I was having a conversation with a buddy of mine about outdoor ranges one evening and the topic of Aurora Sportsman Club popped up. We got a little off topic and started to discuss training, a digression that happens a lot with me, I can literally turn any conversation towards shooting if given a few minutes to speak. Well, he told me about a school that uses ASC for tactical training and sent me a link, a true sign of friendship, in my opinion.
So I looked into Firearm Defense Specialties and thought I’d take a class, and get to see this range, two birds one stone, and all that. I was happy that it was an all day 8 hour class instead of the half day 4 hour classes I seemed to be finding of late. You get all warmed up and start to learn something new, and times up. So I tried the Beginners Tactical Pistol. It was a warm sunny day, no bugs to speak of and a beautiful 25 yard range full of targets! I had Brian, one of the owners of FDS as my instructor, 7 or so fellow shooters, and we began.
As you would expect, a safety briefing, they run a ‘hot’ range, introductions, and an overview of the days drills. FDS is a laid back type of school, you will be pushed a little, but they want you to have fun while you’re there, and focus on being safe while absorbing the information being taught, a great recipe for learning.
I would describe the type of training as skills and drills, line drills, dynamic movement, positional shooting, barricades and barrels, steel and paper targets, with the T.A.P.S. system strongly used, as well as up to date tactics currently used by our armed forces, and what we should use as civilians. Several of the instructors at FDS are active duty servicemen, and they bring that knowledge right to the range for you.
The current list of instructors are Matt, Brian, Brian, Brandon, and Abe. I will state that they are all either active duty or former military, combined 75 years of military experience, 11 years of LEO experience and have graduated from more than 20 military and civilian training schools at the instructor level.
See a full list on the FDS webpage, it’s impressive to say the least. Now FDS took 2015 off from training due to family commitments, getting married, and becoming parents, however, they will be back spring of 2016 with more courses, and updated or new offerings, I for one, can’t wait.
What do they offer as far as classes, well, I’m glad you asked. The courses are, Tactical Pistol level 1, 2, and Advanced Tactics, Carbine Level 1 and 2, Pistol/Carbine combo classes, Home Defense, Long Range Marksmanship, Illinois Concealed Carry, and private instruction. All are 1 day classes, with the IL CCW class, and the Long Range classes both being 2 days.
I have taken the Tactical Pistol 1 and 2, Carbine/Pistol, and Advanced Tactics classes. I was impressed by how much we got to do in the 8 hours we were there. You are timed and often run head to head with at least one other student, you must pass the timed portion to advance to the next level of your respective class.
The students are a tight knit group, and most have shot with FDS before, and the healthy competition and friendship helps to motivate and guide newer shooters to advance. Brian ran the classes I took, he shoots in rotation with the students to show them proper grip, stance, time, and execution of the drill we are running. I learn more from an instructor that gets out there with us and shows by example. Plus we get to strive to beat his time, and accuracy.
This is a great way to gage your progress. There are times after we have completed the course and have time left over that we start a healthy shooter on shooter competition, just for bragging rights, or an FDS patch. A quick draw, walk back, or accuracy competition have been known to break out and start peoples blood pumping. Very high on the fun factor.
I like that FDS has a graduated system of courses, you can be a beginner and by summers end become a very proficient shooter, and get a IL CCW as well, all in one school. Now for the positives, and negatives. First what I really like, many different courses to choose from, a great price, very skilled instructors, use of the T.A.P.S. system, laid back teaching style, limited class size, one on one instruction, great feedback, use of steel targets, a great range, very friendly fellow students and with that loyal and happy students, rain or shine training, different levels of experience to shoot with and against, you will be pushed in class, an instructor that shoots with you, and a fairly regular course schedule.
What I’d like to see. A certificate of completion upon successfully completing the course, with your time and score, a 2 day 16 hour class option for tactical classes, indoor classes for the colder months, (they have used Article 2 before), moving targets of some sort. But to be honest, that’s about it. I have to say, FDS puts on a great class, and I don’t have much to really complain about.
I was bummed when I found out 2015 was a class free year, but family first, and they are coming up with some great things for next spring. Would I recommend FDS to people, yes, 100%. You’ll have to try them and see for yourself. Last year it was $150 for an 8 hour class, very good deal! Let’s hope it stays around the same for 2016. The class size is limited to how many instructors are there, but class sizes were between 4-7 students. I love the shooter vs. shooter, and T.A.P.S. drills and I always felt safe – never saw any infractions.