As I anxiously waited out the hot Southwest summer, I readied my Benelli SuperNova for a trip to the Front Sight Firearms Training facility in Pahrump, Nevada. Gary and Nick, two shooting buddies from work, and myself had booked ourselves for the 4 day tactical shotgun course at Front Sight during mid-September. We knew it was going to be warmer than we wanted but our work schedules dictated when we could all get time off at the same time....so mid-September it was. We saw temps right at 100 degrees which didn't surprise us as the low deserts of Arizona and Southern Nevada are pretty much the same.
It's about a 6 hour drive to Front Sight from Phoenix (depends on highway construction delays along several portions of the route). The 4 day courses at Front Sight are packed with instruction and range time so we arrive the day before the course begins and leave for home the morning after the last day of the course. That lets us get a good night's rest, after 4 days of shooting, before we head back to Arizona. Gary and I, who were carpooling, didn't want to start the drive home at 7 o'clock in the evening.
Course registration starts at 7:30 AM of the first day. After a breakfast at one of the local casinos, we headed for Front Sight, about a 20 minute drive from Pahrump. Registration includes a range assignment and a weapons/gear check before you head into the classroom for the paperwork shuffle, range safety lecture, and the first of several course lectures. We had a lot (I'll venture a guess of about 200 or so) students in attendance taking various courses which included defensive handgun, tactical shotgun, and practical rifle. There were probably a few others courses being taught but I didn't check the schedule to see what else was on the agenda.
It didn't take too long before we were on the range. We had about two
dozen people in the class and that would shrink down to about 12 before day #4
was over. Some folks were there for just the two day course and others
would get called back to work, drop out for medical reasons (100 degree heat was
too much for some), or in the case of the "the brothers", they got a late start
on day #3 (about 2:00 PM) and asked if they had missed very much. (they
didn't come back for day #4) They say it takes all kinds and I guess that
is what makes the world go round. LOL!
We spent our range time on range #4 and shot from anywhere between 3 and 50 yards. Half of the range was paper targets and the other half was steel. More than half of our shooting was with birdshot which reduced the ammo cost significantly. Walmart sells Federal #8 shot for $20.96 per 100 rounds.
Shooting on steel, using birdshot or 00 buckshot, was done at a minimum of 15 yards from the targets. If we were shooting slugs on steel, that distance was increased to 50 yards. Paper was shot at 3 and 7 yards using birdshot or buckshot and at 35 and 50 yards using slugs.
Safety is #1 at Front Sight. On the first couple of days when we still
had two dozen students, we split firing time into two groups. This
provided for a dozen shooters on the line and when shooting, we had three
instructors monitoring, mentoring, coaching, etc. Each person in the group
not shooting would pair up with an active shooter and act as a safety spotter
and later, a shooting coach.
Gary is warming up his Benelli SuperNova shooting birdshot at
steel from 15 yards. Both Gary and I were extremely pleased with the
SuperNova's performance. Gary has a pistol grip stock on his SuperNova
Tactical which comes with ghost ring sites and a receiver tapped for a picatinny
rail. The SuperNova has a Giles
Tactical sling from
Wilderness Tactical Products. You may be wondering why the sling
is hanging rather than slung across his body? Once the instructors were
satisfied with basic weapons handling procedures, we were allowed to tac sling
the shotguns (assuming you had a suitable sling). All shotguns were
required to have a sling. When you were not shooting, the shotgun was
slung muzzle up on your shoulder.
After spend about 20 minutes shooting, we would take a 10 minute break. Each range has a shade canopy area with chairs. It's a great place to get out of the hot sun and is also used as the training setting when the instructors are introducing a new technique. The Front Sight support staff did a great job of keeping the water coolers full of cold water. We also had Gatorade drink mix to help replace electrolytes.
Quite a few of the students were using Front Sight rental
shotguns. Front Sight maintains an armory from which students can rent
their firearms. I believe most, if not all, were Remington 870 shotguns
with either rifled sights or a bead sighted barrel.
One of our shooting tasks included pattern testing our shotguns for both slugs and buckshot. Here I am at the 50 yard line sending a few slugs down range at paper. We did a couple of 3 shot groups and those with adjustable sights adjusted the sights to move their point of impact to their point of aim.
Speaking of pattern testing, my SuperNova, with Estate 2 3/4" 00
buckshot, has a very good "A" zone pattern at 7 yards. We shot quite a few
rounds on the hostage taker targets at 7 yards. Some folks struggled to
maintain hits on the hostage taker without hitting the hostage. I was
extremely pleased to find that my SuperNova delivered a baseball sized pattern
which could be precisely placed on the hostage taker. At 15 yards, I had a
"B" zone pattern that kept the 00 buck within the thoracic cavity. I will
be doing some more pattern checks at the local range to see just how far my "B"
zone extends.....but I'm expecting close to 25 yards for keeping 80% of the
pellets on target.
Here is a 50 yard patterning target shot by Nick, a Front Sight member and co-worker. Nick recently got interested in firearms and his 870 with newly mounted MMC ghost ring sights was getting its inaugural break-in at Front Sight. He discovered that the budget priced side saddle made it to day #3 before it fell off. We saw several examples of "tac crap" that simply couldn't hold up to the rigors of a shotgun course. I was very happy to see that my Nordic magazine tube extension didn't even require a "finger tightening" during the course. Likewise, my Mesa Tactical side saddle withstood hundreds of rounds without even a screw loosening.
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