Weather Issues at Front Sight
It gets hot in the desert!
The Nevada desert is
strangely beautiful, but fiercely hot in summer.
Part of a series on the
Front Sight Firearms Training Institute; what it does, how
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The searing heat of the summer
desert in Nevada is certainly something to factor in to when you
schedule a visit to Front Sight, although they close down in
July and August when temperatures are at their worst.
In June and September, if you
are careful with hydration and sunscreen you should be able to
manage the heat, which is made more bearable by a very low
Appreciate also that in the
coldest months (December and January) night time temperatures
will drop below freezing most nights, and you'll need to protect
yourself against the cold at that time of year.
The desert's weather should not
discourage you from attending a Front Sight course, but you do
need to plan for and respond to the weather you'll likely
What Weather to Expect
Here is an interesting table,
this site showing the average and extreme temperatures for
Pahrump, which is probably the closest official weather station
to the Front Sight location and so gives a good indication of
the weather to expect at Front Sight.
As an amusing aside, the
weather in Pahrump very closely matches the weather in Baghdad.
Interpreting this Information
Note that the temperatures
vary rapidly from month to month. So if you are going in
the early part of a month, expect the temperatures to be halfway
between the month's numbers and the preceding month's numbers,
and if you are going late in a month, expect temperatures
somewhere between that month and the following month.
In the hot months, plan for
the daily temperature to be somewhere between the average daily
high and the maximum daily high as a realistic probable worst
I was there between 2 - 7
September, and we had daily highs over 100°
every day, and peaked at about 108°. This is in line with
the calculations to do in the preceding two paragraphs - ie,
expecting the temperatures to be a blend of Aug and Sep
temperatures, and expecting highs to be more than the average
high but less than the all-time maximum high.
visited in late October, daily highs seldom got much over 70°,
but that too is consistent if you look at a blend of Oct and Nov
cold months, you'll be focusing more on the minimum temperature
each day rather than the maximum, and this gets a bit harder to
establish, because the coldest temperatures for each 'day'
(actually, 24 hour period of day and night) are typically
encountered at about 5am or thereabouts in the morning.
at the spread between the average daily high (which will
probably be reached in early/mid afternoon) and average daily
low and use that as your realistic worst case day scenario.
For your night shoot, expect temperatures to be reasonably close
to the average daily low.
Effect of Humidity
desert humidity is very low. This is a good thing during
the summer - it makes it easier for your body to regulate its
heat by sweating, but it also means you'll lose water even more
heat is more bearable than if the humidity were higher, but your
risk of dehydration increases commensurately (see below).
probably already know this - wear layers of comfortable clothing
that you can easily add to or take off.
summer, wear light colored clothing. Amazingly, there was
one person in our group who was wearing black long trousers and
a black long sleeved shirt (I asked him why and he said it was a
mistake - that's surely the truth!).
There's an important concept
to understand when avoiding dehydration. It is necessary
to drink water in advance of needing it. If you feel
thirsty, you are already entering the initial stages of
So drink water even though
you don't feel you need to drink it. As a rule of thumb,
in hot weather, have a glass of water after every time on the
range, and more as needed.
drinking some diluted Gatorade or other 'sports drink' with
electrolytes in it as well as plain water.
Avoiding dehydration starts
before you arrive in the morning - start drinking more water
than normal the night before, and minimize your consumption of
things that dehydrate you - namely alcohol and coffee.
During the course of the
day, there's a way you can monitor your state of hydration.
Keep a track on how regularly you urinate (it should be at least
as frequently as normally) and ensure that when you do, the
color is light to clear rather than intense.
If you follow these
guidelines, you should have no problem.
But, inexplicably, not
everyone does. In the one range I was on,
out of a group of 40 to start with, we had one person (a fit
healthy woman in her early 20s) who had to be admitted to
hospital and placed on an IV drip after getting severely
dehydrated on the first day (maximum temperature somewhere
slightly above 105°F/40°C), another couple drop out due to not
being able to manage the heat, several people having to shelter
inside for half a day or so at a time, and a fourth person (a
healthy fit middle aged man) had to drop out on the last day due
to dehydration. So weather - and people's response to it - really was an issue.
Hydration even when it is not
Due to the very low
humidity, you will be losing about a quart of water a day just
due to breathing in and out, even in moderate temperatures.
So you need to be sensitive
to the need to drink much more than you think you need, even in
moderate desert temperatures.
Coat all exposed flesh with
a good SPF-30 or slightly stronger sunblock.
Because some studies have
suggested that stronger sunblocks have increasing concentrations
of chemicals that may have carcinogenic properties, we generally
try to avoid using sunblock greater than SPF-30.
Generally one application of
sunblock will not last for a full day, so consider reapplying,
perhaps at lunchtime, or more frequently if needed.
Note that some thin clothing
doesn't completely filter out the sun's UV rays. Keep an
eye on any possibility of getting sunburn underneath thin
Avoiding Unnecessary Stress
Don't run when you can walk,
and don't walk when you don't need to do anything at all.
Seek out the shade and avoid
exposure to the direct sun whenever possible.
Generally try and take it
easy as much as possible and relax/calm down when not on the
Wear a hat in the sun, but
consider taking it off in the shade. In the sun, your hat
will shade your face, but in the shade, it will prevent heat
loss through your head so in the shade, it is best removed.
Choose Your Time to Attend with
Weather in Mind
If you live in, for example,
Arizona, you're already acclimated to hot weather in summer, and
you'll have little to fear and little to be surprised about in
Nevada. But if you're in the cooler Pacific Northwest, or
if you're traveling from the southern hemisphere's winter to
attend a summer course, the change of temperature will be very
Some people are more
sensitive to heat, and if that includes you, perhaps you need to
be selective about which months you choose to attend Front Sight
courses. In my case, I scored in all three categories - I
abhor the heat, I live in the cool Pacific Northwest, and I'd
just returned from two weeks in New Zealand's winter! So
it was a grueling experience, but I made it through by careful
attention to the matters outlined above.
You can too.
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11 Sep 2010, last update
15 Oct 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.