Once more, with feeling.

Not to flagellate an expired equine, but as an internet marketing dude and the person who left the comment over at Say Uncle that torched off the GunsAmerica vs. the Interwebz thing,I think a few thoughts are in order.

1. Paul’s comparison of his compete.com score is for his SITE, not his blog. Other metrics are used to measure blog readership than Compete.com.

2. There is readership, and then there is influence. There are people inside traditional media whose numbers pale in comparison to, say, NBC. But when Spengler talks, people listen. This is true in the blog world as well. When Tam talks about S+W revolvers, I listen. When Caleb talks IDPA, I listen. When Jay talks about… wait, what DOES Jay talk about, anyways? :) You get the point.

3. The gun companies now have a clear NEGATIVE example of blog engagement. Some may say it was us bloggers turning on GunsAmerica, I say without Paul’s comments, we would have gladly let sleeping dogs lie. Prick us, though, and we’ll bleed all over you. 

4. The gun companies need a clear POSITIVE example. Para’s Gunblogger thing was *almost* what was needed, but three years later, two of the ten bloggers invited ain’t blogging no more.

Oops.

What’s needed is evangelism marketing: Find the people who LOVE your products and get them to tell others about it. Ten random bloggers is good, but three bloggers who know and love your products and who like to spread the word is better (hint hint, CZ-USA). 

And if you’re a gun company and want help doing that, my email inbox is always open.

More …

Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course Wrapup

Day Four is here

Day Three is here

Day Two is here

Day One is here

Wrap Up

A few random notes:

On Wednesday, a shooter to my right picked up a live round off the ground and loaded into his gun. Unfortunately, it was a .40 and his 1911 used to shoot .45. Having a KABOOM right next to you was… interesting.

The course description says 600 rounds are needed for the Four Day Handgun class. Bring at least 650.

The pitch for Front Sight memberships was VERY low-key, less than the pitch for NRA membership at one of their classes.

No, there were no pitches for Scientology. Tom Cruise didn’t show up and jump on any couches.

I did like the utter and complete lack of tacticool “Rex Kwan Do” talk at Front Sight. The instructors weren’t there to turn us into Rapid Tactical Force reserve units, they talked about how to protect our lives and the lives of our loved ones. A big plus, and one of the reasons why the women in my class seemed to be so relaxed (and good shooters).

The “tactics” part of the course dealt with primarily with securing your family in the event of a home invasion. A good idea, but why teach so much about concealed carry shooting if you’re setting up for a home invasion? Better to teach shooting on the move or shooting from retention if it’s a concealed carry course and teach home invasion defense as it’s own subject.

Ok, was it worth it?

As I said at the outset, the reason why I did this is to see if the Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun class was a good value.

The answer: Sorta.

If you’re like me (and I know I am), it’s not worth paying full price because I already know how to do a lot of what Front Sight teaches in this class. It was good as a refresher and good to learn Weaver and good to do some shooting drills and good to learn the malfunction drills, but as for actually stress training or tactical insights, I didn’t really learn a lot. However, given where I am in my training, I might get more out of their practical rifle or tac shotgun classes.

However, there were a LOT of first-time shooters there this week, and their improvement from Day One to Day Four proves this this class is just peachy for getting such people up to speed quickly.

But let’s look at the cost. You can buy Four Day Handgun certificates on eBay for $100 or less. Figure in six days of hotel ($500 or so) and meals ($100-ish) and that’s $700 bucks, without travel or ammo costs. Less than a GunSite class, but Front Sight ain’t GunSite.

That $700 buys a LOT of training. That’s every pistol course at my local indoor range, with $230 to spend on private lessons. And for stress-fire practice, well, that’s what IDPA or USPSA is for.

Or for that same $700, you can take an NRA Basic Pistol and both Personal Protection classes and have even more money left over for private lessons and do IDPA/USPSA for the stress fire.

Frankly, if I were a first-time shooter, I’d go with the NRA classes and private instruction with a proven teacher. Front Sight’s instruction was good, but their safety instruction, situational awareness training and after-action advice wasn’t up to what was taught in an NRA Personal Protection class. Plus, with an NRA class, you get a certification that is recognized nation-wide. With a Front Sight class, you get a certification that’s recognized in Pahrump, and bang for buck, I think an NRA class with a good teacher is the way to go. If you’re a new shooter and don’t know of a good NRA instructor in your area, then Front Sight is for you.

Front Sight has a good thing going, taking first-time gun owners and turning them into decent shooters and they certainly have a booming repeat business: Around half of the students in my class had a Front Sight membership of some kind or another. But are their Four Day Handgun Classes a good value for someone who already knows how to draw, shoot and hit center-mass twice in under two seconds?

In my opinion, no. But that’s just my body Thetans talkin’.

Five Guns O’ Fun

Ok, Robb, since you asked… 

Special bonus entry: An M134 Vulcan Air Defense System. Why? Do you have to ask

5. A Deagle. There’s just something about owning Agent Smith’s gun that I like. And not a gold, engraved one either, just a regular ol’ Desert Eage.

4. Bren Ten. Don Johnson. Jeff Cooper. Josef and František Koucký. Need I say more? 

3. An HK53. I’ve liked these since before I graduated high school. Hating HK is cool now, but I still want one. Speaking of high school…

2. A Ruger AC556. No, not because of the A-Team. I wanted one since Dirk Benedict was Starbuck, not Face. 

1. A Beaumont-Adams revolver. The gun that won the West. The Canadian West, that is. 

Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course Review, Day Four

Day One is here

Day Two is here

Day Three is here

Day Four

Picking up from where I dozed off yesterday, after lunch on Wednesday  it was more drills:  Controlled pairs into center-mass from 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards, and headshots / failure to stop drills from 5 and 7 yards, all repeated at least three times. The capper of the was their “ragged hole” drill: Five shots from the holster at five yards into a 1 inch square. Didn’t quite make it there myself, but I did pretty well. 

And before I forget, here’s a pic from yesterday. This is the “Monsters Inc.” range, for practicing tactical movement. 

Front Sight Doors

More on that, and their “tactical” teaching in general in Friday’s wrap-up. 

Today started off with more drills: Controlled pairs into center-mass from 3, 5, 7, 10 and 15 yards, and headshots / failure to stop drills from 5 and 7 yards. 

And then it was time for the head-to-head matchup. The course of fire was pretty easy: Headshot at a hostage-taker target at 10 yards, then one shot each at two torso-size plates at 15 yards.

Head to head

I did ok on this: I got into the third round, but my first shot on the next round went into the “hostage” target” and that meant it was over for me. 

After lunch, it was more drills, and then the final test. I never did know the time we had for each shot, but it wasn’t short. C-Class shooter that I am, with my dead-stock CZ P07 and a Supertuck, I was able to ace the shooting part of the test, dropping only two shots out of 25 out of center mass / center-head. 

The malfunction drills are where I blew it, though. Not THAT big of a surprise considering this was the part of the class where I had the least experience. I’m sure if I shot a 1911, I’d have more practice with them. 

I kid. I jest. Mostly. :) 

And that was that. I ended up at the “Graduate” level, one of 17 of our class of 32 who did so, which was apparently quite good, We had one person hit “Distinguished Graduate”, and I was kinda bummed it wasn’t me (durn my competitive nature!). 

And the sunset on the last day wasn’t bad either. Here’s the view from “Sniper’s Point”.

Snipers Point

Final thoughts, and an answer to the big question (Was it worth it?) tomorrow.

 

Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course Review, Day Three

Day One is here

Day Two is here

Day Three 

Today started out on one of the ranges in “Phase Two” of Front Sight, and you begin to get an idea of how big this place is. They have two 200 yard rifle ranges, plus an arroyo dedicated to shotgun and another dedicated to rifle, plus “Snipers Point”, an overlook with stell targets set out along a wash. We were on Range 14, but we soon left it for “Monsters, Inc.”, a bay with nothing but a few dozen doors set up to practice door entry with blue guns, and then it was of to the simulation bay for a live-fire “Shoot house” run. 

And you know what? I’m tired and I still need to do some dry-fire practice, so I’ll leave what was in the shoot house and the rest of today for tomorrow. 

Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course Review, Day Two

Day One Report is here

Day Two 

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. 

Pistol Ranges

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.

Pistol Range

Not bad. 

Conex

This, unfortunately, is what the rest of the buildings on the range look like. Oh well. 

100 yard range

One of the 100 yard rifle/shotgun ranges. 

Line of cars

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. 

Dry Practice

There’s ten minutes of optional instructor-supervised “dry practice” (aka dry-fire) drills before each class. 

Training

Instruction is usually given right on the range, then drills and shooting practice follow. 

More to come tomorrow. 

 

Front Sight Four Day Defensive Handgun Course Review, Day One

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. 

Front Sight Classroom

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)
Magwell check 
Load magazine
Charge pistol
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: 

Sight Alignment
Sight Picture
Trigger Squeeze

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. 

Wrong. 

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. 

 

Two hits to the body Thetan, one to the head.

As I said earlier, I’m at FrontSight this week for a Four Day Defensive Handgun class. 

Why? 

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. 

Win-win.