Officer.com: 'The dozen critical elements of modern firearms training'
Officer.com Home > Operations & Tactics
12 Elements of Firearms Training
The dozen critical elements of modern firearms training
Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Updated: November 16th, 2009 09:14 AM EDT
It can easily be argued that the job of a law enforcement firearms instructor is more difficult today than ever before. With everything now required from our already strained training resources, it has become increasingly difficult to even establish what the right questions are, let alone find the right answers. To help build a solid foundation and establish some basic criteria for what a law enforcement training program should include International Training, Inc. has adopted the 12 critical elements outlined below.
The information gathered for this analysis was obtained from several surveys conducted by the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) and the FBI. The FBI has collected data on officers killed and assaulted since 1945, and California POST started collecting such data in 1980. The surveys cited in this study encompass those conducted by the FBI from 1995 through 2004. After summarizing these studies, the following guidelines were drawn for police firearms training.
FBI Analysis of Officers Feloniously Killed from 1995-200
545 total officers feloniously killed with firearms
Broken down into two category distances: under seven yards and over seven yards.
Under Seven Yards:
* 0-5 feet, 268 officers killed, 49% of total
* 6-10 feet, 107 officers killed, 20% of total
* 11-20 feet, 65 officers killed, 12% of total
Note that the percentage totals indicate that 440 officers killed (81%) with firearms in the time frame specified were killed at distances under seven yards.
Over Seven Yards:
* 21-50 feet, 47 officers killed, 8% of total
* over 50 feet, 41 officers killed, 7% of total
* distance not reported, 17 officers killed, 3% of total
Totals for officers killed at distances over seven yards (or not reported) was 105 officers or 19%
1. Prepare officers for immediate, spontaneous, lethal attacks
Based on the above statistics, one can see that close quarter tactics and techniques are a must for officer survival. Personal communication with unknown individuals is a big part of our officers' daily routine, and they have to be close enough to them to do it effectively. The difficulty arises when these unknown individuals turn out to be bad guys. When this happens, a mastery of drawing and firing from various close quarter positions, weapon retention, physical strikes, and other close-quarter combat skills are obviously critical.
To satisfy the close distance issue, a basic cardboard target holder that is sturdy enough to withstand muzzle blast, palm strikes, and an occasional flying ticket book should serve you well. As far as sudden and spontaneous goes, a high-speed turning target system that suddenly presents a threat just when the officer glances away can add a tremendous amount of stress to the situation.
2. Prepare officers for assaults by multiple threats and uninvolved subjects
Statistics tell us there is about a 60% chance that an assault will involve more than one attacker. At the same time, we need to be aware of uninvolved, innocent bystanders as well. In many domestic abuse calls, the spouse or other family members can start out as uninvolved, but then join in against the officer if a conflict ensues. Learning to break the tunnel vision phenomenon and engage multiple threats with total awareness of uninvolved subjects justifies shoot / no-shoot training, increases survivability, and decreases liability issues.
The most obvious approach here is lots of targets. Tall ones, short ones, some closer, some farther away, some clustered in a group, and some off by themselves. Another particularly effective technique also employs turning targets, but they have to be individually controlled. As your officer is engaging targets 1 and 2 as they edge and face right in front of him, try facing target 6 and see if he notices. Better yet, use a 180 degree turning target that can show you a bad guy or a good guy in the same place at any given time.
3. Integrate the sudden transition to firearms from arrest and control techniques, including searching and handcuffing
Many potentially lethal assaults occur as the officer is searching and/or attempting to handcuff the subject. This sudden shift to a deadly force situation can be exceptionally dangerous if the officer has not been conditioned with the proper response techniques. Glaring examples of insufficient training and conditioning would be the officer failing to create distance if the chance arises, or attempting to draw his firearm with his handcuffs still in his hand.
The use of drag dummies, CPR dummies, and turning targets are all effective here. The dummies provide realism and a platform for practicing control techniques, while the turning targets provide the sudden visual indicator that the situation has escalated.
4. Base training on the fact that most officers are killed at short distances
The statistics presented earlier clearly establish where most officer fatalities occur. However, it is important to note that this element does not say Teach your officers how to shoot at close distances. It says to base your training on the fact that most fatalities occur up close. It's like the guy who tells his doctor that he broke his leg in 2 places and the doctor says So, don't go to those places! If most fatalities occur at close distances, we should all be aware of when it is appropriate to be farther away.
In addition to the close-quarter combat techniques discussed in elements 1-3 above, a moving target that charges straight at the officer can be extremely effective at illustrating the importance of creating distance and demonstrating the best ways to move quickly and effectively in various situations.
5. Base training on the fact that officers will have limited fine and complex motor control
We should all be aware of the various physiological responses our bodies undergo during a combat situation. Manual dexterity is the one we are focusing on here. As blood flows away from our extremities and towards our core, we lose fine and complex motor control in our fingers and hands. Unfortunately, elements of good marksmanship like trigger control can be the first to go. Now before a panic ensues, we believe that teaching basic marksmanship skills (like proper trigger manipulation) is absolutely vital and should not be abandoned! However, make room in your training for the fact that fine and complex motor control will be decreased, and that the officer can still make good hits despite this.
The best way to demonstrate the effects of stress to your officers is to immerse them in it. Make them run, get their heart pumping and their adrenaline flowing, then send them into an interactive scenario with dye marking rounds and role-players shooting back at them. The breakdowns in technique will be startling.