BULLSEYE: The Sig Sauer Academy: Law Enforcement’s Destination for Superior Training
By Steve Tracy
There are numerous shooting schools around the country offering firearms training for both police and civilians. New facilities have sprung up due to the passing of concealed-carry legislation in almost every State, creating a clamor for instruction. While this has led to more options, care should be taken when choosing the best instruction for your training dollars. Your decision should be based on the quality of instruction, not just because the school is the newest or closest.
The Sig Sauer Academy has been training law enforcement professionals, military personnel, and law-abiding civilians since 1991. The facility is located on 140 acres in Epping, N.H., which is just a 15-minute drive from Sig’s Exeter, N.H. manufacturing factory. Both are less than a 45-minute rental car drive from the Manchester, N.H. airport and only an hour from Boston.
Sig Sauer has always geared their firearms manufacturing strongly toward the law enforcement aspect of their business. Originally, the Swiss Industrial Group (SIG) partnered with J. P. Sauer and Son to produce the P220 and other double-action pistols in West Germany. Over the years, the transition has been made whereby the majority of their handguns and rifles are now made in the United States.
While providing beginner instruction, the Academy leans more toward advanced law enforcement training. Classes range from handgun orientation and basic marksmanship to close-quarter combat, active shooter and long-range sniper training. Over 60 courses are offered, including several armorer classes for Sig Sauer weapons.
Still more courses taught at the Sig Academy are shotgun and rifle/carbine/full auto courses, police skill building, low light, reflexive shooting, executive protection, tactical rifle, first aid for range officers, scenario-based simuntion training, hand to hand, home defense, competition (IDPA, skill drills, speed shooting), active shooter, and ballistic shield instruction.
Instructor courses for pistol, rifle and shotgun are all taught using the Academy’s SIG (Simple is Good) principle, which is passed on when training the trainers. All of the employees at the Sig Academy, from the administration to the Pro Shop to the instructors were found to exhibit an extremely high level of professionalism, safety, knowledge and friendly attitudes. It’s obvious that the Sig Academy vets their instructors well and selects only the best.
Firearms training requires a careful balance between treating the subject matter seriously (we are utilizing firearms capable of taking life) and remaining easy-going and injecting occasional humor. Harsh scolding or talking down to students is not appreciated by new shooters or veteran police officers. This negativity was thankfully absent among the personnel at the Academy.
The Sig Academy Grounds
Upon arrival at the Sig Academy, it is obvious that expansion and improvement is constant. A new building under construction just off the parking lot will be more than four times the size of the current administration, Pro Shop, and classroom structure.
Walking up from the parking lot, the Pro Shop greets you with everything Sig Sauer for sale at discounted student pricing. Polo shirts, tactical gear, belts, holsters, mag pouches, lights, lasers, other sundry firearms accessories are neatly offered on racks and shelves. Spare parts for your duty guns are in stock, including maintenance parts like springs and roll pins. Custom parts like short triggers and wood or aluminum grips are also on hand.
The Pro Shop showcases all of Sig Sauer’s pistols and rifles, including their Blaser line of bolt-action rifles. Sig’s double-action P-series, 1911-style pistols, compact .380 and 9mm pistols, and their newest modular 250 series are all represented in more finishes than you can count. Limited-edition and cased P210 and all manner of X5 and X6 target pistols, with options like gold plating and maple handles, were on display.
Sig’s law enforcement-oriented rifle offerings have expanded greatly over the years, and their M400, 516, and 716 AR-15 style carbines in 5.56mm and 7.62mm were lined up on a rack for perusal. The Blaser bolt-action sniper rifles in several powerful calibers are also for sale.
Two modern classrooms with all the amenities are adjacent to the Pro Shop. A hallway (with vending machines of snacks and drinks) leads to the cleaning/maintenance work bench area where all manner of firearm solvents, cleaning tools, and lubricants are available. The armory is also located here and Sig can arrange the loan of guns, magazines, holsters, and other accessories. Ammunition in all calibers is offered for sale.
An indoor range is also part of this main building to allow low-light shooting and standard firearms training.
Touring the 140-Acre Facility
Touring the grounds reveals more than 20 individual ranges with even more planned or being built. Pistol, rifle, and shotgun ranges are superbly designed with high backstops and gravel-packed walls. There are several ponds for military maritime training and the Academy offers indoor ranges, a parking lot range for utilizing vehicles, tactical training areas, urban environments, a shoot house, and force-on-force paintball/simunitions training.
A challenging obstacle course provides the ability to raise one’s heart rate prior to shooting for added stress and the 1,000-yard sniper range provides the choice of an elevated prone position grass mound or benches from which to fire.
Sig’s own testing ranges are also on the property where their firearms are put through their paces to meet mil-spec requirements and quality check improvements in design. The assessment of guns includes chambers that test extreme heat and cold, liquid and corrosion resistance tanks, and sealed boxes that allow the introduction of dust, debris, sand, and grit into the firearms’ actions.
Bullets and Vehicles Course
To evaluate the Sig Academy, an eight-hour “Bullets and Vehicles” course was taken. Ammunition was included in this particular course, as was the loan of a handgun, magazines, and holster/mag pouches. Eye and ear protection can be provided or students can bring all of their own equipment.
Ten students attended, split equally between law enforcement officers and civilians. Police officers spend a large amount of time behind the wheel of their patrol cars and many gunfights occur during traffic stops. Shooting from inside your squad car is a distinct possibility in our line of work. Knowing how bullets perform around sheet metal and automobile glass is good data to comprehend. Civilians carrying a concealed weapon may also spend a considerable part of their lives driving a vehicle as well.
It is one thing to be told how a bullet’s trajectory will alter when fired through a windshield from inside a car. But it becomes permanently etched in your brain when you actually aim low to counter the angle of the windshield, pull the trigger yourself from the driver’s seat, and watch your fired round penetrate the glass and hit your target center mass where it’s positioned at the front bumper. Reading about it is good, but doing it is better.
The class was conducted on the Academy’s parking lot course and was taught by Dylan Kenneson. A junked car was used as a target during the course of the day. Various glass break tools were demonstrated as were the techniques for breaking windows in an emergency to either gain access or to escape if the doors fail to open. Dylan struck the perfect balance as an instructor by being firm on safety and technique while also remaining affable and humorous at the right moments.
Shooting began with some warm-up shots on paper targets and then firing was practiced using folding chairs to simulate a driver’s seat. Shooting to the front, rear, and both sides was demonstrated and then performed. Students then fired out the side window openings of a mini-van from a seat-belted, sitting position.
Kenneson then drove the van at 20 mph on an angle toward a series of steel targets while each student took a turn firing from the passenger seat. The van was then driven backward, away from the targets while the student fired at the silhouettes again. The run was repeated at 40 mph and proved how difficult it is to hit targets from a moving vehicle.
The van was then used as cover from the front and rear as students engaged steel popper targets. Prone shooting under the vehicle was also practiced and proved to be quite effective when performed correctly.
A junked vehicle was then employed so students could have first-hand experience with the effects of various bullets on windshields and sheet metal. An assortment of handgun rounds were fired and skipped off the hood and trunk to show how easily they can ricochet. A target was placed alongside the fender where we see cops in movies and TV stand and fire. The target showed how poor this technique works in real life.
Each student was then able to sit in the junker’s driver’s seat and fire through the windshield at a target placed up by the front bumper. Bullets that penetrate the windshield will change course upward upon impact and strike their targets high. Actually performing this exercise permanently etches the concept into your consciousness and reinforces the need to aim low.
Some calibers and bullet designs displayed a lack of high performance while others (especially bonded rounds) penetrated the windshield and remained intact upon hitting their targets.
Instructor Kenneson spray painted the numbers one through six from left to right along the body of the junked car. Common handgun rounds from .22 to .44 Magnum were fired by class members into the six designated areas. Penetration through fenders and doors could then be observed. Rifle rounds from 5.56 NATO to .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Lapua, and even the mighty .50 BMG were launched into (and often through) the car.
Students at the Bullets and Vehicles class came away with a wealth of practical knowledge concerning how bullets act when they contact the various glass and metal surfaces of vehicles. Shooting in and around vehicles also instilled a useful and realistic comprehension of what works (and doesn’t work) when it comes to keeping yourself alive when bullets start flying around cars.
Anyone who attends training at the Sig Sauer Academy will come away with a rewarding and enlightening experience. They will also recognize the top-notch excellence of the Sig Academy’s experienced staff and instructors as well as their impressive facility located in the northeast.
An additional note not mentioned in the Sig Academy brochures or online at www.sigsaueracademy.com is that Exeter and Epping, N.H. are less than 15 minutes from the Hampton Beach area on the Atlantic Ocean. The area is a terrific tourist attraction and features several festivals and concerts throughout the year. Your training could be managed to coincide with a family vacation…and plenty of tasty lobster for dinner. PM
Steve Tracy is a 26-year police veteran with 24 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.