My detailed Front Sight 4 day handgun course review

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    Member Array HiPower9's Avatar
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    My detailed Front Sight 4 day handgun course review

    This is a detailed review of the four day defensive handgun course I recently attended at Front Sight Firearms Institute outside of Pahrump, Nevada.

    I purchased a 4 day course certificate during one of the promotional discount periods that Front Sight offers a few times a year for $89.00. Last I checked, the retail price of the course was somewhere around $2000, but I find it hard to believe that anyone should or would pay full price with all of the deals they offer. Yes, they do flood your inbox with ads, but the $89 offer ($69 for the first few days) made it worth putting up with. I was a bit skeptical at first, but after doing some research and reading many great reviews I decided to pull (I mean, press - reset) the trigger. An annual $50 background check is mandatory and must be paid to Front Sight before attending a course.

    There is a lot of negative press regarding the founder, Dr. Piazza, and his business dealings. This revolves around some bad real estate deals he made while opening Front Sight; he planned to build homes, people bought the lots, and they were never built due to cash flow issues. These people sued, won, and are being paid back. The claims about scientology may or may not be true, but I heard no mention of this while at the facility and cannot speak to it. You will be asked to sit through 2 - 3 thirty minute video presentations describing Front Sight's goals and the courses they offer. These presentations are 100% optional and you are not required to sit through them. No hard sales tactics or time-share type "free course" pitches were given, just the videos and talk to the guy in the back if you are interested (several in my class were).

    Front Sight is located about an hour from Las Vegas (where I live). On the first day I left that morning and arrived at about 6:15 for weapons inspection, ammo inspection, and check in. You must bring a properly functioning handgun in a holster that holds the weapon securely and covers the trigger gaurd. Ammo is given the "magnet test" to ensure that there is no steel core that would penetrate steel targets. Steel cased ammo (Tula, Brown Bear, Blazer, etc) is fine as long as it will not attract a magnet. IWB and OWB holsters may both be used, though I was the only one in my class to use an IWB rig. Both revolvers and semi's may be used, though semi's dominate the field; at least 2 (3 is preferred) magazines or speed loaders and pouches are needed. If you are with a group, make sure to say this during check in and you will be directed to a range number. Back inside you will listen to a few presentations on weapons handling and safety, a brief overview of what to expect, and sign a rather lengthy waiver. There is a pro shop on site which sells mags, holsters, belts, ammo, ect. However, expect to pay $50 for a Glock mag and $23.00 for a 50 round box of 9mm.

    On your range you will meet your 30 other class mates and your instructors. I cannot speak for other ranges, but our instructors were INCREDIBLE teachers. Every single one of them was extremely polite, knowledgeable, and had a sense of humor. Before each new drill, you will watch a demonstration of your instructor completing it (with live ammo) with expert precision. Unlike many schools where they never fire a shot, these guys can all be put on the spot to complete each drill you do perfectly. Most had prior military/police experience and nearly all were considered "Combat Masters" within Front Sight's testing procedures; they made this clear with their performance. What made them stand out so much was their down to earth mentality: you wont have drill instructors yelling at you, but showing you calmly what you did wrong and how to improve. At first you are nervous when you hear gravel as they approach, but after a day or so you are appreciative to hear what could make your draw more time efficient. They were all great guys and had us laughing about as much as we were shooting.


    The first day consists mostly of drilling the proper way to holster, unholster, dry practice, the 4 rules of safety, and shooting fundamentals (sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger control). We shot maybe 100 live rounds at Front Sight's own proprietary targets which supposedly represent the average of more than 1000 x-rays of every day people from Dr. Piazza's Chiropractor practice. Two hit zones are designated on the target: the Thoracic Cavity (a half circle from the sternum to the esophagus, out to the nipples), and the Cranial-Ocular Cavity (a rectangle covering the eye brows down to the mustache and out to the ends of the eye lids). Each and every single threat is to be met with a "Controlled-Pair" to the center of the Thoracic Cavity; two shots in this area historically have the greatest chance to take non-drugged opponent out of the fight while minimizes collateral damage.
    Front Sight has no food or lodging amenities, so I decided to order my lunches in advance from a place in Pahrump that delivers out there (info is on the Front Sight page). $12.95 a day gets you a huge freshly made sandwich (15 or so types), a bag of chips, water, potato/macaroni salad, fresh baked cookies, a sliced apple, bag of peanuts, some candy, and a mint. The food impressed me every day and it is definitely worth it. I stayed at the Saddle West hotel in Pahrump which offers a discount for Front Sight students. I paid around $45 a night (week days) for a large, comfy bed and a free breakfast buffet each morning. You have to sign a dry fire practice agreement with the hotel.... lol.


    Day 2 started with a video lecture on Front Sight's intentions and a lecture on the moral and ethical issues surrounding the use of deadly force. Time on the range was spent shooting from the holster, tactical reloads, emergency reloads, and type I/II malfunctions. We shot around 200 live rounds. Shooting is done in 2 "relays" with a buddy system. Your shooting partner is your coach when you are shooting, standing behind you to correct mistakes you made and ensure all safety rules are followed. Once each drill is completed and the range is cold, you go down range and tape your target for your buddy. We also introduced the concept of "Failure to Stop" in the event a controlled pair did not stop our attacker; this is a single well placed shot to the center of the cranial-ocular cavity.


    Day 3 built upon previously developed skills, adding concealment into the mix. We shot around 150 rounds. I was the only person to use both an IWB (KHolster) and a sweat-shirt for concealment. Everyone else in the class chose to use a Serpa or Fobus style OWB holster and conceal with a vest, no doubt in part to our instructor mentioning that this was the fastest method if you wanted to "game" the skills test. Still, this is the way I carry every day, so it was more important for me to get better than anything else. We had a lecture about clearing buildings and how to overcome the "funnels of death" (doorways) before heading out to a range appropriately called Monsters, Inc. The range featured about 30 free standing door frames and doors with a dummy "red" plastic gun for each of us. An instructor showed us the proper way to sweep a door, shoot from corners, and clear a room. Directly after this we went to the "shoot house" where you will move through a simulated house with multiple armed targets to save a hostage. My instructor framed this as my daughter and I was surprised at how real this scenario felt. I wont give away the details in case they dont change things around, but you will be firing live ammo at photo-realistic paper targets in doors. It makes a HUGE difference to shoot at real people rather than grey silhouettes, especially when they are pointing guns at you. Also strange was shooting inside a “house”. If all you have ever done is shot outside or indoor ranges, it really changes your mindset. I had chills as I executed a perfect “hostage rescue” headshot on my daughter's captor. Dont forget your tactical reloads during the lulls in the fight, and dont let your nerves get the best of you. I didn't experience tunnel vision, but you are noticeably “amped” both during and after the simulation. We had another lecture on what to do after a violent encounter (dealing with police, finding a lawyer, etc) and it wasnt the same old “DONT TALK” lecture; there is a lot more to it than that. We finished the day with dry fire, a marksmanship “ragged hole” challenge, and malfunction clearances including type III's. I happened to win the ragged hole drill and had my target cut out to take home. By this point all of my finger tips are raw, some are bleeding, and im looking forward to a cold beer.


    Day 4 took everything we did during the course and rolled it together. Drawing from concealment, controlled pairs to the center of the thoracic cavity, single well placed headshots, tactical reloads, emergency reloads, type I, II, and III malfunctions, after action drills, engaging multiple threats, prioritizing fire, threat assessment, and the fundamentals of marksmanship. Throughout the course time pressure has been added to each drill and ramped up slowly by way of a shot timer. Halfway through the day we had a man-on-man skills competition which consisted of drawing from concealment and engaging 3 steel plate targets, the first of which is a hostage rescue shot on a 4” by 4” plate at 10 yards. The point of the competition was not to find the best shooter, but to see how stress affected us. Being that I was shooting 115gr 9mm target loads, I had to hit the top right corner in order to get the hostage taker plate to flip. The mantra that slow is smooth and smooth is fast really presented it self here. Luckily, I actually went all the way through the competition (single elimination) and ended up winning! It was great fun and I would like to get into IDPA or some other type of similar competition.


    Finally is the skills test which is comprised of all of the aforementioned skills under strict time and accuracy pressure. I believe the maximum is 125 points and a 70% or greater is required to “graduate” while a 90% is required to earn the title of “distinguished graduate”. A miss on body = -3 points while a miss off body is -5. Being late on any drill is -3 points. Passing is TOUGH as there there are at least 2 dozen individual drills; its possible and many people received a final score of less than zero and most (even those who had been their previously) did not graduate. Unfortunately, I missed distinguished graduate by only 2 just barely late reloads as my mags do not drop free. However, I still graduated with the best score in the class from deep concealment; for that I am very proud.

    The course DID NOT give me a big head however. In fact, I was incredibly humbled. Gun fighting is scary hard, fast, and brutal. There are no second chances and you have to make split second decisions under extreme stress. You never have enough time and you never have enough ammo. Also, handguns suck. Period. In my opinion, the first rule of a gun fight is to NOT BE IN A GUN FIGHT, the second is to have a gun, and the third is to bring a long gun if at all possible. Though I practice regularly, received previous instruction, drill with snap caps, and learn all I can, I was in no way prepared to be in a gun fight. I still dont feel like I am and I will be returning to take FS's Advanced handgun course as well as Tactical shotgun.

    In total I shot around 550 rounds and picked up 400 or so pieces of 9mm brass.




    Final take: If you carry concealed, wait for a good deal and absolutely go to Front Sight. If you do this for a living, get your department to pay for it and go next week. It will completely change your outlook on firearms and their use for the better. Many of the people in my course were current military and police and all of them commented that they had never received training as good as they received at Front Sight.

    Recommended gear:
    -Electronic ear protection – putting foam ears in and out is a pain
    -Eyes that are designed to be worn over prescription glasses if you wear glasses
    -The weapon and holster you carry. Even if its an LCP, if you carry that every day? USE IT. I do not believe that ankle or pocket holsters are allowed, but I could be wrong. .380/.38 spl is the minimum for the course. The pro shop will rent you a Glock 19 or an XD with a serpa holster for $100.
    -Sturdy gun belt like the Wilderness or Uncle Mikes instructors belt
    -600 rounds of FMJ or TMJ ammo. JHP's can be used if you are made of money. You can pick up your brass. You must buy their crazy expensive ammo if you rent a gun.
    -3 magazines and 2 magazine pouches. More would make life easier
    -A LULA magazine re-loader. This was worth 3 times the price for saving my thumbs
    -Cargo pants or a fanny pack to store loose ammo/magazines
    -Gloves which dont interfere with your shooting too much, but protect your fingers. They will be raw, I promise
    -Comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing. I froze my ass off
    -A brimmed ball cap is required when shooting
    -A backup weapon and holster. One guy kaboomed his FNX .40 with a 9mm round.... D'oh!
    -Hotel (you can camp, weather permitting), sport water bottle, pre-ordered lunch
    -Snapcaps for safe type II and III malfunction clearance practice

    I recommend a gun with drop free mags, but I was able to graduate using my old Hi Power with an IWB Kholster under a sweatshirt. Any gun will do, but speed is king.

    Unfortunately I couldn't get my pictures to transfer. I'll add them when I do.

    I'll be happy to answer any other specific questions. Stay safe out there!

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    Excellent A.A.R.!

    Looking forward to the pics.
    CCW permit holder for Idaho, Utah, Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire. I can carry in your country but not my own.

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    Member Array Thetoulman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the well written and very detailed review!

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    Agreed, excellent AAR. Nearly all the positive reports I've heard about Front Sight have come from people new to shooting or carrying defensive arms, mostly folks who've never experienced any serious training. Conversely, the training junkies I know who have gone to FS have generally panned it, for reasons ranging from "Parris Island DI" attitudes of the instructors to the hard-sell promotions of the real estate and memberships. Sounds like those conditions may have tempered a bit, to the point I might start considering it again.
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    Member Array radshooter's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great report! My wife and I are planning our trip as we speak!
    If you can't get out of it, you gotta get into it.

    My job requires me to be armed as much of the time as possible. No, I am not an operator or LEO of any kind. I am a husband and father.

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    Distinguished Member Array Chaplain Scott's Avatar
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    hey Hipower--were you on range 1A and just finished this Thursday??? If so, I was the kind-of-older guy in the desert camo uniform in your class. (the one wearing the heavy winter pac boots--they looked out-of-place, but hey, my feet were warm) And yes, there was one guy wearing a crossbreed supertuck in my class, as well as the older gentleman who shot the 9 through his .40...... I was standing right next to he and his wife on most of day 2--I kept a constant eye on them--not surprised that he screwed his gun up---just really glad that he didn't shoot me or one of the guys I was with--couple of times he tried holstering his loaded gun with finger on his trigger .

    Wished I had known there was another DC'r there..........
    Scott, US Army 1974-2004

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    Member Array HiPower9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chaplain Scott View Post
    hey Hipower--were you on range 1A and just finished this Thursday??? If so, I was the kind-of-older guy in the desert camo uniform in your class. (the one wearing the heavy winter pac boots--they looked out-of-place, but hey, my feet were warm) And yes, there was one guy wearing a crossbreed supertuck in my class, as well as the older gentleman who shot the 9 through his .40...... I was standing right next to he and his wife on most of day 2--I kept a constant eye on them--not surprised that he screwed his gun up---just really glad that he didn't shoot me or one of the guys I was with--couple of times he tried holstering his loaded gun with finger on his trigger .

    Wished I had known there was another DC'r there..........
    Haha! Yep, that was me. I was the fellow in the red, over priced FS sweat shirt freezing my ass off (thats what I get for not checking the forecast... it had been warm in Vegas that previous week). What a small world! I actually coached someone next to the older gentleman on day 4 and he was using a Serpa holster for his FNX.. perhaps he gave up on the IWB. He had a bad habit of not properly securing his garment during reholstering and kept getting his jacket in the trigger guard. I commented on this and he responded with a "Death Stare" and a firm, "I know what I'm doing!". I told him it wasnt safe and to be more careful... He said nothing more than a dirty look... Karma? lol. I feel bad his gun blew up, but why go into that environment without the right attitude to improve?

    I didnt notice the guy with the CBST, but I suppose thats the point, eh?

    Yep, I remember you there. Too bad I didnt know as well. Let me know if/when you plan to go back or if you'll be around Vegas and want to do some shooting!

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    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
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    Good write up.

    I had a similar experience on my first Front Sight trip, too. Missed the distinguished grad by just a bit. I fumbled an emergency reload, my hand with the spare mag collided with the empty mag in mid-air, and cost me.

    There are so many doctrines of thought, when it comes to gun-handling. Some completely snub Front Sight, but I believe that it has it's place with all the rest.

    Everyone ought to check them all out, pick one that fits their philosophy and skills, and not badger anyone who disagrees.

    woops! there I go thinking out loud
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

    "A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government." -source

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    Member Array HiPower9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zacii View Post
    Good write up.

    I had a similar experience on my first Front Sight trip, too. Missed the distinguished grad by just a bit. I fumbled an emergency reload, my hand with the spare mag collided with the empty mag in mid-air, and cost me.

    There are so many doctrines of thought, when it comes to gun-handling. Some completely snub Front Sight, but I believe that it has it's place with all the rest.

    Everyone ought to check them all out, pick one that fits their philosophy and skills, and not badger anyone who disagrees.

    woops! there I go thinking out loud
    Yup. Thats true... I personally like to shoot from the Isosceles stance using a high hold grip with a cupped support hand. They asked us to trust them for the 4 days, I did, and now I have sort of a hybrid between their hold and mine. Getting used to their Weaver/High thumb grip was tough, but we should always be flexible and willing to learn.

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    Very good report! I'd like to plan a trip there.
    -Bark'n
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    "The gun is the great equalizer... For it is the gun, that allows the meek to repel the monsters; Whom are bigger, stronger and without conscience, prey on those who without one, would surely perish."

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    I think it was Brownie who said. When you attend any class and the instructors asks you to do it this way. Try it and it works for you great if not after the class go back to the way you like. I am going to buy a FS gift cert soon. There is going to be some type of deal tomorrow for FS.

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    Thanks for the report! I'm planning a trip out there in May on my $69 certificate (anyone else heading out that way?) and already copied your checklist for my packing. I think I've got a lot of bad habits for them to snap me out of, and am looking forward to my first vacation in years!

    Curious on your Kholster usage there...did you use it as is, or did you cut it down at all? I've been working with mine recently and am very tempted to move toward a 'combat cut' style.

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    Member Array HiPower9's Avatar
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    I have cut my KHolster with a pretty significant combat cut. It has not changed the comfort while wearing at all, but re holstering with a complete shooting grip is not all that comfortable for my side.

    Make sure you adjust it for 3 o'clock carry as that was required by my instructors for some reason. I have mine adjusted for 4:30 carry (and cut for that cant), which made things a bit difficult for me. Still worked fine, though.

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    VIP Member Array JDE101's Avatar
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    Very well written and interesting report. I was inundated with the ads and emails from Front Sight a while back, and was a bit skeptical after reading some things about them. After reading your report, $100, $69, or $89 sounds like a pretty good price for a 4 day course. Only problem is, I live in Ohio and refuse to fly anymore! Given the cost of travel, motel, etc., I think it would probably be cheaper for me in the long run to take a course at TDI in southern Ohio, even though the course itself would be much more expensive. Thanks for the excellant report though.
    Live to ride, ride to live. Harley Road King And keep a .45 handy Kimber Custom TLE II

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    New Member Array JGamble's Avatar
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    Great AAR, my first class was at Front Site opened my eyes to a world I never knew about. Had a great instructor, old prison guard who told us he gets plenty of dry fire with his fingers aiming at the prisoners...awesome

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