Visiting the Sig Sauer Shooting Academy
By Brian McCombie
A family vacation that includes seeing the historic sites of Boston, lounging on Atlantic Ocean beaches, and getting some first-rate firearms training and education? It’s all very possible. If your trip starts in Epping, New Hampshire, at the Sig Sauer Training Academy.
An offshoot of firearms manufacturer Sig Sauer (located in nearby Exeter), the Sig Sauer Training Academy opened its doors 27 years ago; since then, the Academy has trained tens of thousands of people in the safe and effective use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns. On its 140-acre spread, the Sig Academy features state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor ranges, tactical training areas, multiple “shoot houses,” and other venues to replicate urban and maritime environments.
“With over 100 offerings in all, Sig Academy courses range from very basic introductions to firearms and shooting to extremely rigorous, expert-level classes taken by some of America’s top military and law enforcement personnel.”
With over 100 offerings in all, Sig Academy courses range from very basic introductions to firearms and shooting to extremely rigorous, expert-level classes taken by some of America’s top military and law enforcement personnel. Timewise, courses range from half-day outings to one-, two-, three-, and even four-day courses focused on specific firearms and/or tactics. At the same time, though, notes Sig Academy Director Scott Reidy, the facility is very much a “destination location.” “We’re located just an hour’s drive north of Boston,” Reidy explains. “We’re ten miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Plus, the local communities of Epping and nearby Exeter are home to historical tours, local fairs, interesting shops, and all sorts of other tourist activities.” No wonder then, that families and couples regularly come to Epping for vacations, with one or more of the adults attending an Academy class or two (or three) while other family members swim the Atlantic at Seabrook Beach just 20 minutes away. Or, in between courses, the whole family journeys to Boston for great shopping, amazing restaurants, the many tours of Colonial American sites, and major-league sports venues like Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox. With the growing popularity of concealed carry across the country, Sig Academy handgun pistol courses are in high demand. Many students use their vacations to take a number of these courses, such as Handgun 101, Handgun 102, and then Handgun 103, with each of these one-day classes taken sequentially. “That particular sequence of handgun courses is a great educational experience, and the three days of training really instills a very solid foundation for any handgun owner,” says Reidy. “In Handgun 101, students fire a total of 50 rounds during the day. That steps up to 250 rounds in Handgun 102 and then 300 rounds in Handguns 103 as students become more proficient in their pistol-handling abilities.” Safety, of course, is always first and foremost at Sig Academy. All firearms courses begin with thorough safety briefings and explanations; at various times during the course, safety briefings are re-emphasized.
No Time For Drill Sergeants.
David Kaiser, a New Hampshire resident, took his first Sig Academy course years ago. Today, he pretty much can’t stay away from the Academy, and signs up for several new courses every year. “When I started at Sig, I just wanted to learn how to safely handle and use a handgun in case I ever purchased one and needed to use it,” Kaiser says. “I started taking courses at Sig Sauer Academy in 2010 as a beginner with Handgun 101 and thought I might eventually take three or four more handgun courses. I was so impressed with the instructors and the emphasis on safety, I bought my first handgun after my very first class.” Kaiser has since taken dozens of the various Academy’s handgun and rifle courses, including many of the more advanced-level offerings. “Shooting is a perishable skill, and I continually return to the Sig Academy and their courses so I can stay an effective, safe, and responsible firearms owner,” Kaiser says. Reidy admits that some people might be apprehensive about being instructed by people with strong military and law enforcement backgrounds, which nearly all of the Sig Academy instructors possess. But, he stresses, there is not a “drill sergeant” mentality among the instructors at the Academy. “There’s no yelling, no talking down to people, none of that at the Academy,” Reidy notes. “All of our instructors have great people skills, and they know their job is to educate and inform and to make firearms training safe and fun.”
“No matter how nervous or intimidated a beginner student might have been around firearms or being in a course with strangers, Sig instructors always put us at ease,”
Kaiser agrees. “No matter how nervous or intimidated a beginner student might have been around firearms or being in a course with strangers, Sig instructors always put us at ease,” he says. “The instructors are more like mentors, showing us ways and options for efficient, consistent, and safe firearms training success.”
What to Bring?
All you really need to bring to take a course or courses at the Academy is…yourself. “You can certainly bring your own firearms to the Academy and use them in the courses,” Reidy says. “Many students do just that. Or, you can just show up with the clothes on your back, and we will provide everything else you need, from firearms and ammunition, to holsters, hats and other gear.” Like to take home some Sig gear and accessories? The Academy Pro Shop is open to the public, offers Sig Sauer pistols, rifles, and gear, plus clothing and accessories from the industry’s leading brands. Academy students are even eligible for a discount on firearms. Should your firearm experience a mechanical problem or failure during your time at the Academy, factory-certified armorers are on staff to get your firearm back into working condition.
Proper credentials are required to take Academy courses, and you may have to submit to a background check and/or show a current license to carry permit. Course registration requirements are listed on the Sig Academy website. The Epping area is home to scores of restaurants, motels, and Bed & Breakfasts, and stores. Many students arriving from longer distances fly into Boston or Manchester, New Hampshire, and then rent a car to Epping. Reidy warns, though, that taking even one Sig Academy class can become habit-forming. “When students return to the Academy after having taken an earlier class, we know we are doing things right,” he says. “And returning students keep our courses full. sigsaueracademy.com