Patrick “Mac” McNamara is a top tier firearms instructor with nearly two decades of experience in U.S. Army Special Operations including the elite 1st-Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, otherwise known as Delta Force. The following article is a review of his book TAPS – Tactical Application of Practical Shooting.
He has several videos on you-tube, which demonstrate his extreme high level of marksmanship skills and his intense yet entertaining personality. Mac also operates his businesses TMACS (Tactics, Marksmanship, Adventure, Concepts, Security) as well as Combat Strength Training. You can tell he takes the combat strength training seriously… the guy looks like Thor, the Norse Thunder God.
I finished reading this book in a bout in about five days, while trying to also be a prescient husband and not spending all of my free time with my head in a book. It is a short one hundred and fifty-two pages, with about half of it consisting of marksmanship drills Mac utilizes to help hone the skills the shooters he instructs.
This is not a “how to shoot” book. It is a “how to teach shooting” book. TAPS is great for instructors and coaches. It has some of the best articulation of “why” we teach certain ways and challenges the way people think about teaching even basic marksmanship.
“As a trainer, one must encourage shooters to perform within, but at the limit of their own capability level” …”no one should go unchallenged” … “the trainee must develop an acute understanding of his capabilities and limitations.”
“’Train like you fight’ is one of the most overused and abused axioms in the tactical training arena”
Mac paraphrases his intentions in a straight forward matter…
“Train FOR a Fight” … “train HOW you WANT to fight WHEN you WANT to win”.
Mac spends a decent amount of time on safety and mindset, both of which are inextricably linked. (Mac’s safety philosophy was part of the inspiration for my article ‘The 4 Cardinal Rules of Firearms Safety – They Mean More Than You Think They Do’).
He even throws in a little nugget about those who train with rifle and pistol which shows how serious he is about mindset. We have all heard the adage that your pistol is simply for fighting back to your rifle. This quip is often told by former military guys, or military enthusiasts/wannabes who do not take the utility of their handgun seriously.
Responding to a question of why Mac spends so much time training with his pistol when it is only his backup, Mac responds, “Well, it’s only my secondary until it becomes my primary and then…. It’s my primary”. When you have to resort to using a pistol for defense (I, myself, would prefer a rifle for many hypothetical situations) you had better know how to use it.
TAPS covers the fundamentals of marksmanship in a philosophical manner. He does not spend unnecessary time describing the perfect grip or stance, know his audience (other firearms instructors) should already have these items somewhat in hand. Instead he gives a few statements about what he considers priorities for proper mechanics and why he espouses such ideas.
Training vs. Practicing:
There are three phases to range work: preparing, practicing and training.
Preparation is ensuring yourself and your gear are ready to do the work. This is performing maintenance and inspections of your firearms. You will want to have a plan for what you want to accomplish and pack all of the necessary items.
Practicing is honing the fine motor skills and mechanics of marksmanship. This is what we do on the square/paper range. We put in the repetitions we need to build proper myelination of those motor skills we will need in a defensive situation.
Training is when you are actually running events and courses of fire. Training, is replicating or emulating a gun fight. This is the point where you put pressure and stress on yourself or the individual who is being trained.
Mac does take some time to call out possible training scars (he refers to it as training-itus). We can often create unnecessary and even dangerous habits during your training session. Remember, in the real world, where you are defending innocent human life, your targets aren’t paper. They are living, breathing, thinking beings. They will be moving as you will be moving. If you are not thinking about this when you are training, you are not training for how you want to fight when you want to win.
Mentors and coaches:
Mac refuses to call himself an instructor during a training course. Instead he uses the terms mentors and coaches. Here makes the statement, “It is not uncommon for the student to know more or be able to perform better than his coach.” We see this all of the time in athletics. The coach is there to help bring out the best in a high performing individual, and can help with such things using observation and analysis.
He points out, “In a group of guys with guns, there are bound to be egos.” Being a coach instead of “instructor” is a mindset which immediately has the ability to defuse (or at least minimize the impact of) the ego.
Accountability is huge in the firearms instruction business. Safety violations will immediately destroy your credibility. Failure to perform a task will hurt your credibility. You must be accountable to your students to deliver your course content in a safe and demonstrable fashion.
Mac’s statement of, “If you talk the talk, you must be able to walk the walk. If you get your ass handed to you, you have got to be able to swallow your pride and deal with it without excuses”, is directly in line with accountability. You have to own it when you either fail to perform a task properly or when a student performs a task better or faster than you.
Closing Thoughts on TAPS:
There is quite a bit of content in this book to enable you to become a better instructor. Obviously in a review like this, I cannot cover every single topic (I would be writing a small book myself). I can say that the content I read has ultimately been useful in my own personal development and my ability to develop other instructors and shooters. In my own personal bucket list of which instructors I want to take a class with, Pat McNamara is quite near the top.
You can find more out about Pat McNamara and his TAPS program at his business website for TMACS, inc.