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Gunthorp Classes



Self Defense and Liberty

Millions of defensive uses of firearms each year save lives and property.

 Pistol Safety Class for the Minnesota Permit to Carry a pistol

Advanced Defensive Handgun Techniques for Accuracy, Power, and Speed

Expert Weapons Tactics   In the Home, Car, Street, and Outdoors

Reloading and Bullet Casting for Economy and Accuracy

Contact Gunthorp for the Instructor Certification Course


For locations and fees see: Class schedules

Instructor:   F. Gardner Behrends


Pictured above is the Harpers Ferry 1807 Pistol in 58 caliber.  Commissioned by the then young United States Army, it was the first US martial pistol.  The Harpers Ferry arsenal built about four thousand which were highly prized by the officers lucky enough to be issued them.  With a classic design dating back to the buccaneers and an abundance of brass furnishings, this handsome flintlock sidearm was nevertheless modern for its time, and sported a very accurate ten inch rifled barrel.  Firing a 280 grain round ball, and later a 460 grain mini developed for the Civil War era rifles, its power approximates that of the 45 auto of today.  Proud of their accomplishment, the US Army still uses two of these Harpers Ferry pistols crossed on the insignia of the US Army Military Police.

The fully functional replica of this historical legend is available for purchase in the black powder section under firearms.


Where to Begin


Although avoidance is paramount, self defense skills without a weapon are to be practiced, and physical fitness should be the cornerstone of survival training, I have limited my advanced instruction to the last resort of deadly force, the most efficient use of the handgun. Those of us who feel disadvantaged by age, small size, or physical handicap can be comforted by the security a firearm endows the proficient student. Instruction will accelerate the learning curve, but the art of the handgun may be self learned when the serious student has access to the right information, equipment, and shooting facilities. The primary benefit of professional instruction is that bad habits can be avoided or corrected early on.  It is highly recommended that the novice seek instruction for the basics.  The advanced student should keep in mind the rules of safety and trim any excess or unnecessary motions during the draw and shots.   Instructor's qualifications, credentials, shooting competition honors, and titles are good criteria when choosing courses of study. You can be assured that the basics will be presented properly as you begin to build a solid foundation. The ultimate test in any study uses your common sense. As you learn new concepts, use common sense to fit them into the body of knowledge already gained. Use common sense to discard both old and new ideas that don't seem to fit your personal situation. Use common sense when structuring your individual training exercises. Use common sense when evaluating your skill level, so you don't try to run before you are walking on solid ground. Above all, use common sense to stay safe. Because you are reading this, congratulations, you are already a survivor. Thousands of survivors in your own family genealogy back to your cave family defenders against saber tooth tigers are all applauding you.


A great four part article series about buying a first handgun, published in the Backwoods Home Magazine , written by a woman for women, by Claire Wolfe titled "Miss Fritz buys a gun" appears on the links page along with  Janis Cortese's Gun Info for Women , another good introduction to the realm of handguns and self defense.  Here is another opinion on selecting a first gun, and another.  Here is an excellent synopsis of handguns and use for the beginner.  http://warlockfirearms.blogspot.com/2011/07/comprehensive-beginners-guide-to.html

 Please explore the Gunthorp web and links, as both basic and advanced topics are sprinkled throughout.  Enjoy and be a safe harbor for your loved ones.

Napoleon's Personal Carry Double Barrel Flintlock




For those lacking arm or grip strength, here is a simple technique that enables even the most frail to rack the most difficult slides of small, double action only autos. Grasp the pistol tightly, but in  a normal fashion,  in the hand of the outstretched strong arm, pointing down in a safe direction.  Cant or twist the gun sideways so the top of the slide faces the weak hand.  Angle the muzzle a few degrees toward the strong side.  Stretch out the weak arm and grasp the slide tightly at the serrations.  Use the whole length of the thumb alongside the slide, and curl the fingers so they all can find a place to grasp on the other side.  Keeping arms straight, put pressure to hold the hands together and rock the shoulders to push the frame forward and to the strong side while holding the slide.  Always release the slide so it snaps back on its own while you maintain control of  the muzzle direction with your shooting hand.  And as a last resort, fold a piece of leather or rubber over the slide as an aid to the grip.   Don't be afraid of slide resistance as a factor in gun selection. Instead, if the decision has been made to acquire a semi-auto for personal protection, consider foremost those features in the pistol that will make it totally reliable, comfortable to wear, and effectively powerful.

It has surprised many permit holders that they begin to carry more than they had anticipated when first they took the class. From a realization that victimization is more prevalent than generally reported, contrasted with the fact that the police owe no duty to protect the individual, the idea of self reliant preservation takes hold. After an unobtrusive means to carry has been found, the feeling that one can defend oneself is surely comforting. And after some time spent with a weapon, the apprehension and novelty wear off, leaving one more relaxed about the routine availability of the defensive tool. This is no way gives us permission to dismiss the precepts of safety and proper gun etiquette. But the logic of always having at hand the means of survival in a dangerous environment is inescapable. If one carries only on certain occasions, how can one be sure they have guessed right? The irony of spending so much time and money on survival, then not having that very tool when needed, should not be the last thought before going unconscious during an attack. A thoughtful citizen, however, will be an asset to his neighbors and a bulwark to homeland defense. As more millions of us start to carry, criminals, predators, and terrorists will find their work less rewarding.

The means to effect comfortable carry will involve the pistol's size and weight, the location about the body, the holster, belt, and the choice of apparel. Some compromises will have to be made, but never to the point of having to look dowdy. I've categorized carry into three situations: woods, city, and deep cover. I'll openly carry a magnum caliber in the woods in a shoulder holster for a heavy single action revolver, or a belt holster for a short, titanium or scandium double action magnum revolver, and use a weather shell or raincoat to cover it if the weather is cool enough. In the city, I'll carry a concealed .45 Combat Commander or lightweight Kimber .45 Ultra Carry inside my waistband at about 3:30 to 4 o'clock. Finally, I'll carry a tiny PM40, R9mm, or Kel-tec  380 in a pocket holster for deep cover. These modes of carry have proved to be the best for me, and naturally, I have chosen the most effective cartridges available for the smallest and lightest arms.

What works for me may not be optimum for another. A woman has not only a different physique but also a different agenda. Long fingernails and lots of jewelry can interfere with the defensive mission. Some accommodation must be made if clothing will conceal a chunk of steel, alloy, and plastic. A woman is more likely to work in a "guns banned" zone even though statistics show driveways and parking lots are the most dangerous. She must leave her gun in the car, violating rule #5, "maintain control of your weapon," and walk unarmed through the parking facility both to and from work. Walking in groups is recommended. A small, fast access, handgun safe is recommended for both home and auto use.

Once armed, a woman or man can enjoy a degree of liberty that the gun banners must secretly envy, because she or he now has less to fear. This is true especially when one is vigilant and has spent time learning and practicing with a handgun of sufficient power. Just as a man can practice controlling a light weight, .44 magnum revolver, a woman can learn to shoot a light weight .45 Auto with impressive results. There are those who say that shot placement is everything, and that caliber doesn't count for that much. I have had the pleasure to shoot quite a variety of calibers, and I agree with them. Shot placement is everything for the smaller cartridges. But because I have seen what the bigger, heavier bullets can do, I prefer a well placed .45 ACP, .41 mag, or better. Why settle for less when your precious life is at issue? To do it right, more practice may be required.

The best practice comes when you hit something. That's why I like to shoot the target .22's. Eventually you'll be hitting with the .45, too, if you wish. A $300 Kimber .22 conversion kit for the 45 auto makes a nice combo, because you're used to the same grip and trigger release when shooting either caliber. It fits 4 and 5 inch autos, but not the 3 inch Ultra CDP or Ultra Carry. That's too bad, because that is the pistol I recommend for the gals who can afford it. Federal makes some low recoil, personal defense .45 ACP ammo, and Cor-Bon makes very powerful and effective .45 DPX ammunition.

Most serious defense students and professionals carry the .40 S&W or the .45 ACP as the primary gun. In addition to a spare magazine, they carry a smaller backup gun like a light 38 Special, 9mm, or 380. Some feel that reloading could be too time consuming, and grabbing the backup, called the New York reload, would be preferable. I feel that practicing to reload the primary, from cover, is best.  Finally, they’re sure to have a small, powerful flashlight, a knife, and a cell phone. Even older, inactivated cell phones can still call 911 if their batteries are maintained.  Each tool requires practice, and the ability to transition from one to another needs more practice. The ability to improvise in a tense situation is facilitated by a familiarity with all the weapons at hand.

Like swimming, starting at the shallow end of the pool and mastering a few basics, you can't get over your head, as long as you can float, do the backstroke, and observe prudent safety procedures.



From the book, On Combat
By Lt. Col (ret) Dave Grossman,
US Army Ranger, Former West Point Psychology Professor
Reprinted with permission

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending?

What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? - William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the United State s Naval Academy November 24, 1997

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: “Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true.

Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me, it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell.

Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.

For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf.

But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf.

He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog that intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports, in camouflage fatigues, holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa” until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle.

The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed, right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language:

Slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die.

That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train.

Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear, helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in “Fear Less”, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: “…denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.”

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level. And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7, for a lifetime.

Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…”Baa.”

This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other.

Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.


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