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.

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