Front Sight Student Appreciation Submachine Gun Seminar

The School Pulls Out All the Stops and Hosts Alumni for a Day With the Chatterguns

Paul Hantke
American Survival Guide
The Magazine of Self Reliance
VOLUME 21, NO. 8

For most of us it is less than often, if at all, that we get the opportunity to shoot full-automatic firearms.

This is unfortunate in a broad sense, because there not much else in the shooting world that produces as much fun as pressing the trigger and holding on while round after round spit forth from a gun.

It is morbidly unfortunate in other ways, because it is a sad indicator of the state of affairs in this country that it is only legal in a few states for private citizens to own such guns.

That issue is not our focus here, however, as this report is about an event held by the Front Sight firearms training school that does let the civilian get to know a little about working with submachine guns.

Better than that, the whole darn thing is free!

That’s right, free. No hidden charges, no gun rental, no expense for ammunition. Free.

The only catch is that you must have attended at least one of the regularly scheduled Front Sight classes in the past.

I went through the Front Sight four-day Defensive Handgun course last year, which we covered in the June, 1998 issue of American Survival Guide.

For those who missed that article, I was very impressed with both the curriculum and the instructors. It was a well-run course that began with the basics and worked up to some intermediate level techniques.

Since then Front Sight has sent several invitations to all their students to come out to Las Vegas and see the plans and models of their new facilities that are being constructed less than an hour’s drive from town.

These get-togethers included a chance to first try out and then offer your personal evaluations of the many different target systems and shooting scenario simulators available that were being considered for installation at the new facilities.

The real draw for me was that these functions also featured the Front Sight Student Appreciation days, wherein proprietor Ignatius Piazza and his crew roll out the red carpet, submachine guns, and cases of ammo — all gratis.

Frustrating scheduling conflicts kept me from attending any of the first events held in Las Vegas, but the skies finally cleared this January long enough for me to get over and participate in a one-day seminar held at the location for the new Front Sight facilities near Pahrump, Nevada.

Before we get into the meat of this article, I need to take a moment and offer the reader a heads-up on the new Front Sight location, which I have already declared in print will be a shooter’s Disneyland.

It will be much more than that, however, as the 550-acre plot of land is being developed very similarly to today’s exclusive golf resorts.

In addition to the perfectly manicured shooting ranges that are already in place, there will also be an airstrip and hangar complex, a 1,000-yard rifle range, private training areas for celebrities or others who need to stay out of the public eye, a martial arts gymnasium and training center, and an armory and pro shop with storage lockers.

This is all part of a planned development that also includes a commercial center, community center, and a private school. Housing development is laid out in 177 one-acre parcels around greenbelts and a small lake.

The whole deal is a fresh breath of air to me, as I find the current anti-gun, anti-hunting, uni-sex, politically correct atmosphere in most places quite stifling.

While there is no doubt he’s going to turn a profit on the deal, Piazza is to be congratulated for his effort, and commended for being willing to take the chance in today’s world.

Dodging the heavy equipment that was already at work as I drove in, I made my way to the huge reception tent used as temporary headquarters. I got signed in and made my way inside, where there were tables full of sweet rolls, bagels, juices, coffee, and other breakfast stuff.

Giving everyone plenty of time to fill up and settle down, Piazza began the day with a short welcome and overview of the day’s program. He briefly touched on the outline for the development, the time and effort it has taken to put together, and how excited he was about it.

Next he gave us a short history of the MAC-11 submachine guns we would be using in the class. Piazza filled us in on the gun from square one, including its design features and operation.

Also covered here was the suppressor being used and the reasons behind it. The unit not only drastically reduces the thunderous cadence produced by a shooting line full of subguns, it also adds the necessary length and gripping surfaces needed to safely run classes with beginners.

Beginners we were, too, for the most part. The class group I participated in had an entire spectrum of people in it, from a couple of gals who came to Vegas to shoot machine guns and country dance to the NASCAR drive-train engineer who brought his very well qualified young son along for his birthday.

Now, how do you take such a group of neophytes and eventually turn them loose with loaded submachine guns? Answer: Very, very carefully!

I called it a class group, because that’s just what it was. It was quickly clear that we were going to have fun, we were going to do it safely, but we were not going to just play. The day’s curriculum amounted to a not-so-condensed overview of subgun basics including some five hours of live-fire.

We spent most of the rest of the morning in instruction and dry-fire exercises learning the operation of the gun, the range etiquette, and the high/low ready positions we’d be using on the line.

Operations Director Brad Ackerman was the lead instructor and range master for our group, and he again covered the function and controls of the MAC-11 and the suppressor supplied by Front Sight.

On the line, we did some drills to make sure everyone was up to speed with the information and could handle the guns safely. As usual at Front Sight, there were instructors for every three or four students, so there was always competent supervision within steps of any shooter.

All of these procedures should be standard fare on the first day of any class or gathering of shooters. They were especially important here, though, because the fully automatic firearms can and will run away on you.

The recoil of any one individual shot is minimal, especially shooting a 9mm in a relatively heavy gun like the MAC-11 with attached suppressor. It is the cumulative effect of many shots fired at a cyclic rate of around 900 rounds per minute that makes it feel like you are holding onto a mini-jackhammer that’s pointed at you.

It can be very disconcerting to have the feeling that this lead hose is getting away from you, so what do you do? You hold on tighter, probably not releasing the trigger, and compounding the problem.

While accuracy is always important, no subgun’s primary design specification was for match performance. Their first job is to spew bullets at some rate determined by committee and/or original design.

In order to effectively shoot such a tool, the first important lesson is to use a proper stance. We were shown to stand with our strong side foot back a bit (Weaver placement), bend forward at the waist, and to keep the elbows tucked down while pulling the gun into our shoulder.

This is a classic subgun position, as it allows the entire upper body to deal with the progressive felt recoil of full automatic fire.

Tucking the elbows down gives better strength and helps to keep the gun from twisting as it also tries to recoil upward.

It was just before the lunch break when we went live-fire and began the basic single-shot warm-up drills. The MAC-11’s have a semi-auto selector setting, and we all used that spot for these first shots.

I don’t remember if we advanced to the full-auto SMG (submachine gun) setting on the selector switch before or just after the lunch break, but it’s a small point.

Whatever the sequence, we next used the SMG setting and worked on our stance and the next most important thing in mastering the subgun — trigger control.

While stacked second to stance here, trigger control is a good candidate for number one on the list of important subgun techniques because it limits ammo consumption and prevents a run-away.

Instructors worked closely with each student as we fired time and time again while perfecting our ability to regulate a two or three-shot burst from the fast-shooting MAC-11 is.

This was done in two flights of shooters, with the off-line group reloading their magazines while the others blasted away. It didn’t take much time for each transition, and the instructors kept the day running at a snappy pace.

We worked through the rest of the day doing different drills at ranges back to 25 yards. Most work was done closer, as the day was all about gun handling, trigger control, and stance. The many instructors saw to that, correcting shooters before they could start practicing bad habits.

Exercises included normal shots to center of mass from varying distances and on command. We also did failure to stop drills, including follow-up headshots on command.

All work was done from a static position on the line, but the pace and repetitiveness built into the day’s course instilled good form and trigger control in everyone by the end of the day.

Much like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the entire class had been waiting all day for our treat — we were going to get to fill up a magazine and let it go all in one burst — verboten territory all day.

Actually, we got to do two magazines full. One to see what it was all about and another on a clean target for a souvenir.

It was interesting to watch everyone trying to hang on while the little MAC-11s dumped their load of ammo into the targets at the almost point blank range of 5 yards.

I really grunted down and held all mine dead center. It hangs on my garage door now.

At the end of the day it was pizzas, sodas, and a sales presentation on the new town of Front Sight, Nevada. Munching on the free pizza and soda pop dinner, we all got to hear about the real estate development and the various membership programs offered.

First of all, it was a great day and a tantalizing peek at what’s to come in the future. I also got some good coaching and a lot of free trigger time on a subgun for the first time in a long time.

You can’t ask for more than that, and I am most appreciative of the invitation, as was everyone concerned at day’s end.

For further information on classes or the new Front Sight facilities contact Ignatius Piazza.

Copyright © 1999, American Survival Guide.