Having a world-class training facility in your neck of the woods is convenient and makes access to quality training easy. I grew up in New England, near the SIG Sauer Academy. I have trained at the SIG facility more than 20 times over 4 to 5 years and always make the training experience a miniature vacation. Like any vacation, you must consider your means of travel (car, aircraft, boat, train, etc.), accommodations, and places to eat. I've fielded many questions over the years about the SIG Academy and what the training experience is like there. Recently, I traveled back to the Granite State to highlight some traveler tips. Should you decide to visit the SIG Sauer Academy, or travel anywhere for your training, these tips can be applied to any trip to ensure you get the most out of your experience.
The Morning Of
Some will never understand the value of training. They may criticize you for traveling many more hours by car or jet than you spend on the range or in the classroom. They fail to recognize the value of knowledge transfer and the time spent sharing ideas and installing new software to improve your capability. When I trained at SIG Academy, I would leave my house around 5:30 am, drive 3 hours, train for 8, and if the course was a single day, drive home another 3 hours. I repeated this process many times and looked forward to the morning of the first day. For multi-day courses, I stayed locally but always found myself up early in eager anticipation of the day's training. Early arrival is always a good idea on the first day of training. There is an expression, "If you are on time, you are late." Getting to your event location early allows you to get an extra cup of coffee, decompress from your drive or flight, and get your head in the right mindset to train. Also, getting in early lets you sort your kit in the parking lot of the pro shop, go in and use the restroom, and see the updates to where you will train and who will be your assigned instructor. I don't recommend eating a heavy breakfast or one that will likely cause feelings of discomfort before you train.
The Academy Provides
From the moment you walk into the SIG Sauer Pro Shop for registration, you get a sense the folks checking you in behind the counter have done this a few times. The academy welcomes thousands of students annually, evident by the welcoming atmosphere and seamless operation. The students receive directions to their classroom and lunch menus should they choose not to leave the academy or pack their food from home. Attending a class at the SIG Academy is more than just putting rounds on paper and steel; it is an immersive experience. Not only does the academy have incredible ranges offering indoor and outdoor shooting options, but there is also a long-range rifle deck, a 270-degree range, plenty of bays with steel racks, and much more on the campus. The SIG Experience Center is home to a museum and plenty of interactive, hands-on walk-in activities. On lunch breaks and before and after your class, you can visit the pro shop, filled with all the necessary equipment to take any of their classes. The staff are all quick to offer help and usually have the knowledge and equipment to set you straight on a path toward success. If you want to try before you buy, or if you cannot or aren't comfortable traveling with your firearms, you can rent a pistol or carbine for your course.
Students usually receive an hour to grab lunch while attending all-day courses. If requested at sign-in, the food ordered in the morning will be waiting outside the classroom. If nothing on the menu tickles your fancy, you can make the less than 10-minute drive to Goody Coles for the best barbecue in the area. The food takes little time to dish out, so you can eat there or take it back and eat in the classroom with your fellow students. Warning: the barbecue at Goody Coles is finger-licking good, and if you take my advice quite literally, you should absolutely wash your hands before you eat. Anytime you handle lead products like ammo, you should always wash your hands with cold water to keep your pores closed and remove this toxic substance. If you go to Goody Coles, I don't recommend consuming everything you are served, especially if you plan on sitting behind your precision-scoped rifle on the rifle deck in warm weather afterward. You might find yourself comfortably fed and ready for a nap. There are other options for food close to the SIG Academy if you take a left out of the main entrance and head north on Exeter Road. You'll find plenty of fast food, gas stations for snacks, and a grocery store for any necessary provisions. There are also convenient options for bug spray or sunblock for the spring and summer months in the same area.
The lodging options near the SIG Sauer Academy offer varied pricing, comfort, proximity, and amenities. You can travel to nearby Portsmouth and find the basic rooms expected from local chain hotels, or you can stay about 15 minutes away in Exeter, which is a better option, in my opinion. The Exeter Inn has all the charm you would expect from a New England hotel. The Exeter Inn exudes the feeling of comfort. The staff always welcome you with coffee/tea and homemade cookies. Many times, the front desk is quick to offer drink tokens for a nightcap. Should you choose to enjoy a beverage, consider drinking conservatively to ensure mental clarity the morning after. Remember, if you are in a condition where you shouldn't operate heavy machinery, you probably shouldn't be training with firearms. Each room at the Exeter Inn is uniquely configured based on the internal dimensions of the room and lit like a proper gentleman's study. The beds are soft, the rooms feel like you're staying in a friend's house's guest room, and you'll easily be able to control the climate to your liking. The Inn is overall quiet, comfortable, and feels like home. The showers are generously sized, can blast away the range grime and the beds are comfortable when you're ready to turn in for the night. Just downstairs at the Epoch restaurant and bar, you can enjoy a great meal or a nightcap and casual conversation with other guests. If you're looking for something to take your mind off of the training you had that day, you can hook a right and walk a short distance to downtown Exeter. You'll pass the Exeter Academy along the way and find plenty of small shops and restaurants to pop in and out of. While you can stay at other places, Exeter Inn has my stamp of approval. If you want the best rest possible with everything you need between days of instruction, you'll get it there.
Rinse and Repeat
One of the benefits of staying locally is efficient use of time. The day before, you may have had to wake much earlier to do the drive and arrive on time. With less than a half-hour commute, you can enjoy a slow start with your morning brew, a good shower, breakfast, and an easy, relaxing drive back to training. Additionally, the more rest you get, the better the chances are you will absorb and process what you learned and attack the second training day with far more energy than the first. It is up to you to decide what to do when the training is all over. You can leave the same day, or stay an additional night in the area. I won't tell you what to do, but my rationale was always to make it home the same day and use the money I would have spent on an additional night toward ammunition I could use the next time I go to the range, reinforcing the skills I learned at SIG. When you get home, you can start planning the next trip back to the academy for a skill builder that freshens up what you learned in a shorter format or a different course with another firearm platform. When you take the time to plan and make your training a total experience, you'll find it more rewarding, relaxing, and fun, and you will be more likely to find traveling for training to be a viable option more often.