I have one word for the 4-day defensive handgun class at Front Sight firearms training institute that I took last weekend - WOW! All the gushing praise you may have heard about this facility are correct. Whether you (think you) are an experienced gun handler or whether you are just starting out like me, you will learn a ton of skills and critical information. The goal is to become comfortable with your weapon of choice and have the ability to use it safely and precisely if you ever need to. They advertise that "you will be able to safely and easily draw your weapon from a CONCEALED holster and fire two,sighted shots to the center of a target 5 yards away - all under 1.5 seconds" And it's true.
Students who thought they knew what they were doing before the class invariably commented on how they learned that they really didn’t know jack. They were full of bad habits, misinformation, and safety issues until these 4 days corrected and vastly improved their skills.
The staff is extremely experienced and extremely consistent among their abilities and teaching skills. Each has spent decades in law enforcement, military, and/or firearms training. In the case of my range master, his credentials included bounty hunting. Each is friendly, fun, and there to teach. The only dumb question is the one that goes unasked. No drill-instructor mentality, unless there’s a safety violation. And they all know what the 2nd amendment is really about.
Registering for a class is as easy as looking at their schedule and filling out a form. They do a background check to make sure you aren’t one of the bad guys, and you’ll eventually get confirmation. An email points you to a webpage with everything you need to know to get ready for the class – what to bring, clothes to wear, equipment you need (rentals available), how much ammo, hotel suggestions, lunch ideas, travel tips…
Sign up for their free email newsletter and you will not only get great tips extracted from the class, but you’ll also be pummeled with membership offers. FrontSight has different levels of membership that allow you to pay once and take as many classes as you want from a certain category. They claim that 10% of their student body has a membership. In some cases the memberships are no more expensive than a single class.
Other offers let you pay for one of their classes and get a free gun. The handgun they have offered in the past has been a Springfield XD. People on my range who took advantage of this offer were a little disappointed with the gun, and universally down on the holster that came with it – a binding, poorly angled gizmo that interfered with their abilities to present their gun during a timed exercise.
Most of the time at FrontSight is spent on the range. There are up to 40 students with 2 instructors and 1 range master per range. Since there are only 20 targets, you are paired off with a partner who becomes your coach (very valuable) as you alternate positions during the exercises. Range activities are outdoors, so you’ll get the full heat or cold of the desert depending on the season.
The drills start with how to efficiently and safely check that your weapon is unloaded. They progress through loading, grip, aiming, firing, malfunctions, presenting from the holster (drawing), and tactics. Once you think you’ve got the hang of something they throw in an impediment – timed targets that flip around in about 1.5 seconds, 15 meter distance, a disabled attacker who gets back up, or even a pretend hostage covering most of the target. Half of the drills are done dry - without ammunition. Practicing deliberately, without ammo is the most efficient way to engrain the good habits into muscle memory.
You get to learn the basics of clearing a house of intruders – how to approach doors and corners, and then try your luck in a pretend house that has stationary targets of wives, children, hostage takers, and masked uzi handlers. On the third day most people stay for the night shoot – learning how to accurately fire a gun while holding a flashlight, searching for bad guys in the dark, and loading/unloading your weapon in pitch black. Handy skills since most altercations happen in low/no light. How many of you experienced handgun owners feel comfortable doing these things?
On the last day there’s a man-to-man competition where you are paired up against other students in a single-elimination tournament. You have to shoot a hostage taker in the head at close range followed by 2 bad guys 15 meters away. First one to disable all three targets wins the heat, unless they hit the hostage. Losers have to reset the targets. Very fun (I made it to the semi-finals)!
It’s an exhausting time on the range. Luckily there are times when you get to sit down and relax inside. They have lectures on the mission of FrontSight; stages of mental awareness; legal, moral, and ethical issues of shooting another person (extremely complex and critical subject matter); nighttime and house-clearing tactics; and the pros and cons of selecting different weapons.
I was surprised that the night tactics lecture spent about 10-15 minutes just on flashlights. Who would have guessed there would be so many design considerations, grip methods, brightness and focus issues, and ways to handle when they should be off!
With all the experience the instructors have, there is no shortage of tragic or heroic stories that demonstrate why everybody needs to know how to defend themselves.
Class – varies depending on your deal. Retail for the 4-day defensive handgun class is $2000. You should be able to find a better deal.
Equipment Rental - $100 glock, belt & holster, 3 magazines, eyes, ears. You are encouraged to bring your own!
Ammunition - $225 800 rounds 9mm (although we only used 600)
Hotel - $280, 5 nights + breakfasts and lunches (!!) – special Front Sight deal at the SaddleWest hotel in Pahrump
Gas / Food - varies. Be warned- Pahrump has almost no decent food, and there is no food at all at the Front Sight resort.