If you’re with Taran Butler, you better.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOHN J. RADZWILLA
Taran Butler is a quiet man. His mind often times seems to be in a different place. His subtle and slightly monotone voice may make people think that he may not be fully engaged, but if you spend any amount of time with him, you’ll be quick to realize the contrary. He is a loyal friend, humble in most instances, and genuinely interested in those with whom he chooses to surround himself. He will be your biggest cheerleader and loves to share in your successes while he also shares his success with you. But here’s the catch, when he steps onto the range, he snaps into an almost alter ego persona. His skillset so dialed in, he electrifies the firing line as he blasts perfectly placed shots on target at lightning speed, sometimes from the hip. He is never braggadocious but rather full of confidence as one of the best in the world should be. But when the gun fire ceases and the plinks of steel calm, he returns back to his former self. A werewolf, triggered by the trigger, if you will.
Some of you may know Taran or at least follow his celebrity-laden Instagram page full of A-listers like Harrison Ford, Halle Berry, Kevin Hart, Michael B. Jordan, and Jon Bernthal just to name a few. Also, he features a seemingly never-ending harem of ridiculously good looking, yet ever-talented female shooters, like aspiring actress and Hook & Barrel Trophy Girl, Tetiana Gaidar. If you aren’t, and this is the first time you’re hearing his name, it is almost certain that it is not the first time you have experienced his talent. From History Channel’s hit reality show, Top Shot, to blockbusting films like the John Wick series, I am sure at one point or another, you have seen his handy work on the screen—though you may not have realized it.
“I want to get my guns and my training into as many movies as possible,” Taran says. “The passion I have for that is the same passion I had for winning matches. I want to put my fingerprint on Hollywood. I want to make actors and actresses look awesome in shootouts. For years, I watched films, and I hated it when the star looked foolish with a gun. It’s annoying to watch as a shooter. The character should be as much of as badass with a gun as his or her acting is. Like in Open Range when Kevin Costner is bumbling around trying to load his Single Action Army for like a half hour. I was like oh my God, somebody help this guy.”
All of this comes with a price though, not only for the movie industry to engage Taran to train its silver screen heroes, but also for him. When you are at the top of the game, people want to see you fall, sadly. But, Taran hasn’t fallen victim to any of the jealousy or gun industry rumor mills—though they have tried. His skill shines through all that darkness. Also, when you deal with the caliber of folks Taran does, plus the drama of Hollywood, as well as frankly the drama of mid-20somethings all wanting a piece of the action, maybe his mind isn’t always present come to think of it. I would bet there are about 35 apps running in the background of his brain.
Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with him at Taran Tactical, his Simi Valley, California range. Our trip was delayed due to Keanu Reeves training for the next John Wick film and slightly cut short due to Victoria’s Secret super-model, Heidi Klum, arriving to shoot. It was exactly what we had expected—impressive, star-studded, and down-right fun.
“I don’t just train celebs. I have trained every kind of person imaginable,” Taran says. “Everybody from law enforcement and military to friends and neighbors, but this isn’t some kind of public facility. You can’t imagine all the requests I get. I don’t want everyone and their brother here. Every post I make on Instagram, I have hundreds of people asking, ‘When can I come out?’ I can’t spend my life training everyone. It’s my range, so I want to enjoy shooting with those I have fun with.”
Luckily for us, we made the cut.
Arriving, I presented Taran with a challenge: take my wife, Natalie, who has almost no formal firearms training and make her into a Taran Tactical girl in a day. The challenge was welcomed and accepted. He has a system for marksmanship, and it goes kind of like this: assess how you shoot, bluntly tell you what you are do wrong, tweak things most overlook, and consequently shave seconds off your time of completing the course of fire. The results were shockingly impressive.
“I learned how to train by the way I trained myself: watching the best in the world shoot.” Taran says. “I take strategies from the best out there and apply it to what I do. For example, shooting with Todd Jarrett, Rob Leatham, and Jerry Barnhart taught me a lot. I am not like old-school shooters who are afraid to try something new. For instance, when quad loading became all the rage, I switched to it. Other guys stayed with the weak-hand loading style, and they fell behind. I won nationals with the new style even though I pioneered the original style of competitively loading shotguns. If you want to win, you have to change to what works.”
You have to humble yourself when with Taran. You have nothing to prove—he can and will outshoot you. Just listen, absorb, and do. The simplest changes in grip, weapon manipulation, and physical movements make all the difference. Something so plain to see for him but so foreign for most shooters. That’s his secret, and these tweaks took my wife Natalie from a purse-carry-rookie to femme fatale in an afternoon.
Taran began his shooting career in 1994 after being encouraged by his mother and winning a match at a local indoor range in the Los Angeles Valley. He competed with a Glock-24 he borrowed from stuntman Bruce Barber, who encouraged him to shoot the Southwest Pistol League. In January 1995, Butler went to the Southwest Pistol League in Piru, California, with a Glock-21 and finished 7th overall out of 118 shooters. He continued to practice and became a USPSA Grand Master in just 14 months. He was also the first Glock Grand Master shooter in the history of the sport. He has a long list of accolades including: 23 times Southwest Pistol League Champion, 10 times California State Three-Gun Overall winner, 11 times SMM3G Champion, five times USPSA Multi-Gun National Tactical Champ, USPSA Multi-gun first-ever Triple Crown Champion, a multi-time Steel Challenge World Champion, and more.
“I still win all the local competitions when I shoot, but I don’t train to compete any longer,” Taran says. “I am 50 years old. I’ve won them all, so what’s one more win going to do for me? I’d rather train new shooters, continue to create the industry’s best weapons, build guns for Hollywood, train celebs so they look great on screen, and continue to innovate techniques that others use to win. Most of the top competitors around the world are using my stuff.”
Natalie’s day started out with the re-programming of firearm basics, followed by holster drawing techniques, reloads, and how to shave time off of them all. With Taran, everything is about time, and every exercise is timed, which makes sense for a man who deals in milliseconds. But, those milliseconds add up, and over one course of fire can save shooters the precious time that sets the leaders apart from a pack of average competition shooters.
But not all shooters are created equal, Taran is quick to point out. “Guys like me see faster. Competition shooters react quicker too. Also, there are shooters like Lewis Hamilton, a great shooter with no training at all. He is a seven-time world champion racecar driver whose skills to react and see faster on the track transcend into shooting. He was incredible when he was here.” Taran recalls. “People in my sport of competition shooting, are just faster than the average guy who goes to his local range and blasts away at paper. We also manipulate the weapons so quickly we can afford mistakes.”
Maybe that is what helped Natalie so much. A highly ranked college tennis player, her eyes are tuned to move fast and acquire a target much quicker than most. But, I will argue that anyone who spends any amount of time under the training of Taran will become an outstanding marksman regardless of background.
Beyond the silver screen and his private range, Taran and his business TTI (Taran Tactical Innovations) opens up his decades of experience to anyone. Today, Taran finds excitement customizing guns for shooters across the country. “TTI makes some of the best competition guns on the planet,” he says proudly. “Most of my designs pioneered the sport. Today, there are a lot of companies who copy my work, but they aren’t as good. The triggers are re-done, the mag wells are improved, there is all the slide work. TTI does a lot to turn a stock gun into a competition-level gun. That’s why the top shooters are running TTI guns. We ship them all over the country to customers.”
I can personally vouch for TTI guns. I purchased a Glock from Taran, and shooting it side by side with a stock Glock is like comparing a Ford to a Ferrari. From the quick breaking, zero-slack trigger, to the finely stippled grip and fiber optic sights, you can’t even tell it was a Glock.
We left California with even more respect for Taran than when we arrived. The level of skill of instruction he possesses and the rolodex of clients he has trained as well as his laundry list of titles under his belt leaves no doubt why he is so sought after. But the biggest take away of all was just how genuine Taran is. Sure, he knows he’s good, but he thrives off of showing others how to be just as competitive.
Oh, that and the realization that, thanks to Taran, my wife is now a rattlesnake on the trigger, and I better not piss her off.
Tips and Tricks for Better Shooting from Taran Butler
1- Order a dry-fire magazine for your gun, and practice around your home. The more time you spend pulling the trigger, the better you will be.
2- Place a bullet on top of the gun. Use the middle of your index finger’s front pad to pull the trigger. If the bullet falls while dryfiring, you’re flinching or pulling the trigger incorrectly.
3- Get fiberoptic sights. They allow for a cleaner, brighter, and more focused sight picture. Stock or night sights just confuse the eyes when moving fast.
4- Try and go as fast as you can on the range. You will make mistakes. Note those in your head, and slow down a bit. Know what happens when you go too fast. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
5- Do the same things a lot—don’t do a lot of new things. Practice what works.
6- Learn how to grip the gun. Almost Karate chop with an upward motion with your grip hand into the trigger guard as close to the grip as possible. Then roll your fingers into your grip quickly with both thumbs facing forward pointing towards the target. Do not cup-and-saucer the gun or use any other old-school grips. They are not accurate.