Next week, I’ll be at Gunsite Firearms Academy with Crimson Trace, S&W, and Galco. We’re going to be playing with the new Crimson Trace Lightguard for the M&P pistol, pictured at left from SHOT 2011. Galco has a new holster that’s designed to fit the M&P with the Lightguard attached, which we’ll also be trying out.
But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. Today, we’re talking about Gunsite Firearms Academy, the cradle of pistol instruction. I’m not old enough to actually have taken classes at Gunsite when Jeff Cooper was teaching, nor do I “remember” in the strictest sense the great rift when Col. Cooper sold Gunsite, then eventually reacquired it. What I do remember is sitting in the Coast Guard Academy pistol team’s ready room reading Cooper’s Corner in the back of Guns and Ammo and actually thinking about pistol shooting as more than just a sport. You see, without Jeff Cooper and Gunsite, we wouldn’t have our modern shooting culture. 99% if all not of the modern training schools owe their origins to Gunsite in one way or another; trainers came from there, added their own techniques and knowledge to the Modern Technique, and pistol shooting grew as a martial art across the nation until we have what you see today.
The same is true for competition shooting as well – without Jeff Cooper, there would be no IPSC, and without IPSC we wouldn’t have IDPA, Steel Challenge, USPSA, and 3-gun. Just like in those early days, competition shooting still continues to drive innovation in the combat shooting arena. When Rob Leatham and Brian Enos started shooting modern Iso instead of a Weaver-ish stance, it was a huge breakthrough. Now modern Iso is the industry standard, with only a few schools still teaching Weaver. Which brings us back to Gunsite, which still does teach Weaver. But the Weaver of Jeff Cooper’s era has evolved as well, the new Weaver is more squared up, more adaptable to different platforms, and not as rigid as the old one. It’s not the way I personally choose to shoot, but having seen their instructors shoot, it certainly works. Which is something else to bear in mind – try different stuff. Next week I’m going to get told to reload differently, to clear malfunctions differently, and generally do things in a much more tactical fashion. I’m going to do them that way because it never hurts to try someone else’s system. If it doesn’t work, then go back to whatever you were doing before. If it doesn’t fit the mission, then go back to what you’re doing before. But I’m not nearly arrogant enough to suggest that I know better than the cadre of instructors at Gunsite.
When you go to Gunsite, you get a sense of the history of our sport, of our martial art. Jeff Cooper, Louis Awerbuck, and countless other people taught there and helped form the basis for what all of us do today. I’ve been there three times now, and I have learned something new every single time.