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4-Day Defensive Handgun

Front Sight Course Review

John M.

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

  • Student: John M.
  • Occupation:Des Moines Television Meteorologist Commercial Pilot/Instructor and FAA Designated Pilot Examiner
    NRA Firearms Instructor
  • Weapon: Springfield XD 9mm/Glock 9mm/Springfield XD 40
  • Rounds Fired: A little more than 600 rounds each
  • Number Course Taken: 2nd Time
  • Student Rating: 9/10
  • Course: Front Sight
General Comments

After attending Front Sight for the first time in March of 2011, I knew that for the next visit I would want to include as many friends and family members as possible. With Dr. Piazza's upgrade offer from Diamond membership to Ambassador, I had the opportunity to make several new Front Sight members and keep the Front Sight office busy with membership transfers.

So, March 18-21 of this year, I returned again for the 4-Day Defensive Handgun class with eight additional shooters accompanying me. Having bragged up the quality of training to my group for several months, I was pleased that everything went smoothly from the first check in to the award of certificates at the end of the fourth day. One person in our group actually stayed another four days for the Practical Rifle course! He was one tired guy, and I would not recommend two back-to-back four-day courses without a day of recovery time.

If you want to get a new female student noticed on the range, get her a XD 9mm and have the slide cerakoted in prison pink, then add a pair of pink noise cancelling headphones to match! When my girlfriend Mindy showed up with the pink XD, range master Patty Walker teased about stealing it for her granddaughter, but "pink" served to break the tension those first two days when Mindy and other first time students began to get overwhelmed. There is a lot of information on day one and two and it is common to feel like you are trying to drink from a fire hose.

One cannot say enough positive things about Patty Walker. I watched her hug, encourage, and console students who wanted to give up after the first few attempts at all the malfunction drills. Patty was also the first to high five these same students when the "light bulb" went on around day three, and they put it all together for the skills test on day four. I am sure there are many great range masters at Front Sight, but Patty sure has a heart for helping. When you attend Front Sight the first time, just remember there is a plan behind this deep immersion into terms and training techniques; but it will make sense, so keep the faith and keep coming back. It will be worth every minute.

My mother Mary came to front sight with nearly 70 years of "life experience" but no experience with her brand new Glock 9mm. I had told her that if she intends to have firearms, then she needs to attend Front Sight. I gave her and her husband lifetime memberships good for most Front Sight courses. The student-coach concept worked well for her, as she was partnered with my 16-year-old son Nathan the first two days as he had been in on our first Front Sight trip with his XD 40.

Mom loved every day, and it was fun to see grandson and grandmother face off in the steel target/hostage scenario with much fanfare from the instructor staff.

Nathan just loves to shoot, and with quick reflexes and sharp eyes, he pretty much made the rest of us look bad. The instructor staff loved his aggressive checks to the left and right during after action drills. He is working on becoming an NRA apprentice instructor, so he can assist with our Iowa CCW classes. What a great father-son bond. Unfortunately, college kept my oldest son from making his second trip to Front Sight.

My best friend Denny had never owned a handgun until a few months ago and had been reluctant to actually carry it with live rounds until he attended Front Sight. He is now comfortable and confident with his XDm 40 and enjoyed not only the range portion, but the thoughtful lectures on mental awareness and the moral and legal ramifications of having to use a gun in self defense. His expectation was a bunch of gun nuts, but soon found Front Sight is a collection of good every day people.

We also had an experienced shooter with us. My friend Chuck is a radar engineer from Alabama, formerly serving our country at military installations across the globe and now in private industry building those "Super Doppler" radars you see on your local TV station. Chuck initially had to remind himself this was a "Defensive Handgun" course, not "offensive combat" as he had learned in the service. But his skills quickly sharpened to a level he had not seen in many years, plus he took advantage of reasonable rates at the armory to tweak a couple AR-15s he brought with him for the rifle course. Drawing from concealment was something new, and Front Sight is a great place to train with what you will carry each day and in the clothing you normally wear.

I found great value in repeating the 4-Day course again with family and friends. Not just to make sure everyone is getting along well, but to hone skills that degrade more quickly than most would imagine. Even as a local CCW instructor who shoots several times a month, rust sets in quick and a trip to Front Sight "fights rust fast!" You not only learn from the Front Sight staff, but the experience of other shooters. Our group had several current law enforcement officers who shared some real life stories.

Highlights: Lectures have been honed down to the key elements from what I heard a few years ago. This provides more time for questions and updates on the status of Front Sight. There is no sales pitch for memberships, just a mention to see someone in the pro shop for more information. We didn't even have to watch the Front Sight Legacy DVD most of you have already seen several times.

The only negative comment in our group was that the pitch by Pro Ears went on and on, when it could have been just a few minutes... "Hey, we have a great product. It's in the pro shop. We would love to offer you a free screening tonight after class." Instead, we learned the decibel level of everything that makes noise in a lengthy Powerpoint presentation.

Stockpile Defense was honest and upfront about what they had, and what we had better bring if we wanted ammo. We shipped 650 rounds each ahead of time, and they had it waiting for us. They even thanked us for doing it, so those who couldn't find ammo in these trying times could still get through the class with the stock on hand. We all shot slightly more than the 600 rounds mentioned in the class materials. We saw many two-day course folks trying to buy rounds, as they shot more than planned.

The pro shop was having some issues now that everyone is using "ambassador bucks." First of all, if you want the 40% discount, just pay cash as the credit from Dr. Piazza is figured at the posted retail prices. This had a few folks grumbling, but hey, it is almost free money? Clothing in large and extra large was almost non-existent, along with 5.11 gear in average guy sizes. The helpful staff said everyone is using the ambassador credits; so keeping common sizes in stock was tough.

Brad Ackerman's new book was selling well, but the FMK composite stripped AR-15 lower receiver offered by Front Sight didn't move too fast at $200 until Brad announced folks could use ambassador bucks on them or get up to 40% off for cash sales based on your membership. That seemed to spark sales.

Check-In went much quicker than in the past, and we all got assigned to the same range in less than five minutes. The new restrooms were a hit for those assigned to a range near the classroom. Distant ranges have "brown houses", and the ones we used on range 10 and 11 had not been serviced recently and were not fit for the ladies to use and barely for men. Thus, women had to load in the car and drive to the modern facilities and lose valuable training time. There were several apologies by Front Sight staff about this, and maintenance was working to take care of it. Unfortunately, that didn't happen before our class ended.

Front Sight will be part of my family's vacation planning for many years, and hopefully the memberships passed to others will pay dividends. Thanks to the Front Sight staff for another great experience. Yes, it is expensive to travel and stay in a hotel four to five days. I can assure you it is worth it to see loved ones get comfortable, confident, and proficient with a firearm. Passing on a Front Sight membership is a gift that pays big dividends in so many ways.

Where did you stay?

I have stayed at the Best Western both times. The AC unit didn't work the first day, but they swapped it out the second day. The morning buffet got off to a rough start on the first day. The normal staff had been on vacation, and the restaurant wasn't prepared. The staff is friendly, the prices are good, and they still accept ammo shipments. Next trip we will look at the new cabins available at the Wine Ridge RV Park for something new and different.

How did you handle the lunch situation?

The food we ordered for lunch the last day from Beach Cafe was actually very good, although a bit pricey. It was a nice break from making our own lunch each morning. I would do that again for a day or two. Lunches run $14 ordered online and delivered to the classroom.

Do you have any dinner suggestions?

El Jefe Mexican in Pahrump seems to be the popular (reasonable) place for dining after class. Great food and prices and lots of Front Sight students and instructors eating there. It is right down the highway from the Best Western, where we called home. For pricier dining, the Ohjah Japanese Steakhouse was a great way to celebrate graduation from four days of tap, rack, and flip