Having just completed the five-day 350 Intermediate Pistol course for "seniors" at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona, all I can say is "WOW". It was a rewarding training experience that demanded concentration and attentiveness, and brought our group of five senior shooters closer to reaching our defensive protection potentials.
I'm not just talking about stationary range drills on paper targets that honed our accuracy. We also shot while stepping from side to side, and we shot at moving targets. During daylight and at night we found, assessed and neutralized "bad guy" targets in the indoor Playhouse. We held a flashlight in our support hand for the night shoot. We practiced drawing from the holster and firing with our support hand only, and we also did force on force training with live "actors". Once again, "WOW".
All shooting except for the Playhouse or Funhouse simulators was outdoors. Except for when our pistols were drawn or fired, they were holstered. Gunsite's #1 priority is firearm safety. Gunsite encompasses 3,200 acres of high altitude desert terrain. It was near freezing most mornings, but usually warmed to the mid-sixties as the day progressed. It even snowed one night! It was, of course, great weather for shooting!
Range drills were practiced daily, with varying combinations of head and upper body shots. We fired from 3,5,7,10 and 25 yards. At 35 yards we drew and shot from cover behind barricades and doors. These basic range drills were to improve accuracy and increase speed. Movement was added by drawing from the holster while stepping to the right or left and shooting. We also peppered our targets with upper body shots while walking toward them and backing up from them. Additionally, we engaged targets as they moved horizontally past us on a rail. Hmm...not so easy!
Twice we walked down rocky trails with steel targets positioned behind rock outcrops, clumps of vegetation or mounds of sand and desert scrub. The drill was to find the targets, assess if they were friend or foe, and engage shots when necessary. Targets with silver tops but painted red from the waist down were "friendly". Solid silver targets were foes. You needed to watch your footing and keep to cover as well as possible in the open ravine. The trick was to see enough of the target to decide if it was friend or foe--before exposing your position.
On Thursday, we did a night shoot. The stars were bright and there was a crescent moon. Other than that, it was dark! With a flashlight in the support hand we shot outdoor steel targets that we illuminated on one of the ranges. Then at the Funhouse, also with flashlight in hand, we illuminated and engaged "bad guy" life size targets. Sometimes there were multiple threats in a room, or someone lurking outside a window. The Funhouse room clearing was always adrenaline-packed.
Friday morning we suited-up with protective gear, were given a special pistol with stinger bullets, walked to a "house", and were given a scenario. I was inside the house "house-sitting" for a friend. All of a sudden I hear voices. People are entering the house(the door wasn't locked) and are talking about stealing whatever they can. Yikes! I was in a room with a cell phone so I called 911 immediately, but all of a sudden one house invader was in the hallway in front of me. I backed up into partial cover and told him the police had been called and he needed to leave. He said "No", showed his firearm and fired at me. I returned fire, hit him and he was down. The second intruded showed up in the hallway holding a television set. When he saw his friend was hurt, he showed his firearm and I returned fire on him. Phew, scenario over. It was intense.
We ended Friday afternoon with a single elimination Shoot Off on steel targets. It was lots of fun and we burned through a considerable stash of ammo. Rory was the winner and walked away with the Challenge Coin and bragging rights!
Thanks to Range Masters Ken Tuttle and Lew Gosnell for their constant attention to detail in our holster draw presentation, target sight acquisition, and controlled trigger press. Even more importantly, they impressed on us to be "aware" of our everyday surroundings and never become complacent with our safety. The phrases "It happened so fast", " I didn't see it coming" and "I never thought this could or would happen to me" need not ever be spoken by us if we prepare ourselves mentally and physically with situational awareness and defensive skills. Can I possibly remove myself from the threat, or must I engage it? If someone says they will break your neck with their bare hands, slice your throat with their knife or shoot you with their gun--BELIEVE IT. If lethal force is necessary, do you know how to apply it? More importantly, will you?
Remember: It's your head game.
It's your fight.
Our instructors were hard taskmasters, but our class of five seniors(Kathleen, Robert, Rory, Roger and I) were up to the challenge. We learned to be warriors. And by the way, we had lots of fun!
When are YOU coming to Gunsite?
Flo W., Seasoned Citizen 350 Intermediate Pistol Class, March 2021, Gunsite, Paulden, AZ