For most of us, getting the chance to shoot machine guns is something that we all would love to try, but will most likely never have the chance. For those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a state that allows the private ownership of machine guns, there is still the headache of all the bureaucratic red tape that we have to wade through in order to get one. So when I heard about the chance to take a submachine gun class from one of the nation’s premier firearm training schools, I sat up and paid attention. When I heard the course was completely free, including guns and ammo, my first thought was, "Right, what’s the catch?"
We all know that nothing is offered free of charge without some kind of string attached, but I checked around and the offer seemed legitimate. So I hesitantly sent in my application for the free one-day submachine gun class at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute. I received confirmation a couple of weeks later and started making plans for a weekend in Las Vegas — poor me!
When I arrived, I was expecting to be forced to sit through some long, boring time-share presentation for several hours before hearing a thing about shooting. When I got there, however, I found this was not to be the case. I was directed to an enormous tent that serves as the classroom and pro-shop while the new facility is being constructed. They had coffee, juice, muffins and other breakfast food waiting for us to eat while we signed in and waited for the other students to arrive. When we were all there, we were welcomed and given a short overview of the class and then introduced to the founder of Front Sight, Dr. Ignatius Piazza. He briefly told us about the Front Sight facility, his background and why he had started in the venture. When it is finished, Front Sight will be a premier "shooting resort" modeled after exclusive golf-type resorts — only here, you play with bullets instead of golf balls. The facility is being built on 550 acres of land that will eventually include an airstrip and hangar, rifle ranges out to 1,000 yards, a martial arts training gym and a pro shop and armory. Ultimately, this will become the town of Front Sight, Nevada. It will be a planned community development that contains housing plots, a commercial center, a private school and a community center.
The Safest Town in America
Front Sight should be the safest town in the world. After all, who would try anything in a town where everyone is armed and trained to use their weapons?
After being given this short bit of background information, we quickly moved into what we were all here for: instruction in shooting submachine guns! Last year, this class was taught using the M-11submachine gun. This year, Front Sight upgraded to the Uzi. We were first given some historical background on the Uzi, which was initially developed in the1950s for a general issue weapon of the Israeli military. In spite of there being some more "modern" sub-guns out there now in the hands of police and military, the Uzi fills that tactical niche as well or better than its competitors. Dr. Piazza feels that the H&K and Colt sub-guns are more popular with police units not because they are superior weapons, but because of the aggressive marketing strategies employed by these companies.
|Front Sight advertises and guarantees one instructor for every 4-5 students on the firing line, clearly the industry’s best. In practice, however, Front Sight generally has one instructor for every 2–3 students.
|Front Sight’s founder and director, Dr. Ignatius Piazza, lectures about the history and tactical applcation of the Uzi 9mm Submachine Gun.
|Fun on the firing line at Front Sight Submachine Gun Course!|
The Uzi has a slightly different manual of arms than some semi- and full-auto guns, due to its open-bolt design. We were shown the proper procedure for clearing the weapon, and then the lesson went on to the proper grip and stance. Then we were split up into two groups and each group was given a chance to do some dry-fire exercises to become familiar with the gun and practice what we had been taught. There were plenty of instructors to critique us on our form. Front Sight keeps an instructor to student ratio of at least one instructor to every four or five students.
Firing stance with a sub-gun is a little different than with a rifle or shotgun. The two things that I kept hearing from the instructors was to keep my elbows in and bend forward more at the waist. I felt like I was leaning way to far forward already, but this helps control recoil in full-auto, as I came to understand later, out on the range.
After we had become familiar with the guns, we were given instruction on the proper sight picture and sight alignment. The Uzi uses a standard rear peep sight and front post. These make the gun effective out to200 yards. We followed this instruction up with some sighting drills. The entire class was taught this way: we would learn one fundamental, then get a chance to practice it. Then we would learn something else that would build on what we had already been taught. This teaching method made it very easy to for the most rank novice to learn quickly, but there were enough instructors helping everyone that the more experienced shooters could improve their technique without feeling like the class was moving too slow.
Next came trigger control. While the Uzi doesn't have a "bad" trigger, it will never be accused of belonging on a finely tuned target rifle. The reason for this was that the trigger engagement had to be a strong enough to catch the heavy bolt to stop it from cycling when the trigger is released. A light, crisp trigger would be battered until it broke, which would result in a "run-away gun." In this situation, the gun would not stop shooting until the magazine was empty. The trigger wasn't really all that bad, and once I became used to it, it worked very nicely.
All this classroom work was fun and informative, but I was there to shoot! After a short break, we moved out to the range. There were plenty of snack foods and beverages waiting for us, but by this time, everyone was grinning and greedily eyeing the Uzis laid out in front of a row of targets.
Dr. Piazza was there to give us a live-fire demonstration. He quickly dispelled the popular Hollywood notion that you can simply spray bullets with a sub-gun and anything in your way will be blown away. Holding the weapon at hip level, he dumped an entire magazine, sweeping back and forth at four targets. When the gun ran dry, the targets had only one or two random hits each. Less than half the bullets had hit anywhere on the targets at a mere seven yards. He then reloaded, shouldered the weapon, and fired a controlled burst into the center of each target. He had a perfect center-of-mass hits and used less ammo and did it in less time.
Finally, it was our turn. Under the direction of the range officers, we retrieved and loaded our guns. we started out shooting single shots in semi-auto mode to get a feel for firing the guns. Then we were finally allowed to push the selector all the way over to "auto" and really start rocking and rolling.
The thing that noticed right off was just how easy the Uzi is to shoot. Most of my full-auto experience has been with the M-11 and MAC10 type of sub-gun. Although these are fun guns to shoot, their high cyclic rate makes them more difficult to master. The Uzi has a slower rate of about600 rounds-per-minute. I was amazed at just how easy it was to shoot singles and doubles simply by manipulating the trigger. Shooting a double on a standardM-11 is difficult, and singles are just about impossible.
Looking around, I remembered just why one friend of mine refers to the full-autos as "giggle guns." Everyone around me had ahuge grin on his or her face, and several were trying to hold in laughter. Now this is fun!
We continued learning in the same way, by having short lectures and demonstrations, then we would have a chance to try out what we had been taught. After everyone was comfortable shooting burst on full-auto, we started in on failure-to-stop drills. In real life, if you give an attacker a burst in the chest, and he doesn't stop, a second burst is rarely effective. The attacker may be wearing body armor, or be high on drugs and not feel anything. In this instance, a short burst is followed by a single shot to the head. The rest of the day, we would have random failures-to-stop during our other drills when a range officer would yell "head," or a target would turn away after being shot, just to turn back again, as if attacking.
Next up, we started working on our speed. We had been shooting from the ready position, both high ready and field ready. Previously, we had had plenty of time to shoulder the gun, get a perfect sight picture, and squeeze the trigger. Now we were trying to get the weapon up and on target, geta "snap" sight picture and shoot in as little time as possible. All this and still get good hits, too.
A Little Incentive
Just to give us a little incentive, one of the instructors stepped up on the line with us and when the command was given to fire, he would draw his handgun from a holster and try to get a hit on his target before the rest of us. Now how hard could this be? After all, we were starting with the gun already in hand. Some of us were surprised when we were easily beaten. After several tries, we finally started catching up. Okay, so I didn't really expect to become a master sub-gun shooter after one day of instruction. But I most definitely did improve in the course of the day.
Lest you think the course consists of boring, short, controlled bursts, at the end of the day we were allowed to open up and dump an entire magazine into a target. Once to get a feel for the gun at a sustained burst, and again on a new target for us to take home and proudly display.
After a full day of instruction, lunch was provided. Like everything else, this was free.
How can Front Sight afford to do these free classes and stay in business, you might ask? They are looking at it as a long-term investment. I've gone home and told everyone I know about what a great time I had and what a great facility they had. I'm sure everyone else at the class did the same. And I'm sure several of those people who shot with me are planning ongoing back to take some of the other great classes offered by Front Sight.
I can't wait until I have a chance to go back again.
NOTE: All free submachine gun courses in the year 2000 feature Front Sight’s brand new Uzi submachine guns. Click HERE to complete an application.