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Old February 23, 2010, 05:28 PM   #1
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Choosing a Training School

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!

Last edited by Joash; February 23, 2010 at 06:22 PM.
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Old February 23, 2010, 06:50 PM   #2
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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.
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Old February 23, 2010, 06:54 PM   #3
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Suarez bad history

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.
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Old February 23, 2010, 06:59 PM   #4
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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.
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Old February 23, 2010, 07:01 PM   #5
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Thanks for resources

Those options look promising.

Sorry to take the thread off topic.
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Old February 23, 2010, 07:18 PM   #6
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No problem - just don't want the clash forum bash fest.
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Old February 23, 2010, 08:35 PM   #7
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Scott Reitz at is in LA and I seriously doubt you will find better.
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Old February 23, 2010, 08:46 PM   #8
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Do what i did. Join the Marines
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Old February 23, 2010, 11:44 PM   #9
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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.
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Old February 24, 2010, 06:35 AM   #10
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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.
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Old February 24, 2010, 10:18 AM   #11
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I've taken a couple of classes at Gunsite and have been very pleased.
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Old February 24, 2010, 04:20 PM   #12
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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.
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Old February 25, 2010, 03:51 PM   #13
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I have trained with many of the big name instructors and Suarez is at the top of the list for me.
"There are no stupid questions, just stupid people asking questions".
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Old February 25, 2010, 04:02 PM   #14
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Is it necessary to train with Suarez Personally?

or are any of his instructors just as good? I'd likely take the course near my home in Los Angeles.
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Old February 25, 2010, 06:28 PM   #15
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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.


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Attitude and skill will get you through times of no gear, better than gear will get you through times of no attitude and no skill.
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Old February 25, 2010, 07:23 PM   #16
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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.
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Old February 25, 2010, 08:01 PM   #17
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I am saving up for the week course at BlackWater.

1/2 pistol and 1/2 carbine.

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Old March 1, 2010, 09:57 AM   #18
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Joash I just shot you a PM. Good luck.
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Old March 1, 2010, 11:48 AM   #19
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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.
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Old March 1, 2010, 12:40 PM   #20
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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.
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Old March 6, 2010, 03:12 PM   #21
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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.
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Old March 14, 2010, 08:43 AM   #22
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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.
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.
Shoot safe, shoot often
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Old March 19, 2010, 10:34 PM   #23
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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.
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Old March 20, 2010, 12:29 AM   #24
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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.
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Old March 20, 2010, 03:30 PM   #25
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Thank you for that thoughtful post. Lot's of good insights there, and they are much appreciated.

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