I took the SAAM Safari Course in December 2019 and the SAAM Advanced Course in May 2020. Both courses far surpassed anything I was expecting, but the thing that struck me most during both classes was the unparalleled professionalism of the entire staff.

What does that mean? Safety – Safety is always the most important and religiously followed rule during your entire stay at FTW Ranch. The staff at SAAM has a unique ability to practice and demand absolute respect for firearms and firearm safety in a way that is not condescending or imperious, but rather in a way that acknowledges you can practice gun safety and have fun while doing so.

Experience – At SAAM, the quality and depth of instruction is unequalled anywhere else. In terms of knowledge and experience, the difference between the instructors and the vast majority of the students could be likened to the difference between Mikael Baryshnikov and the students in a first-grade ballet class.

In such a scenario, one might reasonably expect the chasm between instructor and student would be so wide as to intimidate even the most stout-hearted participant. However, the SAAM instructors (“Baryshnikovs”?) are more than happy to leave all pretense at the gate while drawing on their superior skills and passion for shooting to encourage, enlighten, and enhance the shooting abilities of every student in the class. It doesn’t matter whether you are a new-to-the-sport mother of three or a 25-year veteran of white tail hunting, these guys know instinctively how to coax the best out of each shooter. And they do it in such a way that every shooter not only enjoys the experience but develops a strong sense of confidence in themselves. Learning – There is no question that the SAAM courses are designed to teach even a relatively new shooter how to properly set up for that once in a lifetime shot.

Those same courses also enable a more experienced shooter to supplement and expand their previously existing knowledge to bring them to the next level of shooting proficiency. That next level may come from a better understanding of the effect of wind on a bullet as it flies to its target, learning to incorporate a more stable shooting position, or realizing the point beyond which the shooter can no longer be sure of the outcome of their shot. Patience – At SAAM, it appears to me that perhaps the second-most important element of instruction (after safety) for students and instructors alike, is patience. Students realize quickly that mistakes and repetition are key to the learning experience and not a basis for ridicule. The instructors also know this, and in fact, they incorporate room for both into each day’s events, and their patience helps every student, regardless of experience, to feel comfortable and spend more time learning and less time worrying about what may happen if they need more time to grasp a concept or don’t hit the center “X” on the first shot. Meanwhile, the instructors still find a way to take the time necessary to help every student “get it,” while at the same time making sure the class meets its daily goals.

Of course, few if any students will be able to incorporate what they’ve learned into flawless performance the first rattle out of the box, and most will have to go through various exercises several (or if you’re like me, numerous) times before they get things right. Yet, despite the innumerable instances of mistaken direction, improper form, or dropped ammo on the range, I never once heard anything remotely resembling a complaint or tone of frustration from the instructors. Because of all of the above, during both of my visits to SAAM I noticed I was able to leave “the world” behind, focus on improving my shooting skills and knowledge, and have a really great time. It couldn’t happen without the SAAM team of instructors and support staff, and I heartily encourage anyone who wants to be a better shooter/hunter/gun enthusiast to take advantage of what the FTW Ranch and SAAM have to offer!

Phil McKinney May 2020