Finally, some training! The first day was a lot of safety drills, a lot of theory and some shooting. Plus the weather sucked, and that made me grumpy.
Day Two started off with (finally) drawing from a holster, then it was on to malfunction drills:
Type 1: Misfires and Light Strikes (hmmn, where have I heard that before…) Type 2: Stovepipes and failures to extract (FTE). Type 3: Double-feeds or faiure to feed (FTF).
I really liked the malf-clearing drills I learned today. They were simple, consistent and yet way beyond “Tap, Rack, Bang.)
Then it was on to reloding your gun (tactical reloads, slide lock reloads, etc.) and then Failure To Stop Drills, aka two to center-mass, assess, the one to the center-head. Again, simple stuff, but it started to ramp up the stress a bit.
After lunch, the photo-realistic targets came out. This was interesting for me because due to range rules, competition rules and NRA rules, I’ve never shot at a “realistic” human target before.
We then progressed into voice commands and one-shot Failure Drills, aka the hostage-taker shot, and I was please that I only dropped two shots out of the whole day’s shooting that wasn”t either in center-mass or in the center head.
I can dig it.
Speaking of shooting, Front Sight uses a “Shooter/Coach” method on the line: One guy is shooting and the other is keeping him safe and offering tips for improvement. The shooter I was paired with today had SERIOUS flinching/trigger mash issues, and I was pleased to see him improve as the day goes one. If the defintion of a good school is one that improves the shooting of it’s students, Front Sight is passing (so far).
And now for some pictures.
This is the view outside the classroom. There’s five pistol ranges clustered around, and they’re very nice, with a western/pueblo exterior, gravel-lined bays and shade.
This, unfortunately, is what the rest of the buildings on the range look like. Oh well.
One of the 100 yard rifle/shotgun ranges.
The gates open at 7:30 (6:30 on the first day), and there’s always a line of cars waiting to get in each morning.
There’s ten minutes of optional instructor-supervised “dry practice” (aka dry-fire) drills before each class.
Instruction is usually given right on the range, then drills and shooting practice follow.
Preamble: Even though I am an NRA Instructor and CCW permit holder, Front Sight requires a signed character witness from a friend who’s known you for five or more years to be FAXED into them. Yes, faxed. Did I go to sleep and wake up in 1992 or something? So I did that, and called them about a month ago, wanting to know if they got it.
“We don’t do that anymore”, said the rather brusque customer “service” rep on the phone. “Just log on the website with your member number and you’ll see everything there.”
I semi-patiently explained to him that I was not a member, this was my first class, and I wanted to know the status of my application. He seemed taken aback that a mere applicant would be wasting his time in this way, and told me to fax it in again.
Apparently, scanners and email attachments freak out some people.
Once that was cleared up, I stayed the weekend after SHOT in Vegas and drove out to Front Sight, arriving at their gate at 6 bloody 30 in the bloody am after an hour and 15 minute drive from my hotel in Vegas.
First up was confirming my reservation (which was easily done, in marked contrast to my previous engagement), and a “Safety Inspection” where my pistol was checked for function and placed in my holster by the RSO: I never touched the durn thing. For someone who’s used to the rigorous safe area rules and “Unload and show clear” environment of practical pistol, the safety procedures at Front Sight, while thorough, are tripping me up. More on that later.
A word on my equipment for the week. As this is a defensive handgun course, I’m shooting it my CZ P07 in (for now) a BladeTech OWB holster and BladeTech mag pouches. I’ll switch to my SuperTuck once the concealed carry part starts on Wednesday.
Then it was into the main classroom for our paperwork and welcome speech. This place is BIG, and it easily held the 200 or so people with me today.
After an hour or so in here, it was out to the range. There are 5 pistol ranges near the classroom, and pictures of them will come later as the weather today SUCKED. It was cold, windy, and rainy and most of us were chilled to the bone after a few short minutes outside.
Our instructors were pleasant, outgoing and helpful, but you could tell their training experience was mainly with Front Sight and not other schools. Look, I don’t care if you’re a Front Sight Super Dooper Deluxe Member or not: I want to know how long you’ve been training students and what your firearms teaching background is, and as far as I can tell, only 2 of the five instructors had any instructor training outside of Front Sight, and that was with the NRA.
Now, about those safety rules. Any competitive shooter will tell you the commands of USPSA/IDPA:
Make ready! (Load your pistol and get it in to the designated start position)
Standby! (Here we go, folks!)
And, at the end of a course of fire, “If you are finished, unload and show clear. If clear, hammer, holster, range is clear!”
These are not Front Sight’s commands. Instead, they do,
“Make ready for firing!”, which is…
Unholster the pistol
Present to low ready
Press check (with their own rules on how to do that)
Press check (again)
Mag check (again)
And at the end of a string, do much the same.
I’m certain it’s safe, it’s just tripping me up a bit because I’m expecting totally different commands.
The drills started out simple, with basic grip and stance work. If you come in here knowing modern isosceles or Chapman or some other stance, forget it, as they WILL force you to shoot Weaver. Is that a bad thing? Not really. It may mess up my usual isosceles for a few weeks, but I’m finding the Waver to be beneficial to learn.
The first rounds were sent downrange about 3 hours into the range time, with an emphasis on controlled pairs using the three Front Sight “secrets” of good marksmanship, which are:
If those are secrets, I’d hate to see what they consider to be common knowledge…
During lunch there was a video playing about the history of Front Sight and Dr. Piazza’s philosophy of armed citizenry. Nothing outrageous, about par for the course for any corporate video.
After lunch there was a lecture on the combat mindset and the situational awareness colour code. You’d think with a topic like that, they’d mention Col. Jeff Cooper, the originator of both those concepts.
And that, so far, has been my major beef with Front Sight. It’s as if firearms training didn’t exist before the berms went up in Pahrump. No mention of Gunsite. No mention of who created the Weaver stance (and why), no mention of any other training facilities at all other than Front Sight. I get the need not to cross the streams and promote other schools, but Front Sight is built on the Colonel’s legacy: Without him, there’d be nothing to teach at Front Sight, nor any reason for Front Sight to exist at all.
Now, as far as the teaching itself goes, so far, it’s been pretty basic, just work on presentation, controlled pairs and “getting off the X”. One thing that has surprised me is the quality of the shooting. With my background in competition and training, I came to Front Sight expecting to be The Smartest Kid In The Class, but so far, I’d say I was in top third or so. There are 3 law enforcement officers, 2 women, and 3 total newbie in my class of 32. Ages are anywheres from the mid to late 20’s on up to senior citizens.
I’ll have more pics and reports tomorrow. Right now, I gotta get some rest, it’s a long drive from Vegas to Pahrump.
As I said earlier, I’m at FrontSight this week for a Four Day Defensive Handgun class.
1. Price. Class fees, ammo, lunches, hotels, gas, for FrontSight all add up to less than the class fees alone for other big gun schools. Yes, FrontSight ain’t GunSite, but not everyone goes to Harvard for their undergrad degree.
2. Curiousity. Most of the online reviews of FrontSight start off with something like “I’ve not done any training before but…” or “I was in the military twenty years ago and…”. I’ve not seen a review done by someone who’s made defensive pistol shooting their passion for a significant amount of time, and I figure, why not me?
3. Practice. Hey, what’s the worst that can happen? I put 600 rounds downrange, and don’t get any better. Worst case, I spend four days shooting. Eek.
4. Skepticism: Bad internet marketing, rumours of vacation home pitches and Scientology aside, what is FrontSight really like?
I’m also curious to see what they’ve changed since they’ve opened. Paraphrasing Rob Pincus, if you’re not changing how you teach, you’re not learning, and you’re not teaching your students effectively as a result.
I figure if it sucks, I’ll have done a big service to the gunblog community by falling on a grenade for all of you. If it doesn’t, I’ll come of out it better prepared to defend my family.
For me, the Streamlight TLR-1 on my SIG SAUER P226R projects a circle of light where my bullet’s point of impact is near 12 o’clock in the beam’s hotspot. I have shot many groups at the range and trust this orientation out to five yards.
The Surefire lights on my H-K MP-5 and Remington 870 were also “minute-of-man” at close range during actual shooting drills.
Where is this important? At CQB distances in room clearing, I am confident that, with the light on, punching out at the target and sending rounds into the beam’s focal point will give me center of mass hits.
This is about the longest shot I’ll need to take in a defensive position inside my house: It’s the view looking down from the top floor to the front door, and the only reason I’ll need to do it is to watch over my kids as they pass behind me from their rooms into the safe room. If anything else happens, we’ll hole up in the there and leave the house-clearing to the cops when they show up.
What’s interesting is that small circle of light in the middle of the door, or rather, the small circle of shadow caused by the bulb and reflector from the Insight light. It’s a little off off center from the barrel, so I need to hold slightly to the left, but it’s close enough for government work.
And sonuvagun if that shadow isn’t also about the same size as the buckshot shot pattern from the Mossie.
If (God forbid) I need to use the gun to defend my family, I know I can get it onto target quickly, thanks to the way the Insight light projects onto the target.
There are, as I see it, two kinds of violent encounters: Predatorial and Adversarial.
The “sudden encounter” is a predator attack, be it mugger, rapist or Rottweiler. Those types of encounter require you to be on your game rightthisveryinstant and respond to the attack with enough force to end things.
The Adversarial attack is road rage or the loudmouth in bar itchin’ for a fight or the jealous spouse of a co-worker or the fight between friends that gets out of hand. Those happen on pretty well-defined patterns, and if they get out of hand, they get out of hand in predictable paths that can be countered (or better yet, de-escalated) in predictable ways.
And as things are now, we spend a LOT of time preparing and training for the Predatorial attack: The mugger, the home invasion, the sexual assault. It’s not that these kinds of attacks aren’t real, it’s that for us law-abiding folk, they are just not that common.
Predators tend to prey on the weak, and if you’ve taken the steps needed to secure your family at and away from home, you are not easy pickin’s no more. When such an attack happens, there’s little you can do to de-escalate the action, in fact, trying to de-escalate it will probably get you killed dead. Such an attack requires the immediate and swift application of force sufficient to end the threat. Anything less just ain’t enough.
Which leaves adversarial encounters. These differ in that we can and should control the level of force needed to end things. “A soft answer turneth away wrath” ain’t in the Bible because it sounds nice, it’s in there ’cause it works.
Adversarial encounters can get out of hand quickly if no one choses to de-escalate. Ask any cop who’s had to arrest someone for a barfight or the murder of a friend and he’ll tell you the number one thing they’ll hear from the poor soul who’s now cuffed on the curb is “Why didn’t he just back down?”.
I turn that around and ask “Why didn’t YOU just back down?”
Is an insult, a bad lane change or a loud remark worth twenty years of your life and the loss of your firearms freedoms? Is it worth not seeing your kids grow up or your friends? Is it worth a black mark on your record that will follow you wherever you go?
We spend hours on the range and in the dojo preparing for the predator’s attack. How much time do we spend learning the difference between backing down and giving up?
My fastest draw and fastest split times ever. I did the first CZ75 run at “Normal” speed with very good (for me) hits, then really pushed the next one, then dialed it back a notch for the last run, with excellent results. If I plug that 6.27 into CMCalc.com, it comes back with a 61%, good enough for B Class.
I can dig it.
The P07 was shot from concealment my SuperTuck, and this time I used an old Fobus paddle magazine holder I had lying around, with very decent results. I’m pleased that aside from my draw and reload, my times with my daily carry P07 are durn close to my times with my competition-only CZ75.
One: Many years ago (too many, if I’m honest…) a group of friends from my church’s college group were camping out on the Mogollon Rim, about to fall asleep, when another campsite erupted wild drunken hoots, hollers and gunfire, with what I assumed at the time were shotgun blasts into the air.
There were twelve of us, seven college-age men and 5 girls (in a seperate tent. This was a church outing, after all…), and the best defensive weapon we had was a hatchet. If those drunks decided they wanted to “party” with the girls, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it.
Two: My wife grew up on an acreage in the forests of northeastern Arizona, surround by her Dad’s extended family. One night, the black sheep of said family decided to invite Arizona’s most notorious motorcycle gang up to his property for the night. Her Dad spent the entire evening on their front porch with his shotgun in his lap, watching over his family as gang members loudly partied less than a 200 yards away from his house. The gang left in the morning and didn’t come back, but it made for a tense, sleepless night for her family.
Three: Right after my wife and I were married, a cousin of hers took what I considered to be an unhealthy amount of interest in her whereabouts and well-being. Said cousin was 6’5″, 220lbs with a prior conviction for manslaughter for killing an undercover cop during a drug bust. He has since done the world a favour and killed himself, but it did make for a few tense months in our lives as I wasn’t sure how to handle someone like that if he came to our home with evil on his mind.
What do all three of those examples have in common?
1. There was a threat of imminent lethal force. 2. The nature of the threat is outside the daily routine. 3. Non-lethal force would not be an effective deterrent.
We shoot. We train. We compete. We carry our sidearms with us every day so we can defend ourselves on that horrible day when we need them.
But what do we really need them for? What exactly are your risks?
With the help of crimereports.com, I’m able to see the type and severity of crime in my quiet surbanan Phoenix neighborhood, and the answers surprised me. This is what the police responded to within a one-mile radius of my home over the past six months.
Type of Crime
Number of Crimes since April 2011
Assault w/ Deadly
Breaking and Entering
Disorderly Conduct (Fighting)
Right off the bat, the number of violent, non-lethal crimes jumped out at me. I am much more likely to get my @$$ kicked than I am stabbed or shot (although one of the Assault With A Deadly Weapon Incidents happened on my street. Yikes!).
Also, no sexual assaults or rapes, although there is one registered Level 3 sex offender within a mile of my house.
A number of those assault charges are multiple charges for the same offence on the same day, i.e. Disorderly Conduct and Assault With Reckless Injury charges.
I’m also more likely to have my house broken into than I am facing a deadly weapon, which suggests than an alarm system, big dog, porch lights and anything else I can do to “harden” my home and make it less attractive to burglars is a good thing.
Now, does this mean I should forgo firearms training and run to the dojo?
No, of course not.
For one thing, there is no real substitute for a defensive sidearm. Martial arts and pepper spray can help, but the only sure way to end an attack with lethal force is to respond in-kind. The chances of defending myself against an active shooter are infinitesimally small, but the same skills that I use to keep myself safe day in and day out also apply equally as well against a homicidal madman.
Also, those are the stats for my neighborhood, but that is not my world. I regularly travel throughout to the Phoenix area, sometimes to nice places, sometimes not.
What these numbers tell me, though, is that I need to integrate my training. I need to be able to stop any threat, any time, from 1 inch away to 100 feet away, with whatever tools are appropriate and handy. Training and training for a 20 yard pistol headshot does me little good if someone throws a punch at my head.
Part II Tomorrow: What about random acts of violence?
So what does it actually cost to shoot on a regular (monthly) basis? I visited some of the indoor and outdoor ranges near me to find out.
My assumption is that you’ll go to the range and fire 50 rounds of ammo from a 9mm pistol at three different man-sized targets.
Ranges: Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club (outdoors), Ted’s Shooting Range (indoors), Caswell’s Shooting Range (indoors), Phoenix Rod and Gun Club (outdoors), Scottsdale Gun Club (indoors) and Shooters World (indoors). Ben Avery does not offer memberships and was left off this list, even though they’re one of the best ranges in the country. Lane Rental: One person for one hour Ammo: 50 rounds on 9mm FMJ. For ranges without ammo sales (PRGC, Rio), I used the price of a box of 9mm at my local WalMart. Gun Rental: A 9mm pistol for one hour. For ranges without gun rentals, I used the cost of a typical quality 9mm pistol ($540) spread out over 12 months. Membership: One year’s individual membership. Range memberships at Ted’s is for 14 months not a year, so I reduced the amount for comparison purposes.
Ted’s Shooting Range
Scottsdale Gun Club
Phoenix Rod and Gun Club
Ted’s Shooting Range
Scottsdale Gun Club
Phoenix Rod and Gun Club
So for just a couple hundred dollars more per year or so, memberships at Rio Salado or Phoenix Rod and Gun look like a real bargain, right? After all, that’s including your own gun into that price, and you can shoot rifles there out to 100 yards (and beyond), not just pistols
Not so fast.
First off, they’re outdoor ranges. Not bad now that temperatures in the Phoenix area are leveling off, but that sucks when it’s 115 degrees outside.
Secondly, both ranges have minimum distances you can set up targets, about 8 yards or so. Not a big issue for some, but if you’re trying to train a new shooter, it can get discouraging for them to shoot and shoot and shoot and not see decent groups on the target.
So which should you chose?
That depends on your needs. I have both: I’ve been a member at Rio for over 5 years. I like their public range, and I like the people. But I won a year’s membership to Caswell’s last year, and I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of indoor shooting and the convenience of reserving a lane in advance.
It comes down to what kind of a shooter you are. A public outdoor range membership is great for people who know what they want in a firearm and don’t need (or want) to try out new guns. However, indoor rental ranges are the perfect to get into the shooting sports. For less than $50 a month, you can try out many different firearms and find the one(s) that suit you best and lets you grow into firearms ownership at your pace.
Either way, there are no bad choices: The worst day at the range is still better than the best day in the office.