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4-Day Defensive Handgun Couple's Review

Front Sight Course Review

Mackey and Tina M. (Taken October 2012)

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

  • Student: Mackey and Tina M.
  • Occupation: IT Specialist w/ IBM
  • Weapon: Springfield Armory XD-9 Sub-Compact
  • Rounds Fired: 700
  • Number Course Taken 2nd Time
  • Student Rating: 9/10
  • Course: Front Sight
What were your reasons for taking this specific course?

I took my first Front Sight class, also a 4-Day Defensive Handgun course, with my nephew in April of this year. We both enjoyed the class so much that we decided we should both come back again with our spouses. My nephew couldn't make it happen, but my wife and I were able to enjoy this class together as a stop on our "Western USA Vacation Tour 2012".

General Comments:

Like my first class at Front Sight, I found the instructors to be top notch. The Range Master was talented and often entertaining, as well. The other two instructors, while a bit less imbued with sparkling personality, were quite competent and very friendly. It seemed as though there were a high percentage of return students in this class—about half the class, as I recall. Perhaps that explains the highergraduation percentage in this class – 18 of 36 Graduate and 3 Distinguished Graduates – in contrast to my first class, which had just 2 DGs and only a handful of Graduates. I achieved Graduate, myself, this time. Without a doubt, I shot faster in the final evaluation this time, though my accuracy suffered a bit for it; I dropped 19 points on accuracy alone! Ironically, my worst two shots were both late, as well (more on this a bit later). I did much better on the malfunction drills this time, though, compared to my first class. I must have dropped very few points on those this time.

The "big news" on this trip was my wife's experience. She has never shown any interest in shooting before, but I think that the enthusiasm I exhibited upon my return from the first Front Sight class piqued her interest a bit. I made a few trips to the local gun range after my first class, and I eventually managed to talk her into going with me. I spent less than 10 minutes (which actually exceeded her attention span ;-) ) explaining how to handle the gun safely, and off to the range we went. I shot my SA XD-9 Sub-compact, while my wife was shooting my SA XDM-9 (what she refers to as the "big gun"). At the time, I had a Burris Fast Fire-II mounted atop the slide of the XDM, which made punching paper a cinch. Her first target (15 ft, I believe) was a ragged hole from the bull down about 1" into the 10 ring. Unbelievable! Now, don't get me wrong: I was able to match her performance at the range that day, even with my Sub-Compact, iron sights, and old eyes. But I had been shooting for over a year and had already been trained at Front Sight.

My first targets with the XDM (my first pistol ever) were absolutely abysmal compared to what she delivered on her very first effort. In contrast, we scanned the targets on the lanes either side of us, and without exception every other target on the range looked more like a blast of buckshot from a shotgun, compared to ourtargets. In fact, at one point, while I was shooting a ragged hole of my own, my wife whispered in my ear that the people from the next lane over had stopped shooting and had stepped back to watch me shoot. Sweet! She was really excited about how well she did, too. From that moment, we began to discuss seriously the prospect of taking a future course together. Of course, before I could have her use my XDM for the class, I had to replace the OEM iron sights. Red dot, focal plane optics are nice, especially for those of us who suffer with acute presbyopia, but they aren't practical for self-defense scenarios.

The first two days of the class, Tina managed to wow one of the return students shooting in the lane adjacent to us. He simply could not believe that Tina was a novice shooter, as her groups were phenomenal, right from the start. Now, at this point, she wasn't very fast, yet, as she was still getting the hang of the 5 point presentation, Weaver stance, firing grip, 3 secrets, etc. And at the end of day 2, she was quite exhausted. She left wondering whether she could take two more days of that pace. I should mention that my wife suffers from a muscle disorder that causes her constant pain and discomfort. (Some doctor's have called it fibromyalgia—who knows?) Day 3 was quite transformational for her, though. I saw a great deal of progress as she got smoother and faster on her presentation, even from concealment. And she noticed it, too, because at the end of day 3, she was no longer talking about giving up. She was, instead, wondering if she might DG. Pretty cool, huh?! It gets better…

On the morning of Day 4, we got to do the Shoot House simulation, and while she took longer than anyone else to clear the house, she didn't miss a single shot. In contrast, my instructor heckled me mercilessly and succeeded in causing me to rush and make serious mistakes, not the least of which was the bullet hole I put through the back of the hostage's head— OOPS! I'm going to miss that red-headed kid. And did I EVER see my front sight the whole time I was in there?? I don't think so…

But enough about me. Back at the range, again, my wife and I were separated on the relays for the first time. We went into the various practice drills: timed and untimed designated head shots, dry practice, ragged hole, etc. Speaking of ragged holes, it was about this time that the Range Master noticed my wife shooting a perfectly centered ragged hole in the head box— he called me over to look at it, too.

So when it came time to shoot the man-on-man steel target competition, the Range Master waxed devious. Though he ostensibly had someone shuffle the deck before he started drawing students for the braces, I noticed that he pulled a card and moved it to the bottom of the deck. So near the very end of the deck, wouldn't you know it, he called Tina and I to shoot against each other in the first heat! Because he so vociferously denied it, I know for a fact he did that on purpose. Long story short, Tina whooped me! In fact, she went on to whoop two other shooters, as well, and found herself in the final four! She was finally eliminated by the ultimate overall winner of the man-on-man competition and an extraordinary shooter who lost ZERO points in the final evaluation. She was absolutely effervescent, at this point!

Now, about this time, I was starting to seriously get "all up in my head" about the final skills evaluation. I know that I can have serious problems with trigger control if I rush my shots. But I also knew that if I wanted to improve upon my previously attained Certificate of Achievement (sic), I was going to have to make my shots within the time limit, this time around. Oh how I wish I could have taken the score I would have had in the final run-through prior to the final evaluation! I shot very well, and all my shots were within the time limit. I think I would have only been down about 6 points! Instead, when I shot the final evaluation, I was down 19 points, thanks to two "jerk offs" (Yes, seriously, that is the right explanation for a jerked trigger—POI is low and left for a RH shooter) that missed the corpus entirely! Oh, and both those shots were also late, too. In retrospect, I believe I know what I will need to work on, next. If I slow w-a-a-a-y down and concentrate on not staging the trigger, I get clean, surprise breaks that get good hits every time. But at the same time, I have come to recognize that I am practicing being slow! But when I try to transition immediately from slow to fast, I start jerking the trigger, again. I have got to modify my practice sessions to transition smoothly and gradually from slow to fast while still maintaining that steady build of pressure on the trigger as I press straight rearward. If I practice slow, I'll always be slow! Food for thought.

Tina and I were literally at opposite ends of the firing line for the final evaluation, so I could only watch her from afar. She shot better than me on the shooting portion, only dropping 12 points for accuracy. But I could tell that she shot late, a few times, and from my experience in the first class, I know that late shots add up to too many lost points. And because she lacks normal strength, she struggled with some of the malfunction drills, apparently finishing late on too many to get Graduate. It didn't help that she was all the way on the end right in front of an instructor; they will not likely miss any late shots/drills that occur right in front of them. But all in all, she was very pleased with the course and with her newfound confidence handling a handgun.

Do you have any tips for first-time students of this course?

Get a copy of Gun Training Central's Travel Guide; it has most everything you need to know about preparing for a course at Front Sight. I would have to say that the airport at Las Vegas was not bad, at all, this time. I believe they have opened a new terminal, since April. Still, make sure that you get there for your flight AT LEAST 2 hours early.

I have one new tip for shooters like me who want to train with the gun we intend to carry (e.g. SA XD-9 Sub-Compact) rather than using a full frame weapon (e.g. SA XDM-9) for the Front Sight course. As our Range Master repeated to us over and over, "Practice like you are going to fight, because you will fight how you practice". Problem is, though, the sub- compacts bite! They literally bite the firing side hand (see photo), pinching the fleshy palm of the hand between the bottom of the (shortened) compact grip and the grip extension on the magazine when you slap it home. This happened several times during the malfunction drills and emergency reloads, leaving me with blood blisters that smarted then and still haven't healed, even now. A bit too late for me, though, I found an excellent solution at the Pahrump Home Depot: Gorilla Grip gloves. These cost only about $4. They are a breathable, flexible, nylon mesh glove with a latex coating covering the palm and inside of the fingers and thumb. I found that these not only protected my palm for the malfunction drills but also permitted me sufficient dexterity for things like setting up the Type 3 malfunctions. I did notice, however, that they are kind of difficult when trying to tape targets. The masking tape sticks to the latex coating like you would not believe! And when you peel the tape off the glove, it takes a little bit of rubber with it each time. But on the whole, I was glad to have them, especially for the malfunction drills. Other shooters may find these to be suitable protection for use throughout the full four day course.

Would you suggest this course to others?

Yes, I would suggest this course to others, especially anyone who is a new CHL holder.

How did you get there?

My wife and I were vacationing in the Western US. We made a planned stop in Pahrump to take this course.

Where did you stay?

We stayed at the Best Western, Pahrump, NV. The accommodations were fine, though probably less than a 3 star experience. I don't really have any big complaints, though. Every night, when we got back to the room, we were tired and ready to just go to sleep.

How did you handle the lunch situation?

Each traveler is only able to fly with 11 pounds (about 300 rounds of 115gr 9mm) of ammo in their baggage with American Airlines. We bought an additional 300 rounds each at a Bi-Mart in OR. We were running short at the end of Day 3, so we bought another 200 rounds from the truck parked out at Tecopa Road and NV 160.

How did you handle the lunch situation?

We went to Albertson's and bought the fixings to make sandwiches each morning at the hotel.

Do you have any dinner suggestions?

I still have not found any place better than Wulfy's at the Best Western, and that isn't saying a great deal. We did try the Chinese buffet, China Wok, behind the Walmart, again, but the food was quite marginal. We tried a Thai restaurant, My Thai, which was not conveniently located. And I was not impressed with my meal (Thai food should NOT be bland!). I am certain there must be something better in Pahrump, but I haven't discovered it, yet.

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

I intend to take the 4-Day Practical Rifle course next spring. After that, I may try to come back for the 2-Day Skill Builder class and see if I can finally DG the handgun course.