The American Pistol Institute (1976-1992)
Gunsite was founded by Jeff Cooper as the "American Pistol Institute" ("A.P.I.") in 1976 in order to teach the Modern Technique of the Pistol. The Modern Technique of the Pistol is a method of use of the handgun for self-defense. The Modern Technique uses a two-handed grip of the pistol, which brings the pistol to eye-level, so that the sights may be used to aim the pistol at one's assailant. Prior to the founding of API, Jeff Cooper had traveled the world providing training in the Modern Technique to security teams such as those protecting heads of state, prominent politicians and wealthy individuals. The facilities at Gunsite allowed Jeff Cooper to teach the Modern Technique to a much wider audience. At that time the firearms training school industry did not exist.
Jeff Cooper developed similar doctrines in the use of the rifle and shotgun and these courses were also taught at Gunsite. These included the basic rifle course as well as courses designed for those hunting dangerous game, Jeff Cooper being a keen hunter himself.
After the introduction of the rifle and shotgun courses, the name "American Pistol Institute" was changed to "Gunsite Training Center" to reflect the broadening of the training spectrum.
From the beginning the objective of Gunsite was firearms education. Originally, the courses at Gunsite were numbered (250, 270, 499) because they were assigned units by the University of Phoenix as part of their program. Over the years increasingly advanced and complex courses were offered (with correspondingly higher numbers) for those taking study of the use of firearms to higher levels. Jeff Cooper named a number of individuals as 'Shooting Masters', as they had developed a degree of proficiency in the Modern Technique of the three firearms (pistol, rifle, shotgun) that they had gained a 'Doctorate' in the subject of the use of firearms. He listed these individuals as:
- John Gannaway
- Louis Awerbuck
- John Pepper
- Pat Rogers, former Marine and NYPD
- Clint Smith, a former Marine with two tours of Vietnam and LEO (head of firearms training, SWAT team member).
- Giles Stock, former LEO and LEO firearms instructor to SWAT teams.
- Ed Stock
- Larry Mudgett
- Tom Russell
- Rich Wyatt
- Marc Heim
- Michel Röthlisberger
During this time Jeff Cooper and this staff trained many shooters. Many prominent shooters and self-defense practitioners visited Gunsite to receive training or to involve themselves in the development of doctrine and train others. Notable among these were
- Michael Harries, who invented the "Harries Technique" of flashlight manipulation for use with a pistol, as well as becoming an instructor at Gunsite.
- King Abdullah of Jordan, who himself was trained at Gunsite, along with members of his staff, while Crown Prince.
- Dennis Tueller, inventor of the Tueller Drill, became an instructor at Gunsite.
- John Satterwhite, the team captain of the Olympic skeet shooting squad and holder of several world records for shotgun shooting as well as being an instructor in survival shooting while serving in the military, worked on the doctrine of the use of the shotgun and became an instructor at Gunsite.
- Actor Tom Selleck
- Movie producer, director and writer John Milius
- Actor Jan-Michael Vincent
- Rex Applegate Junior, son of Rex Appelgate
- Todd J. Rathner, Director of the National Rifle Association
Actor James Caan is sometimes included in the foregoing list, but when he told Cooper than he wanted to learn the Modern Technique for his role in the Michael Mann production, Thief (1981), Cooper declined, reasoning that Caan's character, an ex-con and career criminal, would not have been exposed to such training. Caan and Mann did, however, induce Gunsite's then D.Ops, Galen D. "Chuck" Taylor, to give him a one evening crash course, not in shooting, but looking like he knew how to shoot and move with a handgun. So thorough was Taylor's instruction, that many who saw the movie were convinced that Caan had been through Gunsite.
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