Rangemaster: Behind the Scenes in Firearms Training

Those of us who have either worked in law enforcement or closely with public safety personnel know there are many other positions that support a first responder.  Courts have bailiffs, the jails and prisons have correctional deputies/officers, all of which are sometimes the “forgotten cops” since they are not always in the public’s view.  There are a host of supporting positions as well.  Some of these are detectives, gang, drug, multi-jurisdictional task forces, air units and SWAT.  Action Target recognizes and respects public safety personnel at all levels, whether in a highly visible position or not.

One of the segments of public safety that is vital to a first responder’s success is training.  When a peace officer is on or off duty, they are usually carrying a firearm.  Therefore, firearms training is paramount to their surviving a critical incident.  The training program designed for most agency is specific to the threats they encounter.  These programs are developed within the state Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements, but are still unique to the agency.  Most of the time, the coursework is established by the Rangemaster.

What is a Rangemaster?  What do they do?  If you are Orlando Police Departments Rangemaster, your work never ends.  You are responsible for  training and qualifying 750 officers with handguns, shotguns, and rifles, specialized weapons training, less lethal weapons, as well as maintenance, repair and armorer inspection of over  1800 weapons. You are responsible for all daily and long term operations of one of the largest indoor gun ranges in the country, coordinating training with local, state, federal and military organizations, and the list goes on and on.  The ultimate goal with this title though, is to help prepare officers with the skills they need, to survive the challenges they face in today’s world.

Eric Clapsaddle is Action Targets “Rangemaster of the Quarter” because he does just that.  The efforts made by him, and ultimate results of those efforts,  have far exceeded national averages in a positive way.  He has gone above and beyond, and continues to constantly re-evaluate and improve.  Who benefits…..the Citizens of Orlando and the Officers who serve that community.

Why is his Training so good?

Because he prepares his officers for “REAL WORLD” situations.  The National averages show that about 90% of police gun fights occur at night.  Therefore, Orlando does about 90% of their training in “low light to no light” conditions.   Why…..because it is what they will face.

This training includes “Multiple Adversaries” because again, in the real world, 67% of all gun fights have 2 or more bad guys.

Additionally, officers training and qualifications include live fire combined with decision making under significant stress. This helps prepare them for real life shoot/ no shoot incidents. Is that a cell phone or a gun?  Remember, the time to make these decisions is about 1/4 of a second. Realistic training helps prepare them too make the right decision.

The scenario’s used are replica’s of real life situations re-created.  They include moving adversaries, because the bad guys don’t just stand still.  Innocent bystanders get in the way, and have to be worked into the scenario’s as well.  You have to work and look for cover, and the scenario’s include these props as well.

Eric, who has an Engineering degree,  designed several unique features in the equipment used at the facility that help make the training more real, and better fit the training needs of today’s officers.

The training that is done becomes very real and recreates the stress felt in a real gunfight.  It thereby prepares the officers so they can deal with adrenaline dumps, tunnel vision, and hearing issues, to better defend themselves and the public they serve.

The bottom line to all of this is…..Officers return home at the end of their shift, and the Public is better protected from criminals.

The Ultimate compliment a Rangemaster can receive is when his training efforts have paid off…..and an officer knows it, saving his life or the life of a citizen.  The results of Eric and his staff, will never know the unspoken “thank-you’s” for those they have saved.

At the recent Chiefs of Police convention held in Orlando, many Top Notch Trainers were able to see first hand some of the techniques and scenarios used by the Orlando Training Department on their Tactical range.  Now, months later, I am still getting phone calls about how fantastic that was.

Agencies from not only the United States were blown away, but representative’s from Taiwan, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Brazil, New Zealand, England, Spain, and the list continues, were impressed as well.  They were impressed with the Facility, but more importantly, how the facility was used with real world scenario’s.  This was where the rubber met the road, and this is where we have seen no finer training anywhere.

An example of the results are this…..

The National average for misses in gunfights (at a distance of about 9 yards or less) is approximately 80% based upon statistics from the FBI’s study on gunfights.  For the Orlando Police Department, their hit percentage is around 86%.  This is a result of the efforts of Eric and his staff.  What a fantastic job!  Our hats are off to him and that is why we recognize “Eric Clapsaddle” from the Orlando Police Department as Action Targets ” Rangemaster of the Quarter.”

0 thoughts on “Rangemaster: Behind the Scenes in Firearms Training

  1. I do not know how much room I will have to respond here, but here it goes. I am a retired police officer in Evansville, Indiana and I was our Firearms Training Coordinator from 2001 to 2005. I worked my butt off to be as progressive with our firearms training program as I could be. The trouble was that our department was very stingy with funds so we had to do what we could with the very limited budget that we had. I changed the entire firearms training program for all of our weapon systems, handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, and off duty and backup guns. I initiated several new programs such as, annual low-light training, annual shotgun training & qualification, annual patrol rifle training and qualification, and annual handgun qualfication that incororated true to life actions during the qualification. During our handgun qualifications, officers were required to step off the line of attack and draw simultaneously, they were also required to do pivots and turns and draw simultaneously, they were required to have both hands holding something at chest level (we would usually use a bullet box to simulate a ticket book or notebook) and then drop the object, step off line of the attack and draw. In other words we incoporated training with our qualifications on all weapons. We also spent an eight hour day at the gun range and worked with all three weapon systems doing shooting drills that would improve their chances in a gunfight situation. Shooting on the move, using cover, moving to cover, positional shooting and a whole host of other shooting drills. The best part of this in my book was that we established a three part test that every officer took at the eight hour training day. We tested the officers knowledge with a written test on tactical information that was provided during training and was on our Firearms Training Unit website. Officers took another test for gunhandling skills. We showed our officers specific ways to draw, to speed reload, to tactical reload, to shoot with one hand, to clear stoppages, and other such gunhandling drills. This test was taken while using dummy ammunition. Finally, the last test was a very short (three yards) shooting test. They had to react to the shot clock buzzer, draw and fire using both hands as fast as possible and be able to hit the A-Zone of an IPSC target. There were several other shooting drills that had to be done in specific time frames in order to pass the test. If the officer passed all three tests, they graduated to Level II Fiearms Training. Those that did not pass all three tests were required to go through similiar Level I training again next year. We eventually had everyone on the EPD in Level II, Level III, and only a handful had the skills to make it to the ultimate Level IV. Here is why we set up this eight hour training day this way. I always felt it was absolutely insane to take all 285 officers of the EPD and train them at the same skill level. For those officers that were not very skilled this was great, for those officers with much better skills this was really boring. I believed that we should train people at their particular skill level and this testing allowed us to separate the officers into different skill levels. This way the fast moving, low drag types were being trained at a level that would probably get the lower level shooters hurt and the lower level shooters were gradually working their way up the ladder. By the time I left the Fiearms Training Coordinator’s position in 2005 this is what I saw. There was a healthy spirit of competition in the officers to improve their skill level. I actually saw several officers walking around the department with folded up papers in their back pockets and when I asked what it was, they would respond that it was the “study guide” for the written test. They were actually studying information that would appear on the written test. Now I ask you, when have you ever seen police officers do this? The levels of training was working, officrs were motivated to make it as high up the levels ladder as they could. All of the officers were being trained in all the areas that they needed to be trained, the only difference was the higher the level, the more difficult the training was. When NRA Instructors came to Evansville to perform different NRA Law Enforcement Instructor classes I always took the time to talk to them and tell them what we were doing. Every single one of them, and they came from all over the country, said they would rate the EPD’s firearms training program as being in the top 10% in the nation. Several of them even said they thought the levels training idea was ingenious. Unfortunately, after I left the Firearms Training Coordinator position the firearms training went down hill and officers today still tell me how much they miss the training I performed for them. Sorry for being so long winded, but I was very proud of our program and what I was able to accomplihs in just four years time. There is much more that we did, but I figured whomever is reading this is probably thinking, “Come on, when will this ever end? One last thing, I promise. I own my own firearms training company in Evansville, Indiana and it is called HARD TARGET Firearms Training. I am very proud of my little company. Most of the people that train with me are civilians because the cops in our area are too cheap to spend any money on firearms training. I have purchased ACTION TARGET gear because it is the best on the market and I went through the Range Master course when Bank Miller was still there. I love Bank, he is a really great guy. I put in an Action Target bullet trap at the EPD before I left that position and it is still performing great. You guys are the greatest. I am a graduate of your Advanced Law Enforcement Training Camp and I would love to come back for another one. Thank you for what you do at ACTION TARGET. You guys and gals are truly the best in the business. I hope someone will show some interest in the levels training program, because I am more than willing to share all the information I have on the program. Take my word for it. It really works and it is a DARN shame the EPD is not using it still. It is their loss.


    Guy Minnis
    HARD TARGET Firearms Training
    Evansville, Indiana


  2. Very nice article, congratulations on your success Eric! Departmental support is equally important in achieving that sort of success. Creativity, research, and (in my experience) team synergy allow realistic training to emerge. You have managed to do great things and hopefully you are proud of your accomplishments.

  3. Always like to hear that Rangemasters are trying to change their courses, I took care of a small 10 person unit that only went after murders, we would shoot every month, only from 15y and closer, from moving vehicles since a lot of our stops were in vehicles. We were a plainclothes unit, one person per vehicle and were out of our own town a lot, so we always went to training, since 1991, we only had 3 shoot outs, and I think it was because we always had more guns on them and were ready. Action Target is the best

    Sgt/Insp. Rich Alves SFPD Retired, part time SLTPD

Leave a Reply