Gunsite Carbine Class

Someone asked me over the weekend how I would describe the Gunsite Carbine class I had just finished during the week.  I took a couple of minutes to think about it, and decided that the best way to summarize the class would be as such: Gunsite doesn’t teach you to shoot – they teach you to think.  That’s an important distinction, because shooting is a mechanical skill, whereas thinking like a fighter is all mental.  I have to give credit to Ed Head and the training staff at the range – the collection of writers and industry people represented a wildly diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and shooting talents.

The class started with zeroing the shooter’s rifles, the excellent S&W M&P-15 MOErifle, which I’ll have a more detailed review of later on in the week.  The rifles were all mounting the new Trijicon 3.5×35 ACOG, with their new “green donut” reticle.  After the rifles were zeroed in at 50 yards on the first day, we starting the real training working on snap shots at 3-10 yards with the ACOGs.  Because of the magnification and the height of the sight, my personal rig had about 4 inches of sight offset at 5 yards.  For those not familiar, sight offset is what happens when your sight plane is higher than the bore of the rifle – inside of certain ranges, the bullet’s trajectory doesn’t change enough to make the sight line and bullet flight path intersect.  The result of this is that inside 25 yards with the ACOG sighted for 50, you had to hold 1-4 inches higher on the bullet point of impact.  If you were shooting for a center of mass shot, this wasn’t a concern, however on close range headshots it was important to remember to put the green donut higher than your desired point of impact.

On the second day of class, we really go into the shooting – snaps, failure drills, non standard responses, all the good stuff.  The second day was capped with a night shoot, utilizing the Crimson Trace MVF-515, their new combo light/laser vertical grip.  Shooting at seven yards in near darkness with the laser as your aiming point of reference was a real eye opening experience.  If you have a rifle for your home defense weapon, and you don’t at the very least have a light on it, you need to get one now.  Once the MVF-515 is available, it would honestly be my first choice.

The last day of the class was divided in to two parts – the first half of the class went to shoot The Scrambler and then take a run through The Pit, one of Gunsite’s many shoot houses.  After lunch, my half of the class went back to the square range to do more non-standard response drills, and I spend the afternoon shooting the Smith & Wesson M&P-22 – their .22 LR AR trainer.  As far as the morning went, my favorite exercise was shooting the Scrambler.  I have never considered myself much of a rifleman, and that particular course of fire gave me an excellent opportunity to test the new skills I had learned during the week.

For those not familiar, the Scrambler is an outdoor course of fire, consisting of 7 targets that must be engaged from 7 different shooting positions.  Targets vary in distance from 35 (I think) to 85 yards.  Each target may only be engaged with 2 shots, which means if you miss twice, you’re done on that target and have to take the misses.  You can really feel the influence of Jeff Cooper’s love of big game hunting, as the Scrambler requires you to get into a shooting position and make a fast, accurate single shot on a distant target.

My week at Gunsite was excellent – the quality of the instruction was simply top notch, no ifs ands or buts about it.  I went in to the class as someone who could shoot a rifle, and I left with a much better understanding of the mechanics and thought process behind fighting a rifle.


  1. Re: The Scrambler

    Not just Cooper’s love of big game hunting, but his recognition that textbook shooting positions are not always possible. E.g., Cooper shot the Japanese machine gunner one handed while up a palm tree (Cooper was climbing a tree to survey off shore gunfire).

    This comes out in Art of the Rifle as well.

  2. “…fast, accurate single shot on a distant target”

    85 yards is “distant”?

    That’s barely past what I would use a pistol for.


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