I’m happy to report that my time at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute was an absolute blast! I joined as a Diamond Member, entitling me to attend unlimited classes for free. Signing up for both the 4-day Practical Rifle and 4-day Defensive Handgun courses back-to-back ensured that I got my money’s worth as quickly as possible. I attended both courses with my brother. We stayed in a cheap Las Vegas hotel and drove around one hour each way to our classes. The few notes and pictures I took were combined with my experiences and are as follows…
We attended Front Sight’s 4-day Practical Rifle course first. Front Sight began with sign-in and weapon inspection at 7:30 AM on day one. My brother and I arrived very early and ready to learn. The bathroom facilities were centrally-located and very clean. There was coffee, water, and literature for everyone attending. The attendance was in the hundreds. We were both very surprised to see such large crowds. The majority of attendees were there for handgun classes, roughly 75%. The classes were about 70% male. I must admit it was strange seeing so many people openly carrying handguns in one place, but there is never a feeling of danger or fear. The people I met on the first day were genuine, interesting, and friendly. At 8:00 AM, a series of lectures begins. The first lecture covered the purpose of Front Sight- “to positively change the image of gun ownership in our lifetimes by training responsible Americans to levels of firearms expertise that exceed law enforcement and military standards.” I must admit, I was sold on the purpose alone. I really admired how founder Dr. Ignatius Piazza saw the issue of gun ownership as a human right to self-defense, as opposed to the commonly used “sporting purpose”, or “hunting purpose” justification. Suffice it to say that I agree with this concept wholeheartedly, and I respected his philosophy.
We didn’t make it to the range until 9:00 AM. Most of the class was shooting AR-based rifles, with about 5% bolt-action rifles and 10% other than ARs (there were three SCARs, and a few Steyr AUG/MSARs). In all, there were about 40 of us. At this point, I was ready to put some lead downrange. Unfortunately, safety comes first. We were first introduced to our instructors. They were experienced, talented, and professional. Then began a long and tedious lecture on the four rules of firearm safety, weapon components, correct nomenclature, correct weapon manipulation, muzzle discipline, etc. We did not break for lunch until noon but it felt like I’d already been there for a week. There were lunch lectures and then we got back on the range at 1:30 PM. We got a small amount of trigger time before the day concluded with a lecture on the moral and ethical decisions associated with the use of deadly force. That lecture was when I realized the majority of people in our particular course week were attending for CCW (carrying a concealed weapon)-related instruction. By the end of day one, my notes mostly detailed the efficacy and correct use of dry practice. Front Sight’s hidden instruction gem is their advocacy of dry-practice. They do not use the term dry fire, as you cannot “fire” a “dry” weapon- it is an oxymoron. Dry practice allows the course to develop progressively faster, as the slower students have a means to catch up on their own time.
By day two, my opinion of the course had changed drastically. We started on the range at 8:00 AM and continued uninterrupted until lunch. The second day moves much faster, and begins to put the whole curriculum into perspective. It must move slow in the beginning so that any safety concerns can be corrected early, thus allowing the course to progress faster as it moves along. A few of the rifle instructors were also military combat veterans, and I absorbed their sage advice every time they offered it. The instructors were good at relaying the most crucial aspects of the course material, combining it with experience, theory, and practicality- and instructing us in a way to foster learning. I heard more than one instructor scream, “this is your gunfight, guys; however you choose to fight it is up to you.” I relished in this type of instruction. It allowed me to retain the fundamental shooting principles that I have tested and use, and combine them with proven marksmanship techniques and methods that the course offers. They instructed us on clearing malfunctions, and we did exercises in teams practicing the drills. I think we even zeroed our rifles on day two (they tend to blend together after 8-straight days in the desert), the course materials advocating a 50-yard point of aim, point of impact (theoretically giving students the ability to aim at the center of the thoracic cavity from 0 to 200 yards, and have a point of impact within 2.5 inches of point of aim). There was a short lecture, but in all, we were on the range for over 7 hours on day two. I was exhausted by the end of the day.
Day three began in the classroom, albeit for a short lecture on tactical movement. Then we headed out to an open range to practice clearing doors and hallways using fake weapons. I spent the rest of the day on the range (I skipped a supplemental lecture on selecting weapons and choosing modifications). We did a live fire exercise in which we had to employ the techniques we had been learning since day one. It consisted of a series of steel and paper targets randomly positioned throughout a roughly 100 yard long dry creek bed. The instructors do not tell you how to manage the course; I was told to load my weapon, then promptly given the “go” command. I must admit that I’ve always had the “rise to the occasion,” belief in my ability; I’ve always assumed that when the shit actually hits the fan, I’ll magically transform into the greatest gunfighter since Doc Holliday (Front Sight calls this being unconsciously ignorant). What I experienced was a lesson in every Front Sight rule I’d received since day one. I ran faster than I’ve ever ran in my life. I felt an adrenaline rush like I have not had since I was much younger. I was experiencing tunnel vision, memory loss, and fatigue- almost immediately. Fortunately the fundamentals they had been instilling in me also remained. I made good hits, and every time I had cover, I did a tactical reload. This covered the two fundamental goals of any gunfighter: make hits and keep your gun running! Unfortunately, I did not adhere to all the fundamental principles. In that particular scenario, there is no time constraint and you can bring unlimited ammo. The two things a gunfighter never has enough of are time and ammunition- I should have realized that I had plenty of both and adjusted accordingly.
Day four was another all-range activity day, followed by a skills test. By this time, we had covered every basic technique and tactic relevant to fighting with a rifle. The amount of improvement over the course was staggering. I felt confident, improving what Front Sight deemed my “skill at arms”. On the last day we basically shot our skills test, both live and dry. I don’t want to comment on the specific marksmanship techniques they preach, only because I do not want to give away their material. Let’s just say they are universal and fundamental, and this course would benefit shooters from every skill level and ability. That being said, I did not shoot well on my last day. I did not feel my results were indicative of what I had learned, and I did not take them to be. Front Sight has a graduation system based on different levels of marksmanship status. They denote their best students as “Distinguished Graduates”, their next level as “Graduates” and the standard as “Achievement”. Their system is based on accuracy under time pressure, and the test appears to be loosely based on the test to achieve Combat Master status. My brother and I both received “Achievement” status. After the skills test, we did a man vs. man steel shoot challenge. The challenge is truly awesome and a great way to finish the course. It consists of a steel hostage with hostage taker attached, and two steel targets staggered behind. The object is to shoot the hostage taker, then shoot the other targets in order. It was done in teams of three, with each three man team facing another team in single elimination tournament-style fashion. My brother and I paired with the only remaining bolt action shooter. He was very nice and a very good marksman. Our team won the whole challenge and had a great time. I was grinning from ear to ear. We finished the day with a tactical unload- the entire class lined up on one firing line and we dumped every magazine we had downrange. It was the perfect finish to an already outstanding course!
The wealth of information, and most importantly, the quality of instruction, cannot be beat. The instructors truly make the course. They are honest, candid, professional, experienced, and above all, helpful. They are strict only when it comes to safety (the most important factor). Looking back, I am absolutely satisfied with Front Sight. The facilities are top-notch. The attendees are some of the coolest people you will ever meet. I will attend again when time allows. That being said, having taken a 4-day Practical Rifle Course, I am now eligible for a 2-day Rifle Skill Builder. I will definitely be taking this course, as it will be more appropriate.