Sight Firearms Training Institute
Larger than all other firearms training
companies in the US combined
Click image to open up a larger image in a new window
An aerial picture of
Front Sight's Nevada facility.
I was primarily on the
pistol range in the bottom center of the picture. If you
click and open up a larger picture, you can see a bit of the
rappelling course in the top left. The very long
ranges are rifle ranges.
Part of a 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.
From simple beginnings in 1996,
Front Sight has grown to be the largest firearms trainer in the
US; so large that it trains more people each year than all other
Its growth has been due to
broad marketing to the general public, and by offering
uncompromisingly excellent training programs.
Although it has stumbled a bit
in some respects, Front Sight would seem to be not only the
largest but also the most
universally respected firearms training company.
Front Sight's Founder - Dr
Front Sight was founded by a
chiropractor - an unlikely type of person to start and grow a
firearms training business.
Dr Ignatius Piazza suffered a
random drive-by shooting one night in his home, and that caused
his already present interest in firearms and self defense to
bloom. He first took a lot of firearms training himself,
and based on his experiences of varying quality training, he subsequently saw the
value in offering the best possible
firearms training to the public in general, and from his
literally 'near death experience' became a convert to the need
to have a proficient lawfully armed populace as a defense
against lawlessness in general.
And so he retired from his
chiropractic practice and became a full-time firearms trainer and
business developer. Coming from a very different type of
background to your typical firearms trainer, he decided not to
simply advertise firearms training to 'the converted' - to
people who were already firearms enthusiasts and keen to enhance
their skills. Instead, he sought to reach out to much of
middle America, and to popularize (as opposed to marginalize and
even demonize) the concept of firearms ownership and their role
in personal self defense.
His success is clear for all
to see, in the form of the amazing growth of his Front Sight
interested in a Front Sight Training Course,
consider joining a small group of 'Travel Insiders'
for a Four Day Defensive Handgun Course, 4-7 April.
Front Sight's Growth and
The Front Sight Institute
has been training people since 1996. Its first ever course
had ten people attend, in Bakersfield, CA. They started
development on a new site in Nevada in 1998, and the Bakersfield
site finally closed in 2002.
These days Front Sight is a
huge operation. It is based about 20 miles out of Pahrump,
NV, on a 550 acre site they hope to one day develop into a
residential community complete with hotels, restaurants, and of
course, lots of gun ranges.
Front Sight say they train
more students each year than all the other major training
schools combined. There were about 300 people present at
the start of my four day course, and if this were replicated 50
times a year, that would suggest they are training 15,000 people
It is hard to know exactly how many people they
train, with various claims referring to 'tens of thousands of
students a year'; to training 3000 students in April 2010 alone;
to having trained more than 200,000 students in total, and to
doubling their numbers every year. Apparently they reached
a record of 800 students in a single weekend in April 2009.
One of their senior staff made a chance comment in October about
having trained 60,000 people in total.
Their claim to double every
year does not survive close scrutiny if considered within the
narrow focus of students trained. If we assume they
trained say 100 people in their first year, that would mean that
in 2010, their fifteenth year, they would be training 1.6
million people, and with them being closed for eight weeks
during the summer, this would mean 37,000 people being trained
But whatever their size and
how they measure it, clearly they have a huge and growing operation
(they had just opened a complete new series of ranges when I
returned in October), and now they have added mid-week courses
to their weekend courses, their capacity to train even more
people every week/month/year has massively increased.
Front Sight now have a
second facility in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula. The
Alaska facility is only open in the summer, and the Nevada
facility closes for a couple of months in the summer when the
desert heat is dangerously unbearable, so the two sites provide
overlapping services in two very different environments.
Not Just Firearms
Front Sight has diversified
into many additional areas. It offers pistol, rifle and
shotgun courses, it has a sub-machine gun course (often offered
for free!), and it provides advanced tactical courses on these
It also has unarmed combat
and edged weapons courses, rope and rappelling courses,
executive protection, team building, and there is a plan to add driving courses
It even offers courses for children.
There are also one day
armorer type courses on specific weapons, teaching you
everything you need to know about repairing and maintaining
them, and courses on how to become an instructor.
Front Sight's Future
Who knows how long they can
continue to grow, but with at present some 60,000 - 200,000 people
trained, and a total US population of 300,000,000, there is
clearly plenty of room for continued growth.
Dr Piazza and his Front
Sight team have a visionary approach to the future, and wish to
bring high quality firearms training to as broad a slice of the
American people as possible.
Part of this vision calls
for additional Front Sight locations to be established in the
future, but there are no definite plans or timeline for where
and when additional locations will be added.
At the Nevada site, there
are ongoing developments and extensions to the ranges and
related facilities (for example, the half dozen or so new ranges
that were opened some time between September and October). Some of this seems to be proceeding
slowly rather than quickly, but on the other hand, when you're
in the middle of the desert and many miles from facilities and
utilities we take for granted (ie water and sewer) being able to
provide something as simple seeming as flush toilets becomes
Until now, Front Sight has
only had portaloos, and believe me, they can be less than
pleasant late in the day after baking in the sun and
experiencing heavy usage. However, in early September I
saw the concrete foundation which has now been poured for a
regular toilet block, and this is hoped to be complete late in
2010 (in late October it had progressed to having walls but
nothing else so progress continues to be very slow on this).
Front Sight appears to
continue to have a very ambitious vision for establishing a
complete residential community, although they were muted in
their references to it, and made no attempts to sell lots to any
of the people participating in the courses while I was there.
residential development remains an elusive future goal, and has
gone through several transformations. Apparently they may have sold almost 40 one acre lots to people
wishing to participate; the current price of a one acre lot is
$300,000 - quite a substantial sum for an acre of dry dusty desert in the middle of
nowhere, but presumably more realistic once the resort is
developed, and services such as streets, water and sewer are
brought to the lotline.
They now say they are
seeking investors to participate in the costs of adding a 400
room hotel and various other developments to their 550 acre
Front Sight's Detractors and
Front Sight is not without
its detractors, although it seems that no-one criticizes the
quality of their firearms training, and in addition to
detractors, they have all the other major gun groups supporting
Anyone and everyone has
their detractors, and in this case I see more significance in
the quality and range of people and organizations who have stood
up alongside Front Sight and offered their support and
The detractors focus on two of the more
nebulous peripheral aspects of the Front Sight operation, rather
than criticizing the firearms instruction.
The first issue has
bizarrely been an
apparent link between Front Sight's founder, Dr Ignatius Piazza,
and the Scientology religion. Frankly, who cares what
religion Dr Piazza may or may not belong to, and there is
absolutely no indication at all of any links to Scientology
anywhere at their site or in their materials. This first
issue seems to be a red herring instituted by the 'professional
Scientology haters' out there and should be treated with the
disdain it deserves.
The second issue relates to
a lawsuit brought by some people who had spent money up front
for the promise of developed lots in the Front Sight plans for a
This residential development has
been delayed repeatedly, and it is easy to understand the
disappointment and frustration of such people. A group of
fewer than 1% of Front Sight's members
brought a class action lawsuit and negotiated
something like a $5 million settlement from Front Sight - a bit
of a hollow victory for they lost their membership benefits in
Apparently there was some non-compliance with the settlement on Front Sight's part,
occasioned in part by an ill-timed change of attorneys, and
their unrepresented non-appearance at a hearing caused a judge to throw the entire organization into
receivership for a week in April/May 2009. Ouch.
However, Front Sight
quickly got back into compliance, briefed new attorneys, and the receivership
- which was so brief as to never be fully instituted, and which
had zero impact on operations or members - was
lifted within the week. End of story.
In addition, some people
warn intending attendees 'Don't go, because they'll pressure you
unbearably to sign up for one of their First Family
memberships'. This was absolutely not the case. Yes,
there was a lunchtime presentation about the First Family
concept one day, and yes they did make a special and very
tempting offer to attendees to encourage people to consider
becoming a First Family member, but that was all.
There was completely no
reference to such things on the range or in the classes, there
was no direct 'one on one' selling attempts, or anything like
that. Just an informative video and short talk by one of
the lead instructors about how it worked and what it costs.
No big deal at all - don't let that concern you.
One last comment about Front
Sight's detractors. As best I can tell from what I've seen
on various discussion forums around the internet, the people who
are most negative about Front Sight are people who have never
had direct personal experience of a four day course there.
The people who have attended courses speak consistently
positively about their experiences.
It is hard to value negative
feedback from people who, to be blunt, don't know what they're
talking about. Treat such negativism with care, and seek
out the opinion of people who have attended a Front Sight course
and preferentially value that much more highly than people who
cast vague aspersions for unknown reasons.
Putting the Negatives Into
It is hard to know the
reality of Front Sight's present situation or finances. It is true
they mount repeated email based selling efforts to
persuade people to take one of their courses, and to buy a
subsequent 'First Family' lifetime membership which gives you the right
to take unlimited future courses for free.
It is hard to know how much
of this is motivated by an
honest earnest desire on Dr Piazza's part to encourage as many
people as possible to experience the benefits of his courses.
He definitely and regularly adopts aggressive 'marginal pricing'
tactics to come up with some very appealing pricing on his
programs, and has totally non-traditional ways of pricing and
selling firearms training.
Some people might be
unsettled by this. But where is the harm in it?
We're all grown adults
and can make up our own minds about such things. If we
don't like getting his regular emails and special offers,
unsubscribing is a quick and easy thing to do.
I met a
number of First Family members during my nine days at Front
Sight, and a surprising number of Travel Insider readers have
contacted me and told me they are First Family members
too. All of them seemed very pleased and delighted with
their association with Front Sight and none had any apparent
regrets at the sometimes substantial investments they have made.
Yes, one could also say this was a self-selected
non-representative sample - the disaffected and disillusioned
probably are not so likely to be back at Front Sight enjoying
another class, but the matching and unanimously positive
response from Travel Insider readers - people who are savvy,
successful and worldly-wise - underscores the first hand
feedback from people I met at Front Sight.
The Bottom Line
So who really cares about
Scientology, or past and possibly future plans to build a
complete residential community. Most of us are simply
seeking the best possible firearms training.
The bottom line about all of
this is that Front Sight unquestionably offers some of the best firearms training courses in North America, and with a bit
of careful shopping, at some of the very best values.
Surely nothing else matters beyond
that uncontested fact.
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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11 Sep 2010, last update
30 May 2021
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