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Critical Defend Group (courtesy

Since last November, I’ve been training at the Critical Defense Institute (CDI) in Manchester, NH. CDI provides firearm and self defense training to civilian, law enforcement, and military audiences. It was the second organization in the State of New Hampshire (after the SIG Sauer Academy) to be certified for the Simunitions Range Program which means that average Joes and Janes can get Simutions training . . .


What makes CDI so unique is their instructor cadre. Each of its principals has a particular specialty which has been woven together into a multidisciplinary defensive training program. Rob Tibbo is a fifth degree black belt in taekwando, a second degree black belt in hapkido, and a military combatives instructor. Tom Brown is a lethal force instructor for New Hampshire and a Massachusetts State firearm instructor. He has many years of experience teaching firearms skills to law enforcement officers. Kevin Beaulieu is an NRA certified instructor for most of the courses the NRA offers and has also been teaching firearms for many years. Finally, Rich Iacomini holds a fourth degree black belt in taekwando and has trained with Rob Tibbo for more than two decades. All of the principals are certified Simunitons instructors as well.

The facility features a martial arts training dojo and a Simunitions shoot house. Students can choose to join CDI on a monthly membership basis or can attend a one-day self defense course on the weekend that features hand-to-hand defensive tactics and Simunitions training. The weekly program consists of a women’s self defense program that meets three times a weeks, twice weekly taekwando sessions, defensive tactics training on Tuesdays, and Simutions training on Thursdays.


Special courses include “Own Your Glock” in which Glock Certified Armorers show you how to disassemble your Glock to its components parts as well as their Rifle Builders Workshop where you learn how to build your very own AR-15.

One of the first things new students learn is that the firearm isn’t the answer to all of your problems. Rob and Rich are more than happy to demonstrate to any doubters that, if you are within reach, you will not have time to draw your gun before your ass is on the mat in a relatively painful submission hold. The best part is that CDI doesn’t just show you what can happen – they teach you to do it yourself.


In the shoot house, you’re under the watchful eyes of Tom and Kevin who are only too happy to exploit bad decisions. You’ll learn why the moves you see on TV will get you hurt (or worse). Every time I go into the shoot house, I come out with a new lesson learned and sometimes a new welt or two to help me remember and learn from my mistakes. That’s okay as that’s the whole point of Simunitions training – you really don’t want to get shot. It hurts. That’s what adds the necessary stress to a training exercise. It helps to simulate the pressure you’ll feel if you ever find yourself in a real gun fight.


For those unwilling or unable to make a weekly commitment, CDI offers their Home Defense 100 and 200 classes. These are full-day courses that feature a fair amount of time in the shoot house using Simunitions as well as a discussion of what to do before, during, and after a situation that goes really bad.

If I had to pick just one of the valuable things that I’ve learned, it would be that I need to protect my gun. All too often on the range we train to go from holster to a drawn gun in a classic Isosceles or similar stance where the pistol is in full extension. This tends to work great in competition and gets us into the most stable shooting position in the shortest amount of time. But under pressure, you’ll replicate what you have trained to do.

In a close quarters combat situation, that might make it easier for your opponent to disarm you. The alternative is to draw into a variation of the Weaver or Chapman stances which is a semi-bladed stance and allows you to fire your gun in many positions ranging from a full retention hold, to full extension. The instructors at CDI have the skill to simulate what could happen in the real world and you learn by doing what works and what doesn’t.

If you asked Rob what other valuable lessons he taught me, he’d probably include ensuring that I always leave myself a clear route of egress when clearing the shoot house. That was a particularly painful lesson for me and I’ll say no more about it.

Where CDI departs from some of the other courses I have taken is in their focus on the legal picture as well as the practical one. Do you really know what the law is with respect to when you can use deadly force? I thought that I did and I was wrong. Very wrong. The instructors are intimately familiar with the laws governing the use of force in New Hampshire as well as surrounding states and you leave their courses with a good understanding of what you can and can’t do if you want to keep your ass out of jail.

The monthly membership program is one of the best buys in personal defensive training in New Hampshire. From $135 a month, you get access to three hours per week of training in martial arts and another three hours of defensive tactics and Simunitions. You can choose to do all or some of the training as fits your schedule. If you’re within driving distance of Manchester, you owe it to yourself to check CDI out. In the six months that I have been training with CDI, I have learned a tremendous amount. Lessons learned in the shoot house early on have helped me to better understand my own limitations as well as given me an appreciation of the legal framework under which my actions will be judged.

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  1. That $135 a month membership for 3 workouts + 3 hours of Simunitions a week sounds like a ridiculous deal. Wish there was something like that here on the West Coast!

  2. Amazing. I’ve lived in Manchester for a few years, and this is the first time I’ve heard about this organization. Just when I was about to check out the Sig courses [a much longer drive]. Thanks.

  3. By and large these these training centers teach tactics that are only useful if you are LEO or security professional. They would gain more credibility with me if they offered pratical courses in surveillance/countersurveillance directed at individual self protection. That is much more usefull than the martial arts and gunfighting training that they concentrate on.

  4. I think our Congress criminals who put their support for restricting the
    number of rounds that you can carry should be forced to participate in
    one of these simunition courses with that number of rounds, while the
    instructors(playing the part of the criminals) are not restricted to how
    many rounds they can carry. Chucky Schummer and his ilk should see
    and feel what it’s like to be under threat of death with only 7 rounds to
    defend against those who have all the rounds they want. What would
    their opinion on limiting magazines to 7 rounds be, as they are shot
    repeatedly by criminals (who have no such limits) as they desperately
    try to reload another 7 round magazine to defend themselves? How
    many times can you get shot while changing out a 7 round magazine?
    Feel the pain you asshats!! That’s what you have consigned us to with
    your stupid 7 round limit, gun regulations!!! The only difference is,
    you’ll get to go home, alive and well, with maybe a few little painful
    welts, while we get a free ride to the hospital, or worse, to the morgue.

  5. Full Disclosure-I’m friends with these guys and have trained with them. Anyplace can teach you to shoot. Very few teach you when not to shoot. Too many people are very cavalier in their approach to self-protection/personal defense. It’s “shoot first and ask questions later”. Not only will that cost you your home in attorneys fees but it could get you in jail. What happens if a drunk walks into your house thinking it’s his own house. He’s not belligerent and he’s not a threat. He’s just “lost”. Do you double tap center mass? I think one of CDI’s strengths is teaching problem solving. Sometimes that may involve a firearm and sometimes it won’t. These guys are a good group and I recommend them highly.

    • “Do you double tap center mass?”

      The question above refers to a non-aggressive person in the same room as yourself and who has no intention whatsoever of harming you. Well why not double tap center of mass? Law enforcement officers do it all the time when they raid the wrong house.

      Back to serious discussion, there are pros and cons to yelling orders to a stranger in your home. On the “pro” side, you avoid the personal emotional consequences that come with shooting another person … especially if it turned out that person was a drunk who accidentally wandered into the wrong home. On the “con” side, there could be multiple strangers who have every intention of harming you and your family, but you only see one of them. Yelling orders at the one you can see gives away your position, your gender, potentially your age, and the element of surprise. And there is another “con”. A person who is so stoned that they don’t realize they are in the wrong home is dangerous. When you start yelling orders like, “I have gun, get out!”, they suddenly think a home invader is in their home and who knows what they might do at that point.

      The best idea is to keep your doors locked at all times and for family or friends to always announce themselves when they enter — whether your door is locked or not. If someone starts pounding on the door, you can tell them to go away before they get inside. If they keep pounding, you better be ready to repel them if they break through the door or an alternate entrance point.

    • Been to Front Sight a few times.
      Seems like 50% of our time was devoted to the classroom with heavy doses of legal responsibility and consequences thrown in, we were told when to shoot, when not to shoot and how to differentiate between the two.
      They also pounded into our heads what the legal, personal and financial repercussions would likely be. (even in a totally justifiable DGU)
      Some people think their “Color Code” of awareness is silly, but it really did help me get everything straight in my head.
      I would love to go to CDI and get another perspective.

      BTW, Piazza’s marketing makes me crazy.

  6. This training is geared for self preservation. Teaching you problem solving when it comes to protecting yourself. From hand to hand to the possibility of needing a firearm to protect yourself. This group is very knowledgable from the master instructors to the role players which majority are all certified in Simunitions and NRA Instruction and advanced weapons tactics. Probably the best group of people to train with! Don’t be doubtful, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once. I did and now I am hooked and have been attending classes for 6 months now.

  7. Jim, I’m very interested in CDI and live in Massachusetts. Robert and Ralph have my information. I’d be much obliged if you’d contact me. Many thanks.

  8. TTAG,

    More articles/reviews like this please.

    This article gives the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
    Even though gun and accessory reviews are useful, that market is saturated. I think the training reviews by experts and newbies is an under served market. Everything from home defense, law, ccw, insurance, medical, etc. Some ccw trainers go above and beyond, some do the bare minimum (maybe for cost?). Anyway, understanding what ‘education’ we are buying would be really helpful.

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