Been-There, Done That Brit Opens New School in Texas

by Chris Bird

When the old-time Texas Ranger was asked why he carried a .45, he replied: "Because they don't make a .50."

This thinking still permeates the firearms instruction community in this country, according to Bill Davison. But when Davison says, "I have never seen someone not die because they got shot with a 9 mil; they all died immediately and I'm really pleased with the cartridge," he has your attention. You know he's not just blowing smoke.

Davison made the statement recently during a three-day primary pistol course at his Tac Pro Shooting Center in north Texas. He believes that bullet placement is far more important than bullet size in a gunfight, and he had some of his students rethinking their assumption that bigger is better for a defensive handgun.

Gary Marcum, a Fort Worth police officer in the early 1980s, found Davison's statement compelling. He normally carries a single-stack .45 because, like many of us, he was convinced the caliber was the best. Now he's not so sure.

Where You Put 'em
"Bill's experience has a lot of power and in my mind eliminates a lot of argument," Marcum said. "Now I'm beginning to think I may carry a double-stack .40 simply because he's convinced me that it's a lot more important where you put the bullets than it is the diameter of them or the velocity."

Bill and Alice Davison moved to Texas from the United Kingdom in 1998 to follow their dream of owning and running a shooting school. Although Tac Pro Shooting Center is still a work in progress, they are realizing that dream.

Set in the gently undulating ranch land of north Texas, the Davisons' shooting school occupies 550 acres about 60 miles west of Fort Worth. At present the center contains seven ranges, varying in size from two 20-yard pistol and submachinegun bays to one of the few privately owned 1,000-yard rifle ranges in the state.

Bill Davison is imminently qualified to teach weaponcraft to civilians, law enforcement officers and the military. He is a veteran of the Royal Marine Special Boat Service, the British equivalent of the US Navy SEALS, and has taught and used firearms for more than 20 years, including action in Northern Ireland.

"England had a great advantage in Northern Ireland as a training area," Davison said. "People that worked for long periods of time in Northern Ireland understood what violent life could be like. That influenced the way we were trained and that was really good."

Thriller Resume
His resume reads like something out of a Tom Clancy thriller. In the late 1980s, Davison served in the Counter Terrorist Wing of the Special Boat Service as a helicopter sniper and close quarter battle instructor. In the early '90s, he taught advanced firearms techniques and VIP protection to the civilian police in Britain. While still in the Royal Marines, he visited the US to teach anti-terrorist tactics to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Police SWAT team.

He left the Royal Marines in 1992 to work for Vanguard International Protection where he operated as a bodyguard to the children of a Middle Eastern sheik. Davison continued close protection work with his own company. He was employed in the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East to protect the son of a wealthy Egyptian family.

One of the main factors in the Davisons' decision to move to the US is the acceptance of privately owned firearms and their use in self-defense. While this is under attack here, the situation is much worse in the UK.

The only guns that law-abiding Britons can now own are bolt action rifles or double-barrel shotguns. And to own either type of gun, they must belong to a shooting club.

"The paperwork involved nowadays, to own either of those is unbelievable," said Alice Davison.

It appears that in Britain nowadays it is illegal to defend yourself with a gun. Davison said he left England because he refuses to live under the kind of state tyranny where he is unable to protect himself and his wife.

"It really did hurt," he said. "I mean I worked for the government and I protected the people's right to live freely and then overnight you didn't have any rights to live freely. We had to do what the government said, when they said it or we go to jail and that's not the way people should live," he said.

Law Enforcement Training
Since moving onto the property that is now Tac Pro Shooting Center, Davison has spent more time teaching local law enforcement officers than civilians. Under the auspices of the Arlington Police Academy, he has taught basic and advanced SWAT tactics, sniper courses, and firearms instructor courses to law enforcement officers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

While long range rifle shooters have been coming to the shooting center for some months to use the 1,000-yard range, Davison has recently started holding courses for civilians-teaching pistol, tactical shotgun, carbine and precision rifle at primary, intermediate and advanced levels. He offered this author the opportunity to attend his primary pistol course.

I arrived at the Tac Pro Shooting Center the day before the course was due to start during the first rain experienced in Texas for several months. Although the weather cleared up for the next couple of days, the range had not yet been gravelled and the ground was muddy underfoot. The course was held on the 25-yard range which has an attached classroom and a partly covered firing point.

There were seven of us in the class, including an experienced competition shooter and two local sheriffs' deputies. Davison's teaching style is a blend of knowledge born of experience and humor often at his own expense. While his presentations are without bravado, the student is left in no doubt that Davison has been there and done that. Before he opened the school, Davison spent time looking at other training centers and talking to other instructors. His teaching differs from other schools in some respects.

Liability Language
Davison's military and special forces background shows up in his teaching. He occasionally refers to the attackers as "the enemy." However, he has modified some of his more aggressive attitudes to fit current laws affecting civilians and police. For example, one of his principles of self-defense is: "We win, they lose." He changed it from the original: "We win, they die," at his wife's insistence for reasons of liability.

Davison differs from most other instructors by occasionally getting involved in someone else's problems. He said he lost marks at the National Tactical Invitational (NTI) match, because current tactical thinking for civilians is not to become involved in disputes among strangers. However, he feels the NTI is the best training he has come across in this country. A trained soldier or police officer has a duty to protect the weak and innocent, he explained.

"As a civilian you don't have any duty whatsoever other than your moral obligation, and that moral obligation can only be defined by yourself," he said.

However, Davison says he will not allow someone to murder or injure women or children in front of him.

"When someone walks into the cafeteria and starts shooting everybody, I'm not going to run out the back saying: 'It's not my problem.' I can't do that, but everybody has to make their own decision," he said.

Course Introduction
Davison started the course with an excellent presentation on the effect of life-threatening stress on the human body. Normal heart rate is between 60 and 80 beats per minute, but when faced with someone who is trying to kill you the rate increases to 150 beats or more as your adrenaline kicks in.

When this happens, you lose your fine motor skills, such as your ability to write legibly. This affects your ability to operate firearms. Davison said that when he was in the Special Boat Service, he was part of an experiment to test this effect. As a helicopter sniper he had to go through a process called dunking-once-a-month. A helicopter body was suspended over a swimming pool that was kept at the same temperature as the North Sea. The marines were strapped into the helicopter.

"They spin it round this way and they spin it round that way, then they turn the lights off while it's spinning and it crashes into the pool upside down," Davison said. "Then you all have to get out safely."

This was the most stressful exercise they had to perform in training; it would kick their heart rates up to about 150 beats a minute, he said. When they reached the side of the pool, they had to load rounds into a magazine and load it into a gun.

"We found everybody could get the magazine onto the weapon, but hardly anybody could get any rounds into the magazine," he said.

Fumble Load Casualty
Davison recounted the death of a SWAT team member who was shot in the head while reloading his pistol. The officers with him said he had a full magazine on the gun but was ineffectively trying to operate the slide stop lever with his thumbs. This is a fine motor skill and the officer couldn't do it, Davison said.

"So one of the things we are going to teach you is not to use that slide stop lever to release the slide," he said.

Davison's ready position is different from the standard. He taught us to hold the pistol in both hands just in front of the sternum with the barrel of the pistol parallel to the ground. This is the position you come to while drawing the gun from a holster. You can start shooting, and we did, from there as the gun is pushed toward the target and before it reaches eye level. In his primary pistol course, Davison does not teach drawing from a holster; that comes in the intermediate course.

Before letting us loose on the range, Davison gave us instruction on what to aim at when a confrontation has turned into a gunfight.

"One of my pet hates is people saying shoot at the center of mass," he said.

The center of mass is about where your stomach is located and you can survive a hit in the stomach long enough to do a lot of damage to your opponent. Davison recommends aiming for the cardiovascular triangle which is located by joining each nipple and the Adam's apple on a man.

"If it's in the center of that triangle, you get instant incapacitation," he said.

On the first afternoon, he had us shooting at targets starting at three yards. We moved back to about seven yards. From then on we fired on the move, advancing, retreating, moving left, moving right with a strong emphasis on moving to cover.

Stoppage Drills
The second day was spent mostly on immediate actions and stoppage drills. Davison teaches that if your gun stops, your immediate action is to look at the gun to determine why it stopped. If the slide is locked back and you can see an empty magazine, you reload and continue in the fight. With any other kind of stoppage, your examination of the gun determines which stoppage drill you perform.

On the last day, we learned how to operate the gun entirely with the weak hand, assuming the strong hand was incapacitated. It rained for most of the day, and we made use of the covered firing point to shoot at steel figure targets and steel plates.

By the end of the third day, several of us had blistered hands and all had gone through about 1,000 rounds. Everyone spoke well of the course and was impressed with Davison.

Mike Harris, 38, an IPSC master-rated shooter and an instructor himself, said he has been to several shooting schools and seen many other instructors.

"A lot of people base their knowledge on competitive shooting or on what they read, training they've had, but they had never been there so to speak," Harris said. "The more I learn about Bill and the more I see, he's very knowledgeable and a very experienced operator who still comes across as very humble."

For information about courses at Tac Pro Shooting Center, phone Bill or Alice Davison at 254-968-3112 or check out their web site at

Chris Bird is the author of The Concealed Handgun Manual and a director of the Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor Association.

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