Gunsite responds to my article on DownRangeTV

Recently, I wrote an oped, Does Gunsite Academy need to get with the times?  In response, Gunsite Academy’s Chief Executive Officer, Ken Campbell, wrote a rebuttal on Down Range TV.

I’m thankful I got his attention.

While there are a few points of respectful debate to be raised here, I really want to just boil it down to the most important one in my mind—and the reason I wrote my article in the first place.

But first, I want to address what I readily admitted in the article: that I have never been to the Gunsite training facility.  Rather, what drew my attention to them were some of the pictures and advertising they use on their social media pages and website.

In those pictures I saw shooters bending their support arms.  When it comes to Gunsite’s pistol grip techniques—again, at least from what I’ve seen of them from their advertising i.e. the face of their company—it appears that they are still stuck in the past.  Then again, that’s just my opinion and this could be the pistol handling debate of the century.

In the rebuttal, Mr. Campbell states precisely the reason I think that Gunsite may be behind the times.  He cites the 60% and 40% pressure and pull rule.  I do not buy this rule.  Why pull back towards the recoil at all, let alone doing so with 40% of your support hand?  The pull back is what creates the bent arm of the support hand for most shooters anyway.

Just take a look at Dr. Piazza’s extremely canted upper body, who I also cited in my article.  That’s an old school bladed technique due, in large part, from the 60/40 thinking and brings me to the crux of the matter:

While a person can be trained to react under stress by contorting their natural instincts to a 60/40 pressure rule, with all the upper body twisting movement that comes with it, why, I ask, train people to do something that’s unnatural?  In the light of the startle, the stress, the someone’s-gonna-kill-me-and-I-may-have-to-kill-them moment, training what does not come naturally is not the best method.  Not in my mind is isn’t.

Has it worked in the past?  Sure, I suppose, but we really can’t be absolutely positive.  Some have won gunfights with that technique, others haven’t.  There are a lot of other factors to consider there and not a lot of data to research or support it one way or another.

But here’s what I do know: Whether you’re wearing body armor or not, having your torso facing the threat is important.  Under the stress of battle, it’s unnatural to cant your body in a boxer’s stance unless you’re going to say—box.  Punching out, or as I’ve heard some operators call it, pressing in (as in pressing into some evil guy’s chest with your muzzle) works better when it comes to handguns.  That means you take both arms and shove them towards your enemy.  Sure, it might feel unnatural to someone who’s been doing it the other way for over 35 years, as Mr. Campbell has, but it’s worth a try.

And on that note, it’s worth mentioning that in his article, he encouraged me to try something new.  Well, the truth is I started out shooting this sideways method.  Later, I did try something new and discovered this new method is much better.

For one thing, I can hold a pistol in my support hand with a thumbs forward grip with my hand (mostly my wrist) at a 45-degree angle and it can support the entire recoil.  In other words, all the recoil goes into my support hand and is totally stopped by my wrist and forward thumb on the frame.  If anything, my support arm is even more straight than my strong arm—perhaps “backwards logic” to those who say, “We’ve always done it ‘that’ way, so why change?”

Well, there are a few reasons to change.  Tier I operators are using the technique.  Competition shooters are using it too.  Why?  Because it totally works.  The thumbs forward grip lessens recoil and allows more shots on target, quicker.  Plus, it stabilizes the gun more.  So, in all due respect, trying something new isn’t what I need to do, it’s something those who are stuck in the past we’ve all lived through need to give a try.

Look, I don’t want to cause waves.  I’m sure there are more things Mr. Campbell and I agree on than disagree.  I’m sure of it.  Besides, I’ve had some trusted shooters and operators suggest to me after writing the piece that I ought to give Gunsite a try.  They say there are some really incredible instructors there and I believe them.

I’d be willing to give the place a try too, but not on the caveat that I take a class for free, conditioned on a favorable article after I attend.  That wouldn’t be doing anybody any favors.  Like anyone who’s finds themselves in the middle of a gunfight should know, you’ve got to take a risk if you’re willing to win, and that includes examining pistol shooting grips and techniques that weren’t around when Colonel Cooper was shooting.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.

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