Sight Firearms Training Institute
The Amazing High Quality Instructors
Senior range master
Steve Campbell, assistant range master Jeff Austin, and range instructor
Mark Koop, at Front Sight's range 1A where I
trained for four days.
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.
The reason we go to Front Sight
is not to enjoy the desert. And it isn't just to have
their training materials shoved at us - if we wanted a
non-interactive experience, we could simply buy a book or video.
The reason we go there is to
benefit from direct training from real instructors. Sure,
the material they teach us is important, but without good
instructors to present it to us, we'd fail to grasp much of the
The universal consensus is that
Front Sight has the best instructors in the business. I
The Quality of the Instructors
With so few people
graduating (in both my classes, we had a group of just under 40,
and in each case, there was one distinguished graduate
and one time 4, the other time 5 regular graduates), could this be interpreted as being the result of
Absolutely not! It is
difficult for me to accurately evaluate the quality of the
instruction, because I've never before attended any type of
formal firearms training, but I can comment from three
perspectives and from having attended two Front Sight four day
courses, with different range masters and instructors on each
First, I do have experience
of training in general, both as a trainer and a trainee, and as
one of the ordinary participants (no-one knew who I was or that
I'd be reviewing the process so I got no special treatment
whatsoever), I had a full real experience of Front
Sight's training. I felt it to be excellent, with my only
complaint being that I wanted more and more of it.
Second, I spoke with people
who had done other firearms courses offered by other companies,
and without exception, every one of these people spoke much more
highly of their Front Sight training and instructors than of
that offered by other courses.
Third, a significant number
of attendees were either current or former members of the
military and law enforcement agencies, and they too, without
exception, described the quality of the training at Front Sight
as being vastly better than that they'd received for their job.
This is an interesting thing
to consider : Here are people who get training 'for free'
at their workplace, but who choose to spend their own time and
their own money getting supplementary training at Front Sight.
Clearly that speaks volumes about the quality of Front Sight's
Each of the range masters
and most of the range instructors introduced themselves to us,
telling us about their background, experience, and
Most of these people had stellar
backgrounds, usually involving extensive military and/or law
enforcement experience, and with high levels of firearms
competency. They also didn't hesitate to 'put their money
where their mouth was' - they would demonstrate their own
competency by going through the same drills and firing at the
same targets as us, and would do so with dismaying precision.
There was one more positive
feature about the instructors. Some people who are
involved in firearms become - shall we say - somewhat dogmatic
and assertive and very black and white about the world and how
they wish to organize it. I'm sure you know what I
Our instructors, even former
Marine Corps drill instructors - a race of people who are
probably as dogmatic, demanding and monochromatic as anyone anywhere on the
planet - showed themselves to be decent good likeable human
beings. They would be gentle and careful in how they dealt
with us, and would act positively to encourage our successes,
rather than bellow out orders and castigate us for our failures.
They were nice good people
as well as highly skilled, and it was clear they cared about
their work and their students.
Each of the two courses I
attended started off with 40 people in the
group (the ranges have 20 targets and people are paired up,
making for a maximum of 40 people per range). This number
generally reduced down by two or three people during the course
(some people pre-planned to only spend two or three days, others
found the heat or pressure overwhelming).
In each case we had one range master
who was in charge of everything. The first time we also
had a second trainee range
master. In addition, there were a number of
instructors/line coaches, varying in number from as few as two
up to as many as five.
The second course generally
had only two staff in addition to the range master, the first
course generally had four and sometimes five. Two
instructors are definitely too few. Four or five are an
In reality people don't all
get equal attention from the instructors.
On the first course, with
four or five instructors, the students most needing assistance tended
to have more or less a full-time instructor hovering over them,
and there would be perhaps two such people in each of the two
groups of 20 students on the firing line at any time. So
that left two or three other instructors for the other 18
people, a ratio of 6 - 9 students per instructor.
But on the second course,
with only two instructors, the students most needing assistance
tended to be somewhat overlooked and ignored, because otherwise
if one instructor concentrated on such people, that would leave
only one remaining instructor for the other nearly 20 people.
As I said before, two instructors is insufficient for twenty
students. The range master himself is also continually
observing, but he is also controlling the turning targets,
keeping an eye on overall range safety matters, managing the
schedule and course, and so on, and so it is harder for him to
give individual attention and tuition at the same time too.
I was probably an average
student. I wasn't brilliantly good, but neither was I
awfully bad (I think) and so I guess I got sort of a typical
amount of instructor attention.
I would have liked more
instructor attention. Although I learned a very great
deal, and vastly more than I expected, I arrived at the course
with a tendency to shoot low and to the right, and when I left
the first course 600 rounds later, guess what. I still shot low
and to the right. My groups were tighter than before, but
something I was doing causes me to consistently shoot low and to
the right. At one time an instructor stated the obvious
and asked me 'why are you shooting low and to the right', my
answer to which was 'I don't know'. He replied
'concentrate on your front sight' and walked away.
In the last two days of
instruction, I felt I was behind the curve and doing something
wrong because my draws were not fast enough, but I never had any
concentrated focus from an instructor. They might
occasionally come over and tell me about something they observed
that wasn't optimal, but they wouldn't then stay and make sure
I was correcting the error and staying corrected.
Many of the things we do are almost instinctive and/or are bad
habits we've acquired and locked in over years of uncorrected
shooting, and so we need concentrated and ongoing correction to
make us aware of what we're doing wrong and to check we then
consistently do things the new better way and don't relapse back
into our former bad habits.
This was probably my biggest
disappointment about the entire experience. While I
learned a huge amount, and while I learned many things that I
didn't even know I didn't know, the one thing that I most knew I
didn't know and most wanted corrected (shooting low and to the
right) remained uncorrected all
the way through.
Interestingly, on my second
course I felt I got more instructor input, even though there
were fewer instructors. Perhaps that was because I was
more knowledgeable myself the second time around and so only
needed smaller 'tweaks' rather than major coaching.
We were split up into pairs,
and each pair alternated with one person being the shooter and
the other person being a coach.
Now you might think that
having students coaching other students would be a case of the
blind leading the blind, but doing things this way worked very
much to our advantage. You learn both as a student/shooter
and as a student/coach. As a student/coach, you get to see
how another student is applying - and mis-applying - the skills
we were being taught, and that helps one in one's own technique
and understanding. As a student/shooter, you have someone
behind you closely monitoring your every action and giving you
some feedback, albeit inexpertly and not as well as the
instructors would do.
Unfortunately, due to the
extreme heat on the range on the September course, Front Sight's normal policy of having
everyone on the range in this alternating shooter/coach scenario
was modified and most of the time the coaches were allowed to
seek shelter in the shade when not shooting, so we only
partially experienced this shooter/coach pairing.
This is another
reason not to attend in June or September.
Part of a multi-part series
Please click the links at
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other parts of this extensive series on Front Sight and the
training they offer.
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11 Sep 2010, last update
28 May 2011
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