, there were 25 unique sessions in 2014. The only live fire during the 2014 TacCon was the pistol match, out of which the event itself was born in 1988.
For its 20th anniversary, over 200 people paid $370 to attend TacCon at the Direct Action Resource Center (DARC), an expansive facility in a swamp on the outskirts of the outskirts of Little Rock, Arkansas.
I paid my registration in September of 2017, six months early, and the event sold out not long after that. For the modest increase in fees, attendees availed themselves of 43 unique sessions spread over three classrooms, a “med bay,” three live fire ranges, and the shoothouse (plus a dedicated range for the pistol match).
Someone who played their cards right could attend sessions on urban rifle with John Farnam, snubby skills with Claude Werner, legal self-defense strategies with Massad Ayoob, tactical treatment of combatives casualties with Caleb Causey, escaping restraints with Greg Ellifritz, violent criminal actors with William Aprill, and an experiential learning lab with Craig Douglas. Those sessions alone without amount to a substantial education in self-defense.
In doing so, this hypothetical attendee would also MISS three times as much education by not making sessions with Darryl Bolke, Wayne Dobbs, Vicki Farnam, Tom Givens, Chuck Haggard, Randy Harris, Marty Hayes, John Hearne, John Holschen, Spencer Keepers, Ernest Langdon, Larry Lindenman, Steve Moses, Karl Rehn, Paul Sharp, Lee Weems, Gabe White, and others.
It’s actually staggering to think if a bomb was dropped on the Tactical Conference which self-defense trainers would go straight to the top.
Early in its history, it occurred to Tom Givens that many of the attendees of his Polite Society pistol match were self-defense trainers who could offer blocks of instruction to others when they were not shooting. “Thus was born the Tactical Conference,” Givens says. At my first TacCon, I distinctly remember attending up-and-comer John Hearne’s session on “Performance Under Fire” and finding myself sitting next to one of the founding fathers of armed citizen self-defense, John Farnam, as well as conference presenters Kathy Jackson, Chuck Haggard, Darryl Bolke, and Claude Werner.
Even today, many non-presenting attendees are gun training industry insiders. I had the opportunity to meet for the first time a number of people I know of, like Bob Mayne, Melody Lauer, and Paul Carlson. But more and more attendees are like me, regular Joes who know an amazing training value when they see one.
That said, for me a significant difference between the 2014 and 2018 Tactical Conferences was I am better known now. Or, more accurately, my work on Gun Culture 2.0 is better known now. At the 2014 event, only my wife knew who I was. By 2018, I felt much more like an insider.
Next year’s TacCon will be held at Nolatac Training Center outside New Orleans, Louisiana. Fees have increased modestly to $389, and the event is already sold out.
I won’t be attending the 21st annual Rangemaster Polite Society Tactical Conference, as far as I know. But I will be posting a couple more reflections on the 20th incarnation to close out 2018. As always, stay tuned.