It’s amazing how much can occur in 1.5 seconds.
A thug approaching you at an ATM can be on you with a knife from 20+ feet away.

Police training uses a range of 20 feet as a “kill zone” in which you (private citizen or cop) can be killed by an assailant with a knife, bottle, club, or what have you, that is, something other than a gun. It may seem hard to believe until you do some role playing. Bad things can happen fast.

1.5 seconds is also enough time to draw a weapon from a holster, cock it (or rack it) and shoot such an assailant. It probably took you that long to read the first line of this post.

A while back I took a five day shooting and safety course at Front Sight in Pahrump, Nevada. It was unique in my experiences of training for many reasons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s in the middle of a vast desert valley west of Las Vegas. It was early November, and it was bitterly cold. I had to put on extra layers and wear thick gloves when not on the firing line. In the evenings, I’d bundle up and sit outside my motel room to smoke cigars, listening to the radio, and shivering like crazy.
It was also my first exposure to Front Sight Firearms Training Institute. It cost a lot to get there, rent a car, and stay in a motel, but it was worth it. The facility spans several acres and the founder, Dr. Ignatius Piazza, built an incredible series of  small arms and rifle ranges. This guy is a perfectionist, and it shows in the carefully sculpted safety berms, covered firing lines, cement pavement everywhere you’d need to walk, and the high-tech targeting systems. It also has several shoot-houses (albeit without ceilings), and close-quarters combat training facilities. I’m sure it’s improved since then, too.

But these high-tech targeting systems taught me a lot… most profoundly, about how much you can do in 1.5 seconds. At the outset of the course, taught by current and former law enforcement personnel, they laid out the agenda for the week. “At the end of these five days, you’ll be able to do (this, that, and the other thing).” The seemingly impossible feat would be to draw from your holster and put three rounds into the heart and head of your target. Now, I’ve been through Marine boot camp which has some of the very best rifle training of any military’s basic training. Shooting and getting a bulls-eye on a target 500 yards away was a pretty incredible feat at the time. This 1.5 second thing seemed nearly impossible.

I had heard that Front Sight had a very regimented training, and it was true. You move when they tell you, holster your weapon when they tell you, draw and fire… only when they tell you. The range personnel were extremely professional. They even kicked out this little old lady because she was being clumsy with her (enormous) Colt 45.  No feeling sorry for anyone here, she was a danger to herself and others.

My class consisted of half law enforcement personnel from St. George, Utah; the other half were civilians. We drilled by the numbers for four days. We were all doing pretty well. The big finale to graduate and get certified was the 1.5 second test.

The steel framed targets were automated, and you weren’t allowed to make a move until the target was fully presented. Sure enough, they’d turn those suckers around for 1.5 seconds, then turn them back. When turned to us, we drew from holsters underneath our coats, and fired three shots, two to the heart, one to the head (or was it the other way?). When practicing again and again, that 1.5 seconds was enough time to examine your previous shots, think, “I did pretty good on that last one,” and let go the next three rounds.

I had a really good time at Front Sight, which is a way of saying, I got exceptional training, just like the cops received, and my proficiency went way up. It was a great value, even with travel costs. I could have done similar training in my home state, but the training proved to be invaluable.

I’d love to go back and blog on it again.

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