Going To Gunsite

In the United States, we cherish our fundamental, Second Amendment-protected right to keep and bear arms for defensive purposes (yes, hunting and recreation, too).  Along with that right comes a great deal of responsibility, including the duty to be knowledgeable in the use and safe handling of our guns.  We must also cultivate the mental preparedness for possibly having to use our gun to defend our lives or the lives those around us.

There are plenty of good gun schools, classes and teachers across the nation to help us gain or improve upon this knowledge, but few are better than Gunsite Academy.  Headquartered in Paulden, Arizona, and with several off-site locations across the nation, Gunsite is the premier firearms training school founded in 1976 by World War II and Korean War veteran Col. Jeff Cooper.  He developed the two-handed modern technique of self-defense pistol handling and taught students the importance of maintaining a defensive mindset, which is part of the Combat Triad:  marksmanship, gun handling and mindset.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this late in life my husband and I were both gun novices.  We had only recently taken the basic handgun and enhanced concealed carry classes offered by the State of Mississippi through the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, but we had little more knowledge than the basics taught there.  Our instructor, retired military veteran and MDWFP officer Steve “Reno” Moore, told us about the excellent training we could get at Gunsite.  He has attended numerous times over the years and knew Col. Cooper.  His instruction reflects what is taught there, including the four basic rules of gun safety, as distilled by Col. Cooper:

  1. All guns are always loaded. Treat them that way.  There are no exceptions.  Do not pretend this is true.
  1. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. Whether the firearm is loaded or not (refer to Rule #1).
  1. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This rule is most often violated by untrained people whenever they handle a firearm.  Watch TV shows, and look for this.  You’ll be disturbed.
  1. Always be sure of your target. Know what it is, what is in line with it and what is behind it.  Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified.  Be aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a fight, and do not assume anything.

We committed these rules to heart and decided to go to Gunsite and take the 250 Pistol Class in mid-February.  One of the common questions we were asked after returning home was, “Did you have fun?”  Fun is not its purpose nor how I would describe the Gunsite experience, although it was quite enjoyable in many ways.  It’s a rigorous course.  You’re on the range for six or more hours a day, and you shoot over a thousand rounds of ammunition for the week, while running through various drills, movements and exercises.  The training you receive in the Gunsite 250 Pistol Class is superior to the training many of your local policemen get.

The elite instructors at Gunsite are second-to-none.  We had three outstanding men running our class of fourteen people, Lew Gosnell, Chris Currie and Eric Ingersoll.  If you read the brief profiles linked here in each of their names, you’ll see that these men have a great deal of military and law enforcement experience.  They have an abundance of knowledge that they bring to the students at Gunsite.  They were patient with the few of us who were novices, and they provided us with valuable one-on-one instruction.  They’re excellent men, and we liked them very much.

For the class, my husband and I brought our Ruger SR1911s, his a .45 and mine a 9mm, although after a couple of days my husband had problems with the area near the tang and safety cutting into his hand, so he ended up renting a Glock to use for the rest of the week.

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We were taught and drilled on many things during that week, and I can’t recount them all in this column, but here’s an overview.  There are a few hours of classroom lectures on topics including ballistics, weapon maintenance and mental conditioning, but most of the time is spent on the range.  We were taken through range safety rules and procedures and basic shooting drills to practice drawing and firing quickly and correctly from our hip holster.

Other drills included clearing pistol malfunctions, speed, tactical and administrative reloading, various shooting drills, including “failure” or “stop” drills (two quick shots to the upper-center chest followed by one careful shot to the head), movement drills (pivots, turns and side-stepping) and position shooting, firing from kneeling and rollover-prone positions (prone from 25 yards, in fact).  We did a nighttime shoot in which we practiced two different flashlight-holding techniques.

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We received basic instruction in close quarter battle, dealing with windows and doorways (“funnels of death” or “fatal funnels”) and clearing rooms in a house or building.  We practiced these movements and techniques in indoor and outdoor live-fire simulators.

At the end of the week we competed against each other, man-on-man and as a group.  The class was made up of people of various ages and levels of knowledge and experience.  The competition was a fun part of the week, even though my husband and I didn’t stand much of a chance against some of the other guys who were seasoned firearms veterans.  We didn’t do too badly, though, not finishing last in anything, because we’re naturally decent shots.

We came away from Gunsite with new confidence, a better defensive mindset and much-improved gun handling and marksmanship skills.  While we’re still not close to being professionals, we have a workable level of competence.

Regardless of your age, sex or how much experience and knowledge you have, Gunsite Academy will bring you to a higher level.  If you’re ever able to go, you’ll be very glad you did.  We’re thankful to Range Master Lew and Instructors Eric and Chris for giving us this most excellent week of stellar handgun training, “The Gunsite Experience.”


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Gina Miller, a native of Texas and current resident of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a radio/television voice professional.
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  • Briggsy

    Gina, guns and ammunition are being used to settle grievances, to express displeasure and to solve personal problems. They don’t belong in the hands of the public.

    • RCQ_92130

      Oy vey. Someone is not very familiar with what has happened in those areas of the country and world where that very attitude has been tried out.

      • WXRGina

        Hi, RCQ! 🙂

    • WXRGina

      Briggs, I take it you’re not an American citizen.

      • Briggsy

        So-called responsibly armed Americans are responsible right up until the moment they aren’t, as well as being the primary source of arms in the hands of committed killers and other violent criminals. We are worse off for the presence of guns and ammunition in our society. Promoting more of it is simply perverse.

        • WXRGina

          You are spouting the same line as a communist shill would. The facts do not back your claims. The violent crimes are NOT committed by responsibly trained, armed American citizens, which are the vast majority in the United States. Only leftists refuse to see this FACT.

  • There’s never a shortage of fodder for liberals to distort in an attempt to justify taking away people’s God-given right to keep and bear arms. After all, the anti-moral policies of liberals continue to create plenty of people who have no respect for human life, no respect for property or the rights of others, no self-restraint, no self-control, and no recognition of what is right and what is wrong.

    I lived in England for three years, where gun control was near absolute. I remember that every day on the local radio news, there was report after report after report of people stabbing, slashing and strangling one another. Not a gun to be found, but oh did people find plenty of ways to kill one another. England’s post-Christian atheistic culture has been manufacturing people with no respect for others or moral standards for even longer than has the United States–though I’m afraid our (misused) freedom has us pretty much caught up if not surpassing the less free Europeans.

    The reality is, more people are killed with hammers, fists and knives than are killed with riles. Somehow, I’ve missed all the news stories of liberals screaming for hammer, fist and knife bans.

    If I’m not mistaken, automobiles are responsible for more deaths than firearms, too. Maybe we should ban automobiles first.

    No, instead, if we really want to save lives, what we need to do is return this nation to its Christian roots, and renew emphasis on morality, on respect for innocent human life, on respect for the lives and property of other human beings. After all, we aren’t animals (contrary to the assertions of many liberals); we are human beings, created in the image of God, and we should treat each other accordingly.

    Of course, liberals would rather take away someone’s constitutionally-protected, God-given right (just to make themselves feel better for a few short moments, before reality intrudes) than recognize objective moral truth and restrain themselves.

    Insane.

    • Briggsy

      Gosh Bob. Why did that physically fit specimen who is the subject of the story I posted use a gun instead of a knife or hammer or his fists? Convenience, I’d say. Wouldn’t you? Especially since it was part of his plan to take his own life after killing his victims. Convenience and efficacy. That’s what you love about guns, of course. And that is why they are the menace which they are to American society.

      • Fists and knives are very handy, too (hammers, also, if one is something of a handyman). Firearms are just more efficient at killing (except maybe for cars–those are exceptionally good at killing).

        A firearm is nothing more than a tool. The problem lies in the heart of human beings who lack respect for the dignity, worth and rights of another human being. When this nation properly cultivated such value and respect for the rights and lives of human beings, we had far less problems with people murdering each other.

        Contempt for the rights and dignity of other human beings is an extremely steep and slippery slope. It always sweeps a lot more into its maw than anyone ever intended. A culture that holds in contempt a person’s right to defend themselves…goes hand in hand with contempt for the other rights (including the right to life) of other people as well. The prevailing Leftist attitude which holds God-given human rights in contempt is the true menace to American society.

        Cultivate respect for human dignity and worth, and back it up with sure and strong penalties for transgressions, and you’ll have far fewer problems with any violations of God-given rights–the right to keep and bear arms, as well as the right to life itself.

        • Briggsy

          Vehicular homicide is entirely accidental, or nearly so, and referencing it in the context of willful killing is misplaced. If the availability of guns and ammunition isn’t obvious to you as the key to murder-on-a-whim, then all I can do is call your attention to a daily ration of stories to help you begin to see it. Search your own heart for the will of God in America’s domestic arms race. Admittedly, herding people into church or making guns scarce are two difficult propositions, but the latter effort stands a better chance of actually being implemented if freedom from taking bullets in our hide means anything to us.

          • Since you find evil in the tool rather than in the intent of the individual wielding the tool, then you should consider the automobile similarly to the way you treat a firearm: an evil object that must be banned. The same would be true of hammers, knives and fists–all of which “kill more people” than firearms.

            I know two things with certainty: God gave us the right to defend ourselves, and the U.S. Constitution guarantees that right. Neither should be infringed.

            The murder problem can be remedied by dealing with the real cause of the crime: evil in the human heart. I realize that promoting objective truth and moral values is the last thing the Left wants to see a return to in this nation, but if liberals truly want to deal with the problem and not be recognized as hypocrites, then this is the only real way to solve the problem–especially without trampling on God-given, Constitutionally-protected liberties.

            In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience. – James McHenry, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

            All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. – Noah Webster, Founder, lawyer, Yale graduate, creator of Websters Dictionary

            In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government. That is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. – Benjamin Rush, doctor and signer of the Declaration of Independence

  • Murderers will kill, regardless of any law passed.

    If they can’t easily get a gun, they’ll use a knife to take the lives of others .. or a truck (as has been done in Europe on more than one occasion).

    We have laws that forbid the use of certain drugs. How well has that worked?