Gunsite Academy is often considered the Mecca of firearms training. Despite a large focus on handguns, they offer a wide variety of courses, both marksmanship and tactics oriented. After taking 250 Pistol, I knew I would return at some point. While browsing their calendar, I noticed a course with convenient timing, and instantly found an excuse to feed my love affair with shotguns. Here is my review of 260 Shotgun from Gunsite Academy.
Location of 260 Shotgun
Gunsite Academy, Paulden, Arizona
Mornings in the low 40's, daytime in the low 80's. Slight breeze with occasional gusts. Mostly sunny.
Equipment for Gunsite 260 Shotgun
I shot the entirety of class using a Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol sent to me for review. A Steiner MPS sat atop the receiver on a Reptilia Saddle mount. An Esstac side saddle held spare ammunition, and a Blue Force Gear Vickers sling held the gun on my body. My pistol was my trusty Glock 34 milled for an Aimpoint ACRO P-1, carried in a Blackhawk T-Series L2D, also sent for review. Support gear is mounted on a Blue Alpha MOLLE double layer belt. Esstac Kywi and HSGI Taco pouches held spare pistol magazines, and Safariland 085's held shotshells. A CAT tourniquet is held in a North American Rescue rigid pouch, and loose shells are held in a medium Blue Force Gear Helium Whisper pouch. For low light, my handheld light was a Cloud Defensive MCH EDC.
The weekend started with 13 students, and one no-show who never appeared. All students were male, with multiple father/son pairs. Backgrounds ranged from current and former military of every branch, two doctors, and more. Our youngest shooter appeared to be in his late teens, and a few were in their early 70's. A few shooters were novices, one was extremely skilled, with most somewhere in between. We had several Gunsite alumni in class, and a couple first timers.
Guns included one Benelli M2 Tactical, a couple Benelli M4, two Mossberg 940 Tactical, a couple Mossberg 590s and Remington 870's, two Beretta 1301, and a Maverick 88. A fair few were equipped with optics; two Holosun 507K, an RMR that died and was replaced with a Holosun 502, an Aimpoint T1 and Comp M2, and a Vortex Viper. Pistols ranged from various Glocks, a SIG P220 and P320 with a Holosun 509T, a 1911, one Taurus G2C, a Staccato with a dead RMR, and one Nighthawk Sandhawk.
Day One of Gunsite 260 Shotgun
Class begins with the standard paperwork of waivers, lunch selections, emergency contact information, and more. During this time our three instructors introduce themselves; all are former law enforcement, and one is also a former USAF Pararescueman. Each has been teaching at Gunsite longer than I've been alive, showing the depth of knowledge available to us. The lecture begins with expectations, the week's schedule, objectives, and safety rules compared to range rules. We cover accessory selection for our guns such as sights, slings, ammunition storage, lights, and more. Various carry, shooting, and ready positions are touched on, but are left to be covered more in depth on the range. After about an hour, we head to the range.
The instructors begin by having everyone get on line to check our gear and our stances. This is done to ensure everyone is safe, is using equipment that won't instantly fail or obstruct their movements. The value is instantly shown when one student realizes their Trijicon RMR has died, replacing it with a Holosun 502. Stance checks help students avoid being punished by recoil, hoping to avoid unnecessary unpleasantness prior to firing the first shot. Lecture begins with loading and unloading procedures for the shotgun, along with safe storage conditions for home or our vehicles. At this point the class is split into two relays, with one group heading to the next range for distance work.
Our first live rounds are patterning at various distances with buckshot. My A300UP didn't love the Remington LE Low Recoil 9 pellet, but I had far from the worst pattern in class. At the prompting of a student, our instructors discuss various modifications such as Vang Comp and jug choking to help squeeze more precision out of their guns. Next we move into shoot-one-load-one drills, then pivoting movements from indoor ready positions. At this point one of the Mossberg 940's goes down, forcing a change to a Beretta 1301 for the remainder of class. After this, the relays switch ranges and we begin zeroing our guns for slugs at 35 and 50 yards to close out the day.
Day Two of Gunsite 260 Shotgun
Day two begins on the range. We start with dry practice of various ready positions and positional shooting. The surprisingly limber Gary, one of my 250 Pistol instructors, joins us to demo these positions. He covers three forms of kneeling, three forms of sitting, and the squat. We get the chance to shoot slugs at 50 yards from each of these positions, seeing how they impact our stability. Afterwards we swap ranges and work on clearing stoppages in our shotguns. One technique shown includes slapping the magazine tube, similar to the "tap" in pistol remedial action, which is the first time I've seen this technique. Following this, we do some port loading drills on steel. During this time, the other Mossberg 940 begins having intermittent feeding issues, though no serious malfunctions.
This takes us to transitions to the pistol, with a dry fire of the shotgun followed by a hammer pair at 15 yards. Multiple sling transitions are demonstrated based upon the user's setup. This will be our only use of the pistol during 260 Shotgun, and we fire well under 50 rounds. The class returns to 50 yards for select slug drills, with instructors showing a few ways for us using autoloaders to manually hold the bolt open to ease the process. To end the morning we move back to 100 yards to shoot slugs on steel from the position of our choice.
Post-Lunch Range Time
After lunch the class breaks into two once again. My group moves to the Shotgun Scrambler course. This is a field course with steel targets ranging from 50 to 85 yards, with some obscured by foliage. The current record for the course is 32 seconds clean, with one minute being considered a very good score. Each student gets two attempts, with no time penalties for misses. My first run is clean in 1:53, making for one of best runs in class. My second is slightly worse at 2:06 with a single miss. Our best shooter comes in slightly under a minute.
We head back to our normal range to wrap up shooting for the day. This drill is somewhat similar to an El Pres, minus the turn, shooting a 2x2x2, conducting a port and tube load for each target.
Class returns to the classroom for a lecture on cleaning. We are mixed in with a 250 Pistol class, so topics cover both pistol and shotgun. After this the class breaks for dinner before returning for the night shoot.
Return to the Range
We return to the range, then immediately transit to one of the indoor simulators. While here we get a lecture and demo on how to appropriately navigate a structure with a shotgun. After this we head back to the range for a lecture on low light techniques. This is the first long-gun class I've taken where handheld light techniques are shown, in addition to weapon mounted light use. The group heads down to the firing line for a no-light shoot to show what our sight pictures are like in the darkness.
Next we shoot with a modified Harries technique, then with WMLs if available. I was really surprised how easy it was to use a handheld light with the Beretta A300UP. Despite the internet saying that process is virtually impossible, it turns out to be fairly simple, especially when you have decent recoil control. Once we get in a few reps, class breaks and heads home for the night.
During this portion of class the instructors remove one student for repeated safety violations, despite corrections. It's unfortunate for him, but certainly in the best interests of everyone else on the line.
Day Three of Gunsite 260 Shotgun
My relay begins day three on the indoor simulator. While not taught in class, I used the short-stocking technique to good effect, and landed a solid shot on target down a long hallway thanks to knowledge of my pattern. Overall the indoor work was solid, though more surface level than what is covered in 250 Pistol. Next we move to the outdoor simulator, where my pattern knowledge let me make a hostage saving headshot. Be sure to save birdshot for this portion, as most students had run out by this point.
From here we swap ranges and begin transitions across targets, followed by slugs at 50 yards. Next is the Shotgun El Pres done in small groups, then more work port loading. The two relays reunite for a lecture on follow-through, words on our progress to this points, then lunch.
We wrap up the range with the man-on-man shoot off. We get two practice runs; I fail my first with a pellet on a hostage target, then clean my second go. This leads into a single elimination competition, where I win the final match. There were some fantastic shooters here, and one almost certainly would've taken me had he not had a pellet strike a hostage target. Afterwards we pack up our gear and head back to the classroom.
Upon arrival at the classroom we complete our course evaluations and feedback forms. Ken Campbell and our instructor team give us feedback, and our certificates. Surprisingly, none of our certificates have scores on them, unlike 250 Pistol, which raised a few questions from us. I am awarded a challenge coin for winning the shoot off, and then we all part ways.
Final Thoughts on Gunsite 260 Shotgun
Overall, 260 Shotgun is a solid course. Much like 250 Pistol, the material isn't cutting edge, but offers you a solid foundation in the martial use of a scattergun. Even those with a high level of skill found themselves learning new things and being pushed to the limits during some portions, offering something for everyone. The three day format is a big help for those of us with real jobs, and the opportunity to easily sign on for more is great for those who can handle it.
I'll definitely be returning to Gunsite for the follow-on course, as well as their other offerings. When are you coming to Gunsite?