Hard 8 BBQ

North Texas' Unofficial Official After-Training Spot

Hard 8 BBQ in Coppell, TX

Title Image: One of the wood-fired pits at Hard 8 BBQ. The pits are located by the entrance and everyone must walk by them to go inside the restaurant. The gentleman on the left is Darryl Bolke. He happens to be standing in line in front of me after the inaugural Thunderstick Summit held in 2022.

This is perhaps one of the most eclectic pieces of writing I’ve ever shared on GAT Daily. But it comes from the heart since Hard 8 BBQ has become more than just a restaurant for me and other like-minded shooters and training junkies.

Hard 8 BBQ is a barbecue restaurant in Coppell, TX (adjacent to Dallas proper and the DFW airport), where groups of people always seem to end up after gun/training events in that part of Texas. It could be a routine weekend class, one of the evenings during the Rangemaster Tactical Conference or anything in between.

Though Hard 8 BBQ is a chain with a few locations, the Coppell restaurant isn’t too far from Dallas Pistol Club. This is one of the leading venues in north Texas for many training courses and events, like the Rangemaster Tactical Conference I just highlighted above.

The Go-To Spot

I promise this entry isn’t a free plug for Hard 8 BBQ, and it’s not like they’d give me a free ribeye steak dinner for mentioning them (but that would be cool!). Hard 8 BBQ in Coppell, TX, is the unofficial official hang-out spot. I wanted to bring up this restaurant because after years of training in North Texas, be it Dallas Pistol Club or another spot, Hard 8 BBQ always seems to be where one ends up for dinner after class.

Obviously, skills development, coaching and improvement are big reasons why many of us bother to show up to training events. But the community-building that happens after a course can be just as important. After many of these post-training dinners there, Hard 8 BBQ has become an institution of sorts.

Besides its reasonable distance from Dallas Pistol Club, Hard 8 BBQ is a great venue for mixed groups. It has several long tables that make it easier to accommodate people for a communal dining experience. Hard 8 BBQ’s atmosphere isn’t too stuffy nor too kitschy. And while their pricing isn’t fast food cheap, the food there is also reasonably priced for what they’re serving.

Because it’s predominantly a barbecue restaurant, most food is sold by the pound, market style. Their per-pound pricing isn’t as expensive as any of the “destination” barbecue joints in Texas, nor will there be a 4-hour long line. Perhaps during peak hours, it could take up to an hour, tops. But waiting in line for food and mingling outside the pits is also part of the Hard 8 BBQ experience.

Dr. William Aprill

Dr. Aprill, second from left standing in a group photo amongst the rest of the Shivworks Collective.

I have so many memories of dining there with close friends, fellow class students, instructors and other personalities from the training community. There’s no need for me to name-drop, but I do want to talk about the late William Aprill.

Dr. Aprill was a very intelligent and erudite man; he was also a phenomenal instructor with a penchant for explaining things very clearly.

The first time I ever met Dr. Aprill was during dinner time at Hard 8 BBQ in September of 2017. He was in town for one of his signature lectures, Unthinkable. Following the tradition, the group convened at the restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately I was stuck working that Saturday so I missed the lecture but still caught up with Dr. Aprill and the rest of the group for dinner.

In 2018, I was lucky to take a shooting course with Dr. Aprill, who was also formerly a pistol instructor at the famed Rogers School in Georgia. And guess where we dined that evening?

Dr. Aprill passed away in 2020. During the short time I got to know him, he was always a soft-spoken man with a very deep pool of wisdom to draw from. He’s one of those people you wish you could have recorded even during a mundane sidebar conversation just because he had so many useful insights.

It’s hard to quantify just how much I got out of talking to him, training with him, and even dining with him. Hanging out with Dr. Aprill at Hard 8 BBQ is only a small part of my experiences at that restaurant. But with his absence, it’s one of the more poignant and meaningful ones.

My Favorite Fare

Hard 8 BBQ’s ribeye steak dinner (or lunch). Look at all that melted butter.

Hard 8 BBQ’s brisket, sausage, ribs or other traditional barbecue items are very decent and consistent. I can’t really comment on them too much because those aren’t what I like to order. I’m really not the one to ask because I always order the ribeye steak dinner.

Hard 8 BBQ doesn’t go too crazy when it comes to steak but they do right by the beef. And they really don’t need to go crazy with avant-garde or whacky meat cookery that involves plastic bags and strange probes.

Adjacent to their two large wood-fired barbecue pits (they have an on-site forklift to move cords of wood around daily), there’s always a person manning a wood/coal-fired grill, too. Over these past few years, I can say that the men manning this grill can respect the steak and are very consistent in cooking it to your order.

They serve 16-ounce steaks and baste them with butter as they cook over those coals. When the meat gets to your table, it shows up with extra molten butter next to a pile of caramelized onions that were also cooked with butter in a cast iron griddle over those same coals. As Hard 8 BBQ is a Texas establishment, they will also serve you a whole-grilled jalapeño pepper with your onions as well.

I seldom eat out because I’d frankly rather spend that money on this lifestyle of guns and shooting. But grabbing that ribeye steak dinner at Hard 8 BBQ is one of those things that evolved into a priceless tradition.

See you there for dinner next time?

P.E. Fitch
I am a shooter first, and a writer second. IG & Twitter: @pfitch45