I figured I'd share this since it was a hit with the owner, staff, and instructor's at Gunsite who did ask me to write it up.

Where: Gunsite Academy Inc, Paulden, AZ.

Background - for well over a decade now, Gunsite has been running Veteran-specific 250-General Pistol and 223-Carbine classes to thank the veterans of the GWOT. The courses are free to the Vets who attend; the instructors donate their unpaid time, travel, etc. to teach the classes; and the school site host provides the ranges as well as a support system such as a shop for the field damaged or in need of better equipment and better apparel, and a smith area for any unforeseen repairs, etc. This is the second time between both vet classes that I have attended where the meals were paid for by a generous and selfless donor. Not written in stone but it is definitely nice to have. The school maintains an ammo stash at all times to assist any student or in my case an entire class that was not only running low but was zero balanced in the black as well.

The Host: The buildings, shops, facilities, and ranges were exceptionally clean and well maintained. Everything was clearly marked and easily identified as such. Site staff were extremely friendly and always had a smile and would be helpful at all times.

The Instructors: They were very knowledgeable and treated everyone with respect and always knew our names. They were fair, balanced, and impartial. They rewarded you with praise when called for and were stern if mistakes were being made. Nothing was personal. Everything from start to finish was professional*.
*Side note for the about the instructors: Now I know that everyone wants to be loyal to their instructors past and only take the classes if they're going to be instructing. But I am telling you that no matter whom is your instructor over there, they are all going to be among the very best there is. They have a lot of heart and skin in this game to make sure that paid or not they will be 110% on their game.

Now for the cons first, and my thoughts on what I would have liked to see instead: Their lead smith while knowledgeable, likes to hear himself talk. The information being given is very basic and not unknown. That time slot could have been better used by a sight in portion for those needing to learn or relearn their holds and for those also using red dot equipped handguns. Some of these students showed up with either a brand new gun, or a newly factory set red dot zero that was never verified previously. And a few were using ammunition that their red dot was never zeroed for to include grain and projectile type; This may not matter at the 3, 5, or the 7 but as the line goes further back to shifts were definitely noticeable and could have been prevented by a short sight in period*.

*There is a dryfire timeslot before class begins. There could or at least should be a sight in slot before class as well. Just my personal opinion though. Any changes I had to make had to be done at home and away from the range as it would take away time from magazine refill and water breaks, and impede the next firing order while on a hot line before being called safe once everyone was holstered.

Ammunition: It's a basic class, a 250 primer for us to work our way up to the more advanced classes and this is well understood. Being offered FMJ is and should be expected. But there will be unfortunately some who will only have this as their training. I'd like to see an additional ammo package where the student gets to buy one 500 case of ball to use at the beginning, and another 500 round case of duty ammunition to finish the rest of the course with plus a 250 round half case of duty ammo for the student to take home as an additional option. I am a firm believer of train as we would fight. If I am going to carry it then I am wanting to go practice, train, and compete with it as much as possible when able to afford doing so.

Gear: Since this is a primer, we all know what is expected to be brought but some had brought things that should have stayed in their footlockers from decades past. And inevitably people had gear malfunctions that luckily for them, there is a shop on site to cover down for any issues that may arise. A good brief on how to select gear and kit needed for the classes should be included as part of a welcome packet being sent out months ahead of time. Not everyone internets, uses message boards of likeminded interests, facebooks, or youtubes. And not everyone comes from the combat side of the mil either, or were exposed to ground pounder things. This was clearly evident in the Donga where non combat arms were not making the best use of cover and concealment and had milspec surplus or the finest chinesium gear issues while the combat side was back in their element using quality brands like esstac and their pistol kiwis which was predominant and an occasional showing of HSGI Tacos.

And for the pro's: Targets from 3 yards to 15 yards were engaged on the square range daily both supported and dominant arm only. Students ran one indoor simulator (shoot house) and one actual live shoot house. Students also ran two outdoor lanes with live fire, one a practice and the other for score. Frangible ammunition was used at all stages of shoot house and open area lanes. We had to find and engage anywhere from a shoot target to a no shoot in all scenarios ran. Shoot house targets were of the colored kind and were large enough to make each shooter determine if it was a threat or not. Outdoor targets were painted in earth tones with some in red to ID as a no shoot friendly but were reasonably hidden to make each shooter properly assess and ID before making the decision to shoot or not. Targets engaged were from anywhere from 5 yards to 35 with the Donga portion.

We preceded the night shoot with a well presented low light lecture, tailored specifically for handguns. It addresses both equipment and legal issues, as well as, much more importantly, human factors & physiology. Two techniques were done, both with handheld lights only and no weapon mounted lights. Now I understand that the 250 is a primer for the more advanced classes but a basic weapon light instruction with some live fire would have been beneficial, especially since as mentioned previously, not many could be expected to come back or even attend another handgun class ever again.

On hindsight I really wish I would have done the 250 before the 223 because the primary to secondary transitions would have been more effective from the shooter's now improved marksmanship abilities. Strong shooters became weak shooters once the support arm was take away but after the end of this class, we all were more stronger and now much more proficient.

The students: I would highly suggest to anyone attending this in the future to arrive well motivated and to keep an open mind so you can make the most from the training given. The brotherhood of veterans was super strong, tens of thousands of dollars of personally bought items both sensitive and regular line items were left undisturbed and were well guarded by those of us who were nearby it. If one was struggling on the magazine recharges, another would be along shortly with a mag loader to lend without even having to be asked. If there were any loosened shoelaces or something else afoot about to happen negatively, our brothers were on it to spot it out and help correct. Frangible ammunition was in short supply for some because they used more than others. This specialty type of ammunition while still personally bought was redistributed without even having to be asked to do so or asked to buy from. There was definitely a continuance of a brotherhood going on here.

I'd also like to quickly mention the lunches. The sandwiches were all freshly made and very nutritious. Fruit was also included to revitalize any exerted vitamins, and not big on carbs either with the snack included so for those of the diabetes type or health conscientious eaters, rest assured that what you were being fed was on target, heathy, and gave us much needed energy to finish out the rest of the training day, and never left us feeling hungry throughout, and also without a 50 pound brick in our stomachs either.