Sight Update 2011
Some changes to their courses and
Alas, the night shoot
is no longer included in Front Sight's Four Day Defensive
Part of a continuing series on the
Front Sight Firearms Training Institute; what it does, how
it does it, and its relevance for you. Please click
the links on the right hand side for other parts of the
Over the many years that Front
Sight has been operational, they have regularly fine tuned the
curriculums for each of the different courses they offer.
This is partially as a result
of real-world experience gained from having people train with
them, it is partially a result of a changing demographic of who
attends Front Sight courses, and partially a result of how their
various courses fit together best into an integrated whole.
The latest series of changes
were released in mid/late December 2010 and are explained below.
The Changing Demographic at
It seems that as Front Sight
has grown, the type of people who attend their courses has
evolved. While exact data is not to hand, it is probably
correct to say that initially the people who chose to attend a
Front Sight course were more likely to already have some skills,
experience and probably even previous formal training with
In the early days, Front
Sight courses tended to be much more expensive than they often
are these days, and it was reasonable to expect a much more
extensive training program - not just due to the extra cost of
the program, but because the people attending were already at an
intermediate or advanced skill level.
But now with many more
people attending Front Sight courses (up to 1000 a week), with
the typical cost of attending a Front Sight course massively
reduced, and with the level of pre-existing skill not as
substantial as it was previously, it has perhaps made sense to
make Front Sight's entry level course more truly an entry level
course, and to provide a range of more advanced courses for
people who are at higher skill levels.
This is certainly what
happened at the end of 2010, and, for what it is worth, we
gather from speaking to people who have been attending these
courses for many years, that this is far from the first time
that Front Sight has adjusted the courses and what they include.
The changes to the basic
four day course - what they term their 'Four Day Defensive
Handgun' course have some implications in terms of what courses
you should return for and, if you are considering a
Front Sight Lifetime membership, which level of membership
you should choose.
Specific Changes to the Four
Day Defensive Handgun Course
There are three major
changes, one trivial change, and a minor evolving change as
All of these arguably
'cheapen' the experience, but at the same time, they make it
less overwhelming for a first time student.
Talking about cheapening the
experience, the class notes that used to be provided free of
charge are now being sold for $40 in a spiral-bound booklet
form. These notes aren't essential, but they were helpful;
it is unfortunate to now have to pay an over-the-top $40 for a
copy. I could see offering them for $5 or $10, but $40 is
clearly not merely a cost recovery fee or even a moderate
profit, but instead involved a 'super profit' component as well.
No Night Shoot
One of the parts we most
enjoyed in the past was the night shoot, for several reasons.
It was not an experience easily recreated at home, it taught us
new skills, especially the Harries technique for holding a
pistol and flashlight at the same time, and also recreated the
dark environment in which most gun fights can be expected to
Unfortunately, this has been
taken out of the course and is no longer offered.
We believe the Two
Day Handgun Skill Builder course still has a night shoot in it.
Front Sight have created a
dedicated night course, but they are only offered
once or twice a year, around the middle of summer.
No Turning Targets
It seems that when Front
Sight added lots of new ranges mid/late in 2010, they did not
provision them with turning targets.
When I was there in late
October 2010, they were doing a compromise whereby the first two days
were on a new range with static targets and the second two days
were on an old range with turning targets, but now it appears
the way forward is for the entire instruction to be on a range
without the turning targets.
Instead, times will be
started and stopped by a timer beep. For the students,
this is a similar sort of experience, but it makes it harder for
the instructors to check if people are shooting late or not.
And the 'Clang!' as the
targets swung around to face, and the second clang as they swung
back again added another dimension and element of adrenalin that
plain simple beeps completely lack.
Plus the ability to
semi-randomly have some targets turn and not others made for
more exciting shooting too.
Based on my experience in
April 2011, it seems that the beeps are often inaudible - the
start beep can sometimes not be heard, particularly if there is
shooting on an adjacent range, and the ending beep - now
supplemented with a whistle blow as well - is usually missed,
both because of the vastly louder sound of the gunfire all
around, and also because of one's 'tunnel vision' concentration
exclusively on getting one's shots off.
The turning targets, on the
other hand, were impossible to overlook or mistake. A
change to static targets and whistles is a massive reduction in
The turning targets are
being used in the two day skill builder courses.
No Optional Morning Dry Firing
An optional feature used to
be an invitation to turn up at the range at 7.30am instead of at
the official start time of 8.00am and to spend probably about 15
- 20 minutes doing dry firing drills. This primarily
involved presenting one's pistol (aka drawing) and it was very
helpful to have extra time to further develop and polish one's
speed and skill at presenting.
Sometimes practice was also
given in clearing malfunctions too. Whatever the skills
being honed were, it was a very useful extra bit of range time.
This has now been
Clearly Front Sight are still feeling their way forward with
this one. In April, it was announced that a brief period
of dry firing would be available at about 7.40am on the second
and third mornings of the four day course, but only for people
who had rented guns from FS, not for people bringing their own
Shorter Hours Each Day
The first Four Day Defensive
Handgun course I attended had us working through until 7pm,
6.50pm, 9.40pm and 5.45pm.
The new hours in 2011 had us
finished by 5pm every day, although the last day ended slightly
after 5pm. In round figures, there are at least six fewer
hours of instruction now than there were before.
Previously Front Sight
provided both large plastic barrels of water and plastic
disposable drinking cups. They also had tins of Gatorade,
and the instructors told us that one in every three or four cups
of water should have Gatorade mixed in with it to help us
replenish our electrolytes.
Unfortunately, it seems
they've now stopped providing the Gatorade powder. Perhaps
this is not a huge deal on the cosmic scheme of things, but it
is a disappointing move, and probably requires us to pack one
more thing when we prepare to go on a Front Sight course
The Vanishing Instructors
This last change is one
which Front Sight is not officially talking about. They
say that they have always manned their ranges on the basis of
one range master and two range instructors, with occasional
extra staff being unplanned (eg due to cancelled classes or
whatever) rather than standard policy.
It is not for me to
contradict that, and it may well be correct. But it seems,
in the past, they may have had a more generous unofficial policy
in terms of range staffing and extra staff on hand than they do
now (and their website still has images that show as many as
four range instructors together with a range master on a single
range), and they are now adhering more closely to their 1 + 2
staffing on the ranges.
More People Per Range
Previously each range had 20
lanes, and two people per lane, making for a maximum of 40
people per range.
Almost all the ranges have
had one more lane added to them, and some have two more lanes
added to them, making for potentially 44 people instead of 40
This isn't a huge
difference, but up to four more students, with a tightening in
the number of instructors does definitely detract from the
amount of 'one on one' time one has with instructors.
Typically at any given time
one of the Front Sight staff is acting as range master, standing
back from the firing line and managing the sequence of
activities, while the other two are on the line and giving
Some of the students soak up
a huge amount of instructor time, leaving the average and better
students with almost no instructor inputs whatsoever.
On my last course (41 people
initially prior to a few drop-outs, one range master and usually
two instructors) I would often go half a day between any direct
contact with an instructor.
Less Live Firing
This is not necessarily a
bad thing. You can learn as validly - perhaps even more
validly - with dry firing drills as you can with live firing
practice. You should not measure the value of your
practice by the number of rounds you fire.
entire first morning is now all theory without any live firing
at all. That's not a bad thing for people on their first
ever course, but people coming back for a second course may find
that a bit slow and frustrating.
Which leads to the next
Your Strategy for Future Front
Everyone should make their
first Front Sight pistol course either a two or a four day
defensive handgun course.
But after that first course,
it now makes sense to consider coming back not for repeat four
day defensive handgun courses, but instead to come back for the
two day handgun skill builder courses. This will give you
the turning targets, and will skip some of the very introductory
material on the first day or two, and also skips the formal
Assuming that you weren't
totally overwhelmed by the first two or four day course, you'd
probably prefer the more intensive nature of the Skill Builder
course compared to repeating the first course a second time.
Further Change in May
In May Front Sight started
mandating the use of electronic hearing protection. This is
probably a partial response to the unsatisfactory problems hearing
the electronic timing buzzers.
Part of a multi-part series
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other parts of this extensive series on Front Sight and the
training they offer.
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31 Jan 2011, last update
28 May 2011
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