There are a multitude of ways to improve the firearms training program in your department. In this article, I’m going to illustrate a few ways. I don’t consider any of these to be absolute “musts,” rather I see them as a way to get you to think.
If you are an instructor, you can use these to spice things up on the next training series. The key is to make them fun as well as challenging. Everyone likes to be challenged, and if the officers see the exercise as fun, they are more likely to listen and learn something.
If you are “just” a slick-sleeved patrol officer pushing a beat car around your district, think about maybe trying some of these with your buddies. If your local range won’t let you do them, try dry fire or Airsoft practice with them.
The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is a competitive shooting sport that is geared toward self-defense shooting. It is a game, but it is a lot more “realistic” than the other shooting sports out there.
Regardless on what you think about shooting sports, learning to shoot under pressure builds stress inoculation.
Running your cops through the IDPA classifier course of fire is an interesting way to start them in range training. The course requires shooting from the draw, weak hand shooting, center mass to head transitions, use of cover, turns, movement and reloads. Shooting is done from ranges of five to 20 yards and on three different targets of varying heights.
The course is not overly challenging, but unless your students have previously shot it, the course is different.
The best part is you can point out to your students that this is just the qualifier course for a “game” that “normal” people play. If nothing else, you may be able to use it to get the arrogant shooter to recognize that his shooting skills are not as great as he may think.
Shooting from Unusual Cover
Sure, we teach officers to use cover, but do we train them to recognize cover, and then to actually use it? Probably not as well as we could.
Part of the problem is range masters like neat ranges. I can understand the sentiment, but neat ranges rarely equal well-trained police officers.
So, bribe the range master with donuts and coffee, and drag some weird things out onto his range. Old plywood can be painted to look like a low wall. An old 2×6 could be a tree trunk.
None of them are ideal cover, but what is? Look around the next time you are on patrol and figure out how to replicate the items you see as cover. Then bring them to the range.
The best prop to use is a patrol car. Actually shooting around the front bumper with one hand trains the student how to use cover. Telling them in a classroom to use the engine block for cover won’t instill the skill.
I read an article by trainer Clint Smith several years ago. He was talking about teaching students to shoot from unusual cover and had a photo (or diagram?) of a tricky bit of cover he used.
The simulated cover was a sheet of plywood with various shapes cut into it, running left to right. Each of the shapes was at a different height, and each represented a shooting station.
The object was for the shooter to engage a rack of steel plates from each hole in the plywood. Each position required the shooter to kneel, lay in the dirt, squat down or otherwise shoot from an uncomfortable position.
The idea is to make the student adapt to the situation. When he or she properly applies the fundamentals, the reactive targets fall.
Again, this can be both a challenge and fun for the students.
The DTI Dance
I’ve never had the chance to train with John Farnam, but he holds an excellent reputation as a firearms instructor for armed citizens and law enforcement officers alike. Farnam runs a training school called Defense Training International (DTI).
Long time cop and firearms instructor Dave Spaulding wrote about the DTI Dance in the January 2008 issue of Law Officer Magazine. Essentially, the drill that Farnam developed (actually, there are two) tests the fundamental ability of the shooter to accurately put rounds on target, clear malfunctions and reload in a short amount of time.
Spaulding does an excellent job in explaining how to run the drills, so make sure you click through to his article. However, the overview of the basic course (no movement) is:
- the student draws and fires at the 8”x12” target,
- while shooting the student encounters a dummy round, which must be cleared, and
- after a total of four rounds, the slide locks back and the shooter must reload and fire two more rounds.
Any misses constitute failure; it is all or nothing. A student should be able to clear the drill at 100% in less than 18 seconds. An instructor should be able to do the same in less than 12 seconds.
The drills are run individually, but should not take more than about 20 seconds per officer. This means that a lot of students can be moved through the exercise quickly.
I hope I’ve gotten you at least thinking about firearms training. None of the above is anything wild or crazy. All of the above could be a challenge, and if done right, can be a springboard into showing the students the importance of mastering the fundamentals.
Does your department do anything to challenge the shooter? Or are you stuck with just showing up at the range and banging out a qualification round?
If you are an individual officer, not trainer, what are you doing to challenge yourself?