John Wills, one of my colleagues here at Officer.com, has once again hit the nail squarely on the head with his current column: Good Cops Know The Value of Training: Doing for yourself when your department can't. If you haven't seen it yet, please check it out (linked below). I've been working on this article for a while, and it seems appropriate to bring it forward now. Because he made the case so eloquently, I'm going to try to build on John's premise and suggest a specific way for you to improve your firearms skills, even if your department doesn't have the time or the resources to do as much training as you, or they, would like. Check out IDPA, the International Defensive Pistol Association.
Briefly, the IDPA grew out of an older and still very active shooting sport organization, the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). IPSC was formed back in the mid 1970s, with the goal of promoting accuracy, power, and speed in practical marksmanship. After a time, some of the founding members and participants realized that, although there was plenty of accuracy and speed, the practical side was losing out to the purely competitive side. It had become a game of speed and "race guns," which were poorly suited to real world self defense. IDPA was formed in 1996, with the specific goal of promoting the use of guns and equipment that would normally be used for personal protection. As a result, the rules of the game, and yes, it is a game, were established to promote shooter skills that would be useful if they ever had to use a handgun to defend themselves.
Now, let me get this part out of the way right here. Any time you set something up as a competition, keeping time and keeping score, there will be people who try to find the slickest way to win. Sometimes you have to compromise for the sake of the game and some of the IDPA rules and practices reflect that. Not everything at a match will be strictly "real world." However, on the whole, IDPA does a pretty good job of encouraging the skills that are useful in a gunfight which is why I think it's worth your time, money and effort.
Participation in IDPA matches is an excellent way to work on improving the kind of shooting skills that you need on the street. The rules require that non law enforcement shooters use the kind of guns and gear that they can use for lawful concealed carry, including the use of an appropriate concealment garment. Police officers, on the other hand, may also use their duty gear, just as they wear it on the street. As a result, you don't have to buy anything you don't already have and you are getting practice with the tools you have at hand every day. You'll get lots of repetitions with that Level III retention holster and your magazine carrier setup. Your movements to access your equipment will become smoother and more reflexive. You'll also find out if things don't work. Using your gear under stress brings out the flaws in how you are carrying it or how you can access it.
Let's face it, there are cops out there that are more worried about how to cram all that stuff around their waist, carry it with the least amount of discomfort and still have it all look good. When the gunfight comes, none of that matters. I once saw an officer walk into a "Stop-and-Rob" where I was picking up some snacks for a class we were teaching. I naturally check out the gear that officers carry as I travel around, so I noticed that he was carrying a horizontal spare double magazine pouch. Unfortunately, he had the cover flaps pushed up against his pepper spray. Had he needed to get to the magazines in a hurry, he would have had to somehow move the OC holster out of the way! Apparently, the actual use of his gear in that configuration never crossed his mind. It would have in a gunfight.