Firearms training: Mind over marksmanship

We must study how we are being attacked — including the setting, time of day, distance, cues, and other variables — in order to prepare for real-world encounters

Our firearms training has come a long way in the past 20 years, but we still have a way to go. Many law enforcement agencies are still confined to designing their firearms programs around qualifications... shooting for scores rather than survival... shooting at targets rather than threats. We need to truly define what our objectives are and then set about designing our programs to achieve those objectives. Once we have mastered the basics of marksmanship we need to begin directing those core skills into combat concepts.

A typical firearms training experience for many officers consists of the following:
     1.) Arrive at the training site
     2.) Receive a briefing on the training (along with a safety brief)
     3.) Proceed downrange to be given a static course of fire

The only stimulus they receive is a fire command — or if they’re fortunate enough the movement of a reactionary target. They shoot from a stationary two-handed, strong side, supported position. Further, they usually shoot a predetermined number of rounds, scan and holster. This is all done in a very mechanical fashion without any stressors, other than maybe an allotted time to get the rounds off. The officer’s primary concern is to strike the target within the scoring rings, either to impress, or simply to qualify and complete the requirements.

Difficult Questions, Difficult Answers
What has this training achieved? More importantly, what has it failed to achieve?!

We as law enforcement officers, trainers, and administrators need to realize that this type of training will produce adequate marksman, but it does little to prepare officers for the dynamic, fluid, and life-threatening battles that officers face out on the street. We must study how we are being attacked — including the setting, time of day, distance, cues, and other variables — in order to prepare for real-world encounters.

Our firearms training needs to be set more of a scenario then a static firing sequence, which is fired from a stationary platform. Officers need to have the proper mindset that they are in a life-or-death battle and in order to survive they must be able to displace both horizontally and vertically while firing. Officers need to learn to fire unsupported, both strong and off-hand. They need to fire from a variety of positions and platforms.

We need to continue firing until the threat ceases to be a threat. Once we have fired our rounds and the threat has stopped, scan with our eyes and keep the weapon on the known threat. We cannot afford to relax until the scene has been secured.

Going Beyond “Quals”
Of course, we will still have to administer qualification courses to measure an officer’s minimum proficiency with a firearm, but let’s not end it there. Officers will rise or fall to the level of expectation placed upon them and we expect our officers to win, every single time! They will also resort to their level of training when in battle. Let’s help them win by giving them the proper mindset and tactics they need to succeed. By designing courses of fire to match those that officers encounter on the street, mentally preparing officers by creating real-world scenarios and motivating officers to continue to fight and not to relax prematurely, then and only then, will we reap the benefits of our endeavors.

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