Small Arms Review

Vol. 3 No.9 June, 2000

On the firing line...

Free Submachine Gun Class Offered AtFront Sight!

Text & Photos by Robert M.Hausman

An unprecedented opportunity is now available to SARreaders. If you are reading this magazine, you must have an interest infully-automatic firearms, and the nation’s newest and soon-to-be finestfirearms training facility wants you to experience its training at the highestlevel first-hand. You are offered free tuition at an introductory submachinegun class. Formerly available only to graduates of its other training courses,Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, located just outside Las Vegas, Nevada, is now extending the opportunity of attending its one day sub-gun class free!

Is the free submachine gun course really free-of-charge? Having already attended the class, this author can answer that question with an unequivocal, Yes! And there are no strings attached. Even the food and beverages available throughout the day-a continental breakfast and a late lunch are gratis, as is the ammunition used.

Entry sign

All you have to do is get to LasVegas. Lodging expense is your responsibility. If you stay in Las Vegas youwill pay more than if you lodge in the town of Pahrump, Nevada, which is closerto the school. You will need to rent a car to get to Front Sight which is about40 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.

The Training Experience

I decided to have a look-see of Front Sight afterattending the 2000 SHOT Show, held in Las Vegas last January. Arising earlyfrom the comfort of my very reasonably-priced Jacuzzi tub-equipped hotel roomin Pahrump, I headed out early in the morning to the Front Sight facility, ashort 20 minute ride away. Once there, I walked into the huge tent in use as atemporary classroom where I got signed in and noted the welcome sight of anarray of foods including hot coffee, bagels, rolls, and chilled juices.

After the 20 or so students in the class had filed in,school founder Dr. Ignatius Piazza gave a short welcome and overview of theday’s program, as well as the history and future of the Front Sightschool. We were also given an operational lecture on the UZI submachine guns wewould be using that day. Students in the class came from a variety ofbackgrounds, with a couple of M.D.’s, and a dentist in attendance. All,with the exception of this author, shared one common trait, they had neverfired a fully-automatic firearm before.

Dick Sullivan instructs
Front Sight instructor Dick Sullivanpoints out how to score good hits on the school's proprietary targets whichwere developed by facility founder, Dr. Ignatius Piazza, after exhaustive studyof human cadavers.

We soon headed out to the range and spent the rest of themorning receiving lectures on the UZI‘s operational characteristics, doingdry-fire, clearing, practicing mounting in the high and low ready positions,magazine loading exercises and learning range etiquette from severalinstructors..

Front Sight’s teaching philosophy requires there beone instructor for every four to five students on the firing line, one of thehighest student-instructor ratios in the industry. A school policy requires allinstructors to be able to perform, on demand, anything they ask their studentsto do. This keeps the instructors’ skill level high and yields the bestlevel of instruction for the student.

The first shots were fired in the semi-auto mode, atincreasingly greater distances from the target. Several different gun mountingpositions were practiced. When all students were able to handle their gunsadequately, and follow and respond to range commands, we moved on to full-autofire.

Proper stance to control full-auto fire involves standingbent forward at the waist, with the strong side foot slightly to the rear. Thefeet are placed at a 30- to 40-degree angle to the body with knees bent, whilethe elbows are tucked down with the right elbow close to the body as the gun ismounted with its butt high in the natural pocket of the shoulder and the facialcheek contacting the stock.

Shooting at first in two and three round bursts, ourgroups grew tighter the more we practiced the all-important technique oftrigger control, one of the three secrets of shooting success. The instructorswere always there to provide guidance while stressing one of the reasons tolearn to shoot well is, It is better to give, than to receive, in agunfight.

Dr. Piazza speaks
Front Sight founder Dr. IgnatiusPiazza delivers a lecture during the classroom segment of the training. He ispresent at every class.

One aspect that particularly impressed me was theirmethod of teaching did not demean students for making mistakes, but rather theinstructors’ role was to provide encouragement and patient guidance tohelp each student shoot better. This is an important consideration making theschool ideal for the new shooter as well as for women. While I have attendedseveral of the big name schools in the past, I was particularlyimpressed by how well I and the other students were treated at Front Sight, wewere even provided with one of my favorite foods, bagels and cream cheese!Seriously, student respect constitutes a vital component of the school’splan of attracting affluent clients who will likely not tolerate a bootcamp atmosphere.

The instructors also went to great lengths to ensure eachstudent was able to grasp every concept and lesson as it was presented so thatno student was left behind. While we started out as a group of disorganized,unpracticed would-be subgunners, by the end of the day, we were all able tomount, fire and achieve good hits on command, and in unison.

My class, which was held on a Monday, was rather smallwith only 10 students. Classes held on weekends usually contain many moreparticipants and thus shooters step up to the firing line in volleys. While onegroup is shooting, the other reloads their magazines.

The targets used are of Piazza’s own design, havingbeen developed utilizing his medical background. The silhouette-style targetsare an accurate representation of human dimensions taken from medical cadaverand x-ray studies.

Artists drawing
When completed, Front Sight FirearmsTraining Institute will be a first class, resort facility.

Finally, just before the end of the day, we got to emptyan entire magazine at the target. Actually, we were able to do this twice.Once, for practice to get a feel for what it is like to unleash a full 30rounds non-stop. And a second time, on a clean target, to produce a remembranceof the day to take home. My target now proudly hands on the wall of myoffice.

We then retired to the headquarters tent, where we weretreated with a meal of pizza and soda, as well as a sales presentation on thevarious levels of membership offered in the facility, along with theopportunity to sign up for additional training. Quite a few students did so. Infact, the school has a 95% student return rate.

It goes without saying there is a lot more to learn aboutsubmachine gun shooting than can be taught in one day. Since this was just anintroductory course, no certificate is awarded at its conclusion. For those whowant to pursue study of the submachine gun, a separate four day course is given(contact the school for details).

The basics of subgun deployment, safety, and how to hitconsistently are provided in this free introductory lesson, and, as mentioned,all of the students in my class (none of whom aside from myself had ever fireda fully-automatic firearm before), did surprisingly well due to the highquality of instruction. This was not an informal fun shoot, butrather real training that produced visible results.

School Background

A chiropractor by training, Dr. Piazza, a nativeCalifornian, developed his avid interest in arms not through law enforcement ormilitary experience, but rather after, a group of anti-socials drovethrough (his) quiet neighborhood and blasted away at everything representingthe fruits of a decent work ethic, in 1988.

Scale model
Aerial view of a Front Sight scale modelshows the multitude of ranges and other facilities the school will have whenconstruction is completed.

During this random drive-by shooting spree, I wasstruck by a sudden and frightening realization. Although I owned firearms andshot them regularly at the range, I was never taught the skills required to usea gun when it is needed most - to defend one’s life, Piazzaadmits.

The vision that became the Front Sight concept occurredthe following year when Dr. Piazza attended a firearms training course underthe tutelage of the famed Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of the Gunsite TrainingCenter in Paulden, Arizona. Dr. Piazza understood the value of such trainingand anticipated the demand he could create for world-class firearms trainingcoupled with a resort-style, first class facility.

After thirteen week-long courses and thousands ofhours of practice over a three year period, I held Jeff Cooper’s signatureon Expert certificates in Special Pistol, Shotgun, Carbine and Riflecourses, Dr. Piazza recalls. He then went through a period of years whenhe took a wide range of firearms training courses, at virtually every shootingschool.

Among them was Massad Ayoob’s Lethal ForceInstitute and Clint Smith’s Thunder Ranch, Piazza says. As I continued to evolve my plans for the ultimate firearms training facility, Ilooked for submachine gun training. My search turned up Chuck Taylor, who at the time, was the only Four Weapons Combat Master in existence. I then began a six month, daily training regimen in preparation for the Four Weapons CombatMaster Test.

My routine included dry practicing with the handgun, shotgun, rifle and submachine gun for three-to-four hours each day, weekdays, and then renting a shooting range all day Saturday to practice live-fire drills. When I felt I was ready, I began testing for certification. I failed many times, often just by a few points right at the very end of thetest, Dr Piazza admits.

But, with each failed attempt, I improved and learned more about what it takes to really train to the highest level possible. In the end, perseverance was the key to success and I am proud that on August 28, 1993, I became the second man in the world to secure a Four Weapons CombatMaster certificate, Dr.Piazza says.

After several years of frustrating attempts to secure ause permit to open Front Sight on a 1500-acre ranch in California, he secured alease on an existing, outdoor shooting range in Bakersfield, California. FrontSight officially opened in Bakersfield in April, 1996. But Piazza continued tosearch for a permanent location he could purchase in the Las Vegas area (partly due to Nevada’s more favorable tax and firearms laws which allowed possession of full-auto arms). In January, 1997, Front Sight closed the escrowon their 550-acre Las Vegas site and began designing the facility, securing usepermits, water rights and construction permits.

World Class Facility

Construction started on Phase One in November 1998.Approximately 2 million dollars in earth moving work was performed before anoversight by those hired to secure the Grading Permit resulted in a five monthconstruction delay. The permit has now been issued and construction hasresumed. Expected to be completed by the end of 2000, Phase One will includenine training ranges from 25 yards to 400 yards; eight, 360 degree, live-firesimulator ranges; five story SWAT tower; 500-square-foot indoor video trainingsimulator building; defensive driving track; 7,200-square-foot armory andgunsmithing shop; pro shop; 7,200-square-foot classroom; administration andmaintenance buildings, five on-site residential buildings; and RV parking area.All training will be conducted in a resort-style, first class facility.

Phase Two, due to open in April or May of 2001, willinclude a 1000 yard rifle range, 4,200 foot airstrip; four private trainingranges; 7,200-square-foot martial arts gymnasium; and a 30,000-square-yardsecure training facility to allow professional actors from stage and screen,as well as the world of politics, to train privately.

Phase Three, due to open by the end of 2001, will featurea complete residential community with commercial retail center; communitycenter; private K- 12 school; 350 condominiums and 177 oneacre luxury homesites. Similar in concept to a golf resort community, instead of rolling greenfairways, Front Sight will cater to the interests of shooters. When completed,the facility will actually compose a new town - Front Sight, Nevada - with itsown zip code.

This is strictly high end, stressed Dr.Piazza. Many of our clients are law enforcement personnel, doctors,lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. He believes the firstclass nature of Front Sight will work to help build a positive image for theconcept of firearms ownership and use, including submachine guns. IfHarley-Davidson could change the image of the users of their motorcycles in thepublic eye, than certainly I can help the firearms industry polish their imageby building the finest firearms training facility in the world which will serveas a showplace for the shooting sports and tactical, as well as self-defensetraining, he says.

Harley-Davidson has very effectively changed the publicperception of the users of their products from that of outlaw motorcycle gangsto the choice of celebrities. The motorcycles have gone from a productconnected with criminals to that of a revered status symbol associated withpersonal success in a span of only about 20 years.

Aside from submachine gun training, other courseofferings include two and four day defensive handgun; two day handgun skillbuilder and advanced tactical handgun; handgun combat master prep; two and fourday tactical shotgun; two and four day practical rifle classes. After takingthe free introductory submachine gun class, most students progress to signingup for a two-day handgun, rifle or shotgun class. Though construction has notbeen completed, the school is fully operational and all course curriculum iscurrently being offered by a staff of 75 instructors.

The development is located about 10 miles east of thesmall town of Pahrump (whose name was derived from a native American wordmeaning water stone due to the presence of hot, underground springsin the area). Pahrump contains a couple of hotel/gaming establishments, anAlbertson’s supermarket, a pharmacy and other basic service businesses.Front Sight’s property is buttressed on all sides by Bureau of LandManagement property. Pahrump has welcomed the school’s construction.

We were impressed with the magnitude of theproject, commented Donna Lamb, Pahrump Regional Planning Commissionsecretary. And it seems pretty safe out there in the desert.

It’s the perfect place for this kind ofthing, said David Dwyer, the Front Sight project engineer. Peoplein Nevada are pro-development and pro-state’s rights. We’re rebelshere. It’s the Wild West.

Participatory Levels

Though one may attend courses on a one-time basis, FrontSight is not planned as a facility one visits once and then forgets about.Rather, it is intended as a world-class resort to which shooters will returntime and time again. Some may even want to live there! Read on.

Since construction is being financed with operatingrevenues, the First Family Program has been instituted to generatecash to cover construction costs by offering high-value charter memberships tothose with the vision to see what the facility will become once it iscompleted. There are four levels of participation in Front Sight’sFirst Family Program.

The first is the Copper in which participantsmay attend two and four day courses, in Defensive Handgun, Tactical Shotgun andPractical Rifle as often as one desires. Also included are six certificates forattendance at firearms courses that may be sold or transferred to anyone whohas not previously attended a course at the school. Other benefits encompass10% discounts on tuition, gunsmithing, shooting supplies and the etching of theparticipant’s name in a First Family monument.

Bronze membership includes free attendance at the courseslisted above in the Copper section, plus two day Handgun Skill Builder,Advanced Tactical Handgun, Handgun Instructor’s Course and the four dayHandgun Combat Master Prep class. Twelve First Family course certificates areprovided, along with 20% savings on other courses, products and services, inaddition to other amenities.

Silver First Family Membership allows attendance at anyFront Sight firearms course free-of-charge. A total of 24 course certificatesare included, which may be sold to others. Plus free use of the school’sprivate ranges free locker rental, priority placement in courses, and otherbenefits are given.

The highest tier, Platinum First Family, includes aone-acre luxury home site on the premises. It also allows free attendance atany course, as many times as one desires. A stack of 24 course certificateswhich may be sold are provided the first year and up to twelve additionalcourse certificates are provided each year thereafter for a lifetime. Platinummembers are even relieved from the necessity of having to clean their guns, asthis service is provided free by the gunsmithing staff.

When completed, there will be no other place in the worldlike the safe, secure, upscale community of Front Sight, Nevada. The first 16Platinum memberships rapidly sold out. Another 10 were offered at a higherprice and sold out. Six more were presented at an even higher and these too -you guessed it, sold out. Presently six additional Platinum memberships areavailable. Once these are gone, the next offering is expected to be 2 to 4Platinum memberships, and to be priced even higher.

All of the First Family memberships have increased dramatically in priceover the last year and will continue to increase in price as more membershipsare sold. This fact encourages students to secure their First Familymemberships as soon as possible.

In some circles, if I say something at the dinnertable about cleaning my shotgun, I’m not going to be real popular,disclosed Mike Meacher, a country-club development investor from SouthernCalifornia who purchased a Platinum membership. I view this as a vacationhome. These are not a bunch of rednecks. They are doctors, attorneys andsoftware people, and some retired guys who just like the community.

People will pay $200,000 to become a member of agolf country club, then buy a $250,000 chunk of land to live across from thegolf course. But the firearms facilities, with a few exceptions, are allrudimentary and remote. If you look at the draw of Las Vegas, you’llunderstand there is nothing else like this. Las Vegas is a destination resort.There is a tremendous tourism draw already, and there’s a lot of reasonswhy if Joe is a shooter and Mary and the kids are not, Joe can come to FrontSight while Mary and the kids enjoy the Strip. This is the same way the golfresorts pull golfers onto the course, Meacher observed.

You’re Pre-Approved!

Since not everyone may have these amounts of cashavailable, Front Sight has made arrangements for everyone attending its classesto finance their First Family memberships, regardless of their past credithistory. And the interest rate will surprise you - prime! The prime rate is theinterest rate banks offer only to their best customers. At the time of thiswriting, the prime rate was 8.5%. Financing can be as short as 12 months, orstretched out over five years.

Those who are in a position to make one payment of themembership and do not need financing, can enjoy a significant one-paymentsavings.

The amount paid for a Copper, Bronze or Silver FirstFamily program may be applied directly toward upgrading to a higher level ofmembership and to the purchase of a homesite within the development in thefuture.

Silver and Platinum first family memberships may betransferred to one’s heirs to ensure the next generation of a familycontinues in the firearms tradition. Silver and Platinum members may choose adeserving son or daughter, or grandchild, niece or nephew and begin trainingthe relative at Front Sight immediately. Upon the member’s passing, theSilver or Platinum First Family Program may be granted to an heir.

On July 4, 2000, a special First Family reunion will beheld for First Family members and their immediate families. The specialcelebrations will include a machine gun demonstration by SAR’s technicaleditor Dan Shea.

If you are not in a position to make a long termcommitment to the school, don’t let that bother you. As mentioned, you cantake individual courses on a paid tuition basis without making a furthercommitment. In any event, a must attend course is the free introductorysubmachine gun class. As a further incentive, a 50% discount off the cost ofthe first tuition course is offered to those who attend the free sub-gunclass.

If you are worried that your current skill level mightnot be appropriate to attend a course at Front Sight, you needn’t be.Instructors will give you the personal one-on-one attention you need to perfectyour accuracy, speed and gun handling. Whether you are new to gun ownership andwant to save time and money by learning it right the first time from worldrecognized experts, or an advanced student reaching for the highest levels ofperfection, your skills will be dramatically improved with the firstcourse.

To Dr. Piazza and his staff, — you are the weaponand your firearm is just a tool. Upon graduation, you will fully understand whyFront Sight’s motto is: Any gun will do — if you willdo!