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Opinion: Why force-on-force training is not a replacement for firearms training

A balance of both live-fire range training and FoF training or video simulation is the best option for officers


Mark Tulloch, of Kettering, Ohio, takes aim in a firearms training simulator at the Clark County Fair on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Springfield, Ohio.

AP Photo/Kantele Franko

In light of the recent Loyola University Chicago study examining police shooting accuracy in officer-involved shootings, as well as many other articles that have been published in recent years that suggest better firearms training should include force-on-force and video simulation, I felt it was time to speak out.

First, force-on-force (FoF) training (AKA reality-based training or scenario-based training) and video simulation is NOT firearms training. A firearm replica is used in these forms of training, but it is not firearms training. FoF projectiles and video lasers do not replicate marksmanship accuracy. In some cases, the firearm replicas are not the same as the actual firearm an officer carries on duty. And some training weapons used in FOF and video simulation do not allow for weapon manipulation.

While most FoF training and video simulation programs use firearm replicas, they also integrate the use of other force option tools such as an inert TASER, inert chemical agent and foam baton. Does this mean that FoF training and video simulation also counts as TASER training or chemical agent training? If an officer drives a patrol vehicle a short distance as part of the FoF scenario does that mean they have conducted driver training? I think not.

The benefits of force on force and video simulation training

FoF training and video simulation is for stress inoculation, tactics training and OODA loop decision-making training, where officers:

  • Observe indicators (observation);
  • Process information quickly (orientation);
  • Identify options and select one (decision);
  • Apply the appropriate tactics (action).

Most scenarios are typically geared toward a deadly force encounter, which is why it is often considered “firearms training.” But as previously mentioned, the scenarios can be scripted to include the use of other force option tools.

Defining firearms training

Firearms training is when an officer uses a fully functioning firearm, preferably their duty weapon, for dry-fire and live-fire training. There are critical aspects of firearms training and gunfighting that can only be addressed on a live-fire range and cannot be addressed in FoF training or video simulation. And there are certain aspects of decision-making and gunfighting that are better addressed in FoF and video simulation than on a live-fire range. That’s why a balance of both live-fire range training and FoF training or video simulation is the best option for officers.

Balancing live-fire training with video simulation training

We cannot allow FoF training and video simulation to be considered as part of a “firearms training” program. If an agency allows eight hours for firearms training and four hours of that is for FoF or video simulation, then only four hours is being spent on actual “firearms training.”

FoF training and video simulation can provide better stress inoculation and decision-making training, but it cannot provide better firearms training – only improved live-fire training (and highly developed firearms instructors) can provide better firearms training. Firearms instructors, rangemasters and administrators must stop labeling FoF training and video simulation as “firearms training” because it’s not.

On a final note, to my knowledge, none of the major companies and organizations that certify people as a FoF/RBT/video simulator instructor has a pre-requisite for attendees to be a certified firearms instructor before attending their courses, which should be an indicator that these types of training venues are NOT meant to be firearms training.

Jason Wuestenberg is the executive director for the National Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (NLEFIA). Jason retired from the Phoenix (Arizona) Police Department as a sergeant in 2017 after 22 years of service. Jason spent over half of his career as a full-time firearms and tactics instructor and ended his career as a training sergeant/rangemaster in charge of the agency’s patrol rifle program. Jason has conducted firearms training and instructor development at the state, national, and international levels. Contact him at