AAR2: Key Takeaways from Bill Rapier’s Integrated Shooting and Combatives Class

I’m starting a new title format for blog posts with this particular post. From here on out, whenever both Robert and I attend a class and both of us have viewpoints we want to share, the second AAR to be published will include AAR2 (After Action Review Two/Too) in the title. – John


This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the American Tactical Integrated Shooting and Combatives course taught by Bill Rapier in New Holland, PA. You have probably already read Robert’s comprehensive AAR, so this post is mainly going to be my individual thoughts and takeaways from the course.

I’ve mentioned previously my interest in becoming a more well-rounded fighter and also increasing my capability with my pistol, the weapon that I’m most likely to have on my person at all times. Taking Rapier’s course was intended to be yet another focused step in this direction, and the class did not disappoint.

I found Rapier’s philosophy and teaching style to be compelling and motivating. He made the point early on that we should look at anything being taught through the lens of, “Does it make sense? Does it work better than what I’m currently doing? Is it worth spending a significant amount of time to retrain myself?” In short, adopt what works and discard the rest. In that respect, I’m going to briefly discuss what I’m changing and what I’m not.

Although I have been very comfortable with a compressed high ready or chest ready position, I do like his “strike ready” position and his primary and secondary scans in that they protect the “knockout triangle” area of the head and neck. I think his methods for weapon manipulations are well thought out and efficient. One minor quibble is that Rapier teaches to holster and sheath weapons without glancing down, and I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. Also, I think I still prefer a flagged thumb pectoral index retention position for retention shooting instead of the magazine rolled into the chest index as taught by both Defoor and Rapier. For me, I think the thumb pectoral index gives me a more consistent and stronger position without any increased risk of creating a malfunction. Aside from those two points, everything else that he taught will be things that I intend to work on and incorporate into my own practice of gun handling.

Having trained with Kyle Defoor multiple times previously, it was interesting to hear similar blocks of instruction from a different instructor with a similar background but seeing how he approached each somewhat differently. I’m specifically referring to the medical and mindset blocks that are taught by both. I like that two instructors that both served in the same elite unit can present the same concepts somewhat differently according to their own unique viewpoint. Thus, rather than being material that is simply regurgitated, it is evidence of experience and ownership of knowledge. I’m glad I’ve been able to hear it from both of them.

I would like to address one specific thing that I’m changing in terms of my medical EDC. Rapier carries the RATS tourniquet. I’ve long had a couple of them that I’ve thrown in my range bag and vehicle as backups. I’m going to start carrying one on my person all the time. The RATS has faced criticism due to the the fact that it can be hard for untrained personnel to apply it without excessive movement of the extremity and because it needs to be wrapped in such a manner as to create a wide rather than a narrow band of compression. In addition, there are some significant and legitimate ethical concerns regarding its advertising model. Despite the misleading branding on the TQ, it is NOT TCCC approved.  Despite these criticisms, it is an effective and more importantly, easily carried TQ. This last point is why I’m changing my EDC. Like Rapier, I find it difficult to consistently carry a tourniquet due to the bulk and size. If I’m wearing cargo pants, I usually have my D.A.R.K. “Blue Line” pocket kit on me with its SWAT-T inside. My rational for carrying it is simple. I am a paramedic in an area with several elementary and middle schools and I have a small child and dogs. Neither the C-A-T nor the SOF®TT-W will work on those particular demographics. The SWAT-T will, as will the RATS to a degree… but I don’t always wear cargo pants and I quickly run out of pockets with everything else I carry every day. Rapier found the RATS to be small enough and easy enough to carry daily. The above criticisms notwithstanding, I agree. I’m going to start carrying one in my pocket whenever I leave the house, just to seal up one more chink in my armor. It may not be perfect, but a purpose made TQ on my person is better than nothing. I know how to properly apply it and I’m confident in my abilities with it. To each their own.

I also appreciated the discussion about rifles and their ideal setup. His advice was to start with a forged Mil-Spec upper and lower receiver and a free float handguard. Then, spend your money on a quality flash suppressor, an appropriate optic, a good barrel, and an improved trigger, in that order. If indeed his carbine course is offered in New Holland next year, I plan to be there, as it comes highly recommended by Voodoo Man.

As the course name implies, this was much more than a pistol class. The combatives taught in this course form a solid foundation that facilitates empty hand defense as well as opportunities for weapon access in a fight. Some of it was review from my last Defoor class, and some of it was new to me. All of it was complimentary with my prior training experiences, including Greg Ellifritz’s ECQG and Groundfighting classes, as well as the brief block of instruction in handgun retention that I attended at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference. I will need to continue to practice these techniques either in a shadow boxing manner or with a partner as opportunity allows. Ultimately, Rapier gave the students a simple template to prepare for violent conflict. First, get in shape and continually work on physical fitness. Second, shoot hard. Third, learn and practice combatives. Fourth, seek out realistic training for yourself, your family, and your tribe.

With the above ideals in mind, the final stress course that all of us ran through was worth the price of admission alone. For those of us that can’t run and gun on our home range, the experience immediately identifies areas that you need to work on and how you perform when under stress. As Rapier discussed in our final debrief, the stress course isn’t intended to make you feel good about yourself, it’s intended to highlight your deficiencies. As the old saying goes, knowing is half the battle. I didn’t have a particularly fast run, but I was happy with it. I need to work on my overall fitness, my speed, and my accuracy. I felt good about my transitions from running to gunning, and I was confident in my weapon manipulations. Even Rapier and other students commented on the one handed reload that I performed. As one student said, it was obvious that I had practiced it. Robert mentioned in his AAR how he left the class more motivated and with more vigor to better himself and others. I agree. I’m going to start by interspersing my dry fire practice with push up and pull up sets. I want to regain my prior strength and abilities.

Rapier packed a lot into a two day class and explained why he teaches what he does in his “system” for virtually every technique. I may not adopt everything I learned, but I’m going to continue to train most of it and think about all of it. He is definitely a humble and approachable instructor. Rapier obviously takes the concept of “tribe” seriously. I especially appreciated that he invited the class to go out to dinner as a group on Saturday night, as a way to further foster friendship and communication with like-minded individuals.

I definitely plan to train with him again in the future, and I encourage our readers to attend his classes. They are worth it and represent a phenomenal value in the training industry. You can learn more about his classes at his website.

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