Gunfighter School

[This is an article from my monthly Bearing Arms column in Townhall Magazine]

I thought I was a decent shot with a pistol.

That was before I spent a week at the world famous Gunsite Academy in the high desert outside Paulden, Arizona in mid-August. After five days and one night shooting I’ve drastically revised my opinion of my skills, and that’s a good thing.


Prior to getting an invitation to visit Gunsite from owner Owen “Buz” Mills, I’d viewed myself primarily as a rifleman, if I was any kind of a shooter at all.

I had my concealed carry permit, but didn’t shoot pistols very often. I could hit the target at three, five, and seven yards at my local indoor range as I made sure to follow the long list of range “don’ts.” I uncased my pistol on the firing line, didn’t dare use my holster, didn’t “rapid fire,” and never ever dared to contemplate the mortal sin of moving in any direction.

I had been conditioning myself to punch paper at a steady cadence from a statuesque position without endangering the delicate constitutions of firing range liability lawyers, but I was not learning how to survive a violent confrontation.

My handgun courses had been limited to safety-oriented personal defense classes offered by the NRA that one instructor admitted “were primarily geared to keep you from shooting yourself with your own gun.”


Gunsite, however, is a gunfighter’s school, and has been since it was founded under Col. Jeff Cooper in 1976. Cooper was relentless in his desire to get to what works—examining, paring down, and then melding together ideas used by police, military, and competition shooters. The result of his synthesis became referred to as the Modern Technique of the Pistol…

Read the rest of the column at

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