|By KEVIN PILLEY|
, a 40-yearold-former chiropractor, was welcoming us to his free one-day, submachine-gun seminar. He was telling us of a terrifying personal experience when his family home in California was strafed during a drive-by incident.
"I was just an average gun enthusiast with no
military or law enforcement experience. One day a group
of anti-socials drove through our quiet neighbourhood
and blasted away at everything that represented the
fruits of a decent work ethic," he said.
"I was struck by a sudden and tremendously
frightening realisation. I was incompetent to defend my
life and those of my loved ones. I became every gun
shop's best friend. I'd buy two of everything."
Although he had owned firearms and fired them
regularly at the range, he had never been taught the
skills required to use a gun when it was needed most.
After several years of training and thousands of hours
of practice, he became only the second person to be
awarded the coveted Four Weapons Combat Master
There were 15 of us at Front Sight, Piazza's vision in the desert. We were in a large tented hangar in the Nevada desert near Pahrump, 45 miles from Las Vegas.
Since opening on a disused military base in Bakersfield
in 1996, Front Sight
has taught 3,500 students. Work on Front
Sight in Nevada began in 1998 - that state allows
private citizens to train with submachine- guns. California
It is a $25,000,000 project that culminates next year
in the opening of a550-acre gated community featuring a
private airstrip, school, housing, 13 gun ranges, a
five-story Swat storm tower and "live-fire" tactical
simulators which will reproduce potentially lethal
The main road will be named Second Amendment Drive,
referring to right to bear arms, and there
will be a residential gunsmith and armoury as
well as the Firearms Training Institute, which has already
been offering courses in lethal weaponry for
As we walked to the range, which has been excavated
from the scrubland, Walt told me why he was there: "I
just want to be prepared. Self-defence situations are
getting more common. You never know. Home invasions are
a part of life," he said.
Walt had his name stuck on to the back of his hat and
the front of hisshirt. He was a first-time student and,
like all of us, had signed a liability waiver and
provided a character witness before joining the course.
"If you own a gun, you have a responsibility to know
how to handle it properly," said Jesse, walking beside
us. He had a name tag, too.
"Knowing how to use a gun right might mean the
difference between living and dying. I just want to
improve my self-defence skill levels, I guess. The world
isn't getting any safer."
Our instructors were waiting. Dressed in grey shirts,
cargo pants, combat boots and wrap-around sunglasses,
there were five of them. Front Sight has 80 supervisors on call and
allocates one to every four students.
For the first hour, seated under canvas, we listened
to our teachers as they described the design features
and capabilities of the Israeli Uzi, reputed to be the
most widely distributed sub-machine-gun in the western
Their philosophy is that guns don't kill people,
people do. We were taught to recognize and respond to
basic range commands and observe basic range etiquette.
Safety is paramount. "Do not let your muzzle cover
anything that you are not willing to destroy," said
ex-marine Dick Sullivan.
Our guns remained unloaded all morning. But our Uzis
would be hot by lunchtime, when the live ammunition was
We were shown how to grip the weapon, how to load and
reload and how tostand at a 30-degree angle to the line
of fire, bent at the waist, our elbows pulled in and our
cheeks resting on the stock. We learned how to lean into
the target and to cushion the recoil of full automatic
fire. We learned how to setup for optimal accuracy.
The Front Sight curriculum includes "real
world techniques" and "street proven skills". Topics
include "Combat mind set" and "The principles of tactics
- concealment and cover, the element of surprise,
movement and noise discipline".
At last, it was time for the real thing. The target
was five yards away. We aimed at the thoracic cavity on
the human silhouette paper target, pressed the trigger
By the afternoon, the line had moved back to 20 yards
and by the end of the day everyone had shot 300 rounds.
The desert floor was littered with spent brass
Front Sight membership packages range
from $8,500 to $275,000. "This is going to be the Pebble
Beach of firearms training," Ignatius Piazza said, referring to
the California golf course that is a frequent venue for
He added: "Although we are always looking for
investors, our free submachine-gun courses are not a
time-share presentation. At the end, you get a chance to
buy a membership as well as a take-home target. There is
"Although I would prefer that when they do get home
people don't stick their targets up on their office
* For further information visit www.FrontSight.com.
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