Analysis: What LE can learn from a viral shoot house training video
If an agency has a serious mishap in a live-fire shoot house environment, it will likely set their shoot house training program back several years
A shoot house training video that depicts a unit from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division doing live-fire training in a shoot house recently went viral. During the video, there are several incidents of “flagging,” where the soldiers pointed their rifle barrels at fellow soldiers during the training. To the Division’s credit, leadership tracked the video down and the Command Sergeant Major issued a formal apology and promised the training would be corrected.
What can we learn from the video?
There are several lessons to identify for the law enforcement community:
1. Foremost, shooters should point their muzzle at a threat area or toward the ground and not at another team member. There is no reason to have the rifle muzzle up when another friendly element moves forward and takes the lead.
2. While you can see that a few “flaggers” had their trigger finger straight along the receiver, it is unknown if they all did. There is no way to tell if any of them had reengaged their rifle safety after firing at a target. Combine that with pointing the muzzle at another person and you have a recipe for “fratricide” as the military calls it.
3. In the video you can see several members of the unit standing on the catwalks above observing the training. There are no trainers on the ground in the rooms with the shooters. This is where the military differs from law enforcement.
A trainer on the catwalk may have verbal control over shooters, but they do not have physical control over shooters. This is why the military often spends several weeks doing dry-fire training before going live-fire in a shoot house because they do not put trainers on the ground with the shooters. From the catwalk, trainers may not be able to see where the trigger finger is or if the rifle safety is on or off.
4. The other difference between the military and law enforcement in regard to shoot house training is the military does not offer a formal shoot house instructor course that teaches firearms instructors/trainers how to safely conduct shoot house training. Often, it’s just sergeants/NCOs within the unit conducting the training based on their own experiences or what previous trainers had shown them. The result is that military trainers don’t know how to move through the shoot house with a fire team, so they observe from the catwalk.
In law enforcement, many agency shoot houses do not have a catwalk. So, firearms instructors have to be on the ground with the shooters. It takes practice to learn how to move through a shoot house with an entry team without disturbing the flow of the team. Instructor positioning is critical to observe and correct and, if needed, prevent a mishap.
The value of shoot house instructor training
My first shoot house experience was in the Army in 1992 in a tire house at Fort Richardson, Alaska (6th Infantry Division). I entered law enforcement in 1994 and received my firearms instructor certification in 1997 and my shoot house instructor certification in 2000 because my agency had a shoot house. I have conducted shoot house training as an instructor for 20 years for all levels of law enforcement including probationary officers fresh out of the academy, senior patrol officers, specialty units and SWAT officers. I have also conducted shoot house instructor certification courses since 2003 training firearms instructors across the nation and in the United Kingdom.
A shoot house training environment is more dangerous than a square range training environment and this type of training is not covered in a firearms instructor certification course. It is inappropriate for a law enforcement firearms instructor to conduct shoot house training without completing a shoot house instructor course.
If an agency has a serious mishap in a live-fire shoot house environment it will likely set its shoot house training program back several years, or until their administration changes. And if the trainers were not certified shoot house instructors, there may be increased civil liability for the agency.
Instructors must get the supplemental training and certification. Formal shoot house instructor certification courses are offered across the nation and the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (NLEFIA) offers one of the most comprehensive 3-day courses available.
Live-fire shoot house training is very important, and it’s unfortunate that not all agencies have access to a shoot house. Those agencies that do have access to a shoot house have the ability to raise the performance capability of their officers to a higher level. Those agencies need to make sure their firearms instructors have the training and certification needed to ensure the shoot house training remains as safe as possible.