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How to conduct live fire shoot-house training

Such training can mimic the stressors officers face when they have to enter a structure in a possibly lethal environment


Student instructor controlling student officer’s movements upon entering a room.

Photo/Dan Danaher

Does your department or team utilize all aspects of firearms training to keep officers tactically and technically sound? You may go to the range to practice your skills, but many ranges are one dimensional and don’t allow for real-world applications. Maybe you utilize force-on-force training with weapon simulators placing your officers in scenarios, but still fall short on the stressors of firing live weapons in dynamic settings.

If you would like to employ your officers in real-life scenarios with actual duty weapons in an environment that allows more than 90-degree angles to engage targets at varying distances, consider the advantages of live fire shoot-house (LFSH) training. Although some LFSH training can be expensive, it can be accomplished using your police training budget.

Preparing for live fire shoot-house training

Before life fire shoot-house training begins, instructors need to answer the following questions:

  • What type of structure will be used?
  • Do you have certified LFSH instructors available to conduct the training?
  • What protocols will be required to participate in the training?

In regard to structure, you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or as little as a few hundred dollars. I am not going to review LFSH construction in this article. There are many companies and resources available that can determine the direction that best suits your needs.

It is important to have certified LFSH instructors conduct the training. Although many of these instructors have the basic firearms instructor certifications, you should use instructors who have successfully completed a course specific to LFSH due to the dangers inherent in this training.

Acclimatize your officers

Take the time to prepare officers rather than throwing them directly into a LFSH scenario using live ammunition.

Conduct range training that is consistent with what officers will experience when entering rooms and hallways inside your structure. Use cones or other training aides to simulate doorways. Have officers perform moving and shooting exercises and stoppage drills. Work on limited penetration once entry is made and have officers use their peripheral vision both laterally and vertically to increase situational awareness.

Practice entry techniques using dry fire, being conscious of muzzle direction as officers move in tandem. Have two to three officers enter the room with limited penetration to observe, orientate, decide and act. Officers should address targets to their side of the room/area to the center and not have cross fire situations.

Prior to making entries with live ammunition, do a dress rehearsal with Simunitions/UTM and address areas of concern.

Now you have completed all the ground work, you can prepare for the actual LFSH training.

Create a sterile environment

Designate a safe room or area that is absent of live ammunition. Search all personnel and equipment prior to allowing anyone (including instructors) to enter the designated safety zone. Once all personnel are present, conduct a range safety brief relative to the facility where training will be conducted.

Once you have a sterile environment and everyone has been briefed, post safety personnel at entry/exit points on the live fire structure that are out of the line of fire to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering once training has commenced.

At least two instructors should perform a safety sweep of the structure prior to beginning the scenario. During the safety sweep instructors need to ensure there are no personnel inside the structure. The instructors will also verify all targets have been placed in a manner that will not allow any projectiles to leave the containment area, or that no personnel would be placed in jeopardy due to angled fire while entering multiple rooms simultaneously.

Now the structure has been cleared and the safety officers are in place, select your personnel to conduct the scenario training and issue ammunition. Scenario training should be done in a “building block” format with limited personnel and number of rooms being utilized to start. As confidence and skills increase, so can the number of personnel involved and the areas to be cleared. Student to instructor ratio should not exceed 3:1.

Maximize training resources to improve officer safety

Although there are many benefits to conducting LFSH training, it has limitations such as target placement considerations, officer movement restrictions and safety concerns. LFSH should not become the primary firearms training program you utilize, but another facet to enhance your overall training regime.

It is difficult to mimic many of the stressors officers face when they have to enter a structure in a possibly lethal environment and engage lethal and non-lethal combatants. However, if we continue to be creative and maximize all of the resources we have to improve our officer’s abilities and safety on the street, we are on the right track. Range training, firearms training simulators, force-on-force and live fire shoot-houses are all viable options that should be used in conjunction with one another.

Dan Danaher is a retired sergeant with 28 years of law enforcement experience. He has been retained by his former agency as the range master to oversee the firearms and TASER programs. Dan is also the co-founder of Tactical Encounters Inc., a law enforcement training company based out of Michigan.
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