While accidents can happen at any time — on the street, highway or in a deserted building — the law enforcement training accident burns its own candle in the hearts of officers. Safety measures are in place to protect not only the individual trainee, but the other students and instructors as well. "Any time you are moving a student or group into a new skill set there is the potential for a safety habit or technique [to fall] off the cart," says Kurata. He advises working on team tactics first: moving, communicating and elevating muzzle awareness as a team.
Consider prevention the first defense against training accidents. He offers key points for trainers to aid in safety before starting a drill:
- Have a clear understanding of the skill(s) taught.
- Know how to communicate and demonstrate these skills to students.
- Know how to give corrective feedback.
- Keep in mind that the average student or officer does not have the same level of skill as the instructor.
- Have the students use inert blue or red guns until a satisfactory skill level is reached.
- Slow down the pace or keep the pace at half speed if safety issues arise, or if students push too hard or too fast.
Taking safety one step further, the FLETC requires firearm instructors to pass automated external defibrillator training annually and trauma management every three years.
The NRA's position is to not use any firearm capable of firing live ammunition in force-on-force training. Instead, the organization chooses an airsoft- or paintball-type firearm. This is because the airsoft or paintball gun would not be able to fire live 9mm or .40-caliber rounds. "As soon as you start taking shortcuts or becoming lackadaisical, that's when accidents could occur, and then there is a failure somewhere in the safety procedures," says Peters.
The NRA suggests a strict triple redundant safety check procedure for force-on-force training using a firearm, modified or not. The organization adds that if anyone enters or leaves the training area, this check procedure should be conducted again.
Realism in firearm training plays a vital aspect in law enforcement training. Having trainees understand lessons before the test can closely acclimate to a gunfight without compromising safety, thus enhancing training's effectiveness and affecting the officer's reality on the street.
Editor's note: Training classes and instructor programs provided by FLETC and NRA can be found at www.fletc.gov and at www.nrahq.org/law, respectively. Further information on the Team Spartan Tactical Training Group and ArmorGroup ITI can be found at www.teamspartan.com and at www.itiwsi.com, respectively.Equipment available for firearm training
"The officer should train with every force option at their disposal," notes Benjamin Kurata, senior staff instructor of the ArmorGroup ITI — Texas.
To aid in safety, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's (FLETC) training begins by wanding each student with a magnetometer and then sealing off the area. According to Don Savage, FLETC - Firearms Division senior instructor, anyone that comes into the area during training is wanded and checked for live ammunition before they can return.
"Simunition" can often be heard in reference to force-on-force ammunition. This term, however, can commonly refer to dye-marking cartridges. A manufacturer may produce live rounds as well as the desired dye-marking round, which could create a dangerous situation in force-on-force training if safety procedures are not kept.
Additional equipment to aid in the safety of realistic firearm training can include:
- Helmets, face shields
- Chest protectors
- Dye-marking cartridges such as the FX marking round from Simunition
- The UTM round from Ultimate Training Munitions
- Paint pellets
- Airsoft weapons
- Foam batons
- Training cartridges for conducted-energy devices
- OC sprays
- Inner/outer ear and eye protection
- Throat guard
- Groin protector
- CPR and AED training