Will is more important than Skill

From an emotionless, analytical standpoint, it is critical to determine what mistakes an officer made that contributed to his/her untimely death.


Those on the outside; non-cops and non-gun people would wonder at this situation. Wasn’t the deputy trained? Of course he was. I’ll guarantee you he went through a State-approved academy and was current on his firearms qualification. Hell, for all we know he might have been a great shot on the range with his service pistol. I feel confident that he had demonstrated the required skills to be out on the road.

That’s the real rub, isn’t it? The cop with demonstrable skill was nonetheless murdered. Yes, the killer obviously had some skill with a weapon. There is no doubt about that. But skill wasn’t the deciding factor in this encounter, it was will. While I don’t want to sound like Dr. Seuss here, skill doesn’t matter without will.

The Skill and the Will

How do we instill in someone the will to do what is necessary? From the most serious of perspectives, how we teach them to apply deadly force without hesitation? This is probably a good time for politically concerned Chiefs and Sheriff’s to look away.

Yes, will is more important than skill. However, combine the will with a high level of skill and you have something. First and foremost we must understand or admit that a firearms qualification is not training. A Qual. course is simply a practical exam to determine if you have mastered the required physical skills.

That’s not Paul Markel talking out of his sphincter; the U.S. Supreme Court has held that qualification courses are not a substitute for training. Officers must be trained to deal with situations they are likely to encounter in their job. These include low-light situations, shoot/don’t shoot scenarios (judgment-based training), multiple target/attackers, emergency driving, etc.

Force on Force scenario training is not just some cool novelty, it is an absolute must if we genuinely hope to prepare officers for the rapidly evolving, hyper-violent encounters they will likely face out there.

Too often the FATS trainer is seen as a neat novelty item that officers are put through once.   Force on Force scenarios with role-players involve a lot of time and logistics and therefore are difficult to put together.

I’ve attended private training academies with veteran officers whose first real FOF was during that school. They’ve been on the road five, ten, fifteen years but never had the opportunity to get serious Shoot/Don’t Shoot training. In my mind that is not only negligent, it’s criminal.

It is during FATS or FOF training that each officer will experience their own personal epiphany. They’ve been taught the Tueller Drill or had “action vs. reaction” explained to them. However, it is not until they experience it for themselves that they realize just how fluid and dynamic violent encounters are. They realize that hesitation will indeed get them killed.  

Parting Thoughts

When it comes down to it, the simple fact is that the will to win, to defeat the enemy, is more important that simply having the skill. I won’t bore you with “dog in the fight” clichés by now you should get the point. The question is a very personal one that only you can answer. You’ve spent years acquiring the skill you need, do you have the will to apply it?

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About The Author:

Mr. Markel is a former United States Marine, Police Officer, and has worked as a professional bodyguard both in the U.S. and overseas. A Subject Matter Expert on Small Arms and Tactics, Markel has provided instruction to law enforcement and U.S. Military troops.

As a recognized author and writer, Paul has penned several hundred articles published in numerous professional journals and trade periodicals. Topics include firearms training, use of force, marksmanship, less-than-lethal force options, product reviews and evaluations, emergency medical care, and much more. Sought after as a public speaker, Mr. Markel is at home in front of an audience large or small.

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