by Steve Barsky
There are many firearms trainers to be found in the U.S. but I have always gravitated towards those with a law enforcement or military background, with real world experience. Among the top trainers in this country, if not the world, is John Farnam.
John has both a military background as well as having served for many years as a deputy in Colorado. He is the author of four textbooks including, The Farnam Method of Defensive Handgunning, The Farnam Method of Defensive Shotgun and Rifle Shooting, The Street Smart Gun Book, and Guns & Warriors – DTI Quips Volume 1.
In June of 1996, John was selected by his peers to receive the renowned “Tactical Advocate of the Year” award from the National Tactical Association. He has also served as an expert witness in numerous firearms related legal cases.
I’d always wanted to train with John, but up until I retired his courses did not mesh with my schedule. This year, he offered his course, “Armed Response to a Terrorist Attack” in Utah. I jumped at the chance to attend a course close to home. (For a complete schedule of Farnam’s courses visit Defense Training International.)
The course was held over two days at “The FARM” near Lehi, Utah. As it’s about a 35 minute run to town from the range, you had two have all your required gear with you.
The class started on Friday morning at 9:30 and ran until 10:00 P.M. that night, followed by another eight-hour day on Saturday.We started with an extensive safety briefing and course introduction. We discussed our expectations and what the course would entail.
John was joined by three very capable assistants, including Jeff Tueller, son of Dennis Tueller of Tueller Drill fame. Jeff also runs the Defense Training International web site for Farnam and they have taught together for several years.
The other main instructor: Matt Newbold. Matt also makes very nice Kydex holsters, which he sells through his operation, MilitisKydex. Since there were only five students in the course, we had an outstanding instructor-to-student ratio.
All of John Farnam’s courses are run as “hot ranges”; it’s refreshing to be treated as an adult at a firearms course. In all but a very few instances, we were responsible for loading and unloading our weapons on our own, and keeping them in a constant state of readiness. Since this was a combined pistol and carbine course, our pistol was loaded and holstered, and our AR-15 was loaded and slung, even during breaks, loading, and lunch.
The course started out with us confirming zero on our rifles. Everyone was expected to have their iron sights co-witnessed with any red dot optic they were running. We also spent some time on trigger reset exercises.
During the course, Farnam emphasized that there is no one answer to any problem, and there is no one way to do things. With this in mind, he would give the minimum instruction for any exercise and allow us to work out a solution — provided it was safe and effective. He wanted us to push ourselves to the point of failure; it’s better to fail on the range and learn our capabilities than to fail in the real world.
On Friday, we engaged in what John termed the “Mother-in-law” drill, or how to save your mother-in-law if she’s being held by an armed hostage. If you decided to solve this “problem” with your AR, it’s important to remember to aim for the top of the head when shooting at close quarters.
The FARM offers a shoot house to accommodate live fire. The shoot house’s footprint probably approaches 1800 square feet.
On Friday afternoon, we participated in a tactical scenario set up by John’s assistants. We returned home to find the front door kicked open. We could hear an angry individual screaming at our family. Your AR was in the house, so you entered the structure with your pistol and decided whether to solve the problem with your pistol or AR.
I chose to retrieve my AR. My first order of business: go to the room where it was located. One of the instructors was up on the catwalk above the ground floor, while another steered you through the house from behind.
The instructor on the catwalk screamed hostilities at my “family,” demanding to know where the drugs and money were located. He fired a gun to add to the stress level. I managed to locate the hostage and take the bad guy out of the fight, without hitting the hostage.
On Friday night we continued to shoot through low light all the way into darkness. We evaluated how our red dot sights worked in low light. We also tested weapon-mounted light we might employ.
On Saturday morning we met with John and his assistants for breakfast. We got to know a man who can quote Shakespeare and, in the next moment, tell you a “salty” story from his military or law enforcement experience. John Farnam is an engaging, witty personality, who sees the world the way it is, and tells it like it is.
On Saturday, we engaged in exercises mixing hostile “bad guys” with unarmed civilians.
Farnam presented his philosophy on how to deal with terrorists, pulling no punches. He pointed out how you cannot expect to be rescued and that your odds of survival go down as the length of time you’re held as a hostage go up.
Saturday’s shoot house scenario was even more challenging than the first. In this case, we were at an art gallery with our family when terrorists attacked intending to take hostages. The situation starts with the student in the bathroom when the first shot rings out.
We were limited to our pistol and we had to solve the problem with classical music playing in the background, accented by gunfire and screaming terrorists. There were numerous “no shoot” civilian targets interspersed with the terrorist targets. Several of the bad guy targets were reactive, so you had to take alternative action if they did not go down.
On Saturday evening after the conclusion of the course, most of the students and all of the instructors got together for dinner in Lehi. Dennis Tueller showed up for dinner, an added bonus.
Over the years I’ve trained with five different firearms trainers, all of whom have either had law enforcement or military backgrounds. I can say without hesitation that I would train again with John Farnam. He’s a consummate professional and someone who can help prepare civilians for the terrible realities of this world.
Steve Barsky is an avid shooter, hunter, archer, and reloader.