The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Team Torn

Photos by Tom Marshall and Team Torn

A lot of great shooting schools are out there. A lot of great martial arts and unarmed combat instructors are also out there. We’ve done our best to introduce you to as many of them as we can. But for all the ones we’ve covered, there are still some really fantastic hidden gems. We recently found one such gem in the mountains of Northern Nevada: Team TORN.

Team TORN actually started as TMTORN: Tactical Mobility and Technical Off-Road Navigation. The facility was initially built to teach some very particular military and government organizations the niche skill of using off-road vehicles like side-by-sides and dirt bikes in hostile or non-permissive environments. While they continue to teach this “very unique set of skills” they’ve since expanded their curricula to include dismounted land navigation, combatives, shooting, rope rescue, situational awareness, and rural and urban survival skills. They’re certified by all of the following organizations to teach their various courses: Motorcycle Safety Foundation, ATV Safety Institute, Recreational Off-Highway Association, NRA, and USCCA.

Sometimes, when you see an instructor or school with an extensive list of “on-paper” certifications, it can be an attempt to compensate for a lack of real-world experience in the instructor cadre. In the case of Team TORN, even typing that sentence made us snicker. The owner and lead instructor of Team TORN has over 18 years of Special Operations experience and has served in some of that community’s most sensitive roles. You’ll read that on their website, but we can verify it first hand, as we personally met this individual while deployed downrange on a similar government program. The author has since hung up his helmet to spell-check articles for a living, but several TORN instructors still run in those circles at least part-time, so we’re not going to go into a ton of detail about them.

That level of subject-matter expertise runs from top to bottom with the TORN cadre. All of their instructors are either former Special Operations personnel who retired with decades of experience or, in the case of a couple of their driving instructors, international champions in their motorsport of choice. With over a century of experience in their incredibly small training team, you’re going to be hard pressed to find that ratio of practical experience at a lot of schools.

Every good training facility should aspire to a team bar like the one at Team TORN. We spent several evenings here sharing stories and killing off the weakest of brain cells.

Every good training facility should aspire to a team bar like the one at Team TORN. We spent several evenings here sharing stories and killing off the weakest of brain cells.

We recently had the chance to spend a long weekend at their mountain school house, practicing everything from precision long rifle work, to driving and navigating off-road vehicles. Their facility is currently 643 acres, with plans for an expansion that will put them over four figures’ worth of acreage. They have access to 1,000 miles of trails, roads, and unimproved off-road terrain with mean elevation running from 4,500 to 8,000 feet.

But nostalgic scenery and dirt trails are hardly all they have to offer. The bunkroom, equipped with its own gun vault so you can store your gear right next to where you sleep, is steps away from the grill, gym, eat-in kitchen, and showers/bathrooms. Immediately upstairs is the team bar (one of the best we’ve seen in a long time) and classroom. All the meals we enjoyed during our time there were either catered by local small businesses or cooked by neighbors using from-scratch family recipes.

The TORN weight room is bound to make some people nostalgic for FOB life. It’s spartan, but has everything needed to conduct as much PT as you can handle at 7,000 feet.

The TORN weight room is bound to make some people nostalgic for FOB life. It’s spartan, but has everything needed to conduct as much PT as you can handle at 7,000 feet.

Whether you’re visiting Team TORN as a military unit, tactical response team, or family-and-friends training trip, the entire atmosphere of this place seems to promote camaraderie in one form or another — whether the living quarters, the (literally) home-cooked meals, nightly social hour, or just the welcoming attitude of the instructors. Also, both cell reception and Internet connectivity are somewhat spotty. We call this a big plus — you can finally focus on your training and appreciate the surroundings without your electronic leash constantly vibrating in your pocket.

The accommodations at Team TORN are a much classier version of traditional military barracks. If this is outside your comfort zone, there are several hotels in town, 20 to 30 minutes away, if you care to commute.

The accommodations at Team TORN are a much classier version of traditional military barracks. If this is outside your comfort zone, there are several hotels in town, 20 to 30 minutes away, if you care to commute.

We spent our first afternoon humping up and down slopes, shooting one of their two particularly unique rifle courses. This one, The Giffy Challenge, is named in honor of fallen Gunnery Sergeant “Giffy” — a friend and former teammate. The course consists of a number of steel targets laid into the surrounding terrain at distances between 200 and 350 meters. Shooters must navigate between targets on foot over challenging terrain a total of 800 meters. The lowest point on the course is 6,890 feet, and there’s a 200-foot elevation gain across the distance of the course. Only one target is off an improved platform. The rest of the time you’ll be shooting off rocks, branches, and tree stumps.

Most of the targets can’t be hit from conventional standing or prone positions. The designated shooting spots are also on a mountainside, meaning you’ll have to crouch or kneel on various inclines/declines. While the course is designed to be shot on the clock, it was our first exercise with the TORN cadre, so we did it purely as an intro to the coming weekend. We used several of the school-owned Daniel Defense ARs with a variety of sighting options from factory irons, to red dots and magnified glass. While ringing steel at 350m with an ACOG isn’t typically anything worth bragging about, the uneven target dispersion and aggressive cross-winds will force you to get familiar with wind calls and holdovers. If those skills are new to you, or you happen to be a little rusty, the natural environment of Team TORN will certainly give you some quality learning.

The lead instructor for North 40 Rescue gave an excellent hands-on class on technical rope rescue in the case of a vehicle rollover in rough terrain.

The lead instructor for North 40 Rescue gave an excellent hands-on class on technical rope rescue in the case of a vehicle rollover in rough terrain.

The next morning started out with a couple hours of combatives. Team TORN doesn’t endorse a particular commercial system for hand-to-hand. It’s not Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, or Kali. What they teach is down-and-dirty street fighting. Their instructors have lifetimes of experience operating in a wide range of hostile environments — some of which don’t permit the warm blanket of belt-fed weapons.

In addition to shooting and mobility, Team TORN offers several classes in survival techniques, including shelter building.

In addition to shooting and mobility, Team TORN offers several classes in survival techniques, including shelter building.

The techniques we rehearsed were quick to learn and not reliant on strength or form. With a baseline of physical fitness and healthy doses of aggression and overwhelming violence, we watched our fellow students overcome the instructors and create enough time and space to escape some very ugly, very dangerous situations. While our class was meant as a brief overview, they’re fully capable of teaching a comprehensive self-defense course, including the use of Red Man suits for full contact rehearsals.

The author and his driving partner navigate a miles-long off-road course using a tablet equipped with ATAK software.

The author and his driving partner navigate a miles-long off-road course using a tablet equipped with ATAK software.

The rest of our morning was spent in Land Navigation class. Team TORN has partnered with North 40 Rescue in Montana for their navigation and technical rescue classes. North 40 is run by another Special Operations veteran who spent a sizable portion of his career teaching both navigation and search-and-rescue to his fellow soldiers. We spent our block of instruction getting acquainted with Garmin’s Rino series of GPS devices. The Rino series is an excellent choice for team sports, like SAR or small-unit movement, as it packs a number of features that allow direct tracking and communication of other Rino-users.

Topics included everything from practical use of GPS to navigational background data, including how to ensure your GPS is using the same datum as your maps — admittedly, it doesn’t sound like the coolest thing to learn. But you know what else isn’t cool? Getting lost because your GPS is giving you coordinates that don’t align with your map, then having to get bailed out by your instructor. Ask us how we know.

The owner and lead instructor of Team TORN walks the author through route planning prior to an off-road movement exercise.

The owner and lead instructor of Team TORN walks the author through route planning prior to an off-road movement exercise.

After making it through our 1,500-meter practical movement exercise, we started our work on mounted navigation. This is TM TORN’s foundational curriculum, and they offer a comprehensive technical off-road package that includes route planning, navigation, movement techniques, and vehicle recovery. Their off-road navigation class is based on a software suite known as ATAK — the Android Tactical Assault Kit. ATAK is an app-based mapping and situational awareness program that allows real-time networking of any Android-based device (phone, tablet, etc.) to track multiple elements across an imagery overlay.

If you have multiple trucks or ATVs moving around in a given area, ATAK will let each user track every other user in real time, with coordinates available in both Lat/Long and Military Grid Reference System. ATAK allows you to set waypoints, build routes, record significant events, and share all this data with fellow users. It’s also rated for targeting use, so that data may be shared with air support and fire direction officers to facilitate directed strikes. While it’s currently available only to military and government agencies, a de-militarized version of the software is being developed with plans for commercial release. So you’ll still be able to track your buddy’s ATV in real time — you just won’t be able to drop a JDAM on him for swiping the last energy drink before hitting the trail.

With steel targets in the hillside at various distances, plinking off the back deck of the team house is encouraged to hone distance estimation and wind calls.

With steel targets in the hillside at various distances, plinking off the back deck of the team house is encouraged to hone distance estimation and wind calls.

After learning some background on the software, we laid waypoints and built a route for ourselves. The class was then broken down into pairs — one driver, one navigator with a tablet, and we drove our routes and witnessed first-hand just how accurate the ATAK app was. We missed a single turn on a route that spanned several kilometers. ATAK helped us catch it within 50 feet, while traveling at approximately 40 mph.

The mounted navigation course also got us familiar with Team TORN’s other particularly unique precision rifle range, which they simply call the golf course. The course can be shot two ways: Sniper Golf or Hunter Golf. The targets are the same but, in the Hunter’s version your ranges are given to you ahead of time. By Sniper’s rules you must mil, laze, or otherwise determine your own distances to each target. The course itself is nine holes (targets) spread out over a 1,000-acre course.

Targets are at a variety of unknown distances between 450 and 875 meters. Shots must be taken from a combination of standing, kneeling, and prone, depending on the target. Movement between targets must be on side-by-side UTVs along a route plotted on ATAK or map. We didn’t have the opportunity to shoot the entire golf course front to back so, of course, we’re already planning our return. In the meantime, tune in to RECOILtv for additional coverage on Team TORN, or visit their website and tell them we sent you.

In true small unit fashion, long days in the field end with a couple of pints shared among friends.

In true small unit fashion, long days in the field end with a couple of pints shared among friends.

TM TORN
www.tmtorn.com

Team TORN
www.teamtorn.com

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