Back in the early 1970s, Colonel Jeff Cooper started the American Pistol Institute. Now called Gunsite Academy, it is known worldwide for firearms training, from a quality facility with top-notch instructors and staff. Some of the best warriors have attended and continue to train there.
Recently Dick Williams of Gunsite invited me to attend a three-day writers’ event employing handguns. Using semi-auto and double-action and single-action revolvers, the purpose of the event was to test the skill level of the students with each type of handgun. Every Gunsite class starts with the Pledge of Allegiance, a review of the four gun safety rules, and a breakdown of the course curriculum. Presenting these were our instructors Lew Gosnell and Ed Head.
Being a writers’ event, attendees were able to work with different weapon types and calibers. The first day, I shot my Springfield Armory .45 ACP 1911. We were on one of the square ranges, starting with one round at close distance and slowly moving back.
After lunch we performed drills firing multiple rounds at different distances and worked on tactical reloads as well as running the gun for emergency reloads. Clear instructions and demonstrations were provided before every drill. Lew and Ed were happy to answer any questions throughout the three days.
Day Two started with most students using a different handgun. I chose to shoot my Ruger Vaquero chambered in .45 Colt. The drills were initially going to be the same as the first day, but because most students were shooting singleactions, working through the same problems took longer as shooters had to think rather than just react.
It was a good chance to work through drills with a weapon that many folks carry in the field but don’t plan on using for self-defense. If that is all you have with you, it’s better to have some practical training to go along with it.
After lunch, Lew and Ed moved the class to a different outdoor range known as the Scrambler, where students take shots at various steel targets from different ranges and shooting positions. The drill is to take no more than two shots at a target under time. Any misses add time to your run. During this drill, students shot one at a time.
We finished Day Two with a run in one of the indoor simulators, where students encountered problems such as a door, windows, hallways, blind corners, and shoot or no-shoot targets— some in the same room.
Building clearance is always best left to the professionals, and should be done with a partner or team, but you may have no choice and need to know how to move through or around a building. This is where Gunsite’s facilities are far ahead of most shooting schools. The instructors are people who have “been there and done that” in real life.
On Day Three, the class chose to run double-action revolvers. I shot a Ruger Redhawk chambered in .45 Colt.
We worked through the same drills as the first two days, but it was fun to see how different shooters ran the same drills with different guns. After lunch we went back to the shoot house, but the range staff had changed the layout of the floor plan, giving it a totally different appearance. The day ended with a debriefing.
[Editor’s Note: for a video on a Gunsite shoot house, check out www.swatmag.com/video/gunsite-shoot-house.]
I have always come away from Gunsite with new information. I have never had better training, and the staff can’t be beat. Now in its 41st year of continuous operation, Gunsite has stood the test of time.
HUNT AT DUNTON RANCH
After the class, for those students who wished to attend, Ruger and DoubleTap Ammunition sponsored a hunt at the Dunton Ranch North Fort Rock in Kingman, Arizona.
My Dad, S.W.A.T. Editor Denny Hansen, and I met up with Dick Williams at the ranch around mid morning. The other writers—Aimee Grant of FMG Publications, JoAnne Conn of The Well Armed Woman, and Brandon Trevino of Ruger arrived throughout the day.
The facility has a well-appointed three-bedroom ranch house and a few smaller cabins. All have outdoor grills and front porches, making it very nice to kick back and relax in the Arizona evening. There is even a safe backstop to confirm zero of your weapon.
Our guides, 17-year-old Aden Dunton and his partner Ethen Schmidt, showed up to take us out for an evening hunt. The hunt was for either a feral hog or Corsican ram. Hunts start at $500, with the final price determined by the size of the animal.
Within the hour, Aden had us on some hogs in small groups of three to five. Being our first night, we chose to pass on these, as we were enjoying getting to know the country and seeing the ranch’s layout.
Hunters in the other party passed on shots their guide Ethen spotted for the same reason. At the end of the evening, our guides dropped us back at our camp and asked if they could pick us up at 0600 for the morning hunt. We agreed and retired early after a BBQ dinner.
HUNTING WITH A HANDGUN
The next morning at 0555, Aden was ready to go. My Dad, Brandon Trevino, and I drove out with him. For my first handgun hunt, I chose a Ruger Redhawk. Living on a ranch, I had used a handgun many times when coming upon predators and snakes, as well as butchering beef and pigs, but I had never intentionally hunted with just a handgun.
DoubleTap Ammunition supplied me with 335-grain hard-cast +P .45 Colt. This load chronographs at 1,250 feetper- second and delivers 1,163 foot pounds of energy from a 7.5-inch barrel.
Denny took his Ruger Ranch rifle chambered in .450 Bushmaster in anticipation of harvesting a hog, but since he has killed hogs with this caliber before, he’d take a ram if he saw one he liked, The rifle was equipped with a Vortex Viper PST 1-6X24 scope and Galco Safari Sling, stoked with Hornady’s 250-grain FTX bullet.
Brandon used the recently released Ruger AR-556® Multi- Purpose Rifle (MPR) chambered in .450 Bushmaster and equipped with a thermal scope and Hornady ammo.
Dad decided to try for a ram, while Brandon and I wanted hogs. Right at daylight, we spotted a group of rams. Dad and Aden stalked and tracked the group as Brandon and I followed behind, not wanting to create more noise or get in front of the group.
At 0705 hours, we heard a loud boom and I said, “Well, Dad just filled his tag.” And fill it he did, with a beautiful Corsican ram taken at about 95 yards. We loaded the ram into the hunting buggy and returned to the ranch, where Aden quickly field dressed the ram. We were back in the field hunting by 0815.
Around 0900, we spotted a group of hogs near one of the waterers. Brandon and Aden stalked up and around the hogs to get a shot. I stayed below, expecting the pigs to run past me if Brandon got a shot.
I saw them take up a position from a high point on a rock. Brandon took his shot and filled his tag. I could hear the hogs tapping the ground and grunting, but had no visual where or how far they were as I started moving in on them. Aden joined me as we continued walking in on them.
Brandon called down to me that one was headed right toward me. I pulled up and stood still next to a tree for just a moment. A nice boar hog appeared from a clearing about 45 yards away, showing his head, neck, and front shoulder. I took a sight picture, held on the center of the shoulder, and squeezed the trigger. The hog took three or four steps and was out of my sight, but from his vantage point, Brandon confirmed it was down.
DONE BEFORE COFFEE BREAK
By 0930, everyone in our hunting party had filled tags. The other hunters met up with us at the watering hole, where Aden and his partner Ethen loaded our pigs in the truck, which already contained a third hog that had been taken by JoAnne and another ram by Aimee. The fact that everyone in our group harvested an animal before 1000 hours is testament to the skill and experience of our guides.
I stayed to help the game being field dressed and see firsthand the damage the DoubleTap Ammunition had done out of the Ruger Redhawk. The front shoulder on my hog was broken clear in half, both lungs had been liquefied, the heart was cut in half, and the round broke ribs going out. I was very impressed with the damage the hard-cast DoubleTap ammo had done to that 300-pound hog.
Dunton Ranch has a wonderful set-up. If you want to learn to hunt, the guides are true pros and will put you in the position to harvest your game, then help with field dressing. They even offer to take your game to a meat processor in Williams, Arizona. Dunton Ranch is an excellent hunting ranch for experienced hunters and novices alike, and also suitable for those who are out of shape or can’t get around well, as the hunt is not overly strenuous.
I plan to come back out to hunt here, and look forward to having my fiancé and some friends from work hunt here for their first time.
I would like to thank Dick Williams, Gunsite, Ruger, DoubleTap Ammunition, and Dunton Ranch for an outstanding week. Also thanks to Aden and Ethen—two fine young men who are great guides.