This review chronicles the class that myself and other members of the training staff and range owner at my local gun store (Indy Arms Company, Indianapolis, IN) took at the Front Sight training academy in Nevada. As we were already in Las Vegas for SHOT Show, we decided to extend our stay and take 5 days of training at Front Sight. The four of us took the 4 day Defensive Handgun and two of us continued a fifth day with the Concealed Carry Class.
Front Sight Firearms Training Institute is a fairly large training academy about an hour outside of Las Vegas in the Nevada desert. The facility has a large number of outdoor pistol and rifle bays, shoot houses, rope courses, class rooms, rental and ammo facilities, kids activities and classes, hand to hand combat gyms, long distance rifle ranges, armorer, and pro-shop. There is also a food truck for breakfasts and lunches. When we were there, I counted 3 hand gun classes (about 30 students each), at least 1 long distance rifle class, 1 shotgun class (about 20 people) a tactical rifle class (about 10 people) and at least 3 small groups doing private training. Each class I observed (including the one I took) had a minimum of 3 instructors. The Front Sight training programs were designed by Brad Ackman (formerly of Gun Sight) and some of the lectures are pre-recorded videos of Brad.
Right off the bat I was impressed with their great instructors and carefully timed out curriculum with every minute well spent. What downtime you do have is spent processing and reflecting on what you have learned/practiced. The classes have a relatively small amount of classroom ‘lecture’ and is worth listening to and well spaced out through the day. Almost all of the instruction is on the range (outdoor lecture, examples and demos, dry fire practice, then live fire practice). Front Sight uses a ‘buddy system’ in relays of two making everyone a part time RSO and coach, at first I was skeptical about the value of this, but it really helps you learn as you are observing your relay partner shoot each drill and they watch you.
The instructors were top notch, focused on positive reinforcement, and working with each student to improve. We had a total of 6 instructors working with us over the 4 days and the lead trainer, James Booth (yes a descendent of the infamous assassin of the same last name) and Rusty Manes were with us all 4 days and are some of the most honest, friendly, and knowledgeable instructors I have worked with. Each of us ran through about 600 rounds of ammo and an equal amount of dry fire and almost all was done from the holster under concealment. The four day class focused on controlled pairs at 3-15 yards, head shots at 3-10 yards, failure to stop drills, accuracy, malfunction clearances, reloading, and extensive work form holster (OWB with cover garment). The third day added room clearing and the fourth day added multiple targets, shot/don’t shoot drills, and hostage taker shooting. As an added bonus, Front Sight is in a beautiful setting up near the mountains of Nevada.
Though I agreed with most of the training and it was all very well done (I will be outright stealing their magnet target boards for grouping demos and their isometric drills (using a trainers wrist as a gun grip so they can feel how your grip is changing on a trigger press and how you react to recoil (looking for clenching)), some of the concepts are in my personal opinion a little dated. Their low brass (double feed) malfunction drill includes a required step only needed for 1911s and they are teaching Weaver stance for defensive situations. Again all tactics are compromise, and there is no right way, but their devotion to the Weaver style was fairly strong. Additionally, the course only focused on “thoracic cavity” (chest) and “cranial-ocular cavity” (or headbox) shots, with no emphasis on shots to the pelvis (often an easier to hit target in a failure to stop situation). Their training system revolved around a controlled pair to the chest, followed by a slow, controlled headshot. Previous experiences in other courses might suggest that the pelvic region is a beneficial (read: large) region to try to shoot at if the chest shots aren’t working (perhaps body armor is being employed). They dismissed this and stated that there’s not much there to injure. I’m not sure I’m in 100% alignment with that viewpoint in a fast-paced defensive shooting situation.
Once you become a member of Front Sight you will need to unsubscribe from emails (which does mean you will miss some you might have wanted to get, as the owner emails 3-4 times a day offering ‘upgrades’ and ‘special deals.’ Surprisingly, and thankfully, there is none of this at the actual training, and in fact most of the trainers made light of this. We did have optional product lectures on some Front Sight business partners (Law Shield, SportEAR, and Knox safes) but these were during lunch and not a part of the training.
The Training (Day by Day):
Dry Practice rules, Range accuracy drills (stance, grip, trigger control, sight alignment, focus, picture), optional full auto shoot (Uzi, Mini-Uzi, AR, Thompson, MP-5), Colors of mental awareness lecture, more accuracy and drawing from concealment drills, moral and ethical defensive shooting decisions lecture.
Range live fire controlled pairs, malfunction drills, emergency and tactical reloads, failure to stop drills, isometrics drills, and more drawing from concealment. Criminal and civil liabilities lecture, more range time, accuracy shooting at 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards, principals of tactical movement lecture.
We moved to a new range next to a door simulation (moving through doors drills) and shoot house. Same drills as Days 1 and 2 but now under time pressure (not much time, by the way). Day 3 was 8am-5pm on the range and while shooting drills each person was taken off the line at some point to work on clearing corners, opening doors, and entering and clearing rooms. Then they were taken through a multiple room shoot house with innocents, bad guys, and hostages. We also discussed the skills test at the end of the 4 day class and what it entailed.
We started the day with taking the skills test as a dry fire practice, then a live fire practice, and finally the skills test itself (see below for details). After the test we did a class random paired steel hostage challenge tournament (‘Man on Man’ Challenge). Two people chosen at random from the class faced off on a small white target behind a large steel ‘hostage’ at 7 yards and then two more steel targets at 15 yards that had to be engaged successfully in the shortest amount of time, in the correct order, and without a hit on the hostage. This resulted in a single elimination tournament and was great fun. The final winner earned a Challenge Coin, which you could only obtain by winning the challenge. We then did multiple attacker drills (up to 4 at a time) and shoot no shoot drills (all still from holster). We also did Hostage head shots and then ended the day with a last practice of basic skills.
The skills test consisted of 25 total shots either controlled pairs or called head shots at the 3-15 yard lines from concealed holster (each set or single shot) with time limits of 1.4 to 2.9 seconds. The each skill was done twice; emergency reloads, tactical reloads, type 1, type 2, and type 3 malfunction drills (including movement and after action drills) in 1.4 to 6.5 seconds. This was then scored with a maximum of 125 points (5 points for each correctly placed shot, 2 points for a miss in the grey (still on the body), 0 for a miss off the body outline) and then -3 points if late and or -3 for poor procedures on each and every drill (yes, you could end up with negative points).
Less than 87 points after time penalties equaled a Certificate of Achievement
87-111 points = Graduate Certificate
112-125 points = Distinguished Graduate (DG) Graduate
About half our class (32 people) was in the ‘Achievement’ category (under 87 points) then about a quarter ‘Graduated’ and another quarter ‘Graduated with Distinction’ (the instructors said this number was usually closer to 2-3 not 8, but we did have a really solid class (many were attempting their second or third time trying to get ‘Distinguished Graduate’ status). Our instructors also highlighted how difficult the skills test was compared to many others in the industry and I agree, the time (almost all under 3 seconds), size of targets (smaller than many similar targets), shooting from concealed and holstered) and distances (10 and 15 yards) made this test tough!
Day 5: Concealed Carry Class
This class started with a 30 rounds skills test (6 rounds at 3 yards, 12 rounds at 5 yards, and 12 rounds at 7 yards from at ready and untimed) that is the Nevada required skills test. Followed by Nevada and Utah required lectures, passport photos, fingerprint cards, and then step by step paper work assistance for the Nevada and Utah CCWs and materials needed for Arizona and Florida. The course ended (for us) at the local Sheriff’s office to file the Nevada forms and get required LE prints for Florida and Arizona. Nevada residents followed a different procedure.
So how did I do?
As I stated I went out with a group of four (for SHOT Show and Front Sight). The owner and the Training Coordinator both got ‘Graduate’ status and I and the other Senior Trainer (my wife) both got ‘Distinguished Graduate’ status and earned our Handgun DG Challenge Coins. I scored a 120 (I dropped a head shot at 7 yards, and though still in the neck it counted for 0 out of 5).
As far as the ‘Man on Man’ Steel Hostage Challenge? My wife easily made it to the third round (beating two men, she’ll have you know and was observing they would have to change the name of the Challenge) when she was beaten by about .5 seconds in the fourth round, by me. I went on to win the final match up by about an 1/8 of a second, adding a second Challenge Coin to my collection!
My Man on Man Challenge Winning Run video:
Special Glock Bragging note: (a little pro-stock Glock arrogance). Everyone else, as near as we could tell, who got DG status and were in the final rounds of the Man on Man Steel challenge were running high end target 1911’s or heavily modified (stippled, match grade barrels, after market triggers, red dot sights) striker fire guns. In contrast my wife was shooting a stock G17C and I was using a stock G17 Gen 5.
I found Front Sight to be one of the best run training facilities I have been to with plenty of staff, a very friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive style. We will likely be back more than once this year for additional classes.