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Firearms Training: Train like You Play

Richard Weinblatt

As a firearms instructor, I have noticed a vast difference between veteran police officers and deputy sheriffs who take range qualifications and training time seriously and those who merely view it as a chore to get done with and move on. While the shooting techniques themselves may be okay and get them through yet another re-qualification stint, it seems that some gun toting law enforcers take shortcuts in these sessions that could impact their survival.

There is no demand on your time more important than your survival. Many officers seem to forget some of the cardinal rules taught by police academy firearms and officer survival instructors. Remember, you should be training like you may have to play someday.

Here are some reminders based on what I have observed at the firing range. See if you have been following these ten rules.

1. Suit up in assigned clothing and leather gear. If you are an officer assigned to plainclothes types of duty, then practice shooting in that attire and with the leather gear that you wear on a regular basis. If you are uniformed, then by all means do your training in that guise with all (and I mean all) of your leather gear on you.

2. Engage your holster fully. This is especially true for you officers who have a threat level III. Holster, snap every snap and do it each and every time you re-holster.

3. Don’t look at your holster. When you re-holster, do not look down. Practice enough so that you know where your holster is and can just place the firearm back into it. When you look at your gun to place it in the holster, you have averted your eyes from any potential danger that may become an issue.

4. Avoid the trigger until you decide to fire. Keep you finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to pull the trigger.

5. Practice weak hand shooting. Don’t assume that your strong hand will always be available for shooting; fine tune transitioning and shooting with your weak hand.

6. Give verbal commands. Much like in defensive tactics, officers forget to verbalize their commands in a loud, authoritative tone during a confrontation. Let your subject know what he or she should do. This impedes their thinking of what they want to do to you next. The issuance of clear verbal commands also helps to deflect liability and complaints from the subject, as well as others who may be observing the action.

7. Scan for additional threats. After you’ve addressed any potential threat, look for any new issues to be dealt with. Physically move as you conduct your assessment and break that tunnel vision.

8. Be mindful of foot placement. When you stand, be sure of where you place your feet. Your feet are part of a steady shooting platform. When you move, avoid crossing your feet and tripping over yourself.

9. Seek cover. Know the difference between cover and concealment. Seek cover when given a choice between the two during dynamic training segments. Make sure that your whole body is behind that cover including your head.

10. Act like your on camera. In this age of video cell phones, portable video recorders, and police cruiser in-car cameras, conduct yourself during training, and on the streets, with the thought that all that you do is being recorded. Don’t use language or engage in physical actions that would embarrass you, your police chief or sheriff, or your mother.

Did you look at these ten rules honestly? Qualifications come and go, but you may only have one chance to play in the real game of survival. Train like you may have to play someday.


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