Top 5 Firearms Training Schools

We are forever telling our fans and readers to “go get training, go get training.” Many shooters want to get training, but don’t know where to get it from. In the training world, there are two options: go to an individual trainer, or go to a training school. A training school has some advantages, larger staff means they can accommodate more students, a fixed location usually means better facilities, and a business oriented mindset can help eliminate a lot of the silly issues you sometimes run into when dealing with individual instructors. To make the list, a school had to be an actual school – a fixed location with multiple instructors. There is a huge selection available of individual instruction out there, and a lot of “schools” that are just one “name” instructor and a cadre of yes-men. They don’t make the list. Want to get good training? Go to one of these places.

1. Gunsite Academy
The OG of training schools. Gunsite is the fountain from whence all other training schools have come. Here’s the deal about Gunsite – they won’t teach the latest and greatest techniques. But the Modern Technique, the Weaver that they teach will still work, and if your goal is to “defend your family and your life” than taking a 250 course at Gunsite is a great place to begin that journey. The other excellent thing about Gunsite is that they spend a considerable amount of time talking about mindset.

gunsite four rules

2. Rogers Shooting School
The only school on this list that I’ve not personally attended, Rogers makes it on the recommendation of basically everyone who’s been there. It is hard, and it not a school for the beginning pistol shooter. But it’s tough, and all the intermediate or better shooters who’ve gone to Rogers will tell you that they learned quite a bit about their shooting from attending Rogers. The RSS uses a disappearing plate rack system that challenges shooters to hit plates under a very specific par time.

3. InSights Training Center
Located in the Pacific Northwest, InSights Training Center boasts a training cadre of multiple instructors, and teaches classes that range from Defensive Folding Knife all the way to advanced pistol/rifle/shotgun classes. Their instructors are competent, professional, and most importantly skilled at teaching. In fact, InSights as a school excels at making their subject matter interesting and accessible, regardless of the course. They could make a two hour class about tying your shoes interesting.

4. Academi
Formerly known as Blackwater, to the general public the name meant “mercenaries” they also have always maintained a robust training school. Their facility in North Carolina is absolutely top notch, and Academi also has facilities in Connecticut and California that offer instruction as well.

5. Universal Shooting Academy
Universal Shooting Academy is located in central Florida, and in fact will be the host site for the 2014 IPSC World Shoot. This is the home range of multiple USPSA Grandmasters, and they all teach classes. If you’re looking to up your pistol gaming skills to the next level, head down to USA in Frostproof and take one of their pistol classes. Just don’t do it during the rainy season…

The final word on training comes from famous actor and mustache Tom Selleck. He went to Gunsite. You don’t think you’re better than Tom Selleck, do you?

tom selleck


  1. For CCW people #6 should be Rangemaster in Memphis. Tom Givens’ students have a tremendously lopsided win vs loss rate in very real defensive shooting incidents. They boast a high quality indoor range so training regardless of weather, classrooms, etc.

  2. I’m just getting started here and am wondering why two schools I know of haven’t been listed. The first is the Sig Sauer Academy in NH. The second is the Front Sight Academy in NV. I have taken classes at Sig and thought the instructors and training was wonderful.
    Just wondering. Thanks.

    1. Sig Sauer Academy has excellent instructors, and I would definitely recommend it.

      Front Sight in Nevada is a total clown show, and I wouldn’t want my worst enemy trained by that place.

      1. Could you go into a bit more detail? Maybe a post? I mean, I know their marketing is incredibly spammy and makes me want to ralph, but I’ve heard (again, word of mouth, from people who have only received training there) that the training was decent.

      2. Glad to read that your assessment of the Clown Show agrees with everything I’ve heard.
        I went to Gunsite when Cooper was there and it was good, but I have to nominate Thunder Ranch as better. I sent my younger son there before he deployed to Iraq and have sent my Bride there twice.

      3. Caleb, with it being such a clown show – I assume that you have graduated Distinguished in all the courses and are now a master – congratulations.

        1. I am in fact a Master, and I’d imagine my Master card means I can shoot a lot better than a “distinguished” Front Sight graduate.

          1. I have been to some of your schools that you have mentioned. Gunsight, Rogers, Sig, They are all excellent. BTW I am a master as well. But your response does not reference being a Front Sight Distinguished graduate. So I will assume that you have not been there and with the reference to gunsight (without which your post would be completely dismissed) you have attended schools east of the Mississippi. Nothing wrong with that, but dismissing a course of instruction without being there is a bit problematic.

            Now if you are referring to Front Sights marketing campaign then I will agree with you. But Marketing and Instruction are two completely different worlds.


          2. What divisions and sports are you a master in? What are your justifications for Front Sight being so bad? It would be like me saying that XYZ School is horrible without any justification. I would seriously like to know how someone that has never been there can justify such a negative statement

          3. I have read countless reports of shooters that have gone to Front Sight and did not receive good instruction. I’ve had students attend my shooting classes that were Front Sight graduates and had to spend a considerable chunk of my class unlearning bad habits they learned at Front Sight.

          4. Congratulations, you have attended excellent courses and have qualified to an extraordinary level of skill. I assume that you have a pretty good following since you run a blog and have a number of articles that are quite good. Unfortunately, you offer an opinion that is at best third hand and rumor. Because of this I cannot use your experience to make a reasoned opinion of Front Sight. Thank you very much for your contributions and I look forward to other articles that are less prejudiced.

  3. I think ShootRite Academy in Alabama should at least be one that rounds out the Top 10. Tiger McKee, author of “The Book of Two Guns” runs that academy, and has been featured on GunTalkTV. I haven’t personally been (yet), but know people who got a lot out of it.

  4. Oh full disclosure – I went to the Thunder Ranch pistol class with my Bride. She had such a great time in her Carbine (“Urban Rifle” in TR parlance) class that she a) wanted to go to another one and b) wanted me “not to miss out” as she felt I had by merely observing her class.
    I’ve been to several other schools contracted by DoD that aren’t available to the general public so I limited my comments to the ones I’ve attended tat are – notably Gunsite (“Orange” Gunsite) and Thunder Ranch. I still think Thunder Ranch is the best school in the country available to the public and I would rate Clint (and Heidi) Smith as the best instructors I’ve ever seen – including the “other” schools in that assessment

  5. Write this down, Rocky Creek Ranch in Florida. Next year’s list will be of the top six, as long and this years top five stay on their A game.

  6. I’d love to see the top tier gun schools get together and have their own list of “accredited” shooting schools. Something along the lines of the American Pistolsmiths guild.

    PS: Accredited isn’t the word I was groping for, but it is what I found.

  7. For those who may not know, the picture of “Tom Selleck” is actually a picture of the late Bruce Nelson, a former CA BNDD(Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) officer who instructed for Col. Cooper at Gunsite and introduced the “Professional” and “Summer Special” holsters as a noted custom holster-maker before his untimely death in 1995. He is survived by his long-time significant other, former NRA President Sandra Froman.

        1. Okay. I mean, it’s pretty clearly not Bruce Nelson.

          This is Bruce Nelson. The facial structure is completely different. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a picture of Tom would end up in Bruce’s catalog, since Tom used Bruce’s holsters in movie roles. Here’s another (not as good) photo of Bruce.

          I’m quite perplexed, because every time I post that photo of Tom Selleck, people will show up and say that it’s Bruce Nelson. Seriously, go pull up a photo of Tom Selleck, and look at it next to that one. It’s the same guy. The facial structure is exactly the same. Pull up a photo of Bruce and it’s…just not. Plus there’s the whole “Gunsite employees say that’s Tom Selleck.”

          1. One more past Gunsite employee (5 years on full time staff) checking in to say it’s Tom Selleck.

          2. The photo in the Bruce Nelson holster catalog is captioned “Best Regards, DVC, Bruce Nelson” and the logo on the hat appears to be the California Dept. of Justice.

            I don’t think the photo looks anything like Tom Selleck, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder….

            Perhaps someone could ask Sandra Froman.

          3. In the spirit of good natured fun and not doubting anyone’s sincerity:

            Bruce Nelson showing that photo in the 1989 holster catalog with his name under the photo is literally Bruce Nelson saying this is a picture of Bruce Nelson.

            Dig in the stacks for the February, 1987 Combat Handguns for a Rick Miller article showing a couple of more photos from that time frame.



  8. Frontsight is cheap and good for people who might otherwise not be able to go (for the people this article is written), It’s a good start. Thunder ranch, tactical response, amongst others are good too. Just get out and train however you can.

  9. Front Sight is a great School. You should go there and take a class before you ass clown it instead of believing evertything you read.

  10. Caleb,

    I find your comments about Front Sight disconcerting. Unless you have attended there classes, why are you so quick to judge?

    Every firearms class I have attended, I have found good things as well as points of disagreement. However, I have always learned more.

    Not all tactics, techniques, and procedures will be applicable to all scenarios. This will be reflected on whether a person carries for personal protection or as tool of the job (i.e. MIL/LEO).

    If you would state the “bad habits” or other training deficiencies you have seen would be quite helpful.

  11. Frontsight is a very good school and unless you’ve been there and received not only there entry level classes, but also they’re second and third tier advanced classes, you should not give an opinion. Frontsight trains more students then all of these schools put together. As a result they teach mostly new shooters and people who are new to tactical training. Some of these other schools you all are talking about assume that when you sign up for their classes, the student already has a decent grasp on tactical training and gun handling. On that note, Caleb you sound like you are a very opinionated, know it all asshole. Something we have way to much of in this industry.

  12. You left off Louis Awerbuck and Clint Smith?

    BTW, the photo is not Bruce. Bruce’s head was rounder, not long like Selleck, and his stache was epic.

    1. I only had five spots, and I wanted constrain it to “fixed location with multiple instructors.”

  13. Let me caviat a few things first…I’m not a master anything…I am an instructor @ Front Sight…
    I have had hundreds of students come through ranges I’ve worked on… I’ve personally been a student in the basic 4 day def hg class at least 6 times with different family and friends. I’ve spent at least a year of days out there and have never heard/seen/ picked up on any “Scientology” anything. So does Caleb stay away from all company’s that have any different religion, or other “protected” class than his preferred way of life? That sounds a lot like….. Hmmm
    Ive never been in your class and I never will because I’ve heard and read on google that a lot of people say your classes are unorganized and the students are made to feel less than important because they are not master shooters…
    Yeah none of that is true… But see how foish is sounds when it is you that is unfairly and not accurately judged?

  14. ” I wouldn’t want my worst enemy trained by that place.”
    On that point we can agree.

  15. The photo in question is Bruce Nelson. The Gunsite instructor, who has been there for five years, is incorrect in identifying it as being Tom Selleck. Bruce has been dead for quite a bit longer than five years. The scanned magazine photo, linked to by Caleb, of Bruce Nelson with several handguns in his waistband, is from Phil Engeldrum’s PISTOLERO magazine. That clearly was years after the photo of Bruce in the California DOJ cap was taken. Many of us get fatter faces as we age.

  16. Anyone have feedback on the Seattle Firearms Academy in Onalaska, WA?

  17. Any class with John Farnham is hands down a must attend class.

    I put Front Site and Suarez International on my “last place I would ever go for firearms training” list.

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