View Full Version : Pt I - Course Review: Gunsite 260/SATP Defensive Shotgun

August 8, 2002, 04:13 PM
I recently had the opportunity to attend two of Gunsite’s defensive shotgun courses, and I thought it might be an opportunity to contribute something back to a forum that has been very helpful to me over the past couple of years.

First, a brief disclaimer: the perspective offered here is that of a civilian, and someone who is relatively new to firearms in general. That said, I thought it might be helpful to those who are considering this type of training for the first time, or who may have a particular interest in Gunsite programs. There are a few minor editorials, and it may be a bit long (hence multi-part), but if you’ll overlook those rookie mistakes….at least the price is right.

The courses were Defensive Shotgun (260) and Shotgun Advanced Tactical Problems (SATP). The first program spans five days , including one evening, and the second is conducted over three days, including two night sessions. Much has been written about various schools, instructors, and teaching philosophies, and my sense is that all of them have their fans for good reasons. I was looking for a training experience that was comprehensive, practical, and capable of revealing the weaknesses of both the tool (not many) and the user(generally the bigger challenge). I got everything I was looking for and then some.

Gunsite teaches by immersion. The programs included lecture content, particularly on safety and the combat mindset, but most of the lecture material was typically delivered on the range where the concepts could be immediately implemented and practiced. If you’re new to the discipline….take a rugged notebook and two pens. They do hand out formal course materials, but some of the real gems of advice come on the fly, and are easier to capture during breaks in the action, than waiting until nightfall.

Both classes were small. Eight students and two instructors for the 260 program, and Nine students and three instructors in the advanced course. The instructors selected clearly had adequate credentials – by the time you get finished with introductions: Military special forces, SWAT team instructors, Narcotics officers, and so on…you quickly appreciate why so many agencies send their professionals to these programs. Many of the students in both programs had LEO background, and were sent there to acquire skills and/or assess the program for extended enrollment by their agencies. One of the first things that really impressed me is how focused the instructors are on making sure the students are actually “getting” the material. You get a lot of personal attention when you need it, but never in a way that makes you feel foolish, or holds up your classmates. An example: I found out early that I was not mounting the shotgun correctly. One of the instructors picked up on this, already knew (as I would quickly conclude) that I’d never last through a week and a half of 00 buck and slugs if I kept that up, and helped me correct the problem. Reading about techniques is great, but as many of the more experienced among you have no doubt known for a long time….there’s nothing quite like being shown …and that is where these guys excel. Many of the tips were more subtle, but I mention that one because it’s an example of how nothing was taken for granted.

I’m convinced there are always students who start these programs with good skills….the amazing thing is that by the end of the program, no matter where they started, there wasn’t a one in the bunch I wouldn’t have been glad to have on my side in a fight.

It was also clear throughout the course that the material being covered was the product of many experienced practitioners sorting through what works and what doesn’t. The discipline is clearly evolving. You’ll hear the mantra “Speed, Power, and Accuracy” all the time during proceedings at this facility. If a technique passes the test, it stays in the syllabus….if it doesn’t, it fades away quickly. I also found a very consistent attitude among the instructors : “We learn from students, we learn from each other…..what matters is that students walk away with the best tool kit we can deliver”. Given the seriousness of the subject matter, I found that philosophy very appropriate.

The general course outline for the 260 segment included:

Safety/Range Protocol
Review of Basic Weapon Operation (Pump and Semi-Auto) – Pros/Cons
Accessory Review (Sights, Ammunition Management, Slings) – Pros/Cons
Combat Mindset
Shotgun Zones of Effectiveness (A,B,C)
Stance/Mount – High/Low/Indoor Ready Positions
Patterning 5-35 yards
Zeroing for Slugs
Loading/Unloading Techniques (Ejection Port/Magazine)
Slug Select Techniques
Alternative Positions (Kneeling, Sitting, Various Prone)
Pivots/Turns (Engaging Targets 90 – 180 from current position)
Engaging Multiple Targets
Slug Marksmanship to 100 yards
Barricades/Use of Cover
Introduction to Tactics – Basic Indoor/Outdoor Simulators
Use of Lights – Dedicated and Detachable
Low Light Marksmanship
Transitioning from Shotgun to Sidearm

The SATP program builds on the 260 course, tuning proficiency in the above plus:

Shooting on the Move (Forward/Backward/Sideways) – (as someone put it…. “We don’t Retreat “– we “Fight in a New Direction”)
One Handed Weapon Manipulation
Additional Shotgun to Pistol Transitions
Weapon Retention
Alternative Loads (Non-lethal, diversionary, chemical, breeching)
More Complex Simulators (Indoor/Outdoor)
Simunitions Exercises
Team Tactics
Shooting From a Moving Platform

The program was physically demanding, typically 8 am to 4+ pm, with evening sessions lasting from 7:30pm to 10:00pm or later. Very Hot in the summer…you will be reminded often to drink and eat. It’s easy to get dehydrated. I also remember one instructor commenting that most of the shotgun students discover by the end of the first couple of days that “Advil is your friend”….very true! Given the small class size, there was one relay, and very little downtime. Two simulators were typically worked concurrently, with the class divided into groups of four and rotated to keep things moving. Moleskin, athletic tape, sunscreen, good hat, and knee/elbow pads make things more comfortable. Very good support from the gunsmith on weapons issues when they arose. Loaners made available when necessary….nobody out of the fight for long. The Remington 870 is favored because of its simplicity and ability to absorb abuse, but the instructors were careful to cover technique variations for the auto users. Winchester, Mossberg, and Benelli also represented in the courses.

Square range work was conducted primarily at a complex called the ShotQuad. This was equipped with hydraulically recovered reactive steel plates, a pair of plates on tracks to simulate moving targets, racks for paper targets, and a wide range of options for configuring poppers out to 50 yards. The adjacent rifle range was equipped to handle work to 100 yards. This equipment absorbed an enormous amount of abuse over the week, and stayed up almost continuously (a couple of minor delays when students blew welded plates off their supports and the line had to be shifted left or right to unused targets). The maintenance crew was very efficient.

These courses took the class to most of the indoor and outdoor simulation sites in the complex…and it is a big complex. You’ll need a vehicle, though in some cases students were transported in company trucks to shoot sites for reasons of safety and/or efficiency.

Books have been written on a lot of the basic techniques (many by more qualified authors), so I won’t attempt to recap those, but I will add my impressions on some of the more memorable activities:

Part II: Simulators and Simunitions

August 8, 2002, 05:30 PM
Link to Part II


Rich Lucibella
August 9, 2002, 03:41 AM
One can never loose by spending the time and money for a Gunsite course. Who were the instructors?

August 9, 2002, 06:13 PM
Hi Rich,

The instructors were:

260 Course - Steve Slawson, Lance Young

SATP Course - Edgar Sanchez, Erick Gelhaus, Chris Dwiggins