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Gina B Good

By DrVino

Front Sight touts its training standards to be above that of the military and law enforcement. They stress, however, that they are not a boot camp. And that’s probably why you’ll see kids and people in wheelchairs at their pistol ranges and diminutive, grey-haired little old ladies with ARs at the rifle ranges. I was lucky to get my whole family in on a lifetime Diamond membership through a childhood friend recently. So, I was eager to get to the 4-day Practical Rifle class just a week ago . . .

A gun owner since ’94, I really tooled up after the Newtown tragedy was exploited by the nouveau Marxists coast-to-coast to advance their disarmament agenda. I did it as a political statement as much as a hedge against some pretty certain bets. Nevertheless, I have always known that I live in a water-starved desert, densely inhabited by a large population dependent on public infrastructure and one overdue for a major seismic event. Oh, and I was here for the Rodney King verdict riots, too.

Then, there is that alarming statistic that something like 20% (or more?) of gang members have some level of combat training (direct or second hand). So, it occurred to me that I ought to be at least functionally proficient with the assortment of tools in my fireproof, rather crowded toolbox. You know, homestead defense-in-a-natural-disaster context. No zombies. No Russians (or North Koreans). No jumping out of helicopters in full gear and night vision. Just making sure my kids have shelter, water and food until infrastructure and law and order are restored.

The Pahrump campus is about 20 miles south of said city whose theme song ought to be Tom Wait’s “Burma Shave”. It sits on 500-some acres of land (purchased or leased from the BLM) within clear eyeshot (if not hiking distance) of California.

If you’ve never tasted full firearms freedom, bring a change of underwear for your first day. Weapons and ammo check means people are walking around slung and strapped. If it’s not like a military base, then at least like the bad guys’ lair on the season premiere of The A-Team. Either option is pretty cool.

There are tons of videos and reviews of Front Sight on the interwebs and the YouseTubes, so I’m not going to do all that here. Watch those videos and read those blog posts. I do want to address a few things, though, and they all boil down to the fact that my four-day Practical Rifle class was a demanding, challenging, humbling reality check.

A few takeaways:

– You’re not as good as you thought you are. Really. Bench/range shooting is not tactical shooting. It just isn’t, even if you occasionally stand or go through the basic positions. I reached a vicious self-propagating cycle of deteriorating performance leading to frustration leading to further deteriorating performance. It could have been the heat. It could have been fatigue. Maybe I’m too tough on myself.  It could also be that I’m 43, physically awkward and I suck.

2 – Your gun/gear is not as good/cool/reliable/useful/necessary as you thought it is. Basic is good. More is not gooder. Even IF you are SWAT or Delta Force or Seal Team 6, or GI Joe or whatever. Corollary  2a: You don’t have to clean your rifle every night, but a few drops of oil will save you $35. I wanted to push my New Frontier polymer lower based AR as far as it could go. I ended up buying the Armorer’s last extractor spring on day 3.If my money was limited, as it was, I’d invest in good reliable solid irons instead of optics. An AR should be accurate to 400 yards with irons. Since my rifle is a flat top with picatinny from charging handle to just past the gas block (mid- or carbine-length) I went with MBUS sights. Not bad for under $100 for the front and back set.Extras – especially those with batteries and glass – can break when you can least afford it. They should not be your primary devices. Same goes for lights, lasers and picatinny-mounted toothpicks, rear view mirrors and cell phone holders (j/k).

3 – Clearing malfunctions under pressure is hard. Especially when you have to execute a stop-failure to stop (two to thoracic cavity plus a one to the cranio-ocular box) in a set amount of time.

4 – You are not as safe with your weapon as you thought you were. Yes. Four Rules. But there are a few additional things that seem mindlessly procedural that you learn such as chamber checks before and after shooting/loading/unloading that actually make sense. Then there is the art of conducting after-actions (checking behind you, scanning side to side and back to your target/opponent) without Dianne Feinsteining the entire range.

5 – You are probably not doing enough dry practice. It should be the 70% dry/30% live mentioned in a recent post here on TTAG. Another way to look at it is that live fire confirms or validates your dry practice. And it’s cheaper. Much.

6 – It’s easy to kill the wrong person. Day three: tactical canyon. Your family member has been abducted and is being held by a gang of bad guys. You must negotiate a course of targets to rescue your kin (likely by way of a hostage shot, but I’m not sure. Read on). Iron targets are shooting at you. You have to determine if the paper targets are a threat or an innocent. A phone held in an extended arm at about a 30 to 40 degrees can look a lot like a gun. Have a lawyer on retainer.

7 – Shooting in 100+ degree heat for eight hours (even without a rig) is a good way to make you appreciate what our guys in the sandbox deal with.

Front Sight’s founder and director, Ignatius Piazza is a good marketer. He seems to be a staunch Second Amendment supporter, too.

So I wanted to know what actions and public positions Front Sight takes as a company to help secure or advance Second Amendment rights (or in states like California, reclaim them).

I asked Piazza what his current contribution to the fight to defend and extend is and he replied:

Through hundreds of thousands of students who attend our courses, subscribe to our e-mails and actively participate in contacting their political representatives, and forward our e-mails and blogs to other gun owners, we create a political force of millions of gun owners.

He’d headed up a an effort to  to get shall issue CCW on the California ballot and made the error of yielding to groups who wanted to litigate the issue. Now I’d get arrested and put on a 72 hour hold for carrying a banana in a holster to Starbucks.

I mentioned safety earlier. One of their mottos (besides “Any gun will do as long as it’s an AR”) is “We’re positively changing the image of gun ownership”. It’s a no-brainer that by training safe, accurate, well-informed and skilled gun owners, Front Sight helps foster a positive public perception of gun ownership. The longer I’m involved in this game of gun owner cat hearding in The Golden State, the more I realize that efforts must be subtle, behind the scenes and long-term goal-oriented. Public perception is key in battleground states like California. And the way gun owners conduct themselves is instrumental to that.

So, please, you don’t have to get training at Front Sight. It could be Appleseed or any other group. But, please, get training somewhere.

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    • Not true. They have won a few. And have helped many get CCW. Cf. Sacramento.

      They haven’t been as successful as I would like. But they have had some success

  1. Ambassador Member here. I have been posting the webpage in my replies for months. Thanks for your post. I love the place. My only complaint us that I can’t go as often as I’d like.

    • I’m not clear on the membership duration. Is it for a year, 5 years, lifetime. I don’t see it spelled out at their site.

    • Diamond member here. I love the training courses and agree about how neat it is the first day you show up to see all these “normal people” walking around with guns on their hips or long guns on slings. The membership process is kind of wacky so I ignore most of his sales pitches but the training is great.

      • Oh good God no. It might be that now but what I did was buy the old Patriot Handgun course for $1100 IIRC and then parlayed that into upgrades to the Ambassador level. I have about 4 or 5K invested. It’s worth every penny that I paid.

  2. I’ve been to Front Sights 4 day handgun class and was less than impressed. First, there were 40 people in my class with no more than 3 instructors with us at any given time. Second they exhibit a slavish devotion to the Weaver position which isn’t taught in many places anymore for very good reason. Third, they teach a funky, and in my view, wrong method of reloading and clearing malfunctions that will get you killed if you use them. Lastly, one instructor told me to close my left eye (I’m right handed and right eye dominant) even though I’m perfectly capable of keeping both eye’s open while addressing my target. The instructors kept dogging me to shoot Weaver but when I finished first in their “The Man” shootoff I felt somewhat vindicated.

    On the other hand, the facility is really nice and they start and conclude classes and seminars right on time.

    • When did you take your pistol course? A very recent AAR I read indicated that they were much more open to non-Weaver shooting stances than in the past, and in fact only guided students to Weaver if they didn’t have a stance that was working well for them.

        • I’ve been there within the last year. I have found that isosceles works better for me and was asked by an instructor why I was using it. I told him and he said “Ok”. That was the end of it.
          My wife and son have found the Weaver stance to be best for them.

    • less than impressed?? I’m thinking more soar grapes/tearing down the competition. I highly doubt you won “Last Man Standing” using the isosceles stance. I’m an Ambassador member as well… having attended classes many times since 2009 at no small expense (I live in Chicago), and having reached Distinguished Graduate level on a few I’m gonna have to call BS. Probably a II -intentionally incompetent. talk the talk, don’t want to learn to walk the walk.

      • Doubt he won using isosceles? Hmmm, maybe Ron Avery, Travis Haley, Dale Comstock, Kyle Defoor, Larry Vickers, Kyle Lamb and the Spooner brothers need to sign up for the chiropractors 4 day handgun class if you think weaver is a better stance for combat. Who’s word will I take? A chiropractor and his cult following? Or our nations most respected and battle hardened soldiers? Seems like a no brainer to me.

  3. While it sounds interesting, educational, exciting, fun (except for the heat), what exactly is the purpose of this training for your average J.Q. Public? I think I could get most of this from a good FPS video game and unlike the Hollywood movies I am not planning to try to rescue my family on any hostage rescue missions in some desert canyon. THAT is what SWAT and the FBI are for.

    I am very concerned that for the majority of us this focus on tactical training is a great deal of expensive overkill, as it were. Where are the low-priced, don’t need an airplane ticket and motel reservation, real-world classes that the rest of us (like George Zimmerman) could actually use in our day to day lives? Thoughts?

    • If you think that a video game is actually like real gun training, you should go join the anti-gun crusaders in their world. It’s not even close to the same. And I just have regular ol’ military and LEO training (plus plenty of video game experience).

    • First of all, if you think that you can training from a FPS shooter while sitting at a desk that even approaches training with a real firearm in a real situation you are kidding yourself.

      Secondly, no one is forcing people to take tactical training. i’ve done all the basic classes and now enjoy the challenge of something harder and more demanding. There are lots of basic classes close to most people’s homes that they can stick with.

      Finally, you are right. You probably won’t ever find yourself in a truly “tactical” situation. Until you do. Then you might be happy for the familiarity with various weapons and tactics.

    • You misunderstand my intent at the analogy, gentlemen. What I am trying to say is that if I want the excitement of these fantastic scenarios I can play a video game and pretend to be SpecOps or Delta Force or whatever I want, for a lot less money. My point is that for the majority of people seeking and paying for this level of training is highly unrealistic and bears little or no real-world value.

      And by the way, I believe even military organizations use these games to some extent to give perspective on battlefield scenarios and tactics.

      If you want to do it because you think it’s fun and you can afford it, fine, but if you are training to take on some imaginary attacking force using LEO or military tactics I wonder what neighborhood you are living in. And why you are still living there.

      • Addendum: I also have military training, I have taken some basic courses, I read a lot about defense. The point I’m really trying to make is that these courses are over-kill for most people and we maybe need to give a little attention to the more basic training and discussion of things that might be encountered by most of us in our regular lives. Thunder Ranch and Front Site and the other elite training schools get a lot of press here, but how about informing us of the other, more mundane options? How else will we know if the short/cheap classes are even worth spending the time and money on? We can’t all sign up for Massad Ayoob’s courses, after all.

        • Of course these courses are overkill for the majority of the people who take them! Thank GOD that we still are currently living in a society where one can make that statement, but it might not always be that way, especially the way things are headed in this country under our current leadership. I also would alo like to ask you, how many victims of crimes or survivors of spree shootings woke up the morning of their incident expecting to be a victim? NOT ONE! Not a single person has ever started their day with the expectation that they are going to be thrown into a life or death situation, but it happens, and it ALWAYS happens when it is not expected. There is NO price limit as far as I am concerned where I would draw a line between being optimally prepared to defend my children and wife. I could not live with myself if I was to lose one of them and I was left with asking myself “I don’t understand what happened. I played Call of Duty a couple times a week for years.”

        • Cliff, having taken several frontsight courses the point is not to teach the average citizen how to do a hostage rescue. They run the simulator (canyon for rifle and shotgun or shoot house for pistol) to raise the stress level and allow you see that no matter how good you are on the range it gets a lot tougher when you try to apply what you have practiced in a non range environment. I find it educational each time.

        • Cliff H,

          I’m not a conspiracy theorist so I won’t go down the road of Big Government and having to fight them off or some end of days scenario.
          One of the replies alluded to increased stress. Nothing actually matches the stress in a real life event so the higher the stress level in practice, the greater the chance of resorting to training when the brain shuts down – and the brain will shut down unless one is used to having their life threatened. Muscle memory is of no use when you’re experiencing the ‘pucker factor’. I know you’ve heard of ‘Fight or Flight’ but there is also the freeze – when you are so overwhelmed by this unrealistic scenario unfolding in front of you [think home invasion or mall shooting] people just freeze, even those that can fight, because they haven’t trained in an elevated stress environment. It needs to be reflexive action, not simply basic motion. Training in unrealistic situations at high stress with uncomfortable physical conditions give distraction factors that allow trainees to safely focus on training so when something happens the trainee is familiar with high stress levels and the taste of copper as adrenaline shoots through their system while they are trying to save their life or the live’s of loved ones or simply trying to stop a nut. And there are a lot of nuts.

    • The NRA has Personal Protection in the Home and Personal Protection outside the Home courses that are pretty good. There are private sector schools all over the US that offer defensive pistol courses. Generally, if the instructor has some combination of NRA, law enforcement, military, IPSC/IDPA, or has attended one or more of the big national schools, the course will be at least decent or better.

      If nothing else, just go find a club that shoots IDPA or USPSA style matches, and participate in that, since it will be better practice than target shooting.

    • If you want more realistic (re: up close and personal) look at the Suarez Group offerings that are at least regional in terms of finding a course. I have attended several and have been very impressed–even as a hard-bitten retired USMC Force Reconner 😉

      I am also a Front Sight Ambassador (got it for less than $500 online) and attend as many courses as I can afford in terms of travel etc. as I am on the East Coast. I find the atmosphere to be exhilarating (all those firearms in plain view) and the basic training always a good refresher if only for gun handling safety etc.

      If you want the ultimate (IMHO)–AND VERY CHALLENGING– practical carbine and handgun courses look at Bill Rogers’ training school in north GA.

  4. I’m glad to hear that Front Site is a good, legit place. I’ve been on their email list for awhile and while I like a lot of what I read, I can’t shake that Amway vibe, especially the way they push memberships. Too bad that it’s just too damn far for me to go when there are so many other good schools a lot closer to me.

    • I would say: you can opt out of the emails.
      The email marketing is administrative. That is business development.
      At the campus/facility (ie operations) it’s all about maximizing the time for training…
      Yes, there are pitches from electronic ear people and low-cost legal services during lunches, but how many of us took that offer for a free 4-day Bahamas cruise in exchange for sitting in a sales presentation for a timeshare in Kissimmee and did not buy the time share?

  5. Lifetime member here as well. Took the four day pistol class back in March. The instructors kept trying to make me use the weaver stance, even after I told them I have a hip injury and can’t use weaver without causing me massive pain after a few minutes.

    The class itself was very good, it’s geared to people who have never had any training with a gun. We started learning about different types of handguns and progressed to learning their draw, to drawing from concealment to shooting and on and on. Days three and four were fun, you get to use everything you learn from the first two days in different ways.

    Other than pushing weaver on me, I liked the class and am looking forward to going back for the rifle class next.

  6. I’ve been to the 4 day pistol and rifle course and found they do a great job of educating the public on gun safety, rapid target aqusition and handling of firearms. The cost is reasonable, and the instructors are good. This is not hard-core training, but they do have advanced courses at night and encompassing different scenerios including 1,000 yard marksmanship. For a 2 day weekend, Appleseed is also a great program, particularly for kids and younger adults. Remember, our sport is under attack by the main street media and liberal America. We need to show the rest of the country how fun it can really be…

    • Yeah, the marketing is a little crazy, but it’s simpler than it seems. These days you just get a membership that covers every course they offer. And you can get them on the cheap from some current members. Email me if you’re interested in more info.

  7. I cannot recall the name of the training school that TTAG hates. I seem to recall they had a pistol exclusively designed for them. Would like to avoid that in my seeking training.

  8. Repeated comments about weaver stance so I’ll address it:

    They started us out on what is essentially a modified weaver with “an aggressive forward lean”.
    They did no t really harp on it unless the student looked to be having trouble and it could be traced to their stance or the shooter looked unstable or awkward. But this was not too frequent. I did not feel too much pressure that it was only this stance or the highway.

    Our range master, at the start of the class, said: “We do things a certain way here. It may be different that what you are used to. It may not be comfortable or work for you. Try it anyway. If it does not work, it’s OK.” They are tweaking their curriculum so they stressed that they are open to feedback and they are willing to be convinced of a different view or method – if your arguments make sense.

    • Attended 4 day handgun last November. They allowed my “modified Weaver” after all my attempts at Weaver ended with me incrementally shuffling back into what was most comfortable and stable for me. It wasn’t too far off though.

  9. The training and instructors are good, but Piazza has a shady reputation, and not highly regarded by most of his staff. I’ve often wondered why he resides in Calif. – one of the most anti-gun states in the country.

  10. Why travel across the country to learn the same shooting fundamentals you can get in a class an hour or two away, at a fraction of the cost?

    Why subject yourself to the endless marketing from these people, who will blow your email box up with daily trash… and your phone if you give them your number.

    Front Site has good training, but they have no secret sauce that you can’t get anywhere else.

    And don’t even get me started on their owner’s legal problems.

    Oh, and you thought you had a lifetime membership paid for? A retired police Lt. friend signed up for that deal with them and they wanted him to pay something like $150 a year to be vetted to continue his eligibility to train there. LOL.


    • Actually you can by coupons on Ebay to attend most of their courses for 100 bucks or so. My 4 day handgun and 1 day concealed carry cost $100. That’s not real expensive for close to 50 hours. I bought 700 rounds of ammo at their facility for about $160. As far as traveling across the country–everyone doesn’t live on the east coast. I happen to, but I have family in Vegas and occasional business in Reno so the trip isn’t an issue.

    • not so John – stop propogating the rumor mill. Lifetime is Lifetime as far as memberships. There are different levels of coarse, but the training is superior. Your “friend” is bs’n ya. Piazza is a pitchman but the product is outstanding. You are good and you carry the torch – I respect you for your work and skill level, but you could learn a few things there that you could bring back to your own training curricula.

    • Executive member here. When you sign up for a course, it’s $50 for a background check if they haven’t done one for you in the last year. Otherwise, courses are free. Most memberships have a percentage discount at their pro-shop for gear. Ammunition is sold onsite by a 3rd party and they actually have pretty good pricing. They move a LOT of ammunition. Equipment rental (including pistol) run around $50/day if you don’t want to transport your own gear or put the wear on your own gun.

  11. They do require a fifty dollar a year background check.

    I’m not saying they are perfect, but is any training company perfect? They want to train people to be able to effectively use a firearm to protect themselves.

    As to the emails, you can opt out at any time and every once in a while his blog posts are worth reading up until he gets to the sales part of the email.

  12. I attended their 4 day basic handgun course in January 2011. Good course for someone who has never been to any advanced training before. I unlearned several bad habits that had developed over the previous two years. Now I can quickly and consistently draw from concealment to the ready or to shoot, fairly accurately and quickly. I can use my gun well now, if I ever need it for self defense. (Before that, I had only shot targets while standing still at a range. I definitely did not have ANY of the skills necessary for self-defense.)

    If you are concerned about the desert heat (and you should be), then take a course in the winter or spring. In January, I wore a light jacket in the early morning, which I removed by 10 o’clock. It never got HOT.

  13. I’ve taken handgun, shotgun, rifle, Uzi, empty hand defense, advanced tactical and advanced integrated handgun as well as some skill builders. Going out tomorrow to take the 4 day handgun from the support side. The training is good, especially for people who have not had a multiday course. The cost is reasonable, especially the deals offered now. I paid a lot for my membership, and have upgraded twice; and have a bunch of extra memberships that I can give away or sell if I can find a buyer. It also costs me a lot to attend as I live in the District of Chaos. But the training is worth it to me. The suggestion that tactical training is unnecessary to the vast majority of gun owners I reject. If your gun(s) are there for self protection, you are a fool to eschew tactical training in my view. You need to be able to perform under pressure and to make shoot/no shoot decisions correctly since they can affect the rest of your life and the lives of your loved ones. Not getting tactical training is like the cops who qualify twice a year and don’t practice at any other time. That’s why they have 70 percent miss rates and kill innocents all the time. They can mostly get away with that because they are not prosecuted and their jurisdictions cover their expenses when they get sued. Johnny citizen is SOL when that happens. I don’t care if you get it at Front Sight or Thunder Range or from Mas Ayoob (though his course is fantastic). But get it, especially if you carry.

  14. I’ve been fortunate to shoot with Eldon Carl, geez, he was my favorite, , Sgt. Jack Weaver, back to Eldon, what a great guy.
    Wow, some serious memories there.
    As my interest continued, Mr. Clint Smith, et al

  15. The Front Sight Ambassador membership is pretty amazing!

    It’s Diamond +
    You can attend Front Sight Alaska and Nevada or ANY other facility they EVER open.
    You get an Ambassador ONLY invite to a 4th of July celebration.
    You can attend ANY course they EVER have, as many time as you wish.
    You can MAKE MONEY buy hosting a course on their behalf, in your home town.

    I have a few extra Ambassador memberships, so if anyone has any specific questions they’d like to ask me about Front Sight or the Ambassador membership, feel free to email me at: [email protected]

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