My first trip to the American Pistol Institute (now known as Gunsite) was in 1976, shortly after it was founded by Jeff Cooper. When asked how many times I have been there I honestly answer, “I don’t know.”

In addition to classes and industry events, I normally go to Gunsite twice a year. These trips are special, themed events coordinated by Dick Williams.

Just a few of the past events include Handgun Passions, Past and Future; Guns Across the Border; Single-Action Revolvers/Lever-Action Rifles; and Predator Defense.

The latest themed event was American Cop Through the Centuries. Our instructors for the three days were Lew Gosnell and Aimee Grant. We also finally had a name for our group: The Gunsite Irregulars.

The idea was to bring a period-correct handgun. This would include a single-action revolver for the late 19th Century, a double-action revolver for the 20th Century and what the attendee envisioned as the perfect duty handgun for the 21st Century.


Improvised shooting position on the Military Crest.


John Russo firing his single-action strong hand only.


Dave Biggers and JD Donnellon furnished caps to the group.




On Day one, in terms of finish and overall appearance, there were a wide variety of single-actions based on the 1873 Colt Peacemaker, though many of them were modern Rugers with the transfer bar system that allows six rounds. Dave Douglas, the original editor of American Cop, brought a Model No. 3 Schofield, 2nd Model.

I brought a Uberti Colt replica that is normally carried with five rounds with the fixed firing pin on the hammer resting on an empty chamber.

There was a time I would load my single-action and then search for the empty chamber. One of many things I have learned at Gunsite over the years was an easier way to accomplish this:

Load the first empty chamber, skip the next and then load the remaining four chambers. Bring the gun to full cock and with your thumb on top of the hammer, pull the trigger and slowly let the hammer go forward. It will now be resting on that empty chamber.

To cock a single-action, use your support hand to cock the hammer. This is less awkward and faster than using your primary hand.

Like the shotgun, a revolver has limited ammo capacity and takes a bit of time to reload. Gunsite’s SOP is to keep a revolver or shotgun topped off is to load what you shoot; fire one, load one; fire two, load two, etc.

In addition to firing numerous drills from the holster, after presenting to the low ready, the group also shot one hand and support hand only.


A wide selection of 1800s cop guns including a Model No. 3 Schofield, 2nd Model.


Author’s Umberti Peacemaker revolver.


Hansen used a S&W Model 325. Double speedloader pouch holds four, six-round moon clips. The 2x2x2 pouch holds .45 Auto Rim for tactical reloads.


S&W M2.0 would be a great choice for a duty gun.



Moving to the next day and century with double-action revolvers, most shooters brought either a K or L frame Smith & Wessons. I also observed one Colt Python and one Ruger Security Six.

I brought along a Smith & Wesson Model 325 in .45 ACP. Almost everyone I know who carries a .45 ACP revolver carries moon clips for the reload.

Using Gunsite’s principle of keeping the gun topped off, I load the initial cylinder with .45 Auto Rim cartridges and carry .45 Auto Rim rounds in a 2X2X2 pouch for a tactical reload. This is done so I don’t have to dump useful, live rounds to achieve a fully loaded gun. A double speedloader pouch from Simply Rugged Holsters will hold four full-moon clips for speed loads.

The drills fired on Day Two mostly duplicated those of the first day. We spent quite a bit of time on tactical reloads and those who had only brought speed loaders soon realized the advantage of also carrying extra ammo in loops.

The afternoon found us on the Military Crest range with scout rifles. Rifles ranged from expensive custom scout rifles to the lower priced, but still effective Gunsite Ruger Scout Rifle.

This Military Crest is a hike to different shooting locations and stresses improvised shooting positions. It might be shot from a conventional kneeling to bracing the rifle on a large rock or juniper tree’s branch. The distance to the intermediately ranged steel targets is roughly 200 to 300 yards.

The full course was cut short by one of Arizona’s torrential monsoon rainstorms. These storms usually come with a lot of lightning and it’s not a good idea to be holding a steel lightning rod in your hand.


Mike Detty clearing “The Pit” indoor simulator.


Just because it’s a shoot house doesn’t mean to shoot everything you find.




Day Three was a semi-auto pistol that an attendee believed would be a good choice for the 21st Century. Most of the group shot Glocks, but there was at least one full-sized Springfield XD.

I went against the grain as I don’t believe a compact size gun is the best duty weapon, and took my Smith & Wesson MP2.0 with a five-inch barrel. Why? The five-inch gun with its longer sight radius offers better accuracy at 50 yards and beyond. Additionally, the weight makes for less recoil, allowing faster shots on target.

After warming up on the square range it was fun time. We went through one of Gunsite’s world famous indoor simulators (shoot house).

Next, while sitting on the tailgate of a pickup we shot at the stationary targets on the square range. First, the truck went right to left, made a big circle and went left to right.

Yes, this was a special event and does not encompass, even close, to what a full three or five day course entails with one type of handgun, but the instructors did all they could to make it seem like we did. There was not much sitting around and the cadre kept things moving along while keeping it enjoyable.

When are you going to Gunsite?