View Full Version : Choosing a Training School

February 23, 2010, 05:28 PM
I'm sure this question has been asked over and over again, but I wanted the most up to date information, so here goes: I want to learn to shoot well. I've dabbled in various shooting activities over the years including some military service more than a decade ago. I haven't fired a gun since 1998.

I want to learn to do tactical, defensive shooting, shooting in low light, shooting in shoot houses etc. I'd take a pistol course to start. If I ever have time in the future I'd add rifle & shotgun courses.

I live in the LA area and money is a factor for me. Front Sight seems the cheapest (with a certificate) but also the goofiest. Gunsite seems good, but not cheap or that close to home. I also see that Blackwater offers courses in San Diego.

I'm also wondering how long of a course to take. Front Sight's better course is 4 days. Gunsite's Defensive Pistol 250 takes 5 days. Gabe Suarez claims he can teach in 2 days what others teach in 5. I don't have that much free time, but I'm willing to invest time for the best quality training.

Can anyone give me some solid advice, particularly people who have taken these courses? Thanks!

February 23, 2010, 06:50 PM
Seek out LMS Defense in Reno or LV. No issues with Gunsite other than dated materials. Never trained with Suarez, seems to be knowledgeable but there's some history that puts some people off. Blackwater stuff is top notch as well, but pricey.

Front Sight.. well, Google Front Sight and Scam or Lawsuit... You get what you pay for.

February 23, 2010, 06:54 PM
Why are the Gunsite materials dated? What is the bad history on Suarez?

I did read about some of the scandals involving Front Sight. The place does have the whole infomercial vibe to it.

Glenn E. Meyer
February 23, 2010, 06:59 PM
Folks - we don't want to do the history of Front Sight or Gabe. The OP can use search on the major forums or google them. That will shut this down.

If you could get to WA state - look at FAS with Marty Hayes or Insights Training.

February 23, 2010, 07:01 PM
Those options look promising.

Sorry to take the thread off topic.

Glenn E. Meyer
February 23, 2010, 07:18 PM
No problem - just don't want the clash forum bash fest.

David Blinder
February 23, 2010, 08:35 PM
Scott Reitz at www.internationaltactical.com is in LA and I seriously doubt you will find better.

February 23, 2010, 08:46 PM
Do what i did. Join the Marines

February 23, 2010, 11:44 PM
Thunder Ranch is north of you, bit expensive though. After having seen Clint Smith's videos, I'd love to train there, wish they allowed lead on the range though.

I would also search up on Blackwater before signing up. They have their Moyock facility near me, but I decided to go further away because it didn't seem to be what I wanted.

There may also be some traveling trainers to look into, I think Louis Awerbuck is in CA right now.

For what it's worth, I've not heard of anyone not liking the training received at Front Sight. If they were close to me I'd give one of their certificates a try.

February 24, 2010, 06:35 AM
Gabe Suarez claims he can teach in 2 days what others teach in 5.I can personally recommend his training. At least check out some of his DVD's first and see if it is what you are looking for. Close-Range Gunfighting is a good starting place.

Frank Ettin
February 24, 2010, 10:18 AM
I've taken a couple of classes at Gunsite and have been very pleased.

Conn. Trooper
February 24, 2010, 04:20 PM
I believe Blackwater has a facility in San Diego. I went to schools at their facility in NC and it was the best training I have ever had.

February 25, 2010, 03:51 PM
I have trained with many of the big name instructors and Suarez is at the top of the list for me.

February 25, 2010, 04:02 PM
or are any of his instructors just as good? I'd likely take the course near my home in Los Angeles.

Lee Lapin
February 25, 2010, 06:28 PM
Most good instructors will suggest you take courses from as many schools as you can. Everyone does a few things differently, and you might well like one instructor's approach better than another. The only way to know is to try.



February 25, 2010, 07:23 PM
or are any of his instructors just as good? I'd likely take the course near my home in Los Angeles. They are as good. Some specialize and are better at certain disciplines.

February 25, 2010, 08:01 PM
I am saving up for the week course at BlackWater.

1/2 pistol and 1/2 carbine.


March 1, 2010, 09:57 AM
Joash I just shot you a PM. Good luck.

March 1, 2010, 11:48 AM
FAS is a terrific school PAX is there, I haven't met her but my instructor says she and Don who work for Marty are terrific.

March 1, 2010, 12:40 PM
Gunsite is well worth the time and money to go attend a 250 Course. The "dated" material is that Gunsite still teaches the Modern Technique as formulated by Jeff Cooper, one of the fundamental tenets of which is the use of the Weaver stance.

The thing is though that Gunsite has excellent instructors, from Ed Head at the top all the way down to the newest guy teaching. You don't become an instructor at Gunsite by going through life with a closed mind, and that's important. I took a carbine course there, and being a 3-gun competitor I hold my rifle and stand differently than they teach at Gunsite. The instructors said "hey, this what we teach at Gunsite, but if you're getting fast, accurate hits with what you're doing, knock yourself out."

Gunsite isn't really teaching dogma, they're teaching a wholistic approach to shooting, hence the Accuracy, Power, and Speed triangle they'll talk about. Sure, it sounds like I've consumed the Gunsite kool-aid, and maybe I have to a certain extent. That being said, you can do a lot worse than to learn about shooting from the guys down in Arizona.

March 6, 2010, 03:12 PM
I'd second the recommendation of Scotty Reitz in LA. LAPD SWAT, now retired. Several gunfights, an excellent marksman and the LA SWAT firearms instructor before retiring. Also a Cooper guy and instructor at Gunsite in the old days.

March 14, 2010, 08:43 AM
May seem hat the big schools are out of reach both financially and by location but do not disregard them. TOO many take the basic minimum class then figure that's all they need, they know it all, voila - instant professional gun carrier. :rolleyes:
If you're serious enough to go this far and carry, don't you deserve to get the best you can? Save a bit more $ and go to one of the better facilities. FAR better than any basic class.

March 19, 2010, 10:34 PM
Rather than tell you where to go, or that I liked XXXXX school/trainer with nothing besides, "I think he's the best" by way to substantiate that endorsement, I'll share some thoughts about how to pick the place you want to go.

First and foremost, I'd recommend avoiding anything to do with a heavy bent on flashy marketing and super-secret techniques. There is nothing super-secret. Good quality training focuses on acquiring and mastering fundamentals. The really good schools and trainers have programs and instructors who are just really good at teaching those fundamentals in their course syllabus, drills, and sometimes individual instructor personality.

I strongly suggest avoiding a school you come across that surrounds itself in a cult of personality. If you come across one with that cult of personality surrounding a particular person, well let's just say I hope he is the Messiah that he truly believes himself to be. His students might need his powers of resurrection.

I'd be suspect of anything you come across that seems like it offers a lot in the way of "gimmicks". You know gimmicks when you see them. We've all been exposed to marketing many times a day in our modern lives. It's hard to describe, but like the Supreme Court concluded when it tried to differentiate between art and pornography, "you know it when you see it." Remember point number one - good quality training concentrates on acquiring and mastering the fundamentals.

Before I took a class, I'd investigate to see if they have a strong preference for a given weapon system that they can't articulate and substantiate the benefit for why they advocate for it. Gunsite's program is known as having a preference for the 1911. They can articulate the reasons well. They point to it as having the best trigger system of any handgun - it doesn't change from the first to the second shot, and the path it travels -straight back - means the student has less to try to master - vs. the pivoting trigger. Notice they say nothing in the way of "hype" about it chambering the big and powerful .45 ACP. The reasoning is emminently practical and mechanical.

Cirriculums and schools that place inordinate weight on the lesser benefits of a system - like capacity - over the more important ones - like gun fit and control - should be investigated. More often than not you'll find the reason they favor their system has more to do with limited experiences coupled with a personal preference that doesn't take into account the life experience, abilities, and limitations of others.

Look for schools and instructors that have a well-rounded background. Your local cop, or the veteran of a 20 year career on a SWAT Team might be a great guy, and great shot, and seem very knowledable about what he knows. But cops are generally young and fit, not old or plagued with health problems. The strong and fit can often just power through a drill or use a weapon platform that someone who isn't young and fit can't. Make sure the instructors have the experience and background that enables them understand and empathize with those sorts of students. Otherwise the cirriculum and techniques will be built around a subset of the population - the fit and strong.

Look for someone not married to a gun, system, and training regimen to the exclusion of something else unless they've got a good reason for their preference. Trainers who go out and get training themselves from other trainers should bump their program or school up to the top of your list. Lots of shooting competitions, awards, and inter-police/military service training by itself doesn't count for consideration. You're not interested in what he can do, you're interested in his ability to teach, and to have successfully taught it to a wide and varied range of students.

High round count courses don't equal better training. In fact, there reaches a point where the student becomes fatigued by recoil and merely begins going through the motions to complete the next course of fire and get it over with. The effort to get through it starts to supercede focusing on learning the point of the exercise. It depends on the caliber, physical strength and simple endurance, but generally at some point around 800 rounds recoil fatigue sets in.

While I'm on the topic of caliber, take the class with a 9mm or .38 Special. Yes, they're considered meek in today's world. But remember this is training, not practice. You're there to learn the material, not master it. You master the material in practice. You need your mind and body fresh to learn.

Also on the topic of round count, remember to look for breaks built into the syllabus for classroom instruction. There better be some built in. At a minimum you should be provided a legal briefing on the concept of justification. Try to find out what the justification model is, or is based on. Avoid justification models lifted solely from policing sources. Police are duty-sworn and have a mandate to act, so their justification models are written and begin with an assumption of that duty to act. The appropriate model for the Armed Citizen stems from an assumption of necessity.

Lastly, and probably most important - remember you mission. Remember your mission. Remember your mission. As you do your research you'll begin looking at lots of schools, cirriculums, and programs. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in it. What's your mission? What's the goal of your training? Someone living in a Shall Issue state and intends to carry outside the home on a permit/license will have a different mission than someone who cannot. And someone who carries as a duty will have a different mission than both of them. The best high risk civilian contractor course might be very appropriate for a certain group of people, while being completely mismatched to another group of students. Again, remember your mission.

I've given out a lot to consider. But like I mentioned from the outset, rather than pronounce someone or some school "the best", if you use those criteria you'll be able to judge for yourself the wheat from the chaff. I don't know what's best for you. No one does. Only you can determine that. Once you know what to look for, you'll be able to guide your own training path, in the way that's best for you.

March 20, 2010, 12:29 AM
Most good instructors will suggest you take courses from as many schools as you can.

I don't know about "as many as you can". I will say you don't have to go all in on one school. It's also a good idea to get as much training as you can.
Find a school that fits your budget and schedule, then take a basic course there. If the school fits your needs take their next course and so on.
But don't feel wed to that school.

Mr. James
March 20, 2010, 03:30 PM

Thank you for that thoughtful post. Lot's of good insights there, and they are much appreciated.

Bob James

March 20, 2010, 08:43 PM
Well I've been fortunate in my life. I figured I'd share the insights my circumstances have taught me.

Glenn Dee
March 28, 2010, 10:06 AM
Mr BullFrog.

Your response is the best advice I've seen on choosing a trainer. Kudos from me sir. Thoughtfull, honest, and relevent.

Again my thanks.


March 28, 2010, 10:17 AM
if you go to the NRA website you can search local training classes. It will give you cost,location,and contact info


March 28, 2010, 10:18 AM
Joash: What Mr. Bullfrog said is so spot on that you need to take it to heart.

I can tell you this though: Once you have gone through a really good course, you'll come home and immediately start planning ahead for your next one.

Start planning today. Start saving today. If you start now, and it is two years before you get to go, guess what? You'll have everything you need for the course as well as be in a position to not have any debt afterward. Even if you have to drive a thousand miles to get to the course, you won't regret it one bit. So sit down and plan it out so your budget doesn't take a hit.

March 28, 2010, 07:10 PM
Thanks again for the kind words. I've just been very fortunate.

December 9, 2011, 12:55 AM
I know you have all been waiting with baited breath since I started this thread in March 2010, but I am finally heading down to a local range next week and breaking my guns out of mothballs.

Hopefully some time in 2012 I can try one of the courses from international tactical (local), LMS or perhaps something else.

I have been trying to watch videos on Youtube to get a flavor for what to expect from various courses.

Thank you for all of your well thought out input.

December 9, 2011, 01:52 AM
I know this is an old topic, but I just read BullfrogKen's opinion on the subject.

Excellent............all I can say is Excellent.

NYC Drew
December 9, 2011, 07:54 AM
Something I posted here on 5 months ago.

Choose a school based on how what they fit meets your training goals, budget and schedule.



The below is an except culled from my own (internally) previously published material. I have to agree with much, if not most of what has already been presented here.

EXPERIENCE is the most important facet for all transfer of human learning.

Thus, the most important requirement for any trainer is solid foundation in the skill or knowledge they claim (or wish to gain) proficiency in. I know a lot of cats who THINK they can shoot...and the reality is, they really can't, because they do not have a clear understanding of the (shooting) fundamentals, and don't understand how consistently adhering to fundamentals provide consistent results. These would be the folks that talk about how "different" or difficult it is to move from shooting a "1911" to shooting a "SIG/M&P/H&K/Glock/Revolver". Pistol (or rifle) shooting fundamentals are just that. It does not matter if it's a two stage trigger or a 11lb trigger.

A good instructor should be able to positively motivate the student candidate from first contact. In general more learning can, and will take place if folks are highly motivated compared to not being positively motivated. This means that attitude, appearance, demeanor, hygiene and environment presented by the instructor play a crucial role in enhancing the (a) student’s mindset and thus motivation. Much of this transpires before the instructor has formally introduced him/herself. Unfortunately, many of the courses I have participated in (from the perspective of being a student or in the audience), the psychology and physiology of learning are not presented until the tail end of the presentation...and instructor trainer classes often recommend these portions are presented after the general body of information is delivered to the student.
It is not everyone that shows up that wants to learn...but it would certainly help if you had the tools with which to motivate them towards that end.

For ADULT students, trainers must also be able to present the new material being introduced to the student, in such a way that there is some association with some existing knowledge the student already has. This will allow for fast(er) assimilation of knowledge and skill.

Trainers must also constantly reflect back to when they were learning a (the) skill or assimilating new information. Too many of us forget how difficult it was to learn what we now construe to be rudimentary tasks (example, locking the action on a semi automatic rifle open). Since basic shooting is very skills dependent, an effective trainer will attempt to, as much as is possible, ensure that much of the instructional method incorporates hands on exercises, and if possible, “teach backs”.

For instructors of beginning students, it is critical to cover the fundamentals of shooting without attempting to impress new shooters with skills beyond the scope of training. I have suffered mightily thru classes being regaled with tales from trainers about scenarios and circumstances that did not reinforce the course objectives.

All the best!