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!