I've just returned from a week of intense combat handgun training at the Gunsite firearms training academy in Paulden, Ariz.
The class was the most comprehensive pistol training I've ever received, giving me the opportunity to shoot over a thousand rounds over the course of the week, in everything from timed pop-up ranges to a very realistic shoot-house.
The most surprising part about the week? It was all free. Gunsite sponsors three such courses each year for veterans who have spent time in the war zone, donating everything from the ammo to it's instructors' time to give veterans some of the most top-shelf firearms training available anywhere.
And they do it just to say, "thanks."
Gunsite was originally founded in 1976 by "the father of modern handgun shooting," the legendary Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper. In 1999, it was purchased by current owner and NRA board member Buz Mills. As a retired Marine colonel, Mills has a heart for military veterans of all stripes, and it shows.
The classes spare no expense to make the 40-odd veterans feel honored, as sponsors like Blackhawk!, Galco Gunleather, and LaRue Tactical step up to give out lots of goodies to the participants.
But for most of the men and women who participated, the best part of the week was the chance to get back to that cameraderie we've all missed since parting from the service.
By the end of the week we'd made a couple dozen new friends, honed some rusty skills, and gained a new appreciation for the capabilities of the combat handgun.
If you're a veteran and would like to sign up for one of these courses, go to Gunsite.com and contact the academy.