On a whim I applied for a Jeff Cooper Legacy Foundation scholarship in the fall of 2019 never thinking I would receive it. After submitting my application on line, about a week or so later I received a letter stating that I was the recipient. Not sure what to do and not being very informed on what exactly Gunsite was, I called a friend of mine who I had been training with and instructing for, for many years, John Farnam (Gunsite Student). He said do it! I know enough about John that when he says to do something, you should probably do it. With my wife’s blessing I decided to attend the 250 the week before the 2019 GAS and it was life changing for me.
I instantly took an extreme liking to the instructor’s, culture, method of instruction and physical location of Gunsite. I had been training on my own and with my police organization for many years but I have, and always keep an open mind when it comes to firearms training. I learned a tremendous amount that week from RM John Hall, Joe Avila, Amy Grant and Ken Tuttle. When I participated in GAS that Saturday I met Matt Olivier, Rob Leahy, Isaac Hanson and Andy Rowe and shot with all day and we all became instant friends to this day.
Upon returning to my home state of New Jersey I planned to return ASAP to Gunsite. In September of 2020 I retired from the New Jersey State Police after 26 years . My last day was on a Tuesday and that Friday I was in my truck driving out to Gunsite for a 350, GAS and 499. It was during those two weeks that I started thinking about what it took to be an instructor at Gunsite. My learning continued and my fondness for the place grew.
Shortly after my 3 day ride returning to NJ, I was again planning my return to Gunsite. I took a position with my local Sheriff’s Office and returned the following summer to Phoenix for the National Sheriff’s Conference and thought why don’t I take another course at Gunsite while I’m out there. So, in June of 2021 I participated in a 556 class and again, learned a tremendous amount due to the excellent instruction of Joe Knapp and Matt Ostrander. It was then that I spoke with several instructors about becoming a provost instructor.
During 2022 I travelled to Gunsite multiple times to satisfy the required course of instruction necessary to become an instructor and had the absolute pleasure of working with RM’s Freddie Blish, Dave Hartman and Jeff Dooley among other outstanding men. My last week as provost was right before GAS. Myself and Provost Instructor Matt Eagleston were both made instructors at the same time. This undoubtedly, marked one of the most notable accomplishments I have ever had the pleasure of obtaining. It required a considerable financial obligation in travel, an extraordinary effort and a tremendous investment of time. The three things that made it possible for me to accomplish this goal was God, family and my passion for teaching good people to defend themselves against evil.
And that’s my story! – Matthew Avenatti (Scholarship recipient)