I am only 2 days into my observation of the 5 day Gunsite Academy 250 Pistol course — “the Gunsite Experience” — and I can already tell it is going to take me some time to digest all that I am seeing.
So, for now something brief (and not at all novel). The only published academic study of the American Pistol Institute/Gunsite that I am aware of was by James William Gibson, a chapter called “Becoming the Armed Man: Combat Pistol Shooting at Gunsite Ranch” in his book Warrior Dreams: Violence and Manhood in Post-Vietnam America. (I have discussed Gibson’s unique take on guns, holsters, shooting, and ballistics in the same book already.)
In the summer of 1988, Gibson took the 250 Pistol course “as an ordinary student” (p. 172) and wrote about his experience. At the time, Col. Jeff Cooper still did some of the teaching, which makes his report all the more interesting.
According to Gibson there were 43 students enrolled, and they were divided into two different groups: 22 students shooting 1911s went to one range and 21 students shooting other pistols went to another range. Of the 29 students enrolled this week, only 8 are shooting 1911s and they are mixed in with the other students (15 on one range and 14 on another).
Gibson also reports that over half of the 43 students were “from the military, federal agencies, or police forces” (p. 175). I haven’t made a precise count yet, but I think there are at least as many families (husbands, wives, daughters, uncles, nephews) among the 29 students this week as their are active duty military or sworn LEOs.
Only 3 of 43 students enrolled in Gibson’s course (7 percent) were women; 6 of 29 students this week (21 percent) are women. This mirrors the often noted increase in the number of women involved in gun culture, as measured by concealed carry permitting, for example.
Tuition then: $600. Tuition now: $1,695. The legendary Ed Stock was Gibson’s rangemaster. This week the two rangemasters are Bill Halvorsen and Steve Hendricks. They are assisted by Daniel Bilodeau, John Hutchison, Eric Ingersoll, Charlie McNeese, and Vince Morgan. A student-to-teacher ratio of 4:1, and 2:1 when each group is broken down into 2 relays.
There is more to Gibson’s analysis than demographics, but I will leave that for another day. For now, my final comment has to do with an observation Gibson makes about Col. Cooper. He writes:
“That Jeff Cooper walked his own kingdom at Gunsite Range every day with his wrist frozen permanently over his 1911A1 .45 as if in anticipation of a gunfight was significant. Even in a private realm where everyone paid homage to him as the reigning deity of all paramilitary culture he projected an anxious need for self-protection.”
First, Gibson is the only person I have ever read who saw Col. Cooper in person who described him as “anxious.” Second, I don’t know if Cooper was the deity of ALL paramilitary culture, but anyone who has been to Gunsite knows in which deity Cooper himself placed his faith, as evidence by the names assigned to various buildings at the ranch.
And, wait for it….
And of course the classroom building is called …