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CHRONICLE: Gunsite40 Evolution of Shooting (Part 2)

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The “Evolution of Shooting” is going to be a five day, intensely immersive class into the world of combatives through the use of competition techniques, real world tactics, and non-ballistic weapons. Rob Leatham, Steve Tarani, and Chief Chris White are teaming up for what may be one of the most formidable open enrollment class offered by any school or organization in the country this year. It's all part of Gunsite 40 (the Gunsite Academy 40th anniversary) and is taking place April 10-15, 2016 in Paulden, AZ.
In Part 1 of this Chronicle, we gave you the 10,000 foot view of what was involved in the class and why it has been relatively unequaled in the recent training world.
We had the chance to sit down with each of the instructors individually to dig into what they expect from the class, the students, and the overall training industry.
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Steve Tarani is a former CIA operative and world class expert at pretty much anything bladed.
“Mr. Tarani is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who served in protective programs and was formerly on staff at the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Security Institute (Security Force Training Dept.) at Kirtland Air Force Base (NM) where he worked for the US State Department Anti-terrorist assistance program (ATAP).”
He travels the world training students from all walks of life in the arts of self-defense when a firearm is not available.
Tarani’s take on the Evolution of Shooting breaks down into three basic tenets:
  1. “Bar none, you are learning from the Best of the Best in the competition world with Rob Leatham. You will shoot faster and more accurately with him”
  2. “Learning tactics from a 36 year veteran SEAL like Chief Chris White – you just can’t find better than that – he is teaching the absolute latest techniques when it comes to real world combat.”
  3. “The integration of all three disciplines combines 30 plus years of experience from EACH of us – that’s over 90 years of combined learnings – it shows that you can come to the same conclusions from different angles”
The topic of common threads within each focus area was consistent through our time with Tarani. He used the example of getting to the moment immediately prior to pulling the trigger and how the approach, while different if you are in combat or competition, is almost exactly the same type of problem solving.
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“In a high speed SWAT situation,” he begins,” you might kick down the door, dig your corner, identify the threat, and begin taking up the slack in the trigger as you problem solve. In a Class A competition, you may have already prepped for the stage – that’s the problem solving – and on your first target you have already taken the slack out of the trigger as you move into position. On the non-ballistic side, you are already looking ahead, combining tactical movement, speed, and problem solving at three to four times the normal speed of most people.”
He also adds that the “combat stance” across all three areas is also a common thread. The key is that the student remains stable, maintains mobility, and is able to problem solve so that they “know how and when to move.”
“The weakest link is always training,” Tarani said.
So if a student were to invest in this opportunity to train at Gunsite, on a scale of 1-10, how would their skills increase? Tarani, as you would expect from anyone, would never guarantee that coming in at a skill level 2, that you would progress to a 10.
“We’re providing a giant buffet of education, and you can take as much or as little as you want home with you. The biggest thing we are getting across is that you are rewarded based on your attitude. We will separate students based on their skill level so that they have the best experience possible. If you have a narrow skill set right now, our job is to widen that bracket by the time you leave.”
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Rob Leatham's list of accomplishments almost reads like fiction, since it is hard to believe one shooter could be this prestigious:
“Rob is a 26-Time USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) National Champion, 8-Time IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) World Champion, 6-Division USPSA Grand Master, 10-Time NRA (National Rifle Association) Bianchi Cup Champion, 8-Time Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Champion, 6-Time IDPA CDP (International Defensive Pistol Association Custom Defensive Pistol) National Champion, 2013 Camp Perry “President's Hundred” member, and a member of “Gold Team USA” / 9-Time IPSC Team World Champions.”
And you came in 3rd at your local range's IDPA match. Time to get your learn on.
Echoing the statements made by Tarani, “The only difference between what happens in a real world battle and what happens in a competition is what happens up to the instant when the decision to fire is made,” Leatham starts explaining. “The process of shooting is unchanged. The preparation for that is completely different however.”
“From the competition side, we have developed special skills and techniques to allow us, in the shortest amount of time, to effectively engage targets of any type, any difficulty, any speed, and at any distance. So when you're down to the instant of truth, you need me. You don't need me to tell you how to get in and out of trouble. I'm not your guy. That's ridiculous and I would never be so presumptuous as to think that's what you want. But I am the guy if you want to learn how to hit targets as quickly as possible.”
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That sentiment right there sums up the basis of this class: putting the right instructor in charge of teaching students the best possible techniques for a given moment. All of the arguments that get started on the internet between the competition and the tactical training junkies tend to believe the opposite. It tends to be an all-or-nothing approach. There is a refusal to believe that you can learn from each facet of the shooting world.  You compete? Then you can never kick down a door. You were SF? So what, can you run this stage? That line of thinking is narrowminded BS. It is incredibly refreshing to hear men of this caliber all saying the same thing; that there is something to learn from everyone.
“This [class] is not going to be a ‘come and play at the range' format. And it isn't ‘Be Nice to Everyone' Camp,” Leatham emphasizes. The structure of the class will be presented in such a way that 1/3 of the day, every day will be spent with Leatham, 1/3 with Tarani, and 1/3 with White. Anything other than that would be overload for the students.
“If you're coming to this expecting me to comply with the standards that you have come to believe how marksmanship occurs, this is going to be a rough time for you. I'm about making every shooter I can, better. So if you want to learn how to make yourself better, this IS the place to be.”
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Lastly, we had the chance to steal a few minutes with USN SEAL Team Chief  Chris White, who despite his lengthy career with the teams that you would think would make him unapproachable, laughs easily and often. Let's get the bio out of the way:
“USN SEAL Team Chief Christopher White (Ret.) served as an Operator and Instructor at three separate SEAL Teams to include SEAL Team Six and later as the Senior Evaluator at the Naval Special Warfare Group One training staff. He completed two successful deployments to WESTPAC and one to the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. In over 1.5 years in the SEAL TEAM ONE Training Cell he ran the Combat Diving Training for over 8 SEAL Platoons with a perfect safety record. Chief White successfully screened and was selected for training at Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He was the Combat Diving Instructor for a 40 Man Assault Team and became an expert with Explosive, Ballistic and Mechanical Method of Entry, (MOE or Breaching). During this time he cross trained with the numerous US Special Mission Units, the British Special Boat Service and the German GSG-9 counter terrorist units.”
Suffice to say, when it comes to modern day tactics, White is your guy. By the time we were able to speak to him, it was apparent that all three men were in lock step as to the overall directives of the class, so we asked Chief White where he felt most folks are deficient in their training, and how this class will help them fill those gaps.
“If you get the “gun guys” trying to go hand to hand, they fall on their face because they are gun guys. And the you get the martial arts guys that are coming out of the close quarters stuff and trying to move into firearms and they are a fish out of water. That's the big disconnect.”
“Each of our blocks of training are separate, but they are dovetailed together. We're going to use the speed component of the short gun with Rob, and we're going to apply that directly to the carbine with me and give you the ability to go relatively close quarters – 5 yards, 7 yards out to 200. But if you get someone at bad breath range, you're not going to have the time to get one of these out,” he says, simulating a rifle and a handgun. “You'll have to use what you have, and that's with Steve.”
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We posed the same question to Chief White that we did to Tarani: If a student enters the class on a scale of 1-10 at a 2, where does he or she wind up?
“At least a 7,” White replied with no hesitation. “But,” he quickly adds, “that's just on the exposure to the material. On a skill level, that will depend on how much the student takes home and is willing to practice.”
The culmination event at the end of the class is the responsibility of the Chief.
“We've got that FTX (field training exercise) at the end where we will have a simulated takedown, with OPFOR guys, some reactionary targets – you know, get the package, get to the vehicles, extract, set security – it's going to be very very compressed – but they're going to see that there's a whole lot more than just some bullshit little raid. There's always a plan.”
As we were wrapping up with White, we wanted to understand just exactly where a student, through self assessment, should be before they enroll in an intense class like this. He has spent his life training some of the most proficient warriors in the world, so we figured he was the perfect person to ask.
“There's obviously a fitness piece. By the time we get to Friday these guys are going to be pretty wrung out. They're going to have to be proficient with a carbine, and obviously proficient with a handgun, and some type of hand to hand would obviously lend itself to Steve's work. You don't want to be a superstar in one and have nothing in the other two. It's not going to work for you.”
We haven't seen a cadre of this quality come together for an open enrollment class like this, well, ever. Not only will there be top level instruction for five days, but with evening events like briefings from former US Undersecretary of Defense Dr. Steve P. Bucci, and former FBI Special Agent and internationally-acclaimed competitive shooter Bill Rogers you will absolutely get your fill both mentally and physically.
All of this is not cheap, as you might expect. The complete package will dig into your wallet to the tune of $7500. That said, it includes all lodging, meals, snacks, evening events, demo carbines if you need them provided by Devil Dog Arms, and the chance to go home with a DDA carbine (it needs to be earned, not raffled), Aimpoint optics, a swag bag stuffed to the seams by 5.11 and Safariland. They'll even have range assistants ready to jock mags for you. That might be worth the price of admission right there.
If you have the time, cash, and mindset to attend this class, we have a very hard time believing that you would leave disappointed.
Absolutely all of the information on the class, including registration details and pistol qualification standards, can be found by going to the Gunsite40 website.

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