I recently returned from a four day handgun course at Front Sight , courtesy of SurvivalBlog’s writing contest. Upon arriving I made a quick headcount of the handgun class. ~50 students, 10 female and 40 male. Mostly 30 to 50 year olds but a few teenagers and 60 year olds as well. The first pleasant surprise was how safe and peaceful I felt in a location where I was surrounded by absolute strangers all of whom had a gun in plain sight on a holster. I’ve never been around so many armed people and never felt so comfortable either. Crime in such a situation was an utter impossibility. This was man (and woman) in their natural state: armed, and polite. No victims and no criminals here.
The class progressed from proper standing position, angles and presentation from the holster to trigger control, malfunction clearing, tactical situations and simulations (including night shooting), entering and clearing a room and hostage situations. There was also a good deal of class time where ethical, legal and tactical situations were discussed.
While there isn’t space to delineate everything I’ve learned, here are some highlights:
1) Keep it simple. I thought my tricked out Glock 19 was a great idea but the first thing that they did was to take off the Jentra plug and Magwell. They told me that they would interfere with stripping out the magazine in certain malfunctions. On the other hand my tritium big dot XS sights did make rapid target acquisition much easier than the standard sights. I think it gave me a fraction of a second advantage over the other shooters. This may not seem like much but consider what happens if someone shoots you a fraction of a second before you can shoot them. There is no second place in a gunfight.
2) Know your weapon. Just owning it isn’t enough. Having Heirloom seeds in my refrigerator doesn’t make me a farmer and having a gun collection didn’t make me a skilled shooter. Practice did. I had 35 high-brass malfunctions on Day 3. Was this due to underpowered ammo, a bad extractor or “limp wristing” a ported gun? I’ll find out shortly when my gunsmith takes a look at it. Having your gun jam when a man is pointing an AK-47 at you (even if it is a paper simulation) it quite disconcerting, not having the automatic reflexes to clear the jam even, more so. Also, finding that your gun shoots 4 inches to the left at 10 yards makes tactical shooting a bit unnerving. There are many survival situations where you have the luxury of a few mistakes and correcting them in the field. So what if it takes you 30 minutes to start a campfire your first time with a flint and tinder. If it’s not freezing it’s no big deal. Next time you’ll be faster. A gunfight is not the place to learn your lessons. A school is.
3) Know how to clear malfunctions. You should be able to clear type 1, 2, and 3 malfunctions in under 3 seconds. If you don’t know what lock/strip/rack/rack/rack/insert mag/rack means, then you’d better find out now.
4) Whereas basic hand to hand combat skills can give you a degree of comfort in 1 on 1 unarmed encounters giving you a ‘sphere of confidence’ [of only] 5 feet in every direction, being skilled with a handgun can give you a sense of confidence against an armed opponent or multiple opponents out to 10 yards or better.
On the last day I was put 7 yards from a paper hostage target. A hostage was in the center of the target and offset to the right and left of the hostage’s head were the silhouettes of two hostage taker’s heads. Only a part of the hostage taker’s head was visible. The instructors then asked for the name of a loved one (I gave my wife) and wrote the name on the hostage. The task was to put 5 controlled shots into the cranium (an area the size of an index card) of the the hostage takers on both the right and left without hitting the hostage. Ten shots later I breathed a sigh of relief. When I unrolled the target and showed my wife a few days later (I took the target with me) that the bad guys were shot and her target was unharmed, I felt more proud than if I had handed her a diploma from Harvard University.
I’ll be going back for their rifle and advanced handgun courses without question. The instructors were very qualified and the entire experience was both sobering and enjoyable. I’m very grateful to the staff at Front Sight  and Jim Rawles for the opportunity to learn. I recommend their training wholeheartedly. – SF in Hawaii