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Welcome to Gunfighter School

The Mission of Gunsite Academy is to provide good people with the skills by which they my conduct themselves as responsible citizens of a free Republic.–Jeff Cooper, October, 1999

South Range at Gunsite Academy could be just about anywhere. The range is devoid of vegetation except for a few stubborn stunted weeds growing against the block walls that mark the left and right sides the outside edges of the range. Fluorescent green “bushes” mark each firing lane roughly two yards apart. Each lane has a bush marking the correct position to be in at 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 25, and 35 yards, forming a large grid.

250 Pistol student--foot on a "bush"--work at the 3 yard line.
250 Pistol student–toe on a “bush”–work at the 3 yard line.

A large sand and gravel berm is the backstop behind the row of targets that will be the center of our attention for the majority of the next five days. Rangemaster John Hall, a SWAT officer in California and a rangemaster for his police force, had already gone over the safety rules during classroom session early Monday morning, along with the philosophies that form the underpinning of the Modern Technique of the Pistol. It was time to hit the range.

The range itself, while well laid-out, wasn’t all that important. It was the instruction that mattered.

Gear Check

The 19 students had an interesting collection of guns and gear.

The 1911 in .45 ACP that Col. Cooper favored was well represented, along with at least one 1911 in 9mm.  Two shooters carried Springfield Armory XDs in .45ACP. One carried a Taurus (809?). Another shooter carried an HK P2000. Everyone else seemed to carry some flavor of Glock.

I came with a Walther PPQ with a 5″ barrel, chambered in 9mm.

Walther PPQ M2 5-inch variant. I'll be shooting one of these next month at Gunsite Academy.
A factory photo of the Walther PPQ M2 5-inch 9mm variant. The three cuts on either side of slide are to lighten the slide.

I’d run about 400 rounds through the pistol before the class and hadn’t cleaned it before coming to Gunsite. I thought that we’d find out how it fared when it was run hard and dirty.

For holsters and a pair of mag pouches I went to Caleb Dahl, owner of Statureman Custom Holsters, who provided me with a great Kydex holster for the 5″ PPQ when most other manufacturers simply weren’t making models for the stretched PPQ yet. He also sent along a beautiful pair of single mag pouches.

The rest of the class seemed to have a roughly even mix of leather, kydex, and “other polymer” holsters. Three of the shooters had Serpa holsters that had to be disabled before being used. Gunsite doesn’t allow the use of Serpas, which isn’t that uncommon. Many ranges disallow the use of Serpas, in what may as well be called the ” Tex Grebner rule.” One guy brought a nylon “Uncle Mike’s” type holster, and it somehow made it through the whole week.

Some students brought their own ammunition, and others purchased their ammo packages from the Gunsite Pro Shop, where Remington reigns supreme.

Remington graciously provided my ammunition for the Gunsite 250 Pistol course, including Disintegrator frangible ammo for the simulators and premium Ultimate Defense Compact 124-grain JHPs. I also used some Remington FMJ.
Remington graciously provided my ammunition for the Gunsite 250 Pistol course, including Disintegrator frangible ammo for the simulators and premium Ultimate Defense Compact 124-grain JHPs. I also used some Remington FMJ. Fired from a 5″ barrel, the Ultimate Defense Compact JHPs were almost flashless during the  night shoot.

Each student was required to have 50 rounds of frangible ammunition for the simulator runs, and 1,000 rounds of ammo for the square ranges. Remington provided my ammunition to run through the Walther I was using, and provided me with their top of the line Ultimate Defense Compact jacketed hollowpoints. I would find out over the course of the next five days whether or not the PPQ would handle a steady diet of JHPs after it started getting dirty.

About 3/4 of the class took Gunsite’s advice and brought knee pads for kneeling and prone positions, and everyone remembered (or purchased at the pro shop) a tactical light for Thursday night’s low light shooting.

Electronic hearing protection rules the day; foam plugs simply don’t cut it for 40+ hours of shooting in a five days.

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