Article taken from ‘The Dallas Morning News’ Sunday June 23, 1985 by Terese Greene
David Keith is tense. Scanning the dusty clay banks of the gully, he tries to figure where his enemies hide. He knows they are somewhere in the ditch waiting to attack. He must stop them first. Breathing rapidly, Keith descends into the wash and draws his .45 caliber (semi) automatic pistol from its leather holster. His two-handed grip is firm. Pointing the gun down at the ground in front of him, he starts walking. Within seconds, Keith spots an assailant camouflaged behind a juniper bush and fires two rounds into the lurking figure’s chest. There is a sickening thud.
But Keith, a 35-year old Fort Worth security guard, can’t do much damage to his assailant, a metal target shaped like a man. It’s all part of a typical exercise at the American Pistol Institute, located on the 200-acre Gunsite Ranch 25 miles north of Prescott Arizona.
Since the shooting school opened seven years ago, more than 1,400 men and women from all over the world – including about 200 from Texas – have paid as much as $500 each for a week of intensive handgun training.
Most of the students say they are fed up with violent crime and want to protect themselves. They cite recent Justice Department figures: about 6 million Americans are raped, assaulted or robbed each year.
Gunsite Ranch looks like an Army post, a cluster of neatly painted utilitarian buildings connected by graveled driveways. Towering above the other buildings is “the Sconce” home of Jeff Cooper, the school’s 65-year old founder.
Cooper insists the self-confidence students gain after learning to handle guns is often all that is needed to deter a criminal. If a Gunsite graduate stands tall and faces his attacker, a gun might not even be necessary, Cooper says.
But some of Cooper’s students think guns are very necessary. Keith, for instance, admits to carrying a gun “most of my waking hours” – even off the job.
Whether his students carry guns or keep them locked in their homes Cooper says about 93 percent of them handle guns safely and efficiently. The other 7 percent flunk out.
Although rifle and shotgun classes are offered, handguns are by far the most popular weapons.
Nothing smaller than a .38-caliber weapon is tolerated; a .45 (semi) automatic is preferred. During the week long course, each student fires about 750 rounds, aiming mostly at the chests but occasionally at the heads of man-shaped targets. They shoot from the ground, on their knees and in the night.
Besides practicing speed and accuracy, they must also master what Cooper calls “metal conditioning” — an alertness to the presence of burglasr and other intruders and a willingness to stand up to them.
Gunsite students are a diverse group. In Keith’s class, Beverly Karbo, a 59 year old from San Juan Capistrano, CA says a woman can easily master a Colt .45.
“Thorough training in the use of a firearm will give a woman feelings of security and confidence,” she says. “Instead of being an easy victim, she can feel in control.”
Standing together at a line with Beverly Karbo is a Los Angeles SWAT team officer who wants to improve his “combat marksmanship.” Other classmates include several members of a security team from a nuclear weapons engineering laboratory and a nurse from Anchorage, Alaska, who has never shot a gun before.
Keith added “I have never fired a shot in anger, and I credit Mr. Cooper with that. I am not ashamed to admin it; Cooper is my hero. “Gunsite is my Mecca and I am a pilgrim.”