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Front 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 material.

The universal consensus is that Front Sight has the best instructors in the business.  I agree.

The Quality of the Instructors and Instruction

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 poor instruction?

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 occasion.

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 training.

The Instructors

Each of the range masters and most of the range instructors introduced themselves to us, telling us about their background, experience, and qualifications.

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 mean....

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.

Student/Instructor Ratio

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 abundant number.

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.

Student Coaches

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

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

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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