The Gunsite Academy, at Col. Jeff Cooper’s direction, was dedicated from its inception to the practical application of the combat pistol. Its entire doctrine revolves around tactics and techniques that are proven in the real world. Simplicity is critical to this concept. It is true of the tactics employed and the equipment used to employ them. Having attended a number of classes at Gunsite, the emphasis has always been on equipment that works under real-world conditions.

At the heart of the Gunsite doctrine is the ability to put the front sight on the threat, depress the trigger smoothly and—above all—hit what you are shooting at, repeatedly if necessary. Cosmetic enhancements to your pistol typically do little to meet this ultimate goal and may in fact make it more difficult. The range deck at Gunsite is riddled with the latest, greatest gadgets that fell off pistols during training. The firearms that do best in these conditions are simple, rugged, reliable, and often untouched from the factory—a concept exemplified in the GLOCK pistol. With this in mind, celebrating the 25th anniversary of GLOCK really doesn’t get any better than doing so at one of the preeminent fighting pistol schools in the world.

GLOCK Simplicity

I am not sure any pistol available today fits better into the basic doctrine of the Gunsite Academy than a GLOCK. Designed from the start as a combat pistol, the GLOCK 17 revolutionized the combat handgun market.

Adopted by the Austrian military in 1982, its reliability and ruggedness have since become legendary. Its introduction into the American market a short time later started a revolution in pistol development. There can be no clearer indication of this than the explosion of handguns based on the GLOCK design that populate the industry today.

In its fourth generation of improvement, the GLOCK pistol numbers close to 2 million handguns in service. Its ability to work reliably in every conceivable environment has made it a favorite among armed professionals throughout the world. Its low cost and out-of-the-box reliability make it perfect for concealed carry holders, self-defense and anyone that simply wants a solid combat handgun.

Gunsite Way

Gunsite’s “250 Pistol” is the quintessential combat pistol class. It teaches simple and solid techniques that have been proven over years of application in the real world. Firing over 1,000 rounds in a week under real conditions leaves the pretenders on the range deck. Marksmanship is the basis for the school, but equipment also becomes a factor under rigrous testing and application. In fact, Gunsite may be the best place to test the combat reliability of your pistol. Coupled with a solid, reliable holster and ammunition, you come away with the proper skill and equipment necessary as a professional or concealed carry holder.

The staff at Gunsite is among the most professional and best trained available. Broken into two groups, each group consisted of a range master and several instructors. Our range master, Sheriff Ken Campbell, is a perfect example. As a 32-year veteran of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, he has a lifetime of real-world experience. As an instructor with Gunsite for over 20 years, his training experience is incredible. Ed Head ran the other crew. As a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, he brings real-world experience to the range.

The rest of our crew was commensurate with the highest standards, including a 30-year veteran of the Army’s Special Forces, a current sergeant with a California police agency, a retired Marine colonel and an ER doctor who is also a trained tactical medic. These people truly provide a variety of experience and perspectives that encompass the entirety of the combat pistol craft.

Along with the usual training provided in a 250 Pistol class, GLOCK was kind enough to provide two incredibly helpful and skillful trainers and gunsmiths. Dennis Tueller is not only a former Gunsite range master, but he’s also a retired lieutenant from the Salt Lake City Police Department. He brings decades of experience to the course and is a skilled gunsmith. Chris Edwards was brought on to run the GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation. He has years of competitive experience, spending many years training with GLOCKs. Not only did they provide some history of GLOCK and a basic maintenance course, but they also performed a complete armory refresh on any GLOCK provided at no cost. At the start of each day, GLOCK goodies were given away, including three pistols.

On the Range

Day one and two were dedicated to marksmanship. Application of any pistol in a self-defense or professional situation requires you to hit what you are shooting at. That really comes down to proper application of the sights and trigger. All else goes to supporting that endeavor. The instructors taught us to hold solid stances and grips to mitigate against recoil and allow us to repeatedly put shots on target. You spend the first two days learning to focus on the front sight and control the trigger. By the end of the first day, everyone was solidly on target with multiple shots. I spent these two days with a third-generation GLOCK 35—it performed flawlessly with superb accuracy.

Day three was when basic techniques were put into more practical action. The first thing you learn is the proper draw stroke. This is the time to truly test your holsters and magazine pouches. Different positions are added to the rhetoric, as well as the “school drills.” You learn to shoot from several kneeling positions and prone. The school drill tests these skills—they are timed events, and it’s not easy. The first drill consists of a shot to the head from the holster in 1.5 seconds. Even at 3 yards, this is not easy and requires a fast draw, solid basics and sighted fire.

It is followed by two shots to center-mass from 7 yards at the same time. They add a half second for shots at 10 yards, then 15 yards from kneeling. Last, you have 7 seconds to get to prone at 25 yards and fire two shots.

I spent this day with a brand-new GLOCK 21 Gen4 provided by Chris from GLOCK. The gun fired over 150 rounds of .45 Auto without a single malfunction. Not only was it fast, but it was also incredibly accurate. During practice, I was able to put together a 2.5-inch group at 25 yards from prone. Not bad for a gun that was used the first time that day. Rounding out the day was a tour of the simulators we would be using over the next two days.


Days four and five were spent in the simulators. This was a live-fire application of the basics. We moved to the shoot house where targets were engaged while clearing a house. This allows you to see how difficult it is to safely “clear” a residence by yourself. It really gives you an idea of the limitations of a single person with a pistol. It was also great fun and provided training you don’t see anywhere else. For many, it was the best part of the course.

Then we moved from the inside to an outdoor course, often referred to as a jungle course. In this case, we walked through a draw or gulch engaging steel targets. This really changes the scenario. Slow and steady with great attention to distance is really the way to go.

The last day was the final test. You start off in the simulators for your graded runs. It is more of day four, only much harder. The scenarios are more difficult and the expectations are higher. Once these are complete, you move to the square range for your school drills. That includes the course at distance as well as an “El Presidente” drill developed by Col. Jeff Cooper. Consisting of three targets, you turn 180 degrees, then draw and put two rounds on each target. A speed reload is performed followed by two more shots on target. You are graded for hits, and speed with accuracy adds to your time. That old adage “You can’t miss fast enough” is clear. It is all about getting your hits as fast as you can.

The end of the day consists of a shoot-off. This really puts your skills to the test. This is a head-to-head competition with a winner and a loser.

You draw and shoot two 6-inch steel targets, reload, then a split knockdown target. The first one done is the winner. At the end, your group has a winner. In this case, the winner from each group received a free pistol from GLOCK.

The winner of each group met in the end and the top shooter was crowned. For this class, I happened to be the winner. As a writer, the gun went to another shooter, but the top shooter went to a gun writer. Can you believe it?

Parting Shots

There is talk about putting another one of these schools on as a GLOCK 25th Anniversary class. This may be the perfect opportunity as a GLOCK owner. For many, a trip to Gunsite is a once in a lifetime event, so why not do it with your favorite GLOCK? Not only do you get some of the best instruction you can get, but you also get a chance to win a couple of guns—it’s hard to beat that. If you are looking for some of the best fun you can have with your GLOCK, take it to Gunsite and have the time of your life.

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