GRADUATION

Graduation is always the same. Graduates get black Thunder Ranch caps, Thunder Ranch Pins, and Thunder Ranch Decals and a nice graduation certificate. Clint's words of wisdom are few and appropriate. At this one, DHG 3, he was talking about the fact that there are instructors who give the title of COMBAT MASTER to those who beat the clock on a series of exercises. The criteria of a Combat Master being determined by the instructor. Clint feels that when he dies he might, just might, as he enters that long white tunnel, get the feeling he's begun to master his weapon. (Unlike one of the big promoters of "Combat Master Prep," he has actually seen combat. "No match has been like any fight I've been in," is one of his sound bites. Having seen a little combat, I agree.) The certificates at Thunder Ranch are simple. They don't give titles. You're not an "expert," or "marksman first class," or "marksman." You're just a graduate. One yo-yo said when you graduated from DHG 3 you could call yourself a gunman. Bat Guano. When you've graduated from DHG 3 or any other course you're not a gunman or a gunfighter or an expert or marksman. But you're better trained than when you went there. In a crisis, you don't rise to the occasion, you revert to your level of training. I was in several gunfights long before I went to Thunder Ranch or Gunsite or Chapman Academy. I survived. I'd like to think I'd do even better with all this training. But you really never know till the sierra hits the fan. I've seen good soldiers with good combat records fall apart the next time. When it's over, you'll know how you did. If you go through DHG 3 and later find yourself in a really bad situation, you won't do bad from a lack of training in techniques or tactics. To answer the question, "now that I've graduated from DHG 3, what course should I take next?" Clint replies, "DHG 1." Basics, practice. Makes sense. I'm taking Pre 1900 anyway.

 

Aside from the fact that the only one shorter than I am is kneeling in front, I really like this group of instructors.

Dennis Tueller, of Tueller Drill fame, retired cop, ex-Gunsite instructor. He had just dumped a motorcycle and was left-handed for this course. My usual comments about the lunacy of riding a motorcycle were unnecessary in this case.

Robbie Barrkman, ex-Gunsite instructor, Rhodesian Army vet. RoBar guru. Robbie was an instructor at my API 250 class way back when. In describing one maneuver he promised to refinish the gun for free if we had to do it for real in a gunfight. I wish I could remember what maneuver that was.

Steve Rodriguez, Albuquerque, NM policeman, precision rifleman, SWAT team member, nice guy. When author Stephen Hunter asked Clint something about what makes a warrior, Clint used Steve as an example of a warrior.

Walt Rausch, crusty ex-Secret Serviceman (ask about the bathing suit story sometime or what he said to Nixon on Christmas)

Sitting is Tim Wickett, DOE Central Training Academy - Ex-Gunsite instructor. Tim was a range officer at Gunsite at my API 250 class way back when.

Most of the instructors are cops or retired cops. They spend their vacations teaching here, at least part of them. It has to be for something other than money.

CONCLUSION

I see a lot of people handle guns at public ranges. I hear a lot of them talk about them. The misinformation and the bad techniques outweigh the good. There's a law of economics which says bad money will drive good money out of circulation. The stuff you get here is the good money. It's rare. You won't find it talking to the gunrange commandos. It's restricted to card carrying good guys. Not everyone can get in to TR, and certainly very few people go all the way through DHG 3. It's held once a year, with 18-20ish students/year, meaning less than 100 graduates at press time. Clint calls them the "top of the pyramid," and notes they're "hand selected."

If you carry a gun for protection or for a living, you should take at least DHG 1. I believe if you drive a car you should at least take the equivalent of the Bob Bondurant 3 Day High Performance Driving Course. If you shoot you should get serious training. Untrained shooters do stupid things and wind up being fodder for the gun confiscation left-wingers. Now that Jeff Cooper is back "in" at Gunsite, I can put it back on my "recommended" list, certainly after the new owner rebuilds to make up for 7 years neglect by the previous owner. Till then there's Thunder Ranch and... well, there's just Thunder Ranch. You should also take Mas Ayoob's "Judicious Use of Deadly Force" course. It gives you the legal aspects to go with TR's physical aspects of gunfighting and avoiding gunfights.

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