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A Review Of The Level I-III Handgun Course At Tactical Defense Institute


During the weekend of April 13-15, I had the opportunity to take Tactical Defense Institute’s most popular course offering – Level I-III Handgun.  This was my third experience taking a course at TDI, and my first course involving firearms.  I’ve been looking forward to taking the class for several months – prior to taking the course, I’d heard great things about it.  It’s also an important prerequisite to a number of other courses at TDI I’m interested in taking.

As usual, I stayed at the TDI recommended Comfort Inn hotel.  It’s about 20 miles from TDI (they’re in a pretty remote location – the choices for accommodations are few) but the price is right, and there’s some good dining options right next to the hotel (a great pizza place and an excellent diner).  Our class was quite full with just over 30 students in attendance – the parking lot was overflowing:

About half of the first day is spent in the TDI classroom facility:

Much of day 1 is spent focusing on safety, mindset, and the fundamentals of grip, sight alignment, and trigger control.  Our class was made up of novice and experienced shooters alike, and we all found value in this segment.  After lunch we headed out on the range to do some actual shooting!

Here’s a photo of Yours Truly on the range:

The first day was spent shooting cardboard targets at fairly close range- one shot, then two consecutive shots, then three.  Again, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control were strongly emphasized.

Though it was a large class, every student was given close, personal attention thanks to the army of instructors which TDI brings in for these courses:

Some of the biggest names in the firearms and tactical community are associated with TDI.  You might recognize firefighter/EMT and custom knife maker Rick Hinderer (holding his ear protection) in the above photo.  Here’s a photo of David Bowie of Bowie Tactical Concepts giving our class some tips:

One of the things that really impressed me with TDI is their style of instruction.  Even when students make mistakes, correction is made in a very positive manner.  Every question, no matter how basic is always met with the response “great question.”   Again, positive reinforcement is used constantly and no one is ever made to feel “stupid.”

Day one closed out with an excellent session on gun cleaning by TDI instructor John Motil.  I’ve learned what I know about gun cleaning mostly from YouTube, and never knew for sure if I actually do a good job.  While I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, it was nice to confirm with a trained professional that I’m doing things correctly.  I got some nice cleaning product tips from Motil too – very worthwhile.

TDI states on their website “we shoot rain or shine.”  They’re not kidding.  Day 2 started off in the classroom, but quickly moved back out to the range.  But during the lunch break, it started raining and never let up.  We were back on the range for another 5 hours and it rained for most of that time.  It could have been worse – it’s been unseasonably warm in most of the country, but it’s not unheard of to have snow on the ground this time of the year in Ohio.  During this time we focused quite a bit on drawing from the holster and doing both emergency and tactical reloads.  In particular, the importance of a correct, smooth draw stroke to everything that follows cannot be over emphasized.  Due to the rain, I didn’t take any pictures on day 2.

Day 3 skipped the classroom and we went straight to the range.  Again, we reinforced what we had learned in the previous two days, and were introduced to concepts like cover vs. concealment, moving and shooting, and techniques for shooting from behind cover (note:  we were using the cardboard targets from the day prior, and shooting at steel targets downrange).

“Space is your friend” was something we heard quite a bit, so if possible standing back a bit from your barricade is preferable.  Sometimes we don’t have have the luxury of space, so we were taught techniques for shooting right up on your barricade as well:

Everything we’d learned up until this point culminated in the live fire house shoot excercise. TDI has three live fire houses which are used for drills and exercises.  My live fire house exercise took place in “LFH 1”:

TDI Instructor Clay Smith lead me through the exercise.  Each student is given a scenario – mine was that my wife was visiting a friend at her house, and that when I pulled in the driveway to pick her up, I hear shots fired and see a vehicle I don’t recognize in the driveway with the motor running.  My objective is to go into the house and rescue my wife.  The LFH exercise draws from all the skills and techniques  you’ve learned over the past three days and is definitely a challenge.  The LFH has several rooms and the student must, using proper technique, clear each room of potential hostile threats (in the form of photo realistic paper targets) before progressing to the next room.  In some rooms, you encounter paper targets of armed threats whom you must shoot.  Other rooms contain unarmed “no shoot” targets.  The final room contained a photo paper target of my “wife” being held by an armed thug.  I’m proud to say I found and shot all the armed targets, didn’t shoot any “no shoot” targets, put a nice shot right between the eyes of the thug holding my wife.  I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but learned a lot.

At the end of the day, President and Chief Instructor of Tactical Defense Institute, John Benner personally presented each student with a certificate of completion:

Level I-III Handgun was the best firearm training course I’ve taken to date – the quality of the instruction and the facilities which TDI has to offer have a reputation of being 2nd to none, and I can definitely see why.  I’m already looking forward to returning in June for my next class at TDI – Active Shooter!

To visit Tactical Defense Institute’s website, click here.  For a description for the Handgun I-III course, click here.


About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of, as well as and *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.


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