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
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
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.
6. Integrate two-person contact and cover teams involved in realistic scenarios
Just because one of your officers knows how to safely and effectively engage multiple threats, reload efficiently, and move from one piece of cover to another doesn’t mean he knows how to do those things with 2 or 3 other officers running around him trying to do the same thing at the same time. Where is my muzzle? Where is my partner? Where is my partner's muzzle? Proper tactical communication is absolutely critical!
Have 2 and 3 man teams go through tactical scenarios together. Use portable cardboard and steel targets in a variety of locations and configurations. Have the teams shoot side by side so their partner's brass is bouncing off the bill of their cap or down their shirt collar. Condition them to be profoundly muzzle conscious, and make them realize the importance of communication when it comes to moving, reloading, and staying in the fight.
7. Emphasize the survival mindset and the will to win in all skills training
Quite often, what you bring to the fight will dictate the outcome of the fight. Having a winning mindset and a positive attitude will enhance the officer's odds of survival. While our work is dangerous, we have a high risk of being a victim off the street rather than on the street, and at times the biggest threat we face is the one in the mirror. Particularly with younger officers, movies and television have shaped much of what they perceive as the realities of a gunfight. For example, the perp that flies back 15 feet and crashes into a pile of trash cans after being hit with a single handgun round. Clint Smith said if you get into a fist fight you might get punched, if you get in to a knife fight you might get cut, and if you get in to a gunfight you might get shot. It doesn't mean the fight is over, it just means you may have to finish the fight a little differently than you had originally planned.
Knowing how to shoot, reload, and clear stoppages with only one hand (both left and right) is imperative. Our officers must be confident in their ability to win the fight even if they are injured, and they must be comfortable with these techniques in order to gain that confidence.
8. Integrate one-handed firing of a handgun. Include dominant and support hand, plus drawing, reloading, and stoppage clearing
Many law enforcement shootings occur with one hand, and using a single hand is often to your tactical benefit based on the situation. Even if you are not injured, a traditional 2-handed grip may be impractical or even dangerous if means giving up too much cover or concealment.
Primarily for safety reasons, one-handed skills training is best executed in small groups. Because officers will be presenting and handling their weapons in untraditional and perhaps unfamiliar ways, muzzle awareness is critically important in these drills.
9. Integrate close-quarter structure searching and clearing plus indoor combat tactics
When a family comes home to find their back door kicked in, they call the police. Does the call go to the SWAT team? Of course not - it goes to the nearest officers on patrol. Either alone or with a partner, every single officer needs to know how to perform basic close-quarter techniques like tactical entry, hallway navigation, and room clearing. They need to know things like which way a door swings if you can see the hinges (towards you), and they need to know not to expose body parts around corners, don't rub you back along the wall as you move, and don't hang out in doorways.
A live-fire ballistic shoot house is the ultimate training tool for these situations. It provides a structure for all the tactical movement and navigation training, plus it escalates the stress and realism of the training by incorporating threat engagement with actual duty weapons. It's one thing to fire a gun in a nice straight line out on the qualification range. It is another thing entirely when you are inside a building trying to be aware of 360 or 540 degree environment.
10. Emphasize dim or no light situations as much as daylight training
Because 70% or more of law enforcement shootings occur under reduced or diminishing light conditions, significant training with your duty illumination tools is a must. Target identification and threat recognition are critical parts of this training as well, and keep in mind that flashlights are needed in the day time just as much as in the night time because you never know where you may end up. The illumination tools you carry will have a significant impact on how you handle your weapon and ultimately on how you fight, so you must be extremely comfortable using them under a wide variety of tactical situations. Many departments have adopted the use of lasers, so your training must include the proper use of these tools as well.
If you already have a shoot house that can be darkened, you have an ideal venue for all kinds of low-light training. An indoor range also serves this purpose well. If you don’t have access to either of these facilities, night time on your outdoor range should provide some pretty good darkness.
11. Integrate moving then shooting and moving while shooting techniques
If you maintain a picture-perfect stance during a gunfight, you are not doing it right. If you are not moving to create distance then you should be moving to cover. The ability to shoot effectively while incorporating lots of movement gives you a dramatic tactical advantage, increases your chances of survival, and decreases the chance of hitting something you didn't want to hit. Remember, when shooting while moving you should move no faster than you can hit, see, and in some cases, hear.
Effective movement techniques can be taught with just about any target equipment you have available. Running man targets and automated turning targets can make the experience more realistic and intense by allowing the trainer to control the scenario and respond to the trainee's actions.
12. Integrate engagement techniques for moving targets, both laterally and charging
Training on moving targets has become mandatory for law enforcement agencies across the country, and rightfully so. When was the last time you were in a violent confrontation with someone who just stood still? Because running seems to be a part of most gunfights, the ability to fire safely and accurately at moving threats can be one of an officer's greatest assets. It is important to train for both lateral threat movement and charging movement because each requires a specific skill set and response from the trainee.
Some portable moving target systems are very effective and flexible because they can be configured for both types of threat movement (lateral and charging). A heavier-duty track mounted system can be equipped with a steel target plate to enhance muscle memory through the immediate positive feedback of clanging steel
Again, being a law enforcement firearms trainer today is an extremely difficult job. You have to be part teacher, part motivator, part mechanical engineer, part lawyer, part drill sergeant, part counselor, part maintenance staff, part etc., etc. We pay tribute to you trainers who dedicate your efforts to developing the next generation of warriors, and we hope the information presented here serve to focus and clarify the process.