Professional Firearms Training on a Budget

by Erich

Excellent quality firearms training need not be solely for the wealthy or for elite law enforcement/military but can be had by all.

One of the common issues I hear when recommending various shooting schools is the expense. Not only is the cost of the school alone prohibitive, but when you add in the cost of travel, lodging, and ammunition, it more than breaks the common-man’s budget.

For those of us tightening our belts during these tough economic times but still want to learn how to shoot and defend those we love, there are options.

In this post you will learn a number of ways you can receive excellent firearms training at a fraction of the cost.


When it comes to learning something as technical as shooting, nothing replaces the watchful eye and careful instruction of an experienced instructor.

However, if this option is not available, instruction through some well-produced videos can be quite affective — especially if you’ve had training and experience in the basics.

Given the large amount of videos out there, quality and thoroughness of a teaching methodology haven’t always been available.

This has all changed with some of the newer players on the multi-media firearms training scene. Here is a listing of the top video series that I think are excellent for learning:

Magpul Dynamics

Magpul Industries, known for their innovative accessories for firearms, has an excellent training division called Magpul Dynamics which is headed by a phenomenal instructor by the name of Chris Costa.

Within the last few years, Chris and Magpul Dynamics have put together an incredible set of instructional DVDs that are extremely thorough and provide the highest level of production quality I’ve seen with regards to firearms training.

Here is a current listing of videos that Magpul Dynamics Offers:

  • Magpul Dynamics Art of the Dynamic Handgun

    This 4-disc set features over seven hours of actual live fire class instruction that guides the student from the fundamentals of handgun operation, to problem solving, and through complex real-life scenarios. This progression from basic to advanced weapon manipulation pushes students of all skill levels to their failure points.

  • Art Of Tactical Carbine, Volumn 1

    This 4-disc series covers not only the basic fundamentals and “how to” aspects of the carbine but also the “mindset” required to employ a carbine effectively in dynamic stress situations.

  • Art of the Tactical Carbine Volume 2

    This 4-disc set takes carbine operation to the next level. An informative and exhilarating Dynamic Carbine class that focuses on pushing your failure points and finding the perfect balance between speed and accuracy.

    Using advanced shooters from the firearms industry, law enforcement SWAT, and military special operations, this DVD set will show that no matter what level of the game you’re in, you always have the ability to excel.

  • Art of the Dynamic Shotgun

    The Art of the Dynamic Shotgun features over five hours of actual live fire class instruction and additional instructional material.

    This 3-disc instructional set progresses quickly as it covers the fundamentals of shotgun manipulation, pattering, weapon’s configurations, action types, ammo management, and real life complex scenarios for the Home Defender, Law Enforcement Officer, Military Operator, and Competitor.

  • The Art of the Precision Rifle

    The Art of the Precision Rifle features nearly ten hours of actual live fire class instruction and additional instructional material on five DVDs.

    This extensive instruction covers the fundamentals and “how to” aspects of long range shooting, advanced techniques and formulas, military and law enforcement sniping, precision shooting gear, and the sniper mindset.

Panteao Productions

Panteao Productions is the new kid on the block when it comes to multi-media based firearms instruction. Similar to the Magpul Dynamics line of instruction, they are making excellent quality, high production-value, extremely thorough firearms instruction.

In Panteao’s case, they have enlisted an ever growing cadre of the top names in the firearms training industry.

Here’s an example list of Panteao’s growing number of DVDs:

Adaptive Handgun w/ Travis Haley: Adaptive, efficient and effective. Special Operations Veteran Travis Haley delivers a modern handgun fighting program for military, government contractors, law enforcement officers, responsible armed citizens and competitors built around mindset and skill. Fundamental mechanics are broken down to granular levels, demonstrated and explained, giving students a deeper understanding of what the body does under stress. Bringing together knowledge, skill and survivability to find and overcome failure points, building true problem solvers that can react to dynamic situations.
Adaptive Carbine w/ Travis Haley: Former Special Operations Veteran Travis Haley guides the beginner or advanced shooter on how to build a shooting platform – not only in the physical sense, but more importantly in the mental sense. Travis breaks down the basic fundamentals and incorporates mindset methodologies that allow you the opportunity to justify them for your shooting lifestyle.
Analysis of the Survival Mindset w/ Louis Awerbuck: Join Louis Awerbuck for a one-on-one training session on the Analysis of the Survival Mindset. Louis Awerbuck is the owner and lead instructor of the Yavapai Firearms Academy. Louis served in 1 Special Services Battalion in the South African Defence Force. He was employed by Colonel Jeff Cooper at the original Gunsite Ranch as Chief Rangemaster, attaining the title of Shooting Master. With this video, Louis will review the biochemistry of a fight, shooting problems, shooter movements, training on the range versus a real fight, types of targets, sighted and unsighted fire, and more. This course will give you a reality check when it comes to training for and surviving a gunfight as only Louis Awerbuck can show.
Home Defense w/ Massad Ayoob: Are you prepared to defend yourself and your loved ones in your home? Join Massad Ayoob as he reviews the techniques for home defense. Ayoob has been writing for gun magazines since 1971. He has been an expert witness for the courts in weapons and homicide cases for over 30 years, and a sworn part-time police officer for 36 years. In this video, Ayoob covers topics like hardening your home’s perimeter, lighting, firearms and ammo selection, safe rooms, family member roles, getting help, and the myths of home defense.
Shotgun Operator w/ Bill Jeans: Join Bill Jeans for a one-on-one training session in his Shotgun Operator course. Bill is the owner-operator of Morrigan Consulting, a tactical weapons training and consulting business in operation since 1998. For over seven years Bill was the Operations Manager and Chief Rangemaster for Gunsite, the world-renowned school founded by Jeff Cooper. With Shotgun Operator, you will learn about shotgun choices and options, ammo selection, wall penetration, shotgun handling, reloads, patterning with buckshot, shooting with slugs, multiple targets, pivots and turns, transitioning to a handgun, shooting with movement, combat mindset, and the shotgun standards.
Reactive Pistol Shooting w/ Bill Rogers: We take you to the Rogers Shooting School in Ellijay, GA for a one-on-one private training session with Bill Rogers. Bill is a former FBI Agent. He invented the first Kydex Holster in 1972. He started the Rogers Holster Company in 1973, purchased by Safariland in 1985. To this day he continues to develop cutting edge technologies for the shooting industry. Bill developed a training program and a high speed moving target system. The program replicates the minimal amount of time a shooter will have to successfully neutralize an adversary. Now you can learn how to successfully engage moving targets rapidly and accurately right from your home.
Tac Pistol Operator w/ Paul Howe: We take you to the CSAT (Combat Shooting and Tactics) training facility in Nacogdoches, TX for a one-on-one private training session with Paul Howe. Paul is a high-risk training instructor that served 20 years in the US Army, ten of those in Special Operations. He served as a Tactical Team Leader and Senior Instructor while assigned to Army Special Operations. During his tour in special operations he was involved in several combat actions. One of the most notable was the battle of Mogadishu that was later portrayed in the motion picture Black Hawk Down. Now you can learn pistol handling techniques from Paul right from your home. You will review the weapon system, stance and grip, holster positioning, reloads, loading/unloading, kneeling, transitions, and key shooting drills that culminate to shooting the CSAT pistol standards. You also get an honest and frank discussion with Paul Howe on leadership, training, and the combat mindset that is applicable to the military, law enforcement, and civilian sector.
Tac Rifle Operator w/ Paul Howe: We take you to the CSAT (Combat Shooting and Tactics) training facility in Nacogdoches, TX for a one-on-one private training session with Paul Howe. Paul is a high-risk training instructor that served 20 years in the US Army, ten of those in Special Operations. He served as a Tactical Team Leader and Senior Instructor while assigned to Army Special Operations. During his tour in special operations he was involved in several combat actions. One of the most notable was the battle of Mogadishu that was later portrayed in the motion picture Black Hawk Down. Now you can learn rifle handling techniques from Paul right from your home. You will review equipment check list, proper grip, dry firing, tac reload, zeroing your rifle, shooting from kneeling, shooting from prone, loading/unloading, transitions, multiple key shooting drills that culminate to shooting the CSAT rifle standards, and weapon maintenance. You also get an honest and frank discussion with Paul Howe on leadership, training, and the combat mindset that is applicable to the military, law enforcement, and civilian sector.
360 Degree Pistol Skill, Vols 1 & 2 w/ Dave Harrington: With the 360 Degree Pistol Skill program, you get a comprehensive one-on-one pistol training session with Dave Harrington. Dave is a retired senior weapons instructor from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. 360 Degree Pistol Skill will help you develop the technical knowledge for shooting a semi-automatic pistol. Volume Two takes you to the next step with an extensive group of drills. They include position SUL, high security position, FBI low ready, the proximity drill, Iron Cross drill, Siebel drill, and more. With 360 Degree Pistol Skill, you will learn the tactics and tactical use of the pistol to fight effectively.
Building World Class Pistol Skills w/ Bob Vogel: Here is an opportunity to get one-on-one training from Robert Vogel, a world class shooter and National Champion in both IDPA and USPSA. In Building World Class Pistol Skills, you will get tips and advice from Robert to help you improve your handgun shooting ability in an easy to follow step by step approach. Robert covers topics like accuracy, proper grip, hand strength, trigger finger isolation, stance, strong hand/weak hand stance, the draw, eye dominance, dry fire, balancing accuracy and speed, shooting from awkward positions, shooting focus, and much more. Whether you’re new to competitive shooting or a seasoned shooter, this video will help you to improve upon your skill set.

Online Streaming

Panteao Productions has become the pioneer of this form of multi-media distribution, and I can definitely see that this will become a very popular medium as time goes on.

The great thing about the online streaming option is that you have access to all of their videos (which are constantly growing) at a low price of about $18/mo or a yearly membership for $150.

As a customer and member of Panteo’s monthly online subscription service, I want to stress how great their videos are. They are packed full with a ton of information from some of the top names in the industry.

If you’re interested in checking them out, go to Panteo Productions to learn more.


Airsoft is a growing sport in which participants shoot round, plastic pellets from replica firearms.

I know that many people associate Airsoft as either a bunch of adolescent kids playing “shoot-em-up” or older guys trying to be military wannabes (and believe me, there is a lot of this), however Airsoft is in fact a great training tool.

Before you laugh it off as some kids sport, keep in mind many law enforcement units, military, and even competitive shooters train with Airsoft (see here for an article showing how military units are using Airsoft for their pre-deployment training).

Like any sport, the range of quality and performance of the various guns you can buy is quite dramatic.

From the low end you can go to your local Walmart and pick up a basic plastic $20 gun that will fire only one pellet per engagement (cocking the slide back and spring loading it), or you can purchase the high-end variety that look, feel, weigh, and practically cost as much as the real thing. These tend to be gas driven, have realistic “blow-back” action, and are extremely accurate at short ranges.

Some of the criticisms that people have with Airsoft as a training tool is that they don’t really give you much in the way of felt recoil and their report is very minimal so an element of realism is lost.

While this is true, on the flip side those who support Airsoft as an effective tool for self-defense training argue that in almost all life-or-death encounters, you’ll experience a body alarm response (adrenaline dump) in which the body experiences auditory exclusion (no weapon report or voice commands are heard), as well as a loss of fine motor skill and increase in gross motor skill (little is felt in the way of recoil).

So the argument is, as far as realism is concerned, the lack of felt recoil and of auditory report in Airsoft trainers is largely irrelevant.

If you have the money to pay for all the ammunition you need you probably wouldn’t be reading this article, however, if cost is an issue and training is important to you, Airsoft is a safe, effective, and (compared to the ammunition costs of real firearms) dirt cheap form of firearms training.

The Appleseed Project

A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to attend an excellent civilian marksmanship program called the Appleseed Project. It’s mission: “to teach every American about our shared heritage and history as well as traditional rifle marksmanship skills”.

The Appleseed Project is a nationwide event that is inspired by the riflemen of the American Revolution. Back in revolutionary times, the rifleman found his ranks among common, average, every-day citizens. These were farmers and craftsman, not career soldiers. However, many of these “commoners” could shoot a man-size target out to 500 yards with iron sights, using a standard rifle, and surplus ammo.

This traditional “Rifleman’s Quarter Mile”, as it was called, is what the Appleseed Project enables (without scopes using only iron sights!), with the hope that you’ll pass this skill on to future generations.

This event was one of the finest firearms training courses I’ve been to (you can read my review here ) and I highly recommend it.

The cost of the two-day event is $70, which if you look at other comparable training out there it is extremely inexpensive.

Front Sight Firearms Training Institute

Front Sight Firearms Training Institute is a highly respected and well-known firearms training school that has gotten some rave reviews by civilians and professional shooters.

The instruction is “taught by seasoned and professional law enforcement, military, and private citizen instructors to levels that far exceed law enforcement and military standards, without any boot camp mentality or drill instructors attitudes.”

Although the standard 4-day courses are a hefty $2000, the reason I’m including this in this article is that you can purchase a certificate that is good for one of their 2 or 4-day courses for only $100 from eBay. Here are some examples.

Sound like a scam? I thought so too, but in actuality these are legit. The catch is, these certificates are only good for a one-time redemption for first-time students. After that, Front Sight knows that a great number of first-time students will want to upgrade to a life-time membership and that’s where they make their money.

Although it’s a marketing ploy, it’s a excellent chance to get some excellent training at a very cheap price.

Wrapping it Up

I hope after this post you guys now have some options available to you to get some great firearms training at a fraction of the cost.

If you know of some other options/schools that I may have left out be sure to comment. I’ll update this article with those additions.

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Comment by DPM
2012-01-21 21:28:05

Thanks for the Appleseed plug. Best marksmanship bang for your buck. Full disclosure – I’m an Appleseed instructor and State Coordinator for CT, so I’m a tad biased.

Don’t forget that hardly anyone pays the $70 – women are $10, under 21 is $5, and military, law enforcement, and elected officials are free!

And the best part – we put the marksmanship into historical perspective by telling the true story of April 19, 1775, the first day of the Revolutionary War. We show how a determined band of the world’s best marksmen bloodied an overwhelming force of professional soldiers and sent them running back to Boston. It’s the best part of the weekend, IMHO.

The links above don’t seem to work, so as a public service, go to . If anyone is interested in Appleseed shoots in CT, hit our .

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-01-23 04:23:31


Thanks for the great instruction you guys give at the Appleseed events. The links should now be fixed (thanks for the heads up).

Comment by Doodie
2012-02-03 16:35:08

Have you seen the Viper Academy training courses….. their 2nd to none. I can’t even believe they’re still running.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-02-03 17:17:20

This is a joke right? Are they really serious?

Comment by My Weapons Permit
2012-04-02 22:17:55


I am a Florida concealed weapons permit and tactical firearms instructor in the Tampa Bay FL Area, and I agree 100% with your recommendation of the Magpul DVD series. Same goes for the Travis Haley DVDs too.

Comment by Tim Somers
2012-04-13 02:15:47

Thought I would let you know that both Travis Haley and Chris Costa have parted ways with Magpul Dynamics to start their own training companies.

Costa’s new venture is: Costa Ludus
Travis’ new venture is: Haley Strategic

Never liked Travis much, but Costa is one of my favorites. Still love the Magpul vids though. 🙂

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-04-13 05:07:52

That’s correct Tim. From what I read, they both left on good terms. Despite losing those guys, Magpul Dynamics is still a fantastic training school.

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