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04/19/2005 Archived Entry: "Range Report: 4-Day Practical Rifle at Front Sight"


Blogispondent Ian here again. I just got back from taking the 4-day Practical Rifle class at Front Sight, outside Las Vegas. Thanks in part to the kind folks who gave me suggestions on what to take along, I had a great time. My overall impression of the entire setup at Front Sight is very positive.

There were several classes being held there this weekend, and between them all there were about 300 students at the facility. A hand survey showed that 5-10% were women, and about 15% were police officers. Most people were there for the 2- and 4-day handgun courses. The rifle course had about 40 shooters (about two thirds of whom were there for all 4 days).

The instructors were quite good. It seems to me that the instructional staff there is composed partly of folks with real-world shooting and training experience (the rifle staff included a couple vets and former military instructors), and partly of former students who have shown themselves to be very competent in Front Sight classes. I would prefer to have more of the former (it was about 50/50 for my class), as I felt I learned more from the instructors with real experience. In particular, one of them had shot competitively for the military with an M1 Garand early in his term of service, and later was a sniper early in Vietnam (where as a spotter he used an M14). I particularly appreciated his knowledge, because I used a tanker M1 Garand for the course.

There was not a whole lot of variety among the guns brought by students. About three quarters were AR-15s of one sort or another, most of them sporting electronic optics (ACOGs, Leupold CQTs, Aimpoints, EOTechs, etc) and tactical slings. The other rifles included two hunting rifles, two Steyr Scouts, three M1As (one standard, one scout with scout scope, and one SOCOM 16), and my M1 tanker. It's in .308 with an 18" barrel and equipped with basic iron sights. For ammo storage, I used a WWII 10-pocket ammo belt. I took 800 rounds of Australian surplus ammo, of which I fired 341.

The class included both range practice and classroom lectures. The lecture topics were "moral and ethical decisions on the use of deadly force," "use of deadly force," "stoppinig power," "color code of mental awareness," "principles of tactics," and "facing the criminal and civil liability after use of deadly force." There were also supplemental lectures on choosing a practical rifle and tactical shotgun. The lectures were all quite informative and well presented.

Range practice covered presentation, fundamentals of marksmanship, supported positions, clearing malfunctions, and both tactical and emergency reloads. The shooting was done from 7 yards out to 200 yards, with a short session on the last day devoted to shooting from 400 yards. At 15 and 25 yards, we practiced head shots as well as torso shots. There were two simulators that we went through, which included hostages, no-shoot targets, targets you had to make threat assessments on, and hostiles out to 200 yards. On the third day we spend time practicing indoor tactics (doors and corners) with dummy guns, and on the last day there was a skills test and a man-on-man steel shoot.

All of the live-fire exercises were designed as practice for the skills test. The test consisted of 24 rounds fired and malfunction drills, all done from ready positions (safety on) and under time pressure, from and shooting position. Specifically:

3x 15-yard torso shot, 1.5 seconds
3x 25-yard torso shot, 2.0 seconds
3x 50-yard torso shot, 3.0 seconds
3x 75-yard torso shot, 4.0 seconds
3x 100-yard torso shot, 5.0 seconds
3x 200-yard torso shot, 6.5 seconds
3x 15-yard head shot, 2.0 seconds
3x 25-yard head shot, 2.5 seconds
2x type 1 malf (full mag, bolt closed on an empty chamber) clearance, 1.6 seconds
2x type 2 malf clearance (stovepipe), 1.8 seconds
2x type 3 malf clearance (double feed), 6.5 seconds (8.5 seconds for non-AR rifles)
2x tactical reload, 2.5 seconds (3.5 seconds for non-AR rifles)
2x emergency reload, 2.5 seconds (3.5 seconds for non-AR rifles)

My M1 served me very well over the course of the class. I cleaned it before I left for Vegas, and didn't have to clean it again until I got back home - I had no malfunctions that weren't intentionally induced. I was able to get all the malfunction clearance drills in within the allotted time, and by the end of the course I was getting my reloads completed in about 2.0 seconds. Its accuracy was more than adequate - when I did my part (shootinig at the range, I've found it capable of at least 2 MOA). At 400 yards, I made 3 out of 6 hits (including a second-round hit) on a torso-sized steel target. The area I found I need the most work on is (unsurprisingly) the one I've practiced the least on my own - 75- and 100-yard shots from kneeling or squatting positions.

When it came to the man-on-man shootoff, I made it into the third round, beating a scoped AR and the scoped M1A scout. On my third opponent, I got over-excited, and made a valiant-but-ultimately-unsuccessful attempt to miss fast enough to win. :)

A couple of the ARs in the class stopped functioning, due to gunk in the bolts. Also, several people had bad mags appear, causinig unanticipated double feeds. On the third day the standard M1A had something physically break in the trigger group (I never found out what), rendering it inoperable (the owner went to his backup SOCOM-16 M1A). Lastly, one of the Steyr Scout shooters had sporadic trouble with his bolt coming apart. Oh yeah - there were also one or two people who had the batteries die suddenly in their optics. One of the guys had backup iron sights installed, but his optic actually distorted the view through them, resulting in shots off by 3 or 4 feet at 200 yards (bummer!).

Facilities - Front Sight is still under a lot of consturction (they have big dreams). At the moment, they have 8 handgun/shotgun ranges and a 400-yard rifle range, plus simulators and outdoor open-air shoot houses. There is one large air conditioned classroom for lectures (capacity 400 or 450), and a large air conditioned tent containing the hand-to-hand classroom and the pro shop. There are no indoor bathrooms, but there are portapotties all over the place (at least two on every range, five on the rifle range, and several by each building). They are all accompanied by handwashing stations, and are all cleaned/emptied daily. I only had to wait in line for them on two occasions, both right after large lectures. I was quite satisfied with the arrangement.

All in all, I had an excellent time, and learned a lot of good stuff. I'll be starting a daily dry-fire schedule (something I've been meaning to do for some time) in an effort to retain it all and improve some more.

I would definitely recommend Front Sight classes to people looking for training, particularly novices. Definitely look for the grey certificates for sale if you haven't been to FS before - they are legit. I attended this course with one a friend gave me (if you're reading this, H.P., thanks again!).

BTW, I'll be posting more on the class as I get the chance over the next week, so keep an eye out if you're interested. I would like to pass on as much of what I learned as possible.

Posted by Ian @ 10:11 PM CST

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