Article submitted by Mark Hatfield

Six times now John Farnam has been requested to provide training  down near the edge of the great swamp of Florida, and I have been privileged to be able to attend (and pass) four of them.  This student group were mostly repeat students, seems like once you take one of Johns classes, you keep coming back.

As for Mister Farnam , he’s a big guy who can be big without being imposing.  John lives the part of the ‘gray man’ not standing out in a crowd.  First meeting him, he reminded me of some of my relatives, he looked as though he might have just gotten down from the tractor and come into town to get parts for the harvester and told jokes to the girl at the cash register to brighten her day.  Studying with him, you quickly realize that John is one of those men who might never start a fight but could certainly end one.

In his younger days, John had some substantial experiences as an officer of Marines in Vietnam, then continued as a reservist until retirement.  He has also acquired 41 years experience in law enforcement including as a supervisor of detectives.  He is well known as a trainer for military, police, and civilians, in this country and elsewhere.

This past weekend was a repeat of the Advanced Defensive Handgun course.  As often, there were some things I had forgotten (shame on me), some things new, and learning some improved variations of things I already practice.

John generally uses a greater number of assistant instructors than other courses which I’ve attended which allows for the prompt correction of errors and feedback.

The classes are very clearly geared for survival not competition.  Responses to unwanted attention from possible attackers (avoidance, de-escalation, and preparation for contact) are not simply lectured but practiced repeatedly.  How to interact with responding police is critical, these responses are also part of drills.  Just knowing how to shoot is not enough.

After learning good responses to technical problems which may occur, each student is expected and required to do whatever is necessary to keep going and ‘stay in the fight’ to complete any particular drill.  This does not mean simply doing the ‘correct’ malfunction drill for a staged malfunction but should during a drill the student drop a gun or magazine, fumble a reload, have a real malfunction or any odd or unexpected thing which may happen, the student is expected deal with it and keep going while using good tactics.  Anything less would be game playing and not preparing for reality.

Each class I have attended required passing a final drill which is not pass/fail or scored.  No errors of any kind are allowed.  If a student had any error, an instructor stopped them immediately, told them what happened, and the test stops.  The student goes back to ‘the end of the line’ to try again.  Especially in my very first class with John, I had to run the drill a number of times (partly due to falling back upon old habits), just about everybody did.

Generally, the class is not over until everyone passes or we have to leave the range.  An option for those few people who may not make it that day, if at another date they can demonstrate the drill successfully in front of an instructor, they can still get their passing mark.

Along with shooting, gun retention and disarms, emergency medical response, verbal interactions with aggressors, police, bystanders, legal issues, and political concerns, Mister Farnam has always included discussions of mind, heart, and soul.  He is also a Historian.  By profession and need, he has killed but is not what much of the public or the media would think of as a killer.  He is a humble man.  I have never known him outside of class and some emails but I have come to think of him as a friend.

Johns’ organization is Defense Training International based in Colorado.  He has written several books which are on the must read list for serious shooters.  He also writes his ‘Quips’, thoughts on related topics on random intervals.  Simply get on his website and request to get on the mailing list. No sales, ads, or anything of that type, only his observations and information to be passed along.  Even if you can never take a class, sign up for the quips.


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