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4-Day Defensive Handgun Course

Front Sight Course Review

Don M. (Taken 2012)

Editor's Note: This is a review for the 4 Day Defensive Handgun Course class offered at Front Sight.
  • 4 Day Defensive Handgun Course

  • Student: Don M.
  • Occupation: Retired
  • Weapon: Springfield XD(M) 5.25 in 40 S&W
  • Ammo Used: Approx. 750 rounds (including CCW course)
  • Number Course Taken: First time
  • Student Rating: 9.9/10
  • Course: Front Sight Course
What were your reasons for taking this course?

Freshen up my skills, get a concealed carry permit, and spend some quality time with my teenage son. Except for the last 10 years, I have been a competitive shooter in NRA 3-Gun, SASS, CMSA, IHMSA, or Free Pistol since the early '70s. Knowing how important consistent practice is to maintain shooting skills, I needed a lot of work. As it turns out, I also needed to unlearn many of the habits that come from shooting off-hand (required for 3-gun, CMSA, and Free Pistol) and to drill with the modified Weaver / isosceles stance taught by Front Sight.

I also wanted to gain some experience with the polymer pistols that have become such an important part of today's gun scene. After trying Glock, Springfield, and S&W, I had settled on the Springfield XD(M) and focused on learning my new pistol.

What are your General Comments?

This course is absolutely first rate! I have been exposed to both military and civilian weapons training and have not seen or heard about anything better except the dedicated combat schools. In just four days, the Front Sight instructors raised my gun handling skills to a new level. In our class out of 36 total, we had two active law enforcement officers, several ex-military, 3 people whose jobs required personal carry, 8 or 10 people who had taken the course before and a number of newbies. Our range master and line coaches adapted to the individual needs of every student including a 68-year old woman who had never fired a pistol.

The instructors are outstanding! They are knowledgeable, polite, patient, observant, enthusiastic, and always on the go. When the instructors performed the demonstrations, it was obvious that they were very, very good shooters – not just teachers.

The shooter-coach format works very well, and over the four days, I worked with six different classmates – all of whom helped analyze what I was doing. This format also allowed the line coaches on the staff to work individually with each student as needed. In my own case, on three or four occasions one of the line coaches provided precise observations and specific cures that were just what I needed at that time.

Do you have any tips for first-time students?

Ignore all the negative press on the internet about Dr. Piazza. That stuff is totally irrelevant. There are NO sales pitches. I have never seen a single complaint about the school, the courses, or the instructors. That is all that matters to me.

Plan to shoot at least 200 rounds with whatever gun you are planning to take before you go. Save the holster drills until you get to Front Sight.

If you are shooting a high capacity pistol (e.g. Springfield or Glock) take at least 4 full-length magazines with no less than 3 mag holders on your belt. You will also want to wear BDUs or jeans with a couple of large rear pockets. If you decide to use any of the good 1911 models, you need a minimum of 6 magazines and 2 double holders. The extruded plastic holsters and mag holders that come with a Glock, XD, or XD(M) are excellent for the class. I would also suggest a barrel brush, some patches, and good lubricating oil. As a part of our personal gear test, I field stripped and cleaned my new XD(M) 40 each night. My son's identical gun was not cleaned during the 4-Day class (750 rounds) and the CCW qualifying test (30 rounds). Both guns functioned perfectly – not a single malfunction, clean or dirty. (My son's gun now has almost 1800 rounds through it without a cleaning or malfunction.)

If you bring your own pistol, practice the "Ragged Hole" drill from either 7 or 10 meters to make sure you know exactly where your pistol is zeroed. If changes need to be made, this should be done before you leave home. The Range Instructors and the Pro Shop staff will not make any adjustments to your weapon. (On Day 3, you learn that the "Ragged Hole" drill means 5 very carefully placed shots at a single point of aim using proper breathing, sight picture, and trigger release / capture.)

On Days 2, 3, and 4, most of the time is spent on the firing line. Your spare time in the coaching role will be spent shoving more ammo into your magazines to keep them topped off. I always went to the line with 3 full magazines (15 rounds each) plus another 50 or so rounds in a back pocket.

Front Sight operates regardless of the weather. On Day 2, it rained intermittently from 10:00 on with temperatures between 40° and 45° Fahrenheit. Since we had not yet practiced concealed carry, students had to either strap their pistol belt outside their rain gear or take off the rain gear when it was time to shoot. Day 3, the temperature stayed between 35°F and 45°F with overcast skies. When we got to the range on Day 4, the temperature was 28°F but warmed up to 50°F by noon – almost tropical (/sarcasm). Your mileage may vary. Taking one of the last classes in early summer would be just the opposite – dry and hot.

Bring layers and be prepared to use them. One layer should be a water-resistant wind-breaker. (Note: the instructors wore heavy winter parkas and snow pants over their BDUs on Days 2 and 3.) Wear sturdy, comfortable boots with a heavy sole. Tromping around on the gravel was really tough on people who had tennis shoes or light weight boots. Bring sunscreen and be sure to cover your ears, neck, and the back of your head. Chapstick™ or Carmex™ is also a good idea. Unless you plan to wear shooting gloves, bring and liberally apply a heavy duty, non- greasy hand cream. Finally, purchase the "Practice Guide for Defensive Handgun" from the Front Sight Pro Shop in advance of your class. This handy booklet is expensive ($24 even after the Diamond discount) but worth every penny.

Would you suggest this course to others?

Absolutely and with no reservations. In fact, for anyone who carries on the job or is thinking about getting a concealed carry permit, this class would be the first thing I would recommend. If you do not already have a pistol, I would recommend renting either an XD or a Glock from Front Sight and making a purchase decision after taking the course. Taking the course is far more important than the particular gun you purchase. (By the way, the 40% discount for Diamond members applies to the rental gear including the ammo for the course.)

How did you get there?

My son and I drove roughly 700 miles each way.

Where did you stay?

Saddle West Casino in delightful, scenic downtown Pahrump, taking advantage of the First Family discount offered to Diamond members. Note: Make reservations as early as possible. They sell out every week. Some students had to stay in Las Vegas adding 30 to 45 minutes of commute each way over the drive to Pahrump.

How did you handle the ammo situation?

We purchased our ammo from Stockpile Defense, at Front Sight. Prices were excellent, and there was absolutely no hassle. I strongly recommended doing this; don't bother to bring your own. (Note: Only factory new ammo is allowed at Front Sight; no handloads or reloads.)

How did you handle the lunch situation?

On the first day, we tried the Saddle West box lunch. It would have been cheaper and better to buy bread and sandwich meat from Wal-Mart. The second day, we tried Beach Café on site and found it to be excellent. We might have saved some money by making our own meals, but the convenience of the Beach Café with a gluten-free menu outweighed the cost.

What other courses are you planning to take in the future?

4-Day Practical Rifle, Precision Rifle, and Tactical Shotgun – all within the next 12 months. I plan to go with at least one of my four sons on each visit. I may also take the 4-day Handgun class (again) with my 13-year old daughter since she would otherwise have to wait until she is 16. Once you have a Diamond membership, all classes are free. Why not take advantage of the best training available to any civilian or law enforcement officer?