Gander Mountain Academy


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Mike Cumpston

September 5th, 2011





Click pictures for a larger version.


ATI' presents some of their firearms.



Core 15 Rifles presentation.



I.O., Inc. presentation.



Wolf Performance Arms presentation.



Mike Cumpston of FMG Publications.



Mike Cumpston fires the Core 15 rifle.



Jeff with Magnum Research 22 rifle.


Jorge Amselle of Harris Publications with Auto Ordnance M1 Carbine.



Chris Short with AWC Suppressors.



I am just back from a few days at Gander Mountain Academy in Lake Mary, Florida. I was among a group of eight writers invited down by Blue August to look at some products from ATI, Kahr, I.O. Inc., Magnum Research, Auto Ordnance, Cross Breed Holsters, Wolf Performance Arms, Core 15, AWC Suppressors, and FMK Firearms. I am planning to do reviews on several of the products shown, but right now, we are looking at the facility in which we enjoyed the presentations.

Josh Sykes, Chris Harless, and Monica Arnold of Blue August met us at the airport and hauled us to Lake Mary, putting us up at the Hilton and treating us very well for the time spent in Florida. The use of Gander Mountain Academy was the best part of the trip. The purpose of the trip was not to review the Gander Mountain Academy. It was just the facility which we used to try out the products, but I was impressed enough with the place that I wanted to let our readers know more about it, especially those readers who live close enough to a Gander Mountain Academy to take advantage of the facility and the services offered.

I have heard of Gander Mountain, and know them as a chain of sporting goods stores similar to Bass Pro Shop and Cabelaís. However, I was unaware before this trip that Gander Mountain had a training facility. In fact, they have several across the nation, with more planned to open in the future.

Gander Mountain Academy offers concealed carry permit classes, hunter safety classes, women-only classes, shotgun classes, and other classes to help shooters in any stage of their development. Gander Mountain also offers one-on-one instruction for those who prefer such detailed attention, and that is highly recommended for those who are just getting into shooting, whether for recreation or for more serious purposes. Gander Mountainís indoor range has state-of-the-art electronic equipment, a well-ventilated shooting area, and targets that come to the shooter. The digital controls send the target out and bring it back again. Each shooter has his own separate lane, shooting from a booth in which he stays during the session, with instructors behind the shooters to ensure safety and an enjoyable and productive shooting session.

Before entering the shooting range, shooters watch a safety video in a comfortable room, sign a waiver, and are issued eye and ear protection, if the shooter did not bring any. The range is equipped to handle handgun, shotgun, and rifle fire, and is surrounded with sound-buffering materials.

At the Academy, we would listen to and enjoy hands-on presentations from the manufacturers present, then take those weapons to the range to send a few rounds into some targets. After our range sessions, we had the opportunity to try out Ganderís Virtual Range. This area consists of a simulated shooting range with screens out front. Upon those screens are various targets and shooting drills, all fired with guns that have been adapted to simulate recoil and noise from an actual live-fire drill. While the recoil is not exactly like shooting live ammo, it does give the shooter some of the feel of live fire. This range simulates various distances, and also times and scores the shooter on the range session, recording an image of every round fired as a bullet hole on the target.

Next we went into the SIM 180 range, where three screens run from floor to ceiling, covering 180 degrees in front of the shooter. Here we shot pepper poppers, along with other real-life simulations, with some targets simulating real threats, and others being no-shoot targets. After that, we went into the SIM 300, which is very much like the SIM 180, but with 300 degrees of targets. In here, the scenes are as real as they can get, with the scene running continuously from one screen to the other. The images are real videos, using actors to simulate threats. One situation was a parking garage, another was a hallway with several doors. Other scenarios are outdoors, such as coming home at night and surprising someone at your back door. The shooter is under pressure to know when and when not to shoot. The shooter has to determine if the person is holding a gun, knife, or something else, such as a telephone. A woman could open a door, look innocent, and then draw a weapon and fire. Women are sneaky that way. A man might run at you with a knife in hand. Is that person on the screen about to shoot the clerk, or just buying a lottery ticket? You have to decide, and react quickly. Even if someone is armed, do you shoot, or run away? In one scene a woman appears in a doorway and pulls a gun. In another, she is holding a baby. Regardless of how an FBI sniper might handle the situation, most reasonable folks do not shoot a woman holding a baby, and most of us would go to prison for the rest of our lives, instead of being promoted as was Lon Horiuchi for his murder at Ruby Ridge.

We each got to spend some time in the simulator, as our friends, colleagues, and instructors watched our performance. In one situation, I was in a parking garage, and was confronted by three young men, each approaching from three different directions. I was surrounded, and they were closing in. I shot them. Turns out they were unarmed, and it might have been hard for my lawyers to convince twelve people who were not clever enough to get out of jury duty that I was in grave danger, and fired to protect my life, had this been a real-life situation. The men were not armed, but could have still done me a lot of harm, but convincing a jury of that is not a sure thing. Maybe I should have turned and ran. In another case, I was covering a man who was coming at me, and his comrade shot me in the back. Each of these situations makes the shooter think, and to think fast.

The best part of the Gander Mountain Academy, in my opinion, is the simulator, and the price is quite reasonable, especially considering the cost of the equipment, the facility, and the instructor. At the Lake Mary location, as of the date of this writing, the cost is $35 US per half hour in the 180, or $45 US per half hour in the 300. For this, you get to do a lot of shooting, practicing on pepper poppers, or to go through various scenarios of a street fight. You do not have to buy any ammo, and there is no brass to pick up when you are finished. The instructors have the ability to change up the scenarios, and to add stress to the situation with sounds of barking dogs, sirens, approaching helicopters, etc. If I lived close to Lake Mary or any of the other Gander Mountain Academy locations, I would be there as often as I could. It is very good, very realistic training, at a cost that most folks can easily afford. I took a few pictures, but for more detail, watch the videos in the Simulator section of the Gander Mountain Academy website for a closer look at the realism of the simulators.

The Gander Mountain Academy is a great shooting facility, and you can shoot at your leisure on the live range, get personalized instruction, or try your skills and test your street-smarts in the simulator. It is a great place to shoot, and a great place to hone your skills. The instructors are there to help you, whether you have been shooting for many years, or have never pulled a trigger.

Check out the Gander Mountain Academy online at for locations and hours of operation.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.




Jeff with Desert Eagle 44 Magnum pistol.



Monica Arnold of Blue August shooting in the Virtual Range.





Jeff with the FMK 9mm pistol.



Ed Friedman of NRA Publications in the Virtual range.



Jay White of Gander Mountain Academy instructing on the SIM 180.