When faced with training your child in defensive shooting, there are a few options. You could seek out private training or perhaps accompany them to an adult class. While these are both decent options, there is a third: youth classes. Enrolling your child in a class surrounded by people their age can be extremely beneficial in introducing them to tactical shooting in a more enjoyable and enticing social environment.


The Future

The future of competition and defensive shooting relies on the younger generations being engaged and trained in the art we practice today. If we want a future with shooting schools and competitions such as IPSC, IDPA, USPSA, etc., new shooters are really needed.


As time goes on, youth classes are becoming increasingly rare. There are only a few options left, some of the most prevalent being:

– Gunsite in Paulden, Arizona, offers the introductory 250, 350 intermediate, and 499 advanced pistol classes and the basic rifle class, the 270, for ages 12 through 16.

– PrairieFire (formerly Front Sight) in Pahrump, Nevada, has a Youth Achievement Camp for ages 5 through 10 and 11 through 15. However, it seems there is little shooting focus.

– Rogers Shooting School in Ellijay, Georgia, offers classes to students ages 14 and above, but this is not a youth-only class.

Some other big names, such as Thunder Ranch and Sig Academy, have a minimum age of 21. These are not the only options! Private training is available, and you can always check with your local range and see what they offer.      

The Class

I recently took a basic youth defensive pistol class and the basic adult defensive pistol at Gunsite Academy, the 250, and here is what I learned. Gunsite fosters these programs by charging half that of the adult version, but the youth and the adult versions share the same curriculum and run concurrently. The difference lies in some added features, material, and emphasis. This is the basic five-day course covering how to draw, fire, reload, clear malfunctions, clean, and much more, all emphasizing safety. The primary focus was on the school drill, an accuracy-based drill consisting of shooting from various distances under time pressure. Every day, the safety rules were repeated multiple times, and we were required to know them by heart. 

Welcome BBQ

While I said the class was five days long, it truly began the night before at the barbecue. Almost the entire class gathered around Sunday night for a barbecue where everyone got to know each other and paired off into buddy pairs. At that moment, I realized that this class would be different from its adult counterpart. Day one consisted of the basics: loading/ unloading, drawing, grip, stance, and safety. On day two, the distances were extended while times were shortened, forcing myself and my classmates to pick up on speed while maintaining accuracy. 

Everyone gets trigger time, individual attention, and instant feedback.


Then came day three: a day of shooting capped off with a night shoot. Shooting at night is a crucial element of self-defense. The drills were similar to those during the day, except they incorporated handheld flashlights and double the number of instructors. The night shoot taught me the importance of positively identifying threats (PID). 

On day four came the simulators. Most of the day was spent clearing houses or moving through washes in the outdoor simulators. 

That little bit of competition can ramp things up – Friday afternoon.

After what felt like the shortest week of my life, Friday rolled around. It was finally time for the shoot-off: a bracket-style competition against my classmates, mimicking the stress of a real gunfight. Overall, the class was a blast, and I definitely recommend it to any teens looking for an introduction to defensive shooting.


The youth environment is different than that of the adult course. Being around others my age made the class and social environment more lively, and it wasn’t as awkward as being the odd one out. Enjoyment is crucial to fostering a good learning environment; this is easier when surrounded by people you can connect with. Despite the younger age group, the curriculum was exactly that of the adult version of the class. That environment has driven me to prefer youth classes much more than their adult counterparts.

The students working on the square range – under the watchful eyes of their instructors.


           The class required a sturdy holster and belt, along with any style handgun was allowed, as long as it was safe and chambered between .22 and .45, but no one in my class was shooting .22. The ammunition requirements were 1000 rounds of ball ammo and 50 rounds of frangible. For this class, I used a Tyr Tactical Assaulters Belt and a Safariland ALS holster with a Robar 1911 with a Holosun 507. As someone who had mostly shot Glocks previously, it was a difficult transition. Adding the thumb safety and the lower capacity made for a big change, but the crisper trigger made it all worth it. My accuracy and speed soared almost instantly. In the end, I ended up liking it more than I expected! Aside from the learning curve, my only issue with the gear was the optic plate. It was an old prototype aluminum plate, so my optic flew off the gun in the middle of the outdoor simulators. But this was not an issue for long; it was sent to the on-site gunsmith, Finks Custom Gunsmithing, and fixed right away.

The author using the Robar 1911 and the rest of the gear he described.



           Ultimately, I enjoyed the youth class much more than the adult version. The younger demographic was more enjoyable, and we still got the same experience as the adults. There was never a moment where I felt unsafe, and everybody had a good time. I’ll pick the youth class if I ever have to pick between an adult or youth class.

One bout during the Friday afternoon shoot-off.


Gunsite Academy