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Old September 13, 2000, 11:45 AM   #1
Rich Lucibella
Join Date: October 6, 1998
Location: South Florida
Posts: 10,206
I had the opportunity to attend my first course at Clint Smith's Thunder Ranch this past week...a 3 day General Rifle Course. Outstanding stuff available there!

The facility is enormous and better maintained than any I've previously attended. There are immaculate loo's on all the ranges, shade overhangs where necessary, black pea gravel on the grounds to ease brass retrieval, automated targeting systems, 3 story towers, shoot houses that appear to have been built yesterday, an entire western "town" replica and, most important, a world class staff.

Clint keeps things simple. There are neither gun smithy or meals available. The pro shop is simply stocked. Cabins are available on property; motels 30 miles away. Students bring there own lunches and store them in a fridge. Full time Staff consists of Clint, his wife Heidi (an accomplished trainer in her own right), office manager Debbie and two facilities hands. Clint must have learned something about getting the most out of people, because everything works flawlessly and the grounds look more like a golf course than a shooting school.

Despite 100+ temperatures, classes began promptly at 0730 and went thru 'till late afternoon. Don't expect long lunch breaks or frequent rest periods at Thunder Ranch; expect to get your money's worth in trigger time an world class training. Instruction was provided by Clint, Harry Fleming, my old friend Jack Furr and Bill McLennan....for a class of 9 shooters! After an excellent first morning lecture by Clint, all activity took place on the range.

We covered off hand, kneeling, squat, sitting, prone, roll over prone and various improvised positions; barricade shooting and snap shooting. Distances ranged from contact to 300 yards. Stress was imposed in the form of excersize incorporated into some of the drills (running and stairs) and time. Reloading drils with each hand and malfunction drills were also introduced and stressed. Finally there was a hike requiring target acquisition and shoot at ranges from 30 to about 200 yards.

Weapons ranged from a Sharps single shot rifle to an Accuracy International precision piece....and everything in between. I shot the LURCR rifle...a Winchester Model 70 Featherweight, built by Kevin McClung and modified (with permission of the Creator) by Ashley Emerson. The rifle now has a Leopold Scout scope mounted in the lowest plane possible, thanks to some ideas and engineering from Ashley and some clever silver solder work in Texas. The stock to scope alignment is better than any other Scout I've shouldered with the exception of the Steyr...and it's as good as that! For the first time, in several rifle classes, I was comfortable with my performance.

I was honored to receive an invite to Clint and Heidi's home for dinner on the second evening along with Jack Furr and another student. I had heard that Heidi was a world class shot...had no idea she was a world class cook! I questioned why, with so many ranges, we were the only class and the schedule showed very few weeks in which more than one class was being taught. Certainly TR has the ability to fill far more classes. Clint and Heidi explained that they prefer to keep it small and simple and to give every class access to the full facility and Staff. In our case, it certainly was appreciated.

I fully intend to return to Thunder Ranch...hopefully before the year is out and *highly* recommend it to anyone seeking excellence in training. For further info check out their web site at
Rich Lucibella

ps: Did I mention that limited deer hunting is also available at Thunder Ranch? What more can one ask?!
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Old September 13, 2000, 11:54 AM   #2
George Hill
Staff Alumnus
Join Date: October 14, 1998
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 11,546
Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Safaris...
Rich - what else is there? What are you going to do next that can top these?
I wanna be YOU when I grow up.
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Old September 14, 2000, 11:13 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: December 3, 1998
Location: SLC Utah
Posts: 3,740
I hope to someday take a trip to TR. I've heard nothing but good about it. Thanks for the report.
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Old September 15, 2000, 11:20 AM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: April 30, 2000
Location: Boilermaker Country, Indiana
Posts: 131
I attended the Defensive Handgun 1 this spring and am going back in Oct for the Urban Rifle course. Bill was one of my instructors also. I hope he is again, he was a favorite. I am not a wealthy person, I work for a living and going to TR represents a great outlay in vacation time and money. But it is worth it. I hope to go back at least once a year. Not only the instruction is great, but the feelings of confidence and accomplishment you have when you leave are worth the price.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." H.L. Mencken
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