Ken Campbell Gunsite Academy, Col. Cooper training

For the premiere issue of “Ballistic’s Best,” Gunsite Academy Chief Operating Officer Ken Campbell sat down and spoke to us about his fondest memories from over the years. Here they are, from the man himself:

What Is Gunsite Academy?

We’re the oldest privately owned and operated firearms and tactics training school for responsible citizens. People think we train mostly military and law enforcement personnel, and we’re proud to train them, but our bread and butter are everyday people who want to learn how to protect themselves.

Our mission statement, quoting our founder Jeff Cooper, is “to provide good people with the skills by which they may conduct themselves as responsible citizens of a free republic.” That’s what Gunsite is.

Over the years, we have trained tens of thousands of students. Demographics have changed over our 42-and-a-half years. Originally it was the norm to have a woman in the class. Now it is extremely unusual not to have a couple women in each class. Last year, we had a carbine class with more women in it than men. Women want to be able to learn to protect themselves and their families, too.

Growing Strong

When we opened our doors in 1976, we had two square ranges, a shoothouse and 162 acres. Now we have 26 ranges and more than 3,000 acres. We can shoot contact distance right out to 2,400 yards. We also have our three world-famous shoothouses, as well as our outdoor simulators. We’ve grown quite a bit!

Tom Selleck, Larry Hagman and James Caan are some notable Gunsite graduates.

There are many others currently in music, sports and film who come here, but you’ll never hear about it because their liberal friends would ostracize them. Sometimes they slide into a regular class or they’ll do a tutorial class with two or three of their friends and a private instructor. We can send a mobile training unit to them, but most prefer to come here for our shoothouses.

Why go to the state fair when you can go to Disney World?

Favorite Memory

My very first trip here, I was a young deputy, and I came with my issued sidearm, a Smith & Wesson Model 645 in .45 ACP. Colonel Cooper looked at me and said, “Right caliber, wrong gun!” I was pretty intimidated.

At that time, the 250 class was five-and-a-half days long. Saturday morning I shot the only perfect score. I’m standing there at the 3-yard line while my instructor, Dennis Tueller, stood by my target and Colonel Cooper walked down the line. He scowled at my target, looked over at me, kind of smiled and said, “It’s the man, not the gun!”

That’s my favorite Jeff Cooper/Gunsite memory, and I have a picture on my office wall of me, Tueller and Cooper standing by my perfect target.

Job Fulfillment

The most fulfilling part of my job is finding out that what we teach here makes a difference in the lives of our students.

A couple years ago, a husband and wife, both Navy petty officers, came for classes—him for the 350 Intermediate Pistol class and her for the 250 Pistol class. They were here on their own dime and burning their own personal leave time. She took her class with a Beretta 92—it’s what she was issued.

A few months later, she sent me an email saying she had taken an Army pre-deployment class and kicked everyone’s butt! About a year after that, she sent another email saying, “You guys need to know you saved my life.”

I don’t know any more than that, and I don’t need to know the details, but that is why we’re here. That’s what Gunsite is all about.

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This article is from Ballistic’s Best 2018. To subscribe or purchase individual copies, please visit

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