A long time ago, I was a pretty good shot. When I was in the Canadian Army our service rifle was the FN C1 in 7.62 Nato and we qualified in Basic Training and every year out to 1000 meters, With open sights. In those days, it wasn’t unusual to be one of the top three or four shots in the Regiment. The years have taken their toll and I’ll be honest – my shooting isn’t what it used to be. I’ve battled flinches and bad technique. Deteriorating eyesight and muscle tone play a part I’m sure. I’m certainly not in good shape any more. All that to say when Paul Bourgeois from Best of the West Arizona offered me a chance to attend their Long-Range Shooting School, I was all over it.
This particular course happened to be held at the Tucson Rifle Club. The classroom was great, and we were greeted with some coffee and doughnuts, along with some swag. We covered the house rules and got down to it. There was a full agenda to include:
*Long Range Hunting Defined
*Long Range Hunting Ethics
*Long Range Hunting Tips
*The Shooter/Spotter Relationship
*Introduction to Huskemaw and BOTW Long Range Shooting Systems
*Doping the Wind
First off, Paul is a great Instructor. He and all of his Staff are very professional, and extremely knowledgeable. There is no fluff, no bravado; just practical knowledge presented in easy and understandable terms. Paul has a great manner and while the class is fun, it is serious too. Best of the West Arizona sells BOTW custom rifles and Huskemaw Optics exclusively. No other weapons or optics. It will be clear that part of the intent of the class is to familiarize you with the BOTW Long Range Systems and thus – will want to buy them. Make no mistake though – this is indeed a long-range shooting class, it is not an all-day sales pitch. If that is what is holding you back – forget about it and go. You use BOTW systems on the course only – this is not a BYOG course. All of that being said, Paul and his Staff were extremely professional in that never did I hear during the entire day – trash talking or disparaging companies. That’s just not how these guys operate.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of the class. Note that this is a hunting class. Not a long range competitive shooting class, nor a tactical class. The entire body of coursework is to make you a better hunter, at ranges you never dreamed possible. I especially enjoyed the work on target acquisition – I always struggle when moving from binos to rifle, or when increasing magnification after I’ve picked up the animal. The instructors stressed throughout the concept of being “rock solid” – having two points of contact supporting your weapon. We had a discussion on the ethics of long range shooting also – and the importance of getting as close as possible and not making “trick shots” just for the purpose of doing it.
Roughly speaking, the course is laid out as follows: Some classroom work and then out to the 500 yard firing point for some dryfiring, practice in setting up, practice in target acquisition, and in the spotter and shooter working together. Then you shoot. At 500 yards. That’s where we started. Again, we used BOTW shooting systems along with BOTW ammo, custom-loaded for their systems. 500 yards is a hell of a poke for a lot of people, including me. Currently, one of my hunting rifles is more than capable of reliably shooting that distance, but I am not. Add that to the variability in my rifle, scope, bases, technique and ammo – 500 yard shots are not in my comfortable, confident range. 350, yes. 400 maybe. 450 and beyond – for me is a Hail Mary most times, and not ethical. Those are the shots I pass up.
Throughout the class, Paul and his staff touted two main concepts – “rock solid” and “Range, Dial, Shoot”. I am here to tell you, no BS – it was that easy. 500 yards, no warm up, no practice – settle in, get comfortable – Range, Dial, Shoot. I put 3 rounds (out of 3) within an inch of the center (12×16 steel plate). It was that easy for most of us.
We headed back in and had lunch, chatted about some more stuff while we ate and headed back out to he 1000-yard line. I gotta tell you – especially with these old eyes – stuff is small at a thousand yards. Went through the same drills and then went live. By now winds were pretty brisk, gusting up to 20-25 MPH or so, and even worse, swirling. I put 4 or 5 rounds down range and just missed the plate each time, except for the first round, in which I used the wrong hash mark for the wind. Other than that I was literally dancing on the edge of that plate at 1000 yards in the swirling wind. I was bummed at no “clang”, but still better than I have shot in years. Maybe ever. And to be fair, it was all on me. Some of the students were having a similar experience (close but no clang) and several were ringing steel. My partner Matt had some target rounds, thanks to the work of his amazing spotter (me, of course).
If I owned one of these rifle systems (and I intend too, someday) I would be confident right now, today – shooting out to 850 yards or so, and with some familiarity – 1000 yards. Again, shots would always be made as close as possible, but if needed – I could make those long shots with these systems. It really is as easy as “Range, Dial, Shoot”.
I am extremely grateful to Paul for inviting me. It was the most fun I’ve had, and the most I’ve learned, in a long time. We ended the day with a class photo and a BOTW tshirt, and a lot more confidence than we had when we started that morning. A one-day long range shooting class with Best of the West Arizona will run you about $525 and if you want to become a better long-range hunter, it will be the best money you’ll ever spend. I can’t stress enough how friendly and professional that he and his staff are. This is a hands-on class using BOTW rifles and ammo, figure on 3 or 4 students to each instructor. I think Matt and I pretty much had an Instructor all to ourselves. The only drawback to the course is that unless you have no soul, you will come away wanting a new rifle. I guess that’s not such a bad thing either. Most of their shooting courses are held at the Cowtown Range in Peoria or the Tucson Rifle Club.
You can learn about the Best of the West Custom Rifles HERE
You can also check out Huskemaw Optics
They frequently have some rifles all made and Ready to Ship
If you’d like to get near-BOTW performance out of your own rifle, check out their Accurizer Service
They also have some wicked cool accessories to help with your shooting HERE