View Full Version : My detailed Front Sight 4 day handgun course review

February 5, 2011, 03:05 PM
This is a detailed review of the four day defensive handgun course I recently attended at Front Sight Firearms Institute outside of Pahrump, Nevada. A few friends asked me for one, but I thought I would give back to a few of the forums I frequent.

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.

Snip - not relevant to TFL

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. 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.

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!

February 5, 2011, 03:46 PM
im looking to get that same price.. mind sharing how i can sign up for that price?

Glenn E. Meyer
February 5, 2011, 06:51 PM
FS threads are very controversial. Discussions of business or religion are not our domain. We will let the tactical description stand on its own as a description of the course.

If you want to discuss the other matters, you can search for it or find forums that have that discussion.

Attaboys - not a contribution either.

February 6, 2011, 08:33 AM
As a person who took a training course let me ask you a few questions...

I always preach training for CC holders, if your gonna strap a weapon on your hip and walk among the public you should have/get training.

Training is knowledge, knowledge breathes confidence.

Would you concur that a person who has a CC permit should get training?

Do you feel a little more confident while carrying a weapon now... than before taking the course?

What has change since completing a training course... what habits have you applied to your carrying tactics... weapon position, holster type... is there any part of your training that you feel has really improve your carrying skills, tactics, or the knowledge to enable you in handling the use of deadly force.

I know taking a course for a few days doesn't make you an expert, but do you feel a little bit more confident in using deadly force, and are you hungry for more training.

Seems like you had fun... Good Luck

February 6, 2011, 10:41 AM
It looks like the skills test is geared twords semi shooters. I ccw mostly a 4" revovler and id be screwed at the quick reload part of it. Even with the safari land comp 2 id be noticeably slower.

Question to the op, do you feel like your skills have improved? Did you come away with new skills and knowldge? You mentioned they dont have a hotel on sight, do they have a camping ground on sight, or near by? What is the start time each morning, and should i bring my 5 hour energy for a arse crack of dawn getup.

Basicly did you benifit from your experiance in a noticeable and meaningfull way?? Do they give you any information when you depart, so that you have a way to practice when you get home?

February 6, 2011, 11:06 AM
I have also attended Front Sight. I definitely improved my shooting skills, though admittedly that was a low bar to raise; I had only been doing recreational shooting in my time and only had a basic pistol course before. I am also strictly civilian, therefore I do not (and because I live in NJ, cannot) carry everyday. Nevertheless, I brought myself to a whole new level of skill and confidence thanks to the 4 day defensive handgun course.

Front Sight sells a dry practice manual to compliment the training learned in class (there are different manuals for pistol, shotgun, etc.). These are not a substitute for the class, but are a great tool to review the material outside of class. The manuals are not included in the course cost; they are optional at extra cost.

Outside the grounds of Front Sight is just desert. I remember that some people were parking campers there, though I don't know whether it is legal to simply park a camper anywhere.

Classes start at 8:00 am, though the first day starts earlier. In both cases, give yourself plenty of time to get there if you're staying in either Pahrump or Vegas.

February 6, 2011, 02:07 PM
In order to get the great price, sign up for their newsletters. Its a ton of mail, but they offer it 2-3 times a year (as well as other deals) which makes it worth it. YMMV, of course, but I was happy to put up with it.

Regarding my improvement and confidence, absoutely! I have a ccw and took my mandatory 8 hour class... Certainly learned a lot from it and I was a decent recreational shooter. However, shooting tight controlled groups at the range is very different than combat shooting. My outlook was completely changed: there is a huge focus on "Condition Yellow" situational awareness, how/when/if you should confront a potential attacker, shoot/dont shoot decisions, etc. In addition, my functional skills such as combat marksmanship and draw speed have changed remarkably. I now carry a reload, for instance, not just for extra ammo but in case of a type III malfunction (which happens more than we would like to think and always at the worst time- I can now clear one in less than 4 seconds properly). Things such as tactical reloads and after action drills were not something that I ever even considered prior to the course.

The stress, time pressure, and perfection really pushes you to the next level. They say that in a fire fight you will be half as good as you were on your best day at the range. If that was me before front sight? I would have no doubt emptied magazines when I didnt need to, endangering others and possibly getting me killed. Shooting bullseye is fun but holds only a small place in a life or death situation.

In addition to all of that, my overall confidence and safety level with weapons has gone up exponentially. I was always a safety miser to begin with but still did things which were potentially unsafe such as my untrained re-holstering technique.

If you carry that revolver every day, bring it and shoot it. Yes, you are at a disadvantage with speed versus the other students, but isnt that the case on the street as well? The point (IMO) is to get better with YOUR gear, not bang out a perfect score on the skills test. If you are just doing it for fun, bring a 1911 race gun with a red dot on it and have a blast.. lol! For a CCW'er, bring your EDC even if it makes you struggle a bit. Their motto is, "Any gun will do, if you will do" and they mean it.

The info posted above is correct. You can camp adjacent to the facility. Course start at 8:00 am (7:30 or so for dry practice on the range and extra drills). MAKE SURE you check the weather though, it can get very cold/hot quickly. We had temperatures in the 'teens and wind up to 30 mph during my course (late January). In the summer it gets 110+.

old bear
February 6, 2011, 03:12 PM

I don't think I will ever attend, mainly do to the fact I'm on the East Coast, but thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed review. :D

Rufus T Firefly
February 13, 2011, 09:29 PM
I think I posted a request for info on Front Site and you answered all my questions. I think I I may be more tolerant of all the emails I get from them. Thanks!

June 22, 2013, 03:27 PM
I plan to pay and take this course as well. I am a big fellow, 364 pounds, 5'6" well I guess just a fat fellow...LOL. Anyways, I am thinking this will help me in more ways than one. If I take the four day course, I will not only learn a lot and be a better CCW for it, but I may lose a few pounds here also.

Anyway, I think I would go in October or November. I hope I have a ball, I will spend a fortune on air fare and hotel but it is worth it to be better.

I justt want to say thank you for the words of encouragement and the great article and sharing your experience.

June 25, 2013, 02:33 AM
Thanks for posting the review. I attended the UZI course way back when they first started. It was fun (and free) and I learned a lot about uzi's and smg's in general. I want to take the 4 day class when I can get a week off work.

Glenn E. Meyer
June 25, 2013, 03:39 PM
I would remind people that I posted early on to speak to the quality of the course as compared to other issues. Deleted some off topic posts.


June 28, 2013, 02:58 AM
Thank you for the great review. I have other friends that have attended and they were duly impressed on how their shooting skills improved. I plan on attending this September.

Al Thompson
June 28, 2013, 07:00 AM
Question for Front Sight attendees - have any of y'all had any other firearms classes? :confused:

Co Th G
April 27, 2015, 09:42 AM
For the vast majority of FS students, FS is the only place they have trained. So, it's only natural that they will say the training is "great". They don't know any better. FS is better than no training at all, but for anyone other than the most basic of shooters, FS is BS. Unless you want to be around Weaver nuthuggers for four days.

April 27, 2015, 11:03 AM
Zombie thread!

Please feel free to start a fresh one if you have something fresh to discuss. Thanks.