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Holsters, magazines, and other parts of your total 'system' will have a major impact on how well you score in the final test.

The advice in these three pages about what to bring may mean the difference between passing and failing.

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What to Bring to a Front Sight Firearms Course

Part 2 - Other essential gun related things you must have

A speed loader such as this HKS unit represents the best $15 you'll ever spend on accessories for your handgun.

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.



In this part of the three parts about what to bring to a Front Sight training program, we give you some advice that might at first seem surprising - bring an empty magazine that you'll never load but always keep empty.  Read on to find out why.

And talking about loading, having a properly matched speed loader designed for your size/shape of magazines will save you enormous hassle.

Don't forget a good holster, and good magazine pouches too.  You don't want to waste any avoidable milliseconds on slower draws of your weapon or slower magazine reloads.

Lastly in this part, some good news.  Don't worry too much about gun cleaning.

Practice Gun

This is an interesting device and concept.  A practice gun is a plastic replica of a gun, typically in bright red or orange, and obviously looking unlike a real gun.

It can be used to practice drawing your weapon, sighting in, and such drills, and it has two main benefits.  The first is that it absolutely can not ever be fired, so it is 100% safe.  The second is that other people around you can clearly see that you have a pretend gun rather than a regular gun, so neither you nor they need to be concerned if as part of your training you should inadvertently point it at them.

If a neighbor sees you through the window, they won't call the police, but instead will laugh to themselves.  That's vastly preferable.

Beware of practicing with a real gun

There are huge dangers of practicing with a real gun.  We were told several stories of when people were practicing with a real gun, and somehow in part of the practice, the gun became loaded and was fired, with tragic results.

Front Sight have formed a very sensible set of procedures for safe dry practice with a real weapon, including such things as not being in the same room as any live ammunition, and other procedures to try and ensure you never make a terrible mistake when dry practicing, and the best approach is simply never to practice with a real gun.  Unfortunately, you will probably need a real gun to practice malfunction clearing drills, so the best you can hope for is to minimize the occasions when you need to use a real gun, and religiously follow the Front Sight protocols on such occasions.

Front Sight Practice Gun Options

In theory you get a practice gun included in the set of gear you get when renting a gun kit, but I don't think anyone at our range got one.  So if you want something to practice with in the evenings (and if you're renting a Front Sight gun, you're not allowed to take it off their location) you might want to think about spending $40 or so on a practice gun.

Pistol Issues for Left Handers

I'm a left hander myself, as is about 10% of the rest of the population.  Unfortunately, (almost) no firearm is primarily designed for us left handers.  Instead, all firearms are designed for right-handed people, and then may have a varying degree of accommodation for left handed people with some ambidextrous components.

Because you're going to be firing in tightly timed intervals, you need to get a weapon that is as easy to handle from your left hand as possible.  This is another reason to choose a Glock 17 Gen4 - the magazine release can be switched over to the other side, allowing it to be operated by your left hand without having to shift your grip.

As mentioned above, all Glock 17's have no safety lever on them, so that is one less hassle, no matter whether you're left or right handed.

The only remaining issue is that of the slide lock lever, and this can't be modified without some expensive and probably not advised custom gunsmithing.  However, there is an alternate larger sized slide lock lever which Glock offer and recommend as a partial solution for left handers, and so you should replace the small lever with this larger one, and that will give you more options and leverage for operating it with either hand.

In addition, the new (as of late 2017) Gen 5 Glocks now have an ambidextrous slide lock lever too, making them now perfect for either left or right handed shooters.

One more issue.  Frontsight now require that if you have a pistol with a thumb operated safety, that it can be operated by the thumb of your shooting hand.  Again, this is only an issue for left handers, but if you are bringing for example a Browning Hi-power or a 1911 type pistol, you would need to be certain to have one that has an ambidextrous safety lever on both sides.


Bring at least three magazines.  That way you can have one in your gun and two, loaded and ready, on your belt.

A fourth magazine is helpful.  This could be kept permanently empty.  I've sometimes traveled with five or even six empty magazines (justification for six :  Four loaded, and two for dry practice drills).

So why should you have a permanently empty magazine with you, too?  I lost count of the times that I'd just finished reloading my magazines only to be told 'place an empty magazine in your weapon' (eg as part of doing an emergency reload drill), which means I then have to thumb out all 17 rounds that I've just squeezed into the magazine.  Yuck.

A spare empty magazine would save this hassle and help you to be more relaxed and less stressed while on the range.

If you're shooting a pistol with a lower capacity magazine (ie 10 or less rounds) you might want to bring another magazine or two so as to have more rounds loaded into magazines and at the ready at all times.

Sometimes there is a chance to shoot an extra course of fire, and if you've depleted your loaded magazines, you'll be unable to take advantage of that.  So I always make sure I'm awash in fully loaded magazines and able to take advantage of any additional opportunities that might come my way.

Also, if you take a break to go to the bathroom, that might eat into the time you would otherwise be reloading, so again, it is prudent and sensible to always have more loaded magazines than you need, and never run them all dry.

Front Sight Magazine Options

If you rent a pistol from Front Sight, you'll also receive three magazines as part of the rental package.

If you are renting their 1911 type Springfield, it will of course come with three standard 7 round magazines.  We suggest buying a couple more magazines in such a case to give you more capacity.

If you are renting their Springfield XD 9mm, it will come with 10 round magazines.  Front Sight advise that the XD does not reliably feed if you load the magazine to its full 10 round capacity and recommend only placing 8 rounds in each magazine, so you should consider buying and bringing another one or two magazines with you to give you a greater supply of ammunition ready-loaded into magazines.

There is also a bit of a subtle issue when renting a Glock 17 from them.  Sometimes you'll find that at least one of the three magazines they provide is a 10 round magazine rather than the standard 17 round magazines that are normally provided with a Glock 17.  You might want to buy one more Glock magazine to bring with you, that way you'll probably end up with at least three 17 round magazines, and the fourth one, whatever its capacity, can be used as your spare empty magazine for when you need to do some weapons handling practice drills.


For the purpose of this course, we recommend a formed hard plastic shell type holster, to be worn on a belt around your waist, and designed so the gun will be facing straight down inside the holster.

Do not bring a holster with any type of locking mechanism - it will slow you down when drawing as fast as you can in the timed target tests.

In particular, Frontsight now ban retention holsters that require you to depress a locking lever with your trigger finger (the Blackhawk Serpa holsters are probably the best known example of these).  There have been some cases - at Frontsight and elsewhere - of negligent discharges resulting from incorrect use of this type of holsters.

And while holsters that rake the weapon on an angle look nice and are sometimes more comfortable to wear, this too will slightly slow down your drawing speed (because the best draw starts off with you lifting your weapon vertically from the holster) and will again cost you fractions of a second and thereby reduce your score.

This range type holster is probably very different to the type of holster you'll wear when carrying a weapon in public, either concealed or not, but to get the best results and outcome from the Front Sight training, this is the type of holster you should use.

In particular, do not bring any sort of holster that isn't pre-formed and molded to the contours of your pistol.  Front Sight will not allow you to use such shapeless holsters, due to the increased change of a negligent discharge while reholstering your weapon.

The holster must have complete protection around the trigger area (for obvious safety reasons) and firmly hold the pistol in place.

Also, do not bring a cross-draw holster.  While perhaps good for concealment, they are terribly dangerous in a range situation due to the fact that the gun's muzzle will be pointing in all sorts of different directions during your drawing and reholstering moves.

Front Sight Holster Options

As best we could tell, the Front Sight holsters, one of which is provided with every pistol rental, seem excellent, and you can specify whether you require a left or right handed holster.

Magazine Pouch

You should bring some sort of pouch that will securely hold two magazines for your pistol.  This would be mounted on your belt.  It should hold the magazines securely, but not too securely, so you can rapidly grab one without having to unsnap anything or struggle against a too tight fit.  When you are doing timed reloading type activities, it is essential that you can get a new magazine with no problem or delay.

If you are shooting a 1911 type weapon with 'low' capacity magazines (7 or 8 rounds) you might choose to bring two double magazine holders, giving you access to four magazines and more spare ammunition.  At times you will be using a lot of ammunition very quickly, and if you have just the magazine in your gun and two spares, that means you've somewhere around 20 rounds at your disposal, which might end up being not enough, particularly because you'll be doing tactical reloads with partially depleted rather than fully emptied magazines.

Front Sight Magazine Pouch Options

You will get one pouch that holds two magazines as part of your pistol rental package from Front Sight, and as best we can tell, the pouch/holder they supply is perfectly good.

Speed Loader

With all the loading and unloading and shooting you'll be doing, a speed loader is absolutely essential.  This is the best $15 you'll ever spend.

If you're using a Glock, you probably have a speed loader that came as part of the accessory kit included when you purchased the weapon.  That is a great unit and has the benefit of being compact and easy to carry in a pocket.  Some other pistols also come complete with a speed loader when you buy the pistol new.

Whatever you're using, try and get a speed loader that closely fits your specific magazines rather than an overly generic one which might not work conveniently.  At a cost of perhaps $15 or less at Amazon and of course many other places too, a speed loader is an essential investment.

Front Sight Speed Loader Options

In theory, your pistol rental package comes with a speed loader, but it seemed that perhaps half the people - maybe more - did not get speed loaders in their rental packages.

The unsatisfactory explanation for this was they had run out.

Due to occasionally unloading and reloading magazines, occasionally ejecting unfired rounds, etc, if you expect to fire 500 rounds, this means you'll probably end up loading at least 600 rounds into your magazines, and so we strongly urge you to ensure you have access to a good ergonomic speed loader that is designed to closely fit the magazines you'll be loading.

Speed loaders are generally inexpensive, so the investment in buying one optimized for your magazines and bringing it with you, even if Front Sight might provide one, is well worth it.


Oh yes - ammunition.  As mentioned above, we recommend bringing your own, or ordering some mail order and having it shipped to your Pahrump hotel.

You'll save $100 or more over the cost of buying it at the Front Sight Pro Shop, and if you're like me, you'll find it a good excuse to use up old ammo that you've had lying in the back of your gun safe for an uncertain number of years.

You should bring some type of generic full metal jacket round.  Save the exotic rounds for defense purposes at home, not for range work.

Front Sight tell you, course by course, how many rounds you will need.  In the case of the Four Day Defensive Handgun course, they say to plan on expending about 600 rounds, and I think I ended up firing a little more than that.  If you run out of your own ammunition, you can of course buy more from Front Sight.

Note that if you are renting a gun from Front Sight, you have to buy ammunition from them rather than bring your own.  That might seem like a sneaky trick, but I can understand their policy.  Bad ammunition can accelerate the wear on a gun, and can even cause stoppages and blockages and dangerous miss-fires.  They don't really want that to happen to you with your own gun, and they definitely don't want it to happen to their own gun.

If you bring your own ammunition, Front Sight will ask to inspect a sample box of it when you first arrive to confirm it is acceptable.  They do not allow reloads.

Shipping Ammunition to your Pahrump hotel

One option is to buy a quantity of ammunition at a discount mailorder store and have them ship it directly to your Pahrump hotel.  This is perhaps the very best solution of all.

Both the Best Western and the Nugget will accept shipments of ammunition and hold them for your arrival.

Unfortunately the Saddle West refuses to accept/hold ammunition, and they seem in general to be the least firearm friendly of the three hotels, so unless there's a compelling reason to support a firearm unfriendly hotel, you'll probably choose not to stay there.

Note also our suggestion to buy ammunition (and anything else you might need) at the Bass Pro shop at the Silverton Casino upon arrival - see the bottom of page three of this part of the series.  The downside of this is that you will have little spare time and few other options if the Bass Pro shop doesn't have the item you seek, so this is perhaps more an emergency solution than a sensible strategy.

Walmart - Order ahead for best outcome

There is also a Walmart in Pahrump (about a mile or so further on Hwy 160 after the Best Western, on the left side of the highway) with good prices on ammunition, but with an unreliable stock of ammunition (when we visited in October, they had no .45 ammo and only a small supply of 9mm in non-bulk packs (ie at a higher cost).

One reader says that he has telephoned to Walmart several weeks before attending a course and placed an order with them for ammunition.  Walmart has set the quantity aside and it is ready and waiting for him when he gets to the store.  That is a great idea, too.

Front Sight Ammunition Options

Front Sight can sell you pretty much any ammunition you might require, and their prices are similar to regular retail, but a couple of dollars a box higher than Walmart or mail order.

Gun Cleaning Supplies

Until now I've been rather obsessive at cleaning my weapons any time I fire them.  And I would fastidiously clean them to the point of using toothbrushes and dental picks to get every last shred of dirt and residue out of every nook and cranny of the weapon - a process that could take half an hour to an hour every time.

Amazingly (to me), the staff at Front Sight say there's little or no need to clean modern reliable weapons that are firing modern quality ammunition much at all, and they cite a Glock that has been fired somewhere between 160,000 and 200,000 times without any cleaning.  One of the instructors is doing his own torture testing of a Glock, and has fired many tens of thousands of rounds without ever cleaning it.

I find it hard to completely abandon my earlier obsessive cleaning habit, but after long days on the range, all I would do was a quick field strip, a couple of pulls through the barrel, a general wipe-down then drop a few drops of oil around the gun before reassembling.  Total time spent - less than five minutes.

The second time I attended, I didn't even do this, and ended up shooting something over 600 rounds without even the slightest bit of cleaning or lubrication.

So there's no need to bring much in the way of cleaning supplies.  And that's perhaps just as well, as you might get a bit of push-back from the TSA if they discover a large bottle of solvent in your gun bag due to it probably being prominently marked as 'inflammable'.

Front Sight Cleaning Supplies Options

You can buy all the cleaning supplies you're likely to need at their Pro Store.  None are provided with their rental gun kits, because you don't have to clean the rental gun.

Buying Ammunition and other Supplies in the Pahrump Area

Most airlines limit you to only 11 lbs of ammo that you can take with you - that's not quite 500 rounds of 9mm, and considerably less for larger calibers.  So even if you're planning on bringing your own, you'll probably not be able to bring all you want.

At the intersection of Hwy 160 and I-15, on the Pahrump side of Las Vegas is the Silverton Casino.  You'll drive right by it when going between the airport and Pahrump.  Inside is an enormous humongous Bass Pro store that has every possible thing a shooter could ever want, and at generally good prices.  Simply go in the main casino entrance (free parking is opposite the entrance), turn right, and there it is.

The store is open 9 - 9 Monday to Saturday and 9 - 7 on Sundays.  Why not stop off there on your way to Pahrump and pick up whatever last minute things you might need in the way of ammo and other bits and pieces.  More details here if you want to be sure they have something in stock.

There is a Walmart in Pahrump itself that has a somewhat limited range of ammunition and other shooting supplies, but which has a major advantage - it is open 24 hrs a day (on the left side of Hwy 160 as you drive in to town, about a mile further down the road than the Best Western).

There are other gun and sporting shops in the Pahrump area too (a Big 5, for example), but their opening hours are more limited and the chances are you would not be able to get to them before or after a full day at Front Sight.

Lastly on this point, please note that Murphy's Law dictates that if you forget an essential item, or don't have time to buy it before you arrive in Nevada, you'll find that all the gun stores and also Front Sight's Pro Shop have sold out of the item you need.  It is much better to bring everything you need with you than to rely on being able to buy anything once you get there, besides which, the time pressures acting on you during a Front Sight course greatly limit your free time and ability to go shopping.

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 11 Sep 2010, last update 30 May 2021

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

Related Articles
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
What to Bring to a Front Sight Course - Essential Extras
What to Bring to a Front Sight Course - Other Valuable Equipment
What to do After Attending a Front Sight Course
Where to Stay and What to Eat in Pahrump, NV
Weather Issues in the NV desert
Traveling and Flying with Firearms and Ammunition
All About Body Armor and Bullet Proof Vests


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