by Tim Chandler
So you have the perfect AR15 with a properly tweaked extractor and equipment setup…
And you have the perfectly reliable handgun on your hip for daily concealed carry…
But do you really know how to use either of those tools well enough to save your life?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question for many out there is "no".
Proper firearms training is the single most overlooked component of
self defense. Many seem to think that…
because they are carrying the latest piece of combat tupperware, or
that they are carrying the same weapon as the Navy S.E.A.L. teams, that
somehow bad guys will pick up on the tactical voodoo aura that
surrounds those choices and will automatically loose should a gunfight
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Having a good weapon is step 1. Learning how to use it at speed and
under stress is step 2. Just being the good guy does NOT mean you will
So training is a necessity. Sure it is expensive, but we are talking
about your LIFE here. Loosing a gunfight is not an option! Nor is
hitting innocent bystanders with stray shots using a spray and pray
method of defense! Living with the aftermath of a shooting is bad
enough when you do it properly, how much more if you don’t have the
You need to go to a good training school staffed by instructors who
actually have a grounding in real-world tactics that have proven
effective. You need to be taught by people who can teach you how to
better handle your weapon instead of trying to show what a bad-mutha
The problem is that everyone and his brother claims to have a
school staffed with "operators" from super secret military and police
agencies that are supposed to be the baddest killers in the history of
man. A lot of these claims are of course as specious as they are
dramatic. So how do you pick the right place to train?
Fortunately, the professional staff that comprises Blackwater Training Center in Moyock, North Carolina are ready to help you solve that problem.
Blackwater is situated on over 5,000 acres of privately owned land
located just 20 minutes from Chesapeake, Virginia, a place known all
over the East Coast for its lovely beaches and fishing. Chesapeake,
Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach are all clustered together in
what is generally referred to as the Tidewater area of Virginia. This
also happens to be the location of the world’s largest naval base, the
Norfolk Naval Base.
This is not coincidence.
Blackwater’s location places you within easy driving distance of great
food, great fishing, and even great hotel accomodations if you don’t
want to stay in their bunkhouse.
Blackwater’s main attraction, however, is not its proximity to the
Virginia Beach area. It is the excellent range facilities and the high
quality instructors that bring students like myself back time and
Blackwater’s range facilities are top notch. They have everything from
a 1200 meter Known Distance Range to a 100 meter carbine range, to a
superb computer controlled reactive steel range that will push even the
best handgunners to their absolute limit with pop-up plate targets
situated between 7 and 18 yards. The ranges are populated by the target
systems that Blackwater also manufactures on site, and they are
extremely high quality and versatile, allowing the maximum ammount of
flexibility for the instructors running the classes.
All those wonderful ranges, however, are nothing compared to the
quality instructors that teach at Blackwater. You will find that the
Blackwater instructors are good teachers with that all important real
world level-headed approach to tactics and training. They are not
dogmatic about A stance or A particular weapon system. They do have a
method that they teach, but are generally open to other ways of doing
things so long as 1.) They work! and 2.) You can repeat them under
The instructors have some impressive backgrounds. Many are
current/former members of the S.E.A.L. teams, current/former Marines,
current/former full time law enforcement officers, and current/former
S.W.A.T team members. Most law enforcment and S.W.A.T instructors have
a solid military background as well.
All of that is nice, but being a S.E.A.L. does not make someone a good
teacher, nor does it guarantee that they teach the proper tactics, so
don’t be too impressed by the pedigree! An instructor can be measured
by the improvement in his students and by the common sense in the
tactics he teaches. The Blackwater instructors understand this, and
will tell you the exact same thing! (In fact they said it over and over
and over again in my visits…)
Safety is of course the first and primary concern of the instructors.
They do an excellent job of controlling the range and keeping even very
in-experienced shooters from harming anyone. They keep a sharp eye open
for safety violations and will not hesitate to point out any unsafe
behavior. But they also expect YOU to do the same! The first speech you
hear is that range safety is EVERYONE’S responsibility, and they mean
it. Anyone can call a cease-fire any time they see something unsafe.
When running drills and stress courses, the instructors stay with the
students monitoring the orientation of their muzzle and trigger finger
closely. They only allow manipulation/loading/unloading of weapons when
everyone is standing on the firing line with muzzles in a safe
direction. Any other time, the weapon had better be in its holster or
you WILL hear about it.
After safety, the instructors concentrate on building accuracy and
speed by having the students shoot small paper targets, larger paper
targets, static steel targets and reactive steel targets. They use PACT
timers and man on man competitions to build speed, and stress courses
to place the students under pressure.
Blackwater also gives good quality instruction in shooting on the move,
shooting moving targets, low light techniques, and even CQB and room
clearing in some of the more advanced courses. A highlight of the
Tactical Handgun II course was getting to go through the large 2 story
shoot-house a few times. Firstly with full lights, and then in low
light and pitch black darkness. These exercises are good at getting the
heart rate going and the layout allows for the instructors to set up
suprise targets at very close range that can rattle the nerves. They
also mix in a lot of innocent targets to further re-enforce the need to
properly identify a threat instead of just hosing down anything in
Some courses even contain Simunition®’s FX® force-on-force training, a training method that
is the closest you can come to a real gunfight without anyone being
My skills with handgun and tactical carbine improved dramatically
through the 5 day courses I attended. At the end of the Tactical
Handgun II class, I shot a series of targets on the main reactive steel
range so fast that I couldn’t believe I was the one behind the trigger!
And all hits were dead center to boot.
In my classes were several veterans of law enforcement tactical teams,
longtime special forces veterans, and even guards from the Savanah
Nuclear Weapons facility’s Special Response Team. All of these people
had been to numerous other schools like Thunder Ranch and Gunsite, as
well as top level government schools, and to a man they all agreed that
Blackwater’s training was equal to and in most cases better than any
other training they had ever attended. The instructors were able to
help even these seasoned veterans improve their skills.
A common complaint I heard about some other schools from these folks
was that a lot of schools teach tactics that are just plain silly. They
seemed to agree that Blackwater’s simple "Why-Didn’t-I-Think-Of-That"
common sense approach was fantastic.
The courses average a round count of about 3,000, and most of those
will be in far less than ideal conditions. You WILL find out how
reliable your equipment is. (My Beretta 92 pistols, Les Baer 1911, and
Bushmaster carbine performed wonderfully in their respective
courses…) Everyone had at least one jam, and several students had
major breakages of their equipment. But the knowledgable Blackwater
armorers were able to fix almost all the broken weapons. (Don’t show up
with a Mateba and expect them to have the parts around to fix it…)
It is still a good idea, however, to bring a backup in case your main
weapon dies on you. Take 2 weapons that use the same magazines and ammo
as insurance against loosing precious range time while your weapon is
getting fixed. I have done this with great success thusfar.
I have found every trip to be informative and fun, and the facilities
and instruction just seem to get better and better every time I go down
thanks to the constant expansion and improvements that the Blackwater
staff make to everything they can. They genuinely care about what the
student’s think of the courses and facilities. At the end of every
class, they hand out a survey to the students. Then the director of
training goes throug EACH survey with the instructors to find out how
to improve the class for the student’s next visit. (A lot of their
buisness is repeat students, which should tell you something)
If you mention an improvement, odds are that it will happen.
The atmosphere is friendly and jovial and everyone generally has a good
time. It isn’t every place that you find ordinary citizens sitting next
to S.W.A.T team members and Special Forces personell, all of them
joking and having a good time. The instructors and students mingle and
joke around as if they have known each other for years. People come
from as far away as Greece, Japan and Columbia to train at Blackwater.
The center draws those in persuit of excellence from all over the
Blackwater’s training has been the best money I have spent in a long
time. I now take all my vacations there, as I find the trips useful and
enjoyable enough to be a vacation. I can state with absolute confidence
that they will improve your skills as well.
Good training doesn’t come cheap, but it is a small price to pay for
the skills that can help save your life! Give them a try. I don’t think
you will be dissapointed…
Click here to visit the
Blackwater Training Center website. The Blackwater Training Center can
be reached by phone at either 877-425-5987 or 252-435-2488.
Click on this link
to go directly to the Blackwater Training Center contact page. This is
the page containing all relevant email addresses and phone numbers.
Tim Chandler, the writer of this story, can be reached via email at [email protected].
Simunition® and FX® are registered trademarks of SNC Technologies Inc. (SNC TEC), Canada.