Have Gun, Will TravelSteven Lieberman
Have gun, will travel.
“You guys take students to other shooting schools? That seems kinda odd, doesn’t it?”
Yeah… we get that question quite frequently.
As instructors, we are constantly seeking out additional training. Sometimes it is for the simple pleasure of just being a student and not having to “run” a class. Other times, we want to see how other instructors tackle certain problems.
Then, there are certain places we go just because of the storied nature of the place.
Gunsite is one of those places.
Gunsite was, for all intents and purposes, the first “shooting school” in the United States. Sure there were always the military, certain law enforcement agencies (interestingly enough… not all of them), and, of course, Uncle Bob out on his ranch where people could go to learn shooting. Gunsite, however, was the first place where this became institutionalized.
Under the tutelage of Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, the Gunsite training program, and by extension the “modern pistol technique,” became the gold standard for firearms training. Gunsite, for an instructor, is kind of like our Mecca.
Sandy, who has been to both Gunsite as well as the newer and more publicly marketed Frontsite, referred to them this way:
“Going to Frontsite is like going to Disneyland. Going to Gunsite is like going to the Vatican.”
I have always told people that from what I have seen (and full disclosure, I have never attended a class at Frontsite), Frontsite is a “shooting school,” where Gunsite is a “fighting school”.
Originally, Gunsite was given accreditation by the Arizona University System. As such, and keeping with Cooper’s penchant for academia (he held a Master’s Degree from Stanford), the courses at Gunsite have a collegiate numbering system.
Pistol 250 is the introductory course that ALL STUDENTS take. “All students” is capitalized because this, in Cooper’s mind, was an absolute must. There needs to be a shared experience by all Gunsite graduates, and 250 is it. Any given class could have new shooters and operators from DELTA standing side by side. They all go through the same program. It is also a prerequisite for future pistol classes, such as 350 and the “doctoral” program of 499.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
A couple of weeks ago, Sandy, Chaney and I went out to Gunsite, along with five other Artemis students for the 250 class. Both Sandy and I have taken the class before, but Chaney had not, nor had our other students, so we figured what the hell… we would take it again.
I was curious to see how the other students took to the Gunsite instruction. Days one and two are fairly basic, and there are, indeed, some doctrinal differences between the way we do things and the way Gunsite does things. Additionally, our students already have more advanced knowledge and skill sets than what is promulgated on days one and two.
Still, the ambiance of the place, the history and, most of all, the instructors and their pedigree make it worth it to slow down and go back to basics.
Day three begins the pushing of our individual skill sets.
From aggressive drills, to going through shoot-houses, and barrancas to the famous night shoot, our students were tested on their abilities.
Wednesday introduces intra-class competition. Two steel targets are set at about 15 yards. The class lines up in two lines and the first two shooters are instructed to draw and shoot steel with one shot. If you miss… you lose. If you shoot second… you lose. Winners go to one holding area, and losers… well, they get to watch.
Eventually, the winners fight it out until there are only two left. Chaney ended up winning that competition (of course).
On the last day before graduation, there is a more dynamic shoot-off between students involving multiple targets. This drill takes place in both the 250 and 350 courses (I have also taken the 350 course before).
Every time I have done this competition I have come in second for the class, both times losing to the same student, a State Department Contractor who subsequently retired and is now a Gunsite instructor.
Once again, I came in number two… losing out to… you guessed it: Chaney!
When it was all over, our crew was emphatic… they wanted to make this a ritual and come back again.
We agreed we will make this happen.
To facilitate this, we are inviting all of you to join us in six months for another Pistol 250 course. Once you all have joined the “family of the raven,” we will encourage you to join us again this time next year in the Pistol 350 course with our original five.
If you are interested, please contact Sandy at [email protected], and let her know you want to come along.
Trust me… it is one of the most rewarding weeks you will spend.