Review: Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course

Gentlemen (and some of you ladies), prepare to drool. I’m still drooling.

Last night I returned from a four day defensive handgun training course at the Front Sight Training Institute near Pahrump, Nevada (read: the boonies of the Nevada desert). I’ve been waiting for this weekend for a few months now, and it was worth every penny (stay tuned for how you can attend a course with fewer pennies than you might think!).

The following is a review of my experience and some of my thoughts on Front Sight’s training in general.

Front Sight offers a variety of courses, such as handgun, shotgun, rifle, hand combat, etc. Each of these categories has a few varied offerings, such as a two day versus a four day course, or varied skill levels. The handgun course is a common one for people who are new to Front Sight or shooting schools in general. There were roughly 150 people in attendance at Front Sight during the four days I was there, and about 25 people assigned to the handgun range I was on (accompanied by one range master and four instructors).

Each range features a motor-powered array of swivel targets as shown above, which allows the instructor to rotate the targets back and forth simulating whether or not you are presented with an aggressive attacker. Front Sight uses a variety of different paper targets (the ones pictured above being the most common) for different scenarios.

The range master for my course was Craig Bishop (who coincidentally lives in Southern Utah), shown above. This was kind of fun since I had seen an interview with Mr. Bishop in a mini documentary about Front Sight before I arrived (warning: the documentary seems to show some ads at times with objectionable material; quickly press the “skip ad” button when it appears at the top left of the video).

Front Sight uses a buddy system type of training, where you are paired up with another student. This means that half of the students are firing and training at any given time, while the other half (their “coaches”), are standing behind them (as seen in the above photo) watching for any safety issues, and coaching them on anything they might need to improve. With four Front Sight line instructors and a range master moving around throughout the drills to offer additional personal instruction and counsel, this means that your opportunity for personal instruction is greatly maximized.

You’ll notice the taped target in this photo. The targets are placed with a foam backing for support so that a single target can be used for much longer. After a few volleys of fired shots, you mark your targets with masking tape to both cover up the holes (so your partner knows which holes are his when it’s his turn to shoot), and see an overall pattern in your firing after the same target has been used for several rounds of firing.

In this photo, we’re at the three yard line—close combat. Since most home defense situations occur in tight spaces (hallways, bedrooms, etc.), they train you a lot around the three and five yard lines. However, you also spend a lot of time at seven, ten, and even fifteen yards as you enhance your technique, perfect your grip, and can effectively and accurately shoot a “controlled pair” (two rapid-fire shots) to the thoracic cavity (the recommended deterrent).

Front Sight students usually stay in Pahrump at a hotel during their course, which is about a thirty minute drive. Some will even head the other way to Vegas for the night (about an hour drive). I ended up going the frugal route and camped out just outside the Front Sight facility (they have that area leveled for that purpose, whether using tents or RVs). It was very cold during my stay, with nights hovering around freezing temperatures, and the highs in the low 50s. I saved money, yes, but the sleep I got reminded me all too well of my scouting days.

If you go to Front Sight, I highly recommend camping outside for a few reasons. First, you’ll save a significant amount of money. Second, the last thing you want to do after a long, exhausting day on the range is to drive somewhere. Third, you maximize the amount of free time you have by only having to drive about thirty seconds to your tent. Camping is much more common during warmer weekends; there was one other tent on the lot besides mine. People thought I was crazy.

This is a picture of some of Front Sight’s rope and rappelling setup for some of their courses. Looked fun, so I took a picture.

This is what the Front Sight team affectionately refers to as “Monsters, Inc”. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember all the doors. These doors are used for practicing clearing rooms, hallways, etc. and doing a tactical search for boogie men in your house. “Red guns” (injection-molded solid pieces of plastic in the shape of a gun) are used for the practice weapon. This was a lot of fun!

Speaking of fun, the highlight of the trip was the home simulation. Throughout this structure there were stands with printouts of bad guys, innocent babysitters, and people being held hostage. With a Front Sight instructor trailing closely behind you, you work your way through the home doing a tactical search room by room to find and eliminate the threats, and practice your ability to discern between threats and non-threats in a stressful scenario. And yes, this is a live drill using your gun and ammo. It was awesome. The only downside is that time only allows for one opportunity at it. Perhaps I’ll set up my own at home…

I had an internal struggle with myself this weekend in trying to figure out which part of the course I enjoyed more—the range drills and tactical instruction, or the lectures. During meal times and at a few other opportunities, Front Sight offers a variety of lectures on important, gun/defense-related topics (e.g. Criminal and Civil Liability, the Code of Mental Awareness and Combat Mindset, Tactical Movement, How to Choose a Defensive Handgun, Five Levels of Competence, Moral and Ethical Decisions Associated with the Use of Deadly Force). These (and the others not listed) were very, very informative lectures, exposing me to new ideas and scenarios I had never thought of before. The lectures alone were an important and enjoyable part of the experience.

This is a view of a few of the handgun ranges. The lecture hall is on the left.

And what trip to Nevada would be complete without a quick (well, thirty minute drive thru) stop at In-n-Out?

Finally, a few words about the experience overall. If you own a gun, if you carry a gun, if you enjoy shooting guns, and if you are at all serious in any way about using a gun to protect yourself or your loved ones, you need to attend a Front Sight course. Before this weekend I considered myself fairly competent and comfortable with my handgun, and felt prepared to use it in my defense if it were necessary. Only one day into the course, I was stunned at how ill-equipped I truly would have been had I needed to use it for defense purposes.

Go to Front Sight, and you will be humbled—not by the instructors (who were all very kind, informative, and helpful; this isn’t Boot Camp), but by what you thought you knew, and didn’t. Unless you have some specific experience with expert handgun defense training, it’s safe to say that you are unprepared to effectively and properly use your weapon for proper defense. Front Sight will fix that. After I completed the course this weekend, I came away with a long checklist of things I need to work on to improve and perfect my technique. But having the technique and understanding all the attending issues and implications are key to being able to properly use the handgun in the first place. It was well worth the money.

My reaction is not an uncommon one—the others I spoke with likewise felt that looking back just a few days ago, they would have been totally unprepared to use their gun in their defense. These were mostly people who had concealed permits and had been actively carrying their handgun, ready for use. If you’re at all serious about using your handgun, please consider attending one of these courses! I’m still on an adrenaline rush, and my hands are nice and tenderized from putting so many rounds through my XD.

Tomorrow, it’s time to start the dry practice!

47 thoughts on “Review: Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course”

  1. For our women readers: you might be interested to know that about 1/4 to 1/3 of the students were women. There were a lot of husband/wife pairs, a few “grandma”-age women, and some younger girls (daughters tagging along with a parent). This is by no means a male-only venture.

  2. For our women readers: you might be interested to know that about 1/4 to 1/3 of the students were women. There were a lot of husband/wife pairs, a few “grandma”-age women, and some younger girls (daughters tagging along with a parent). This is by no means a male-only venture.

  3. Awesome review Connor. As I told you, I was hoping your review would be luke-warm, but figured it wouldn’t be. Makes me so jealous, but I’m really glad things went well.

    I’m hoping to make it down this summer—need to rotate my ammo storage.

  4. Awesome review Connor. As I told you, I was hoping your review would be luke-warm, but figured it wouldn’t be. Makes me so jealous, but I’m really glad things went well.

    I’m hoping to make it down this summer—need to rotate my ammo storage.

  5. I *need* to go to Front Sight. I did a one day course with Mike Dalton quite some time ago and came away with the feelings you described. I was much improved, but only continued training can help you keep it up. We need to get a Utah Prepper meet up at Front Sight going. Who’s with me?

  6. I *need* to go to Front Sight. I did a one day course with Mike Dalton quite some time ago and came away with the feelings you described. I was much improved, but only continued training can help you keep it up. We need to get a Utah Prepper meet up at Front Sight going. Who’s with me?

  7. I’m SOOOO jealous! Would love to go–I’ve got a cert for a 4 day course sitting here at the house but have had a few kinks to work out to actually be able to use it. The camping is a great idea as one of my concerns was the cost of hotel/gas/food/ammo all together amounting to a lot of money for us poor folks! What kind of facilities did the camping area have? Any place to shower nearby? ;)
    Also hubby didn’t want me going down alone and if he goes also what do we do with the kids (no grandma nearby to take them for 4 days)? So a Prepper trip down and carpool might help solve some of those problems as well . . .
    Anyway, glad you were able to go and have such a fantastic experience!

  8. I’m SOOOO jealous! Would love to go–I’ve got a cert for a 4 day course sitting here at the house but have had a few kinks to work out to actually be able to use it. The camping is a great idea as one of my concerns was the cost of hotel/gas/food/ammo all together amounting to a lot of money for us poor folks! What kind of facilities did the camping area have? Any place to shower nearby? ;)
    Also hubby didn’t want me going down alone and if he goes also what do we do with the kids (no grandma nearby to take them for 4 days)? So a Prepper trip down and carpool might help solve some of those problems as well . . .
    Anyway, glad you were able to go and have such a fantastic experience!

  9. What kind of facilities did the camping area have?

    Dirt. :)

    Any place to shower nearby?

    Negative. It’s definitely “dry camping”, or in other words, camping-where-you-cake-four-days-worth-of-deodorant-on-so-as-not-to-offend-anybody. Maybe that’s why my line coach was standing so far behind me! :)

    Also hubby didn’t want me going down alone and if he goes also what do we do with the kids (no grandma nearby to take them for 4 days)?

    You’d have to arrange for a babysitter. There’s nothing within 30 minutes of driving distance, and even at that, it’s just casinos, restaurants, and gas stations. Pretty boring for people who aren’t actively participating in something like the training course.

  10. What kind of facilities did the camping area have?

    Dirt. :)

    Any place to shower nearby?

    Negative. It’s definitely “dry camping”, or in other words, camping-where-you-cake-four-days-worth-of-deodorant-on-so-as-not-to-offend-anybody. Maybe that’s why my line coach was standing so far behind me! :)

    Also hubby didn’t want me going down alone and if he goes also what do we do with the kids (no grandma nearby to take them for 4 days)?

    You’d have to arrange for a babysitter. There’s nothing within 30 minutes of driving distance, and even at that, it’s just casinos, restaurants, and gas stations. Pretty boring for people who aren’t actively participating in something like the training course.

  11. Oh, I forgot to mention that there is also a $50 background check fee. I’m not sure if you can convinced them to forgo this if you already have your concealed permit (meaning that you’ve already been checked). It’d be worth asking to save the money, though. I would have, but forgot.

  12. Oh, I forgot to mention that there is also a $50 background check fee. I’m not sure if you can convinced them to forgo this if you already have your concealed permit (meaning that you’ve already been checked). It’d be worth asking to save the money, though. I would have, but forgot.

  13. It’s good to know there are other Front Sighters in Utah. I just completed the two-day shotgun course in January. I didn’t know the first thing about guns before Front Sight. Now I feel a confidence in handling my shotgun that I doubt I could have learned anywhere else. I highly recommend Front Sight!

  14. It’s good to know there are other Front Sighters in Utah. I just completed the two-day shotgun course in January. I didn’t know the first thing about guns before Front Sight. Now I feel a confidence in handling my shotgun that I doubt I could have learned anywhere else. I highly recommend Front Sight!

  15. Hi, my boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Front Sight in September for his birthday. I’ve seen that we need a minimum of 2,000 rounds for the 4 day handgun defensive course. Your blog read we need only 800 rounds. How many rounds did you go through? Is there a minimum round requirement to take the course? Thank you.

  16. Hi, my boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Front Sight in September for his birthday. I’ve seen that we need a minimum of 2,000 rounds for the 4 day handgun defensive course. Your blog read we need only 800 rounds. How many rounds did you go through? Is there a minimum round requirement to take the course? Thank you.

  17. I’ve seen that we need a minimum of 2,000 rounds for the 4 day handgun defensive course. Your blog read we need only 800 rounds. How many rounds did you go through?

    The official documentation they give you says 800 rounds for the four day course. You’ll need at least 6-700, so you for sure want to bring the full 800 to be safe.

  18. I’ve seen that we need a minimum of 2,000 rounds for the 4 day handgun defensive course. Your blog read we need only 800 rounds. How many rounds did you go through?

    The official documentation they give you says 800 rounds for the four day course. You’ll need at least 6-700, so you for sure want to bring the full 800 to be safe.

  19. Very nice review and info for the trip. Still have to figure out the traveling thing with a gun, ammo, clothes and accesories. I think camel packs will be a good Idea for the heat of Sept / oct time. Does anyone wear shooting gloves with all the shooting going on the hands must get sore? Is there a place there to leave your Ammo so its not in your car all the time? Just wondering if they have lockers and places to keep your food stuff out of the heat. I require alot of food to maintain for 8hr or more…lol
    Thanks so much for blazing the trail
    Doc832

  20. Very nice review and info for the trip. Still have to figure out the traveling thing with a gun, ammo, clothes and accesories. I think camel packs will be a good Idea for the heat of Sept / oct time. Does anyone wear shooting gloves with all the shooting going on the hands must get sore? Is there a place there to leave your Ammo so its not in your car all the time? Just wondering if they have lockers and places to keep your food stuff out of the heat. I require alot of food to maintain for 8hr or more…lol
    Thanks so much for blazing the trail
    Doc832

  21. Does anyone wear shooting gloves with all the shooting going on the hands must get sore?

    I wore small gloves that would help with the cold weather, but not interfere in my ability to shoot the gun. Yes, my hands were sore by the end, and I had some light bruising. I also developed a small blister because I was using a concealed holster, and in order to get a good grip of the gun while in the holster, I had to jam my thumb down between the holster and gun.

    It would be better to use an OWB holster, of course, but they recommend (and I agree) that you should attend the course with what you’ll be using. So if you conceal carry at all, you want to use your concealed holster to learn how to master your weapon while using the holster you’ll carry each day.

    Is there a place there to leave your Ammo so its not in your car all the time? Just wondering if they have lockers and places to keep your food stuff out of the heat.

    No lockers or anything of the sort. The parking lot is very close to every range, so it’s really not a bother to keep everything in the car. I kept my food and ammo in the car and it wasn’t a problem. Granted, if you go during hot temperatures, then the heat becomes an issue. But no, they don’t have storage anywhere. You’ll either need to store it in your car or carry it on your person.

  22. Does anyone wear shooting gloves with all the shooting going on the hands must get sore?

    I wore small gloves that would help with the cold weather, but not interfere in my ability to shoot the gun. Yes, my hands were sore by the end, and I had some light bruising. I also developed a small blister because I was using a concealed holster, and in order to get a good grip of the gun while in the holster, I had to jam my thumb down between the holster and gun.

    It would be better to use an OWB holster, of course, but they recommend (and I agree) that you should attend the course with what you’ll be using. So if you conceal carry at all, you want to use your concealed holster to learn how to master your weapon while using the holster you’ll carry each day.

    Is there a place there to leave your Ammo so its not in your car all the time? Just wondering if they have lockers and places to keep your food stuff out of the heat.

    No lockers or anything of the sort. The parking lot is very close to every range, so it’s really not a bother to keep everything in the car. I kept my food and ammo in the car and it wasn’t a problem. Granted, if you go during hot temperatures, then the heat becomes an issue. But no, they don’t have storage anywhere. You’ll either need to store it in your car or carry it on your person.

  23. I just got back from a 4 day defensive handgun class. Your review hit the nail on the head. Excellent class! I’m definitely going back! But next time I’m driving, Southwest Airlines lost my guns on the flight home and had to FedEx them to me… grrrr…

    Happy Valley resident here. I wouldn’t mind attending/participating in a Utah “prepper” class, or even a training activity if somebody can set something up.

  24. I just got back from a 4 day defensive handgun class. Your review hit the nail on the head. Excellent class! I’m definitely going back! But next time I’m driving, Southwest Airlines lost my guns on the flight home and had to FedEx them to me… grrrr…

    Happy Valley resident here. I wouldn’t mind attending/participating in a Utah “prepper” class, or even a training activity if somebody can set something up.

  25. I took the four day handgun course. Had never shot before.

    The first 2 days were great — started to get confidence handling a gun safely, shooting skills, etc. But as a middle aged guy with very average reaction times and only fair hand-eye coordination I found the last two days to be a waste of time and money — there was no way I could hit a target from a holster in 1.8 seconds, and the instructors didn't make special provisions for those of us who couldn't keep up with the group.

    I don't recommend the course for new shooters unless you have above average eye-hand coordination (i.e. people good at video games, with martial arts experience, or jobs that require fine motor skills).

    1. I’ve been to Frontsight several times, all for the 4-day hand gun. I can not keep up wither, and was always allowed to go to the end and shoot at my own pace. Ask about that. It made a world of difference for me to have a still target (not turning) and just to be able to work at my own pace.

    2. Great article.  I’ll be referring friends to it.  I just got back from taking the 4 day handgun course and CCW extension 2 days ago.  I had never shot a handgun before this course.  I’m middle-aged also with average reaction time and I did not feel rushed even though I didn’t quite make the maximum time on most of the test items.  I got a lot out of the 3rd and 4th days, mostly on Monsters Inc and the Shoot House as well as handling multiple attackers and getting more familiar with the first 2 day training.  If you stay at the Saddle-West they have a great buffet dinner for about $9 and Tuesday and Saturday it’s half price.

      I would like to correct a couple of items.  The targets do not swivel.  Maybe they are foam backed, but I thought they were just wooden framed.  I recall some white backdrops, but I would think foam would disintigrate after a couple of used targets.  There were great lectures, but some of the ones you listed were optional lunchtime ones and others were mandatory (for first timers) training lectures outside lunchtime. 

      1. The targets do swivel for some of the expert courses but aren’t caused to swivel for the basic 2 and 4 day courses.

  26. Did you have to make reservations to camp on site?
    I am going to Front Sight in March and I would hate to get there and have to sleep in the car.

  27. I recently attended the 4 day school. You can order lunch to be delivered every day during the course online through the front site pro shop web site – good also. See Front Sight web site for link to pro shop. You can rent pistols and all other required gear online through the pro shop if you dont want to go through the hassle of flying with a weapon. You need about 600 rounds of ammo and you can set that up through the front sight pro shop web site online. Even after the 4 day and the 1 day CCL class I had rounds left over which I donated to a nice lady in the pro shop that was goign to take a class (lessened hassle of flying with ammo).

  28. Just did the Dec 6-9 4 Day Defensive Handgun course. Had an absolute blast. It’s nice to know I’m Consciously Competent with a handgun now. Wouldn’t advise sleeping outdoors till the Spring/Summer months. Shot 650-750 rounds, but recovered 300+ from the failure drills on the range. Gonna be going back for the Rifle and Shotgun course’s next year.

  29. An additional note – for anyone who has never picked up a gun, but is interested in learning in a safe, friendly, PROFESSIONAL environment, with effective coursework and thorough training…consider Frontsight’s 2-Day deffensive handgun course.
    My wife, who previously only TOUCHED a gun (20 years back), was able to accurately shoot controlled pairs, headshots, tactical and emergency reload, clear type 1-3 malfunctions, and more after the two day course.  She went from being afraid of guns (yes, I dragged her to the course) to being very interested in improving her skills.  You don’t know how strange it is to see someone who, just the day before was afraid of guns, thumbing 9mm rounds into her magazine while asking questions about properly “presenting from the holster”.

  30. I concur! I recently attended the 4-day defensive class and it was absolutely was incredible! I didn’t mind the 20 minute drive back to Saddle West motel and enjoyed a nice shower rather than camping out but to each his (or her) own on that. The shoot-house was my highlight. I am planning on finding a place to stay for about a month down there so i can take several courses rather than drive 1500 miles back and forth from Idaho. I also have 2 Diamond Memberships for dale if anyone is interested. [email protected].

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