Lessons Learned from the Sig Sauer Academy
Being a law enforcement officer, shooting competitions and making television/films are three of my great passions in life. When Eli Crane, my friend of 24 years and former Navy SEAL turned owner of Bottle Breacher presented me with an opportunity to combine all three into one trip I couldn’t say no. Eli is a brand Ambassador for Sig Sauer firearms and was invited to film an episode of the internet series “The Real Man Show” at the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire. Sig Sauer makes my agency’s duty weapons and I had long heard about the world-class facility they offer classes to police, military and private security entities from around the world in. It seemed like the perfect trip that brought together everything I love along with my best friend to boot.
I’ve lived in East Texas and the Southwest Border my entire life and currently call Phoenix, Arizona my home. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be traveling to the Northeast in November when temperatures begin to plummet. I packed for what felt to me like arctic conditions and hoped for the best. Those hopes were quickly dashed when Eli and I looked at the weather forecast for the shooting day. The New Hampshire temperatures were in the 30’s with scattered rain. I quickly layered on as many clothes as my lanky (I call tactically agile) frame would allow while Eli laughed at me and put on a jacket and called it good. I kept my cold complaints to myself as it’s pretty hard to complain to a Navy SEAL that has been to hell and back.
Eli and I departed the hotel and met Kyle Reyes of The Real Man Show at the Sig Sauer Academy Pro shop and quickly sketched out our filming activities for the day. Kyle brought several former military members with him to round out the crew and after quick introductions, we were introduced to Tom Taylor the Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Commercial Sales. Tom kindly greeted us and escorted us to the range for our safety briefing with cameras in tow.
A group of expert Sig Sauer Academy instructors introduced themselves and the weapons we would be using throughout the day. Sig provided a table of their new SigM400 Tread complete with Tango 1-6 variable power scopes. I personally have run a variable power scope for years in 3-gun and the Tread provided the lightweight rifle with slim handguard and Sopmod type stock I run several weekends a month in competitions. This new rifle comes in at well under $1000.00 and Sig should have a hit on their hands with it. With the safety briefing complete we were informed that we would be doing some head to head rifle competitions, long-range obstacle courses, short-range decision making courses, and a police canine demonstration. It was going to be an action-packed day with expert instruction and I couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom to kick it off.
We began the shooting day by zeroing our rifles and the frigid temperatures forced me to fight the shivers and deliver a 5 shot group several times. The Tread easily delivered 1 MOA or better results and had I not been shaking like a puppy I’m sure I could have easily delivered even better results. With our rifles zeroed, it was discovered that one of our team members had accidentally shot the wrong target and we informed that this range day had consequences for failure. If we made a mistake such as moving to a position without a weapon ready to fire, moving without placing our weapons on safe or in this case shooting the wrong target, we would be required to pay the man. The punishment was to run to a hanging bell at the tree line and hit it with a hammer while screaming “I’m a dead man” 10 times and then run back. It was comical to watch our buddy do this but we were assured that this was to make sure we remembered our mistakes in this training environment so we don’t make them out on the streets or on the battlefield. With a penalty for failure noted in our minds, we began our first drill of the day. Head to head rifle plate trees.
We were paired up and instructed to stand at the end of our shooting mats. On the buzzer, we were to drop down and fire at our own respective shooting tree 100 yards away with the first to knock over their targets the winner. Eli and I decided to shoot head to head in a law enforcement versus military shoot off and at the signal, we both quickly dropped down and began to rapidly hit our targets in a quick back and forth succession. Eli and I have been shooting together since we were kids and it was no surprise that we finished our racks at the exact same time. Though it was a tie for the round, I know that Eli is a far superior shooter and it was nice just to be able to hang with his expert shooting ability. With some friendly competition out of the way we moved on to our next event; the police canine demonstration.
This wasn’t just a demonstration but an active participation drill. Eli donned the bite proof protective wear and gave a quick camera interview as a larger than life German shephard named Riddick eagerly barked behind him in an intimidating fashion. Eric Palmer is a former law enforcement officer and expert canine handler and explained to the cameras exactly what Riddick was trained to do. Eli was instructed to follow Eric’s every command and Eric began to instruct Riddick in German. I found a bilingual canine to be hilarious even though Riddick was frothing and howling to get to Eli. A quick command from Eric sent Riddick leaping at Eli and his power jaws clamped down on the protective sleeve as he began to pull forcing Eli to follow his lead. As Eli was tugged around, Eric gave another German command and Riddick instantly released him and sat down. It was an impressive show of control and the relationship Eric and Riddick had formed. We each took our turns being extracted from buildings and the woods by Riddick and you could feel his power and bite even through the protective wear. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like without the guards on. My advice is, if a police officer says he or she is going to send their canine after you, immediately do what they say. You do not want those fangs anywhere near you! With the demonstration complete we moved on to our next drill; decision making shooting.
Sig built a shoot house comprised of vehicles and structures with an array of numbers, letters and symbols next to steel plates in a Mad Max type maze. On the buzzer, you were to navigate from between vehicles and structures and engage targets as your instructor called them out. It forced you to identify your threat quickly and make hits while staying behind cover, moving and reloading as necessary while being timed in a stress environment. We each navigated the course and our unfortunate shooting buddy who was penalized earlier was able to secure the fastest time and redeem himself for the group and the cameras. Our final course for the day was long-range improvised position precision shooting with a course designed by a former Navy SEAL.
The course required two shooters to navigate a tree line, a shooting tower and an elevated ridge line while engaging two steel targets up to three hundred yards away at designated shooting points between two marked shooting sticks. Each shooter had to make their hits while keeping between these two sticks and no bracing from the terrain could be utilized other than prone if the terrain allowed it. This was a challenging course that tested your precision shooting to the limits. Offhand shots at 150 yards proved challenging in the cold and running through mud and freezing water added to the fatigue along the way. My partner and I navigated the course as best we could and felt exhausted by the end. We were able to make all our shots in a respectable amount of time and it was a humbling experience that reminded us how far we still have to come in the shooting world.
With the day’s shooting complete we thanked Tom and the instructors for an amazing day of training and filming and promised to return in the future for more challenges and world-class instruction. We quickly degeared and we all met for dinner to trade war stories from the day and our respective careers. As the stories and drinks flowed with Tom and the Sig Sauer marketing team, new friendships were made and business cards exchanged. The shooting community is made up of all walks of life, careers and passions and it was amazing to put faces to the weapons that protect my own life and so many others around the globe. I know that Sig Sauer not only cares about selling guns but the men and women that use them for whatever their reasons are. Eli and I started our passion for firearms and service to this great country what feels like a lifetime ago and though our paths were different we still both share a love for this country and all things firearms and would use them in defense of others and this country in a moment’s notice. I would encourage anyone to grab a friend and seek out expert training such as what is provided at the Sig Sauer Academy and sharpen their skills as iron sharpens iron with the best in the world. It just might end up being your perfect trip as well.
Joshua Fry is a 14-year federal law enforcement officer and is currently part of his agency’s national 3-Gun Team. He is a freelance writer covering competitive shooting sports and their equipment, and consultant/producer/writer for the Television and Film Industry. Joshua Fry may be contacted via Instagram @joshuaonefivefry.