Training Review – SIG SAUER Academy

Over the past year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a seven training classes at the SIG SAUER Academy in New Hampshire. The Academy was founded in 1990, originally named the SIG Arms Academy, it was rechristened the SIG SAUER Academy in 2008. I have taken all of my classes at the facility’s main site in Epping, NH, a small town located about 30 minutes east of Manchester, NH and about 90 minutes north of Boston. The Academy also runs courses at remote sites around the country, but public classes outside of Epping seem to be few and far between . . .

The first class that I attended, back in October 2011 was the Basic Practical Handgun course, also known as Handgun 102.  It’s the second course in the standard handgun curriculum that includes Handgun Orientation (101), Introduction to Defensive Shooting (103), and Defensive Handgun Skills (104).  Each class is a single 8-hour day and will run you $199 per course. One nice feature about the Academy is that it offers former students a 20% discount on future classes as you register for your next course within two weeks of the completion of your last one.

As I had already taken the NRA Basic Pistol course, I didn’t see any real advantage to starting with the 101 class. My instincts were right on because the 102 class quickly reviewed many of the fundamentals that were taught in 101 before moving on to more advanced drills. The instructors tightly controlled the situation whenever “hot” guns were present, so the chance of there being a ND was substantially minimized.

There were 12 people in our class (this is generally the largest of any class I’ve had at the Academy gets) with two instructors. Dylan, our lead instructor was a full-time teacher at the Academy and he was assisted by Jerry, one of the Academy’s part-time adjunct instructors. Dylan’s background included a stint in the air force, a number of years as a gunsmith for SIG SAUER working in the SIG Custom Shop and he’s a master class competitor in both IDPA and IPSC. Jerry has 34 years of experience with the ATF, 15 of those years with the Special Response Team. Jerry was also the ATF’s lead firearms instructor in the New England area. There isn’t much these two don’t know or haven’t seen and they shared it all with the class.

One of the best parts of taking classes in Epping is the free loan of SIG SAUER equipment (firearm, holster, magazines, etc.) that is appropriate to the course the student is taking.  It’s a great benefit to people coming from out of state who don’t want to hassle with traveling with their firearms. It’s also a great way to try out a new gun before committing to a purchase. Other schools charge a rental fee for the equipment which can add $25 – $50 to the class.

The Academy makes the full range of their products available for loan, so if you are itching to try out a 226, 229, or whatever, they have it available for you. So if you’re taking one of their scoped rifle classes, the equipment available for loan includes things like the $4000 Blazer line of rifles topped by top of the line Leupold and Nightforce scopes.  The Academy also provides ammo to attendees at close to cost.

As I was fairly comfortable with my Beretta 92A, I decided to stick that for the class. What was nice was that both instructors are very familiar with many brands of non-SIG firearms and Dylan even showed me a couple of interesting tricks with my Beretta. We spent about an hour in the classroom reviewing basic firearms safety and handling practices before proceeding out to the range where we spent the rest of the time.

We started with dry fire drills before learning SIG’s fundamental bullet hole drill. The object is to put one hole in the target from 7 feet and then try to put two more holes through the first one. This allowed the instructors to gauge some of the mistakes we were making right from the start and to adjust our grips, trigger pulls, etc. and cure some bad habits.

Then we moved to shooting steel head/chest plates beginning at 5 yards and then backing up five yards at a time until we were comfortably landing most of our shots on the plates at 25 yards. We were using frangible ammunition which enabled us to safely shoot steel from such a short distance.

Toward the end, we moved into a little competition, shooting a series of five small steel plates. We went head to head with the first student to shoot all five plates being the winner and taking on the next student and the next after that until they were beaten. Since I lack any form of humility, I’m proud to say that I retired student after student, only losing because I ran out of ammo as we weren’t allowed to refill our mags during the competition.

The final challenge was a dueling tree where there were eight targets arrayed top to bottom that swung from side to side.  Each competitor started with four on his side and the object was to flip all of your targets to your opponent’s side before he did the same to you.  (I won my duel as well).

Besides the Pistol classes, the Academy offers a variety of courses broken down into the following categories:

  • Armorer Courses
  • Instructor Development
  • Shooting Development
  • Specialty Training
  • Skill Enhancement Seminars
  • Specialty Training (Non Shooting)
  • Scoped Rifle Training
  • Competitive Courses

With very few exceptions, most of the courses are available to the public. Notable exceptions include the police sniper and selective fire courses.  The Academy also occasionally runs classes specifically limited to Military/LE, but even most of these have alternate dates open to everyone.

Since my first class in October, I’ve taken six more including Handgun 103, Introduction to Reality-Based Hand to Hand Combat, First Aid for Range Officers, SIG SAUER Classic Pistol Armorer, SIG 516 Rifle Armorer, and Close Quarters Pistol Operator. The two Armorer courses were especially valuable as upon completion, I was certified as a SIG SAUER Armorer for three years on the Classic Pistol Line and SIG SAUER 516 Rifle. That means I can completely break those weapon systems down to their component parts and perform upgrades and repairs without voiding the warranty. It also enables me to qualify for the dealer discount when ordering products from Brownell’s which, over time, pretty much pays for the cost of the class.

Another huge advantage of attending the Academy is the pro shop discount that is extended to students. Anyone walking in off the street can purchase SIG SAUER guns and accessories at 10% off the list price, while students get a 20% discount that’s good for the two week period following their class. The discounted prices at the Academy are better than the prices that I can get from any of the local gun shops in my area and usually equal or better the best Internet prices that I can find. Plus, the pro shop often has special versions of SIG’s guns that can’t be found anywhere else.

The Academy’s instructors also travel the world providing specialized training to military and law enforcement personnel, so students can be assured of getting top notch training.  Private lessons are also offered, but the cost is steep. As in $2,000 for a full day of training. But, you can learn a heck of a lot in that time and the academy will work with you to tailor a class that meets your needs. I’m in the process of working with one of their senior instructors to develop a half day class that will enable me to work on my pistol, carbine, and scoped rifle skills.

While I don’t have vast experience with training at other locations, I have been extremely impressed with the level of instruction offered at the SIG SAUER Academy. The class fees are reasonable (generally they run about $200 for a full day) and the training is varied enough to keep even the most avid gun owner extremely happy and extremely busy.  If you are looking for a top notch training institute in a gun-friendly state, the SIG SAUER Academy is a great place to train.

You can find more info at www.sigsaueracademy.com

 

12 Responses to Training Review – SIG SAUER Academy

  1. avatarg says:

    Great review! Wish SIG SAUER would set up shop here in my corner of the Pacific Northwest. I drool at the thought of being able to rent/try out any gun in their line up along with the 20% discount for students at their pro shop…

  2. avatarRalph says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Jim. You’ve convinced me to take a course in Epping, now that I have my NH nonres permit.

    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      Glad you liked it. I’ll be posting my reviews of some of the other classes I have taken in the next few weeks.

  3. avatarBrian Z says:

    I have taken their 102 course (I too skipped the 101) and while I was impressed with the instruction and learned some new things, I had about 18 people in my class which meant we shot in 3 groups instead of 2, greatly increasing the time spent standing around. Also, maybe things have changed since I went early last year, but I had to buy my ammo from them.

    Like I said, I was happy with the instruction, but the size of the class is what has stopped me from going back.

    • avatarMichael Bluth says:

      If it was my guns, I’d want to control what was fed through them too.

      Did they gouge you on ammo prices?

      • avatarJim Barrett says:

        No, ammo prices are pretty fair. For example, a box of .45 runs 18.00, which is as cheap or cheaper than most of the local stores. The one situation where you may run into a cost issue is if your class is being held on the inside range, then you will need to use frangible, lead-free ammo. Since most folks generally don’t have this sort of ammo, you would likely need to buy it. It is over $20 a box even for 9 mm, but I had brought my own (Fiocchi Sinterfire) and was allowed to use it. That said, Sig’s prices for frangible stuff are pretty fair too. I may have saved a buck or two a box for the ones I brought, but I had to buy 1,000 rounds of frangible to get the good price. Most of the classes however are taught outside, so the frangible ammo thing is not an issue in many cases

    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      You will probably see larger classes in the introductory courses. The more specialized the class, the smaller the size. My close quarters gun class had four people registered and only three showed. It was nearly a private class.

  4. avatarKC says:

    I did handgun 101 with about 20 people so we shot in 2 groups of 10. About 2 hours on the range and probably 60 shots. They supply the ammo in the 101 classes. I also took rifle 101 recently and there were 7 people in the class so we shot all at the same time (outside) probably 80 rounds with a mix of SIG516′s and I think some SIG556′s. The courses were very basic (as expected) but thorough and enjoyable. Definitely looking forward to 102, 103, etc courses. I hear the “bullets and vehicles”, “bullets and bandages”, “scenario-based training with simunition” and some of the close quarter pistol/rifle courses are where the real fun stuff happens.

  5. avatarpercynjpn says:

    Thanks for the timely info! I was planning to go to the local range when I visit my folks in W. Mass. in early May; I’m going to look into taking a one-day class at the Academy, too – free use of a 226 (which I’ve never shot) sounds very nice.

    Todd

  6. avatarSanchanim says:

    Yeah wish they would have courses in CA! Dang I would sign up..

  7. avatarGreg in Allston says:

    I’ve taken two courses at Sig. Basic concealed carry (3 days, 24 hours) and advanced concealed carry (2 days, 16 hours), circa ’06 -’08. Both were very well run, covered ALL of the bases, went through about 500 or 600 rounds of frangible 9mm in each class using one of their 226′s. We all got plenty of trigger time. In the advanced class we ran through some exercises in force on force with Simunitions.

    The instructors were thoroughly professional, highly experienced and very knowledgeable. They ran a very tight ship.

    The students were a broad mix in each of the two classes. We had complete neophytes (in the basic class), business owners, NRA instructors, active duty law enforcement and law enforcement trainers and active duty military. One of the classes had a crew instructors from the Secret Service, the other class had a few instructors from the FBI. Both groups were there to sharpen their teaching skills.

    From my experience I’d say that it was money and time very well spent. I plan on taking a few more courses up there in shooting, self defense and a couple of their armorer courses in the next couple of years, as schedule and finances allow.

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