The Raven is Gunsite’s iconic logo and welcomes you as you pass through the main gate.

Training is paramount — to survival! As a retired copper, I know good training is more important than which gun, ammo or holster you have. Training will determine how you react when faced with a threat, rather than standing flat-footed or dazed, not knowing what to do. Your mind is the most potent weapon you have. Without it, your other gear is worthless.

I’ve known about Gunsite for years, but had never been there before. Recently, I attended a media event there and feel I’ve missed the boat by not actually meeting the founder, Jeff Cooper.

Gunsite’s history goes back to 1976 when Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper wanted a proving ground for the development of the “fighting craft” with firearms. Initially, it was all about research and technique, as Cooper would invite well-established men of noted authority pertaining to combat pistol tactics. This laboratory-like setting is where Cooper refined and defined his “pistol craft” still taught today.

Cooper liked large caliber handguns, something all experienced shooters seem to appreciate. The Colt 1911 in .45 ACP was a particular favorite. The Col.’s established, down-to-earth techniques are the groundwork still used today for the pistol as the primary form of personal protection.

Cooper emphasized the use of big-bore semi-auto pistols, the Weaver stance, the draw stroke, the flash sight picture, and the compressed surprise trigger break. He was also the first to define the four cardinal rules of firearms safety and to talk of the “fighting mindset.”

The Shoot House introduces real world stress and thinking on your feet. What’s behind the door? Shoot or not-shoot?

Fighting School

The Col. considered Gunsite as an Institute for higher learning — it’s why the classes are numbered like college courses.

Gunsite is not a place one learns to shoot, but where one learns to fight for your life. Through proper mindset, you become aware of potential threats and how to deal with them. Being aware of your surroundings and picking up cues of potentially dangerous interactions are just as valuable as your skill with the gun. Avoiding the conflict to begin with is important.

From what I’ve experienced, Gunsite’s instructors are all top-shelf educators. All were selected while attending classes. Most have backgrounds in law enforcement or military, with teaching/instructing backgrounds, but all have taken in-house classes from the start. The standouts are handpicked and follow more rigorous training, classes and actual teaching of classes, where fellow instructors critique and grade them. A long process, the best rise to the top and are selected.

Shoot! At least this time. How would you do?

Basic Skill-Set

Front sight, Press” is the mantra repeated and as bare-bone basic as you can get for combat shooting. And it’s exactly what Gunsite emphasizes, starting from the 3-yard line, from the low-ready position. Over time, distance and drawing from the holster are added, along with “head” shots on the camouflaged target, roughly resembling the outline of a torso.
Best described as a “labyrinth,” the Fun House is full of hallways, doors and rooms with numerous “live fire” targets scattered throughout. Critical thinking is necessary to determine if the targets are threats, as you safely clear the house with techniques previously learned. It’s not a stand and shoot exercise for sure!

Take it from this retired cop of 27 years, you don’t know it all. You can’t. It’s necessary to refresh, experience and participate in practical exercises to keep your skill level honed to the best of your ability. While punching paper is great, it’s no replacement for a scoot and shoot, run and gun, think-on-your-feet practical exercise.

Gunsite Academy is a “fighting school” encouraging mindset and education to surviving armed encounters. Its roots are strong in tradition, emphasizing Col. Cooper’s techniques and theory. I believe it is well worth attending.

For more info:, Ph: (928) 636-4565

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