I connected with Bill Rapier of American Tactical Shooting Instruction (https://www.amtacshooting.com/) last year at the SAC when he came by the booth. I ended up spending time talking with Bill both before and after the SAC, and again at SHOT. Bill is a big back country guy, and most of our conversations until this weekend focused around back country mobility both in gear (packs, skis, etc…), but in concepts. Bill shares a lot of the same views and ideas that we do despite coming from a different background. Bill spent most of his Navy career in the Teams, and before that was a boy from Colorado who grew up doing stuff here. However, a career in the SOF world colors his thinking so to speak, and also gives him a wealth of experience as his career spanned from prior to the GWOT to well into it. What really struck me about Bill, and continues to, is how low key, humble, and open to learning he is as a person. That is something that has come through in all our conversations, and also in his teaching style. Bill makes a wealth of knowledge and experience simple and accessible to your average person. When he got a CO class on the calendar he got me the word he was going to be teaching here, without even really looking at what the class was I signed up as soon as I knew my schedule was clear simply because I wanted to learn from this guy.
The class turned out to be a two-day class entitled the Responsible Armed Citizen course. A quick word on the 2 days. This last weekend was also the Overland Expo East, and I couldn’t attend due to lack of vacation time accrued. The fact that this was a 2-day class allowed me to attend without having to take any vacation time. I simply drove over to Denver Friday after work and home Sunday after the class. Admittedly it made for a long week/weekend, but the benefit of training without having to fit in vacation time was a huge thing for me right now. Otherwise I would probably not been able to attend. I encourage other instructors who may read this to think about that. The other thing is that we had two fairly long days of training, but everyone stayed fresh for both days, whereas I have seen folks dragging on day 3 and even 4 of multi-day classes, and in a couple of cases been one of those dragging. Both days were held at a private range near Sedalia, CO, it wasn’t fancy but it worked just fine for what we needed to do.
The Responsible Armed Citizen Class was the first class that Bill devised after retiring when he decided to hang out his shingle. Bill is a huge proponent of being responsible for the protection of yourself, your family, and your tribe, and this class was designed to teach the basics or fundamentals of what Bill believes is important to do that. I am not going to go into a huge detail about the what and why, but the class basically consisted of shooting fundamentals, mindset (both throughout and as a standalone block of training), a quick talk on medical response to a crisis, and intro to combatives. He also included a talk on what and why he carries what he does, which is not something I have seen before. Again it made real world experience easily accessible because he was up front with his path, and the mistakes he made early on, and why he decided to make the changes he did. That is not something I have seen in a class before, and was a good addition. I also want to say that Bill practices what he preaches. He is “tooled” up when he comes to the range and when he leaves. Another thing that I don’t commonly see in classes I have taken.
I will start by talking about the combatives first, even though it was one of the last things we did, because it is one of the things that I think that sets this class apart from other Basic/Fundamentals classes. Not every solution is a nail, but if all you have is a hammer they sure look like one. With that in mind he wanted to make sure that we have access to more than a hammer so we could address different situations appropriately. Bill recognizes that shooting is as much a martial art as any other but breaks combatives out to mean what most folks think of as fighting, or in other words empty hands and none gun weapons. He didn’t get into edged weapons, but it was clear that those were the next tier of combatives. I have done a fair amount of martial arts over the years including tae kwon do, Chinese KoFu (the instructor was an immigrant from China and had been a Professor of KoFu at a Chinese University), and more Americanized Kung Fu, as well as spending time training under the Rick Faye Minnesota Kali Group (MKG) and Ron Baliki Martial Arts Research Systems (MARS) lineages. I am far from being any kind of martial artist, but I have enough experience with martial arts to have some ideas about them and experience with the them. What Bill was teaching was simple, straight forward, and in line with the Strow School of Thought on Aggression One, One, One, One, One. In other words, it was simple, basic, and effective, and didn’t take a lot of time to learn. Note I said learn, not master. I ended up working with a guy that had zero martial arts background, and by the end of the block and during the stress test at the end of the class he was performing the movements well and easily. It took him more time to become comfortable to working aggressively against someone then it did to actually learn the moves. When I first started training under MKG, it was related that Kali was taught in the Philippines with the idea that it was very likely you would have to use it to get home safely. Therefore, they tried to keep it simple, effective, and easy to learn. I couldn’t help but think of this during Bill’s teaching and lectures. The combatives portion ended with each person going through three “rounds” with Bill. As a fighter it is easy to see that Bill is a very aggressive guy, but he adapted his level of aggression and force to each person. He also pushed different folks in different ways, which showed the understanding of a good teacher.
I am going to wax philosophical and get off track for a minute, before I get into the shooting portion. As much fun as carbine/rifle classes are, and as cool as it is to run a long gun hard it shouldn’t be the focus of a non-Mil guys training. Folks love to talk about the scenarios where they would be gunned up and rolling hard, but the reality is that even if there is some kind of societal breakdown the likelihood of rolling around with a long gun 24/7 is pretty damn low. Heck, not only is it low, but hauling around a long heavy item all day during your normal chores is pretty damn inconvenient and it gets in the way. I am also well aware of the old saying of my pistol is there to fight my way to my rifle, but again I find that pretty damn unlikely as a civilian. Now that is not to say that there haven’t and won’t be instances like Roof Koreans (if you don’t know look it up), or the like where a long gun comes into play it simply means that for daily life outside of an unusual set of circumstances the handgun is primary. That is not because a handgun is the most effective or the best choice, but rather it is easily carried and concealed (yup I said concealed). In other words, you will have to sort out the situation with what you have with you, and for most that will be a handgun, and for some a strong word and a stick of gum so to speak. That was Bill’s premise too, in that you will have the tools that you have with you to use, and you need to know how to use them to best effect, and that the tools you have should be mental, physical (fitness and combatives), and also hardware (firearms, knives, flashlights, tqs, etc…).
With that out of the way, but as background, I am a huge proponent of working the fundamentals both in personal training, but also taking classes periodically that focus on the fundamentals. Every class should start with some fundamental work as a baseline if nothing else in my opinion. Some folks get all hot and bothered about being too advanced for a basic class, but I have yet to take a basic class that I didn’t walk away with something learned and having gotten a good tune up in my own right. Even the NRA basic pistol that was load one shoot one type thing, which I took after moving to CO, allowed me to get tuned up. Soon after I started shooting with high level guys, I realized that they were high level because they were well down the road to mastering the basics and could perform the basics under any situation on demand. What I am saying is that master shooters are just a master of the basics, so no one is truly too advanced in my opinion to take a class that focuses on the fundamentals. Some folks might get more out of it then others, but unless you refuse to learn everyone is going to get something. If nothing else, you will be forced to run your carry gear (your carry gear is your training gear right?) for a few days straight at a higher round count then most folks get normally. In my case I found out that I hadn’t staked my new front sight well enough part way through the morning on day 1. A quick switch of pistols and I was back up and running for the rest of the day. Since it happened in a class format it wasn’t a big deal. Thankfully, one of the range hosts was a gunsmith and took it home overnight and did a better job because it didn’t budge at all on day 2, so I have confidence it is not going to go flying again. Some folks found out that the big magwell on their gun, and even one small mag well got in the way of easily drawing and doing a push/pull on the mag during administrative reloads. These issues came more to light as the tasks got more difficult. In addition, in this case there was the added impediment of weather. Saturday morning featured a steady constant drizzle punctuated by periods of heavy rain, and I don’t think it ever really got out of the 40s all day. Saturday afternoon was nicer with just periods of light drizzle. The result was that folks were having to work draws and reloads from under multiple layers, with wet cold hands, soaked pants (in some cases), and in one case soaked everything. Magazines were dropped into a well churned up muddy mess on the ground, and in a few spots puddles. The ground never really dried out, but did firm up Sunday afternoon. All of that made people think through things in a different light, and deal with adverse conditions. That in its self was a learning experience. The drills followed the crawl, walk, run philosophy of starting simple and building from there, and once everyone was doing well two handed it was time to go one handed, and then once everyone was doing well on that, it was time to go one handed the other way. As in every class I picked up a few things that pretty quickly became natural or made sense to me. Others are going to take a bit more time and thought to see if they work for me. Like Bruce Lee, Bill preaches try a number of things and then use what works for you and make it your own. This class was not about burning it down with high round counts, and lots of shots, but rather working to make firearms manipulations smooth and automatic while alternating back and forth between a small dot and a large circle for each set of drills. In some ways it was very self-paced, so it allowed the student to focus on what they were having issues with as Bill walked the line providing pointers and tweaks for everyone.
Day 2 started with a problem/cold bore shot, and ended with a stress test. Both were excellent, but I personally liked the morning one better. If you followed directions it made things very real for you, and I found that I had an adrenaline dump afterwards. Such a simple thing, but it focused me and got me thinking right so to speak about the days activities. The stress test differs based on range facilities, but ours included a short run up a hill, okay jog in my case which despite what my nieces think I can do, followed by a bunch of hits on a Thai pad into shooting which forced us to work through all the different fundamentals we had been working on all weekend at a variety of ranges. As the thunder growled and the rain started to fall again it was over.
So “the” question: Do I recommend Bill and would I train with him again. The answer is absolutely, and I sure hope to get the opportunity to. I have had the opportunity to train with some excellent instructors, guys who may not excel at teaching but impart great information, and folks who I learned from, but aren’t stand outs. Bill for me is a stand out, and I think an excellent instructor. His style is very low key, which I personally like. I think this may have been the best Basic/Fundamentals class I have taken because the curriculum is so well rounded. It focuses not just on the shooting fundamentals, but includes other facets of carrying as a civilian, which is all I can speak too. Bill certainly has the resume to rest on, but his resume is barely mentioned instead he focuses on teaching and making a connection with his students. If you get the chance look him up, and train with him.
For the gear guys, my primary was a LW Colt Commander in 9mm, WC magazines, Trijicon HD sights, WC magwell, VZ grips, and my secondary was my stock Sig Legion SAO. Mag pouches were from Dale Fricke, belt was Milt Sparks, and holsters were from Garrett Industries Silent Thunder Slim.