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I'm interested in getting some professional tactical training. I first looked into the big names such as Thunder Ranch and Gunsite and from what I found out, big names mean big dollars. Therefore I searched for some professional, less known, training sites around my state and found a number of them that seem to offer some great courses at a small fraction of the price of the bigger names. What I'm struggling with is, should I save up for the bigger names or will I recieve adequate instruction from a smaller facility for quite a bit less money. I would like to hear from others who have attended some of these "schools" and what you think about them.
 

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Gunsite is the center of the universe for weapons training, and one should go there if possible. You can get excellent training elsewhere, but there are a whole lot more people offering training than know what they are doing.

Highly recommended are Randy Cain and Louis Awerbuck, both of whom are also Gunsite instructors. Their excellence comes from teaching ability more than weapons skill.

There is another long-ago-ex-Gunsite instructor from whom I would not take another course if it were free. You can't depend on credentials, or even testimonials.

If you do a search in this forum for some of the names, you can get a fair idea of who rises to the surface.
 

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While the big name schools are awesome, they do tend to be a bit dogmatic. Some of the finest training you can find is from a few of the less advertised players. A few that come to mind in no order are, Greg Hamilton at www.insightstraining.com, Tom Givens at www.rangemaster.com, Andy Stanford at www.optionsforpersonalsecurity.com , Ken Hackathorn, Jim Crews at www.marksmans.com, John Farnam at www.defense-training.com. It's possible to arrange for any of these guys to come to your location if you can get a group together and this will reduce your costs significantly and you won't miss anything but the "experience" of attending the major meccas of shooting.
 

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I've looked at alot of the schools as well. For competitive shooting I took a class from Matt McLearn, an IPSC WorldCup Champion. The guy has won everything.

Tactical training is another matter. Having weighed the options, my buddy and I have decided on Mid-South Institute of Self-Defense Shooting, or M.I.S.S. This is were the U.S. Government sends it's top operators for training.

Having just competed at the I.D.P.A. Nationals gave me a chance to tour the facilities as this is were the match took place. The price is quite reasonable as well. $500 for 3 days or $800 for 5 days and 3000 rounds. They can also taylor the class to better suite you needs, because they'll go over handgun, shotgun, and carbine if you want.

Check it out at www.weaponstraining.com. Its easy to get to. Its only 30 minutes south of Memphis, and 15 minutes north of Tunica.
 

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If you're in the Midwest, check out the Association of Professional Trainers,
251 Holly Lane, Galena, MO 65656 Phone:417-357-8482/E-mail: [email protected]
(Sorry, no website yet)

APT Director BJ Johnson is a first-class instructor, and also serves as the team leader for the Stone County, MO, SWAT Team, which serves several neighboring counties.

APT offers training with the handgun, shotgun, self-loading rifle, SMG and utility rifle, As well as classes on High-Risk Warrant Service, SWAT Medic, rappelling, rope rescue, and deep water rescue, to name a few. APT's tuition is very reasonable, and their basic Tactical Handgun I class is two days, usually held over a weekend at their facility southwest of Springfield, MO, about thirty miles from Branson.

The big name schools like Gunsite and Thunder Ranch are great. They're expensive, but worth every penny. I made it to Gunsite once, and I've never regretted it, but I've never been able to go back. I've taken several classes at APT since '98, and I'm VERY happy with the training; my only regret is that I didn't learn about them sooner.



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Roger Shambaugh
Ottawa, Kansas
 

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I've been to Thunder Ranch. I agree that it was worth the money. The facility is extremely well organized and relevant, the instructor-to-student ratio is right and the place was spotless. I wondered to myself how much it much cost to keep a place like that up. It ain't cheap. Believe it or not, after paying property tax, the employees, maintaining the ranges and props, downtime between classes, etc....these guys aren't doing it necessarily for the money.
 

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Jeff Cooper has compared learning to shoot with learning to play the guitar. It is possible to teach yourself to play the guitar but it is far easier to take a few lessons to master the basics and then practice, practice, practice. You could send yourself to Juliard, but taking a few classes at your local community college may be a better bet for learning the basics. The same applies for learning to shoot.

Depending on your current shooting level, making the investment in a "big name" school may not be your best bet. As you suggested, taking courses from local schools or from traveling instructors is a good way to start.

Though many in the industry will disparage them, I think the best way to start formalized firearms training is FrontSight. Your first four day class at FrontSight will cost you ~$250 with a certificate. There are always specials on airfare to Vegas as well as cheap rooms. All of this minimizes the costs of your first class, and it should be possible to take the class for <$1000.

This may seem like a fair amount of money but your getting four days of solid training and these will be long days (8-10hrs/each). I like this level of "immersion" for your first schools as you'll have plenty of time to begin ingraining the proper skills.

I've observed that each shooting school has its strengths and weaknesses. FrontSight WILL teach you to shoot and manipulate your weapon very well. The school's weakness is mindset development and tactical awareness. They are covered but not as deeply as other schools. I would argue that this is best for your first class as you'll have enough trouble learning the shooting skills and manipulations.

Once you've completed your first class, you will have an excellent understanding of the basics of the Modern Technique. Practice religously for six months and then look for another course at another school.

Any quality instructor will tell you to take training from as many sources as possible. This is excellent advise and I've always learned something that made every class I've taken worthwhile.

I started my firearms training that way and it has served me very well.
 

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I have been to Tactical Defense Institute for hangun class 2,3,and 4. Compared to my state and federal training it was incredible. I am a active shooter who practices at least 4 times a month. Check it out, I could go on and on about TDI staff. www.tdiohio.com
 
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