View Full Version : Watch the front sight!

March 4, 2006, 06:58 AM
Friday morning after I got off shift I reported over to the indoor range to run a make-up firearms qualification for a few officers. One was a woman who was just coming off maternity leave, and who had missed the last three in-service sessions. The other was a guy who had been employed as an officer in the Milwaukee area, and just quit his PD to move to Madison to attend the Law School here full time. He got hired as a part-timer by one of the suburban agencies, and his intention is to keep his certification active by working there three or four times a month, at least until he is finished with law school and has some idea where his life & career are headed.

The firearms portion of quarterly in-service training for the Suburban Group this time was a 50 round basics course for a score, followed by a 60 round course that involved low light and flashlight assisted shooting, one hand only shooting, and one stage where the officer has to draw weak hand only, engage the target weak hand only, reload weak hand only, and then re-engage the target weak hand only. The instructor is to explain and demo all the component parts to the drill prior to the student shooting them, and there is no time limit and this time it is not a scored exercise.

The female had a little trouble, mostly because she hadn't shot since last spring sometime and because her hand is just a little small for her Glock 17. But after a little coaching and some extra practice, we got her through.

The male officer had a Glock 22. His weapon handling was excellent. In two stages of the basics course, dummy rounds were loaded into the magazine to create a failure to fire malfunction. His malfunction clearances were correct and positive and fast. His drawstroke was smooth and fast. His reloads were really fast. He looked REALLY good.

Unfortunately, HE COULDN'T HIT THE DAMN TARGET! I worked with him for over an hour, and he never fired an 80% passing score on the basics exercise so he could progress to shoot the second, somewhat more difficult course.

He explained that at his prior PD there was a great emphasis on timed exercises, and on how fast you could clear the holster and shoot. According to this officer, almost all the training they did was a 5 yards and closer, because the training staff felt that it was statistically unlikely that an officer would be involved in a shooting incident at a greater distance. They did quarterly training and it seems that they fired a lot of interesting drills and tactical scenarios, BUT THEY NEVER FIRED A TRADITIONAL MARKSMANSHIP COURSE FOR A SCORE. EVER.

This officer had been training for the last 5+ years to be fast, but the targets were NEVER ever scored or evaluated. They just shot the drills, cleaned their guns, called it "training" and went back on duty.

I was able to determine that he didn't use the sights AT ALL when he shot. He just pointed the gun at the target and pulled the trigger the appropriate number of times, really fast. Inside 5 or 7 yards, he was capable of shooting a raggedy but acceptable group. Beyond that, he missed the target most of the time.

I don't think this guy was giving me excuses when he described the training program that his previous PD used, but I'm going to try to follow up on that because I'm curious.

(At various times, police firearms training goes through fads. When I started in 1981, most of the shooting we did were modified PPC courses (usually out to 25 yards) on B27 or B27 targets. (I still think PPC can be a useful way to learn the basics). As time went on, the time limits got tighter and the targets got smaller. We started with revolvers, and by 1990 or so nearly all the agencies around here were using auto pistols. We went from PPC based courses to IPSC based courses of fire.

Then in the early 1990s somebody decided that keeping a score in order to measure a shooter's basic marksmanship ability was in some way a liability issue, so some departments went to pass/fail scoring, or did away with evaluation entirely. Rather than shoot traditional courses of fire, we began shooting drills or "task oriented qualification", where an officer would be evaluated pass/fail on a certain skill to a certain standard. (For example, one task might be "Shoot 6 rounds, perform a mandatory reload, shoot another 6 rounds, total of 12 rounds in 20 seconds with 75% (9 hits) in the A zone of a TQ-15 target") Firearms training consisted of a bunch of tasks like that scored go/no-go. Either you met the standard for that drill or you didn't, and if you didn't, then you got some remedial training. Which wasn't necessarily a bad way to conduct training, but you still have to look once in a while to see if the student is even hitting the target!)

I have this guy scheduled to some back on Tuesday morning. I told him to bring 150 rounds. I'm going to try to re-teach him how to use the sights.

I've always found too much emphasis on speed to be counter-productive, whether the students be police/military/security or beginning shooters or IPSC/IDPA competitors, or whatever. You have to be able to hit a single target in a timely manner on a square range before you can progress to doing more difficult and dynamic exercises on multiple targets.

March 4, 2006, 08:58 AM
It always amazes me when I go to requal for my dept., that there will be a number of people who have major issues hitting the target. I might expect this from an introductory class, but not requals. If that person was on duty last night they should be able to hit thier target. Just a pet Peeve of mine. I teach CPR for my department and am amazed that people who have been doing this for years are not able to perform it if put on the spot. Again what if you needed to use it on your last shift. No time to be retrained.
Sorry, had to vent.

March 4, 2006, 10:03 AM
most departments have this issue. just because someone is a police office doesn't mean they know jack about shooting or even anything about a weapon beyond what they carry. it is one reason so called police trade ins are such a great deal.
every time i have went to the range to qual or to train probably 70 percent of the time is spent helping officers qualify. the actual time frames fro the strings are ungodly long. you can shoot almost every string very slow and aimed and be done before the bell.

officers should be trained to shoot fast and front sight press is an excellent technique for the type of shooting officers are engaged in but they still need to demonstrate aimed accurate fire. this is why i think 25 yard shooting is so important.

many officers can shoot all day at 3 5 7 yards and shoot a big hole in the center of their target. this is close enough that intuitive shooting will get you passed but take those same officers and place them at 15 or 25 yards and many will have more holes in the shooters target next to them than their own.

i think all the skills are seriously needed should be tested and those who cant passed moved along to a new career.. fast front sight intuitive discretion and aimed deliberate fire from 25 yards are all needed skills and make a safer more useful officer.

March 4, 2006, 06:15 PM
vtfire & chrisandclauida2: if I may, . . . let me just step into this puddle, . . . I can't wade all the way out, . . . but maybe I can help.

Vt, . . . you complain that you teach cpr and many of your officers probably cannot perform it if they need to. C&C complains that many officers cannot accurately shoot.

I want you to understand, . . . this is not rag on Vt and C&C, . . . but just a suggestion: have you tried to make the training fun, exciting, enjoyable, or something like that? I'm 61+ and have taught electricity, HVAC, rifle shooting, mine setting, pistol shooting, and a host of other things in my varied carreer. I was the equivalent of a journeyman electrician, . . . a first class Navy electrician's mate, . . . and an infantry platoon sergeant, . . . among other things.

Every class that was not fun, . . . turned out to be a waste of time for at least some of the class. The student you teach has to be personally involved, personally active, personally doing, personally hands on, . . . and grinning while doing it if you really want to be effective.

One of the best classes on CPR I ever took, . . . the first thing the instructor did was hold up the Red Cross [read boring, boring, boring] CPR tape, . . . had all of us verify by looking at the tape that it was the Red Cross tape, . . . threw it back in his bag, . . . and said something to the effect: OK you all saw the tape, . . . now lets get down to business, . . . great class after that.

Just try, . . . give it a whirl, . . . change the stuff around some, . . . be creative. Learing will occur only if the student is actively interested. Just make it so.

May God bless,

4V50 Gary
March 4, 2006, 07:03 PM
One of the best classes on CPR I ever took, . . . the first thing the instructor did was hold up the Red Cross [read boring, boring, boring] CPR tape, . . . had all of us verify by looking at the tape that it was the Red Cross tape, . . . threw it back in his bag, . . . and said something to the effect: OK you all saw the tape, . . . now lets get down to business, . . . great class after that.

I have to remember that one. :D

BTW, when I went through the Academy, we were instructed both in natural point and aimed fire. I still believe in training people to use both today.

March 4, 2006, 07:20 PM
Dwight, I fully understand and appreciate the point, and as an instructor that is what I strive to do. To bring it back to the shooting aspect, when I requal for my dept., I just get frustrated with people who have issues qualifying, saying that they didn't get enough "warm up" shots. On the streets there are no "do overs". If it was a new technique they are teaching us, than yes ample practice should be available.

March 4, 2006, 10:26 PM
It's simple. The average cop isn't a shooter. I am one of those that have a hard time with the cpr annual training. I use it once a year and don't think about it until the next year. And that is why I am patient with the guys about the annual requalification. In Ohio that is all that is required and with the lousy basic training they get the average cop is a lousy shot. I do have one officer that can shoot well if you give him all day to do it, but put a time limit on him and he fails every time. Iv'e spent a lot of time behind the trigger and it amazes me how bad some of these guys shoot, especially considering that it may save their life, or mine, some day. I blame the state for part of it but the officers do have half, or more, of the responsibility. I tell them anytime they want one on one help I will make the time for them but no one has ever asked. (They often claim they get nervous with the chief, sargeant or other officers watching them. I have qualified each of then with no one there but me and know it makes no difference.)

Familiarization is the key I guess. We supply our own firearms, which sometimes are quite varied. One day I made all the officers lay their weapons down on a mat in front of them, unloaded with a loaded magazine or speedloader next to it. Then step two positions to the right on the command to fire pick up the weapon in front of you load it and fire the exercise we were on. I never realized how many officers out there don't know how to load a revolver. And many of them don't know their autos much better.

vtfire, we have a really good fire dept. with an excellent emt and paramedic squad. But the officers almost always get there first. I wish we could be trained on it more often to the point of it being automatic. I also wish I had a million dollars, we'll see which one happens first.

March 4, 2006, 10:58 PM
Basic marksmanship is critical to shooting skills. When I was at the federal law enforcement training center for my "basic training" obviously firearms training was stressed....alot. When not at the range with a real gun in the holster we carried the "red gun." Most people had never carried a firearm in a law enforcement environment. The first few weeks of firearms training we shot at trgets that were were about 1/2 size of the official target. What a difference when we got to the rael targets!

Basics, basics, basics....front sight, grip, trigger squeeze. Years ago I had shot in a .22 Bulleye League and took 26th Marksman overall with a 226.32 average over 30 matches - only my second season shooting. Although I was the last trophy awarded I still got one. I learned a lot of basic pistol shooting then...and have forgotten most of it today - At 25 yards with my duty pistol I can not shoot a qual score of 240 yet on the qual course we do shoot - the last 4 times I shot were 149/150, 148/150, 150/150, and 150/150. (yep 3.5, 7, and 15 yard line, 30 rounds).

So what do I do? I need to work on my basics (I want to bring that score up) sights, breathing, trigger control; it is a pride thing for me - but also it makes me a better shooter.

My tactical shooting skills are excellent - I will prevail in shooting situations. I will go home safe at the end of the day - but I do know my basic skills need work. Basic shooting makes better shooters - but I need to go back and work on my basics.:D

March 5, 2006, 12:04 AM
i used to teach bls[basic life support]. it is a dry dry subject. i would try to make it interesting but it is one of those yearly required classes that just suck. ours was an 8 hour one too boot. as for shooting the statement that cops aren't shooters is right on. i would hope officers realise that shooting is a vital skill one that needs at minimum weekly practice. i think all officers should be required weekly range time but it will never happen.hell i even had 2 officers shooting like gangsters next to me one time..i thank god i was never more than a rso and didn't have to teach the fire arms.

Sir William
March 5, 2006, 03:21 AM
I dislike being a hardcase. I am a retired instructor trainer. I observed that most poor students had poor instructors. I have taught EVOC, EMS, Fire/Arson, firearms and myriad mundane rquired certification courses. It really comes down to three things. The material must be up to date, fact/skills based and related to the test documentation. The practical skills must be demonstrated as needed and testing must be reality based. The student must be challenged, educated, demonstrate practical skills and tested to provide documentation. Good students reflect good teaching materials, environment and the qualities of the instructor. Some students had bad instructors, nothing acceptible, certifiable or adequately hands on lifesaving in practical skill was learned. Failure of the system, failure of the instructor, failure to demonstrate practical ability and ultimately, failure of the student is inevitible. Retrain properly and reassess skills.

March 5, 2006, 07:30 AM
Until officers understand the importance of firearms training/practice, they will never fully retain what you teach. I have found that anything I do that doesn't peek my interest, is very hard to retain.

During the PPC and other matches that occassionally officers attend (on their own) I have found that many are very bad shooters. Once while shooting PPC an officer with TPD actually shot the ground between the target and our position.......FROM 15 YARDS. This is not to condenm all officers as some of the best shooters have been officers. I just can't understand how someone (officers) can have so much on the line every work day (their lives and ours) and not pour their heart into firearms training.

March 5, 2006, 11:34 AM
exactly! you can be the best instructor in the world but if they don't practice they will loose 50 to 90% of what they learned. it isn't just with weapons material it is everything in life. we all learned multiplication tables in 3rd thru6th grade but once your out of school for 20 years most will have a hard time going thru them right now. but if once a week you went thru them you would be rock solid. there is an age hindrance also. without practice the brain isn't as able to process long term memory as we get older.

it all boils down to practice. if you run thru dry fire drills a couple times a week and put in some decent range time 2 to 4 times a month you will retain and expand upon your skill sets.

i have been in situations where i had people with rifles covering me over my shoulder. sometimes i had total confidence . others i think back to the persons last range qual and remember he only passed by 1 point. those times i am very afraid.

this particular skill set isn't one that only involves the officer. it is important to his partner the public and me. i don't think it is too much to ask to have every officer extremely proficient in their skills.

March 5, 2006, 03:28 PM
I'm not allowed to defend myself nor my students while at work, but I am expected to be qualified in basic life support and first aid. We have an instructor who is truely a gem, but he couldn't make it last year. His stand-in handed out the book and told us to read it, then went out and drank coffee for an hour. :mad: Many of our drivers failed the written test, but the instructor corrected enough answers on the papers to pass every one. :mad: :mad:

I went back the next night to take the class with the other half of the drivers and, when the instructor left, I stood up and went through the training session. I used many of the same techniques as our best instructor did and had the class interested and laughing most of the session. Everyone passed and almost 3/4 of the class maxed the written test. It does, indeed, make an difference when the trainees are interested and involved.

I use the same type of technique when teaching shooting. Quart bottles of colored water or full soda cans make things a lot more fun. When we progress to 2" balloons, point shooting at 10 yards, almost everybody can make a score. Those who don't, get run through the regimen again. It works. :D


Bare Bones
March 5, 2006, 09:58 PM
Just a short note about sub-standard Police Officer shooting. I've seen many posts here and elsewhere bemoaning officer ability with firearms. No one will deny that there are some who fall into this catagory. Responsibility for their incompetance should not necessairly be attached to their training. It's the same training the rest of the department got.

Responsibility for their continued lack of improvement should fall on their fellow officers.Demand their improvement. Let them know in no uncertin terms that their lack of skill is unacceptible!:mad:

As a field training officer, if the recruit was struggling, he
had lunch at the range and we would stop whenever time allowed for additional work. He knew that only his/her improvement would enhance their acceptance.

When they (or even IF they) finished their probation, it was a known factor that trust in them was based totally on their DEMONSTRATED ability to perform. Either get it togather or expect a lifetime of chalking tires...

Peer pressure either firms them up or ships them out.

March 6, 2006, 07:42 PM
The bad thing about this instance is, I did get the sense that this particular officer was very competent in other tasks, as he is a field training officer and an evidence technician.

I had the impression that he had a very slightly more than average interest in shooting (average for a cop, that is -- NOT average for a shooting enthusiast!) but was kind of led down the wrong path by the training he had received.

I never stress speed TOO MUCH in designing courses of fire to use for training purposes, because focusing too much on speed causes shooters of average ability to (1.) forget to look at the sights (2.) jerk the trigger.

I've even found in my prep for the local IPSC & IDPA matches that I'm better off practicing accuracy stuff at 50 feet rather than doing too much speed practice on close targets. :cool: