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Centers of Higher Learning

Your agency’s firearms training program covers the basics; these pay-as-you-go programs offer the advanced courses.

April 01, 2002  |  by Dave Douglas

Gun-handling by Gunsite's definition is the ability to administer to a weapon, i.e. knowing how to load it, unload it, and clear malfunctions. One of the goals of the Gunsite program is for the shooter to know his or her specific weapon and how to do these operations without thinking about them, so that the motions become automatic. In a crisis situation, it is far better to be able to focus your mind on the immediate problem, letting administrative functions take care of themselves.

Gunsite also stresses that the proper mindset is absolutely critical, and more important than marksmanship or gun handling. Being aware of your surroundings and being mentally ready to defend yourself, if necessary, will save crucial seconds should an emergency ever present itself. Mindset in terms of the Gunsite philosophy is deciding that you will fight to protect yourself if necessary, and then promising yourself that you will keep a certain level of awareness "on" at all moments.

The Combat Triad is Gunsite's fountainhead philosophy. Every course draws inspiration from and emphasizes the elements of the philosophy.

Heckler & Koch International Training
Sterling, Va.

Heckler & Koch's International Training Division is dedicated to one single overriding objective: officer survival.

The HK regimen is firmly rooted in the cutting-edge, real-world capabilities of its instructors. The lessons taught at HK are not based on theoretical assumption, but on the instructors' extensive street experience and well-honed survival skills. At HK, they train you to handle the situation, not just the weapon. That critical difference can mean life or death for the military or law enforcement professional.


H&K Training is dedicated to officer survival, including patrol rifle techniques, moving vehicle marksmanship, and motorcycle tactics.

HK has one of the most impressive cadres of instructors in the world, including:

  • Fred Yates, a retired U.S. Army and law enforcement veteran who has extensive special operations experience in the Army Rangers and Special Forces, as a patrol officer, and as an S.R.T. team leader. Yates has trained SWAT teams worldwide.
  • Bob Schneider, a 21-year veteran of the Denver Police Department, who was assigned to the Department's full-time SWAT team for 18 years and logged over 1000 activations. Schneider has trained hundreds of military special operations units, federal, state, and local law enforcement officers as well as personnel from the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Andrew "Skip" Pavlischak, a retired Spokane Police officer with 27 years of service. A Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, Pavlischak has 26 years of experience as a SWAT team member, team leader, and commander in a full-time SWAT position. He assisted in the formation of the Washington State Tactical Officers Association and is a past president. He also worked as a Gang Unit Leader and in the Special Investigations Narcotics Unit.
  • Mark Kunnath, a veteran with 20 years of service with the Detroit Police Department, including duties with the Department's Executive Protection Unit. Kunnath was an entry team leader and has extensive experience in high-risk warrant service and narcotics operations.
  • John T. Meyer, Jr., HK's vice president of sales and international training and an authority on tactical training for police and special operations units. Meyer has created a variety of leading-edge SWAT training courses, and he was a Lieutenant with the DOD police, where he served as a special reaction team leader.



Thunder Ranch
Mountain Home, Texas

Owned and operated by Clint Smith, Thunder Ranch is a 3,200-acre world-class firearms training academy in the Texas hill country east of Kerrville. The Ranch offers state-of-the-art training facilities, including classroom instruction, single- and multiple-story concrete shooting simulators, and several precision and urban rifle ranges with simulators, as well as pistol and shotgun ranges.

Thunder Ranch provides its clients with opportunities to explore, expand, and apply personal knowledge gained in the use of small arms and tactics in environments often limited to governmental agencies and in most cases never before available to the private sector or conventional law enforcement personnel. The Ranch's style of low-key but focused instruction makes it unusual in the genre. Most schools lean toward a competitive "hard" angle, forcing competition between students. Smith's concept is that students should be concentrating on honing their techniques and learning new ideas, not competing with fellow students.

A week spent at the school makes the difference obvious. A relaxed air is in place, yet the expectation to excel on a personal and team level is simply the norm. It's rare that you can see a successful mix of law enforcement, military, and civilians (often husbands and wives) on the same line, but it happens at Thunder Ranch.

The driving force behind the Ranch and its doctrines is Clint Smith's real-world experience as a combat infantryman in Vietnam, as a police officer, and his decades of work as one of the world's foremost firearms trainers. Smith's experience has been the touchstone for building innovative training ideas.

A recent class at Thunder Ranch included 20 students who had previously been to the Ranch more than 100 times. There must be a reason for that. It could be that Smith is the type of person you can count on to tell you exactly what you need to know. For example, he basically invented the concept of "Urban Rifle" training as it is done today. And with the need for police officers to increasingly play the role of light infantry in many situations, courses like Thunder Ranch's Urban Rifle are more important then ever.

It is critical in law enforcement to keep an edge. Advanced firearms programs offer an opportunity to accomplish just that. Do yourself, your partner, your spouse, your kids, even your mom and dad a favor and attend one of the classes available to you. It could save your life or the life of another. You might even be able to pass your newly acquired knowledge on to that new kid in your squad and impact further generations of cops down the road. Now that's a legacy.

Tags: Reality-Based Training, SWAT Tactics, Patrol Resources, Firearms Training

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Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Javier @ 5/5/2014 12:29 PM

Soy ex Policia, con 21 años de antiguedad en tropas especiales, me agradaria ser parte del selecto cuerpo de elementos de su prestigiosa academia, un abrazo desde Tarija-Bolivia.

Javier Merett Suarez @ 5/5/2014 12:32 PM

Soy ex Policia de Bolivia, tengo bastante experiencia en Tropas Especiales, Negociacion y Manejo de Crisis, Actualmente me encuentro a disposición, me agradaria ser parte del selecto cuerpo de su Academia, si es que la oportunidad lo permite, un abrazo desde Tarija-Bolivia.

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