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Front Sight has changed some aspects of its flagship Four Day Defensive Handgun course for 2011.

Read below the details and their implications for how to get the best training you need.

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Front Sight Update 2011

Some changes to their courses and content

Alas, the night shoot is no longer included in Front Sight's Four Day Defensive Handgun Course.

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 series.



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 Front Sight

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 weapons.

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 well.

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 occur.

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 value.

The turning targets are still being used in the two day skill builder courses.

No Optional Morning Dry Firing Practice

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 discontinued.

UPDATE :  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 guns.

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.

No Gatorade

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 ourselves.

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 before.

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 one-on-one tuition.

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.

However, the 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 topic.

Your Strategy for Future Front Sight Courses

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 classroom lectures.

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

Please click the links at the top right of this page to read through other parts of this extensive series on Front Sight and the training they offer.


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Originally published 31 Jan 2011, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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Front Sight Firearms Training Institute - an Introduction to this Series
About the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute
Front Sight Update 2011
Gun Safety Issues
Discounted Front Sight Course Certificates - too good to be true?
Front Sight Lifetime Memberships
Join the Travel Insider at Front Sight, November 2011
The Instructors and Instruction
Front Sight's Ranges and Training Scenarios
When to use Lethal Force
What to Bring to a Front Sight Course - Pistol
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What to do After Attending a Front Sight Course
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Traveling and Flying with Firearms and Ammunition
All About Body Armor and Bullet Proof Vests


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