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Front Sight is the largest firearms trainer in the US, and larger than all other trainers combined.

It has steadily grown since its humble beginnings in 1996.  I guess that means it must be doing something right.  As one who has taken two of their courses, I can confirm that with first hand knowledge of the excellence of their programs.

 
 
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About the Front 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 companies combined.

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 Ignatius Piazza

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 operation.

If you're 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.

Details here.

Front Sight's Growth and Present Reality

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 each year.

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 every week.

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 weapons.

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 too.  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 extremely challenging.

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.

The 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 site.

Front Sight's Detractors and Past Problems

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 them.

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 endorsement.

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 residential development.

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 the process.

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 Perspective

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?  Nowhere.

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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Originally published 11 Sep 2010, last update 08 Jul 2017

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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