View Full Version : New gun owner cop to be question

September 13, 2008, 07:02 PM

I just purchased my first handgun (Ruger P95PR15). I'm a poor college student so I couldn't afford anything super nice. I got the gun to have fun with at the range and to become at least a little familiar with a handgun before I start the police academy in August 2009. Anyway my question is: With no professional training what types of bad habits might I unknowingly start that will be hard to break once I start firearms qualification in the academy?



September 13, 2008, 07:32 PM
The danger is that you may pick up some bad habits in the Academy! If you can chant, "Front Sight, Press," you'll do just fine.

Just remember the cops of days past found with their empties in their pockets; they were trained to "police" their brass, and in the gunfight...Learn to shoot, accurately, going backwards, to the side, even advancing. You want to "get off the 'X,' the other guy is going to have the same tunnel vision as you, so get out of the tunnel!

After you graduate, when you're on the job, keep shooting. Most LEAs don't have the budget for training ammo, so the only Departmental-sponsored practice will not be practice at all, but "qualification"! Most LEOs are not much interested in guns, so if you are, you may stand out, either as an oddball, or a resource, or maybe even both.

Work hard, train harder, read everything, see every DVD, and, when you can afford it, go to private training. It's your life, after all.

Best regards,


James K
September 13, 2008, 09:04 PM
It is a bit late, but one of my recommendations would have been to buy a personal weapon that is the same as the department issue. If they issue the P95 (few departments do), fine. But if you practice with a Ruger and the department issues a Glock, you will have quite a bit to "unlearn" before you even fire a shot on the police range.

If you have a place you can do it, practice point shooting on silhouette targets at close range, and I mean 3-10 feet. And practice retention; sticking the arm out in the traditional manner looks good, but it puts your gun in the other guy's territory and that is not good.


September 13, 2008, 10:40 PM
" With no professional training what types of bad habits might I unknowingly start that will be hard to break once I start firearms qualification in the academy? "

All or none of them, with impressive odds at landing yourself somewhere in the middle.

Stagger Lee
September 13, 2008, 10:50 PM
I'm going to speak from experience here.

Don't do anything. They'll teach you the way that they want you taught, and anything you learn beforehand that doesn't jibe will have to be un-learned. You may pick up some good techniques, but if it's not what they teach, you'll find yourself yelled at and maybe even flunked off the range and out of the academy.

There's a time and a place to go beyond what they teach you. Prior to or during your academy training is not that time. They need to take everyone from the same baseline and teach the same techniques--the ones you're ultimately graded on. So go in knowing nothing--they actually prefer shooters who've never shot before--and learn it their way.

Once you graduate and get beyond their reach, then you can add to your training and learn new skills. But the important thing is getting past them so if you can go in with no bad habits or preconceived notions and learn from them the way they want you taught--and it's usually very good training these days--then that'll be to your advantage.

September 14, 2008, 06:42 AM
Don't do anything.

I respectfully disagree. The fact that you are a gun owner now is reason enough to learn how to use the weapon. After all, you might need it to defend your own home. The first thing I would do if I didn't have a trained friend who could show me some things, would be to buy a Defensive Pistol DVD (like Clint Smith's or something similiar) and then do some "dry fire" at the house but only after you are thoroughly indoctrinated on how to use the weapon safely. I would do this before I ever put that first loaded magazine in the gun. Memorize the four cardinal rules of gun safety and follow them religiously.

Bad Habits you might pick up just to name a few:

Jerking the trigger. Extremely common

Finger on the trigger before muzzle pointed safely.

Lack of muzzle discipline. It should be pointed down or directly at your target at all times. If you shoot alone, say out in the woods or something, you might get lax with this one. In the academy, you could get kicked off the range or out of the academy if you do this so make sure you engrain good habits now.

Reholstering too fast. You should be quick on the draw, reluctant on the reholster. I see young officers who put their gun in their holster almost faster than they can take it out. It is a product of bad practice. I watched a video of a gunfight in which the officer actually attempted to reholster his gun immediately after putting the suspect down. He said he stopped when he realized he wasn't on the range.

Low grip on the gun, lessening recoil control. You want the highest grip you can get with both hands.

Good luck with your shooting and your choice of profession.

September 14, 2008, 08:12 AM
One can get into all sorts of bad habits without some form of coaching. Ask around to see who's a very experienced and accurate shooter. See if they'll give you a little coaching or some tips. Shooters often like to share and help out other shooters.

Some of the bad habits you can pick up:
- Jerking the trigger
- Flinching
- Too much/Too little finger on the trigger
- Squeezing the gun just before firing.
- Rushing your shots
- Not focusing on the front sight
- Reloading at belt level vs. near eye level

At this stage, learn the basic marksmanship skills. Learn to properly use the sights, press the trigger smoothly and re-acquire your sight-picture on the target quickly. If you can shoot your Ruger (or brand 'x') pistol accurately and group your shots within 2" at any distance out to 25 yards, you'll be well ahead of most non-shooters in your class.

Don't worry about speed. Speed comes with practice. Practice slow to develop precision shooting at first. They will teach you how to shoot faster.

Find out which agencies the academy services. Check what guns each carries. If possible, you'd like to get the same thing to make the transition a little easier. If funds are tight, don't sweat it. If you have the basics down you'll do fine.

September 14, 2008, 09:09 AM
I suggest you start with a NRA Basic Pistol course near you. You should be able to find such courses either through local gun clubs, a state gun rights association, or the NRA website. This will teach fundamentals of safety and marksmanship.

This is NOT a tactical or defensive training course. It will, however, teach you things such as proper trigger control, stance, grip, etc. Learning these skills will not interfere with any training you get from the police academy; they will help you get oriented to handling firearms.

I recommend against trying to learn initial skills from videos or books. Those resources are best for reviewing skills already learned.

matthew temkin
September 14, 2008, 09:35 AM
Every local range has an instructor on hand who can put you through the basics.
My experience with handguns was a big ZERO when I started as a LEO and I was very happy with the instruction that I received at our academy--which was well before the days of being PC/warm and fuzzy.
For example, how many instructors would now state that they are turning their charges into ( life saving) killers?
Or to get the first shot off--no matter what--to buy you a second or two to turn the tables on the bad guy(s)?
Or what to tell the grand jury?
Even after 29 years and a ton of training since those days I am still impressed with how they taught us the basics of shooting, safety and tactics.

September 14, 2008, 11:04 AM
I did the same thing. Bought a s&w 686 4" and Rock chucker to reload 38s..
I shot as much as 5 days a week. maybe only 50 rounds but sometimes 200 or more.
I shot paper, cans, shotgun hulls and anything else.
I learned to hold the gun still and on target while I squeezed the trigger.
Sight alinement. Finger on. Finger Off. Squeeze. That is it
I learned to ignore recoil.

I did well when I went to the academy. I saw others who had no experiance struggle and not pass.
I was second of 54 classmates with 4 100 scores out of five. Other guy was military trained.
An instructor can correct small flaws if you listen.
Your shooting (not improving or hitting) will tell you if you are doing something wrong.

I sure you are taking classes to prepare and running or exercising.
Why would you ignore firearms? Stagger Lee is wrong.

September 14, 2008, 01:34 PM
If you accept training from acredited teachers, . . . NRA courses, . . . etc. there should be no significant problems learing the "way" of your department.

If you get "training" from JoBobb's second cousin, . . . that may be something different altogether.

All good training should interact together just like lego blocks, . . . and especially since we are talking almost a year, . . . I would suggest starting with a good basic NRA course at a local indoor range.

Beyond that, . . . I would learn the basics of shooting, reloading, holstering without looking, . . . getting beyond the flinching stage that just about everyone falls into for at least a while, . . . muzzle awareness is difficult to learn for newbies sometimes, . . . learn to keep the trigger finger outside the trigger guard until it is time to shoot, . . . and last but not least, . . . get in the habit of cleaning your weapon after shooting the thing. Far too many folks shoot them for a year or two, . . . virtually never clean them, . . . then give the brand a bad name when the gun finally decides not to work with all the gunk built up in it.

While I'm here, . . . thanks for picking law enforcement for a career, . . . do good, . . . be safe, . . . and be careful.

May God bless,

September 14, 2008, 06:29 PM
Thank you everyone for your help. I really appreciate all of the suggestions and advice.


September 17, 2008, 11:27 AM
bad habits? putting your finger on the trigger when you pick up the gun off the table or draw it from the holster--that's a bad habit. Not immediately checking for a loaded chamber when picking up the gun (when you don't intend to immediately fire)--that's a bad habit.

In addition to the things that can develop at the range (flinching, jerking, unsafe conduct, etc.).

September 17, 2008, 10:04 PM
Do not get tunnel vision when in an armed encounter. Scan for threat, Draw, Fire, Scan for secondary threat, keep threat covered. LEO last 17 years.

September 21, 2008, 01:31 PM
Get in shape. Do a lot of running and upper body strength conditioning. Do whatever you can to increase the strength of your hands and forearms. Good pistol shooting is GREATLY enhanced by strong hands, arms and upper body. Trust me on this. FM12, LEO since 1975, Certified Firearms Instructor since 1984.

September 23, 2008, 05:19 AM
Well Jim,

Lots of good advice above, lots.

Heed it all.

When asked "Who has shot before?" keep hands in pockets! Keep you lips buttoned, listen, do what you told. Never tell an other student what to do!

I had a friend who was a LEO, (still a friend, still a Police Officer) his Wife was joining an other Police Force, asked me to train her, I did, she shot a revolver well, a Glock 19 better, below my advice to her.

When asked where did you learn to shoot? "Right here Sir" she was second out of 31, on leaving with a hand shake from her Instructor after 15 weeks, "You are so full of S+++!" reference not having fired before.

September 24, 2008, 11:35 PM
Read "On Combat"... Great book with alot of info for LEO.

Night Watch
September 26, 2008, 12:28 AM
:) I'm a certified pistol instructor. If you want to do something that will make a favorable impression on your academy instructors and, perhaps, everyone else in your class too, I would suggest burning the following pistol safety concepts deeply into your psyche and brain:


1. The gun is always loaded!

2. Never allow the muzzle to point at - or, so much as, sweep - anything you are unwilling to see destroyed!

3. Never put your trigger finger inside the triggerguard until AFTER you’ve made a conscious decision to fire!

On a fast draw, never allow your trigger finger to enter the triggerguard until AFTER the muzzle has passed the, 'low ready' position.

4. Clearly identify your target, and what is behind it!

In the meantime get yourself a decent gun belt, OTB holster, and a dual magazine carrier. Then begin attending IDPA combat pistol matches in your area. You'll get some free handling and safety lessons at the beginning of every match. Don't try to be fast; try to be nice and smooth instead. Don't shoot for score; shoot at a speed you're comfortable with. Improved speed and accuracy come with time and practice.

Whoever said; 'Front sight, press!' covered a lot of ground with that remark; but, still, you're going to have to consciously work on training and conditioning your overall coordination and muscle reflexes. In my experience: A proper grip is extremely important. Pistol shooters who understand how to skillfully control a pistol's backstrap tend to shoot better than those who do not.

My final advice? Take your time and think about what you want to achieve while you practice. (You'll have the rest of your life to shoot-to-win pistol matches!) ;)

After a lifetime of doing this, here's my all-time favorite article on gunfighting; I consider the author to be a genius at his craft!

Dave Spaulding, What Really Happens In A Gunfight (http://www.handgunsmag.com/tactics_training/what_happens_gunfight/index.html)

Don Gwinn
September 26, 2008, 09:52 AM
Go slow and work on accuracy. SLOW is OK.

Bad habits are one thing, but as a complete beginner, nobody should be teaching you anything controversial anyway. You should be getting familiar with the gun, learning how your grip works, learning what recoil feels like, learning to see the sights, learning not to flinch or close your eyes, learning to breathe (don't laugh, it's easy to fire a magazine and realize you've been holding your breath.)

Learning to keep your finger off the trigger until you're on target . . . learning to move without letting the muzzle cover things you don't want to shoot. Learning to check the gun for ammunition every time you touch it.

What police academy would find fault with any of that?

September 26, 2008, 01:33 PM
"Slow is OK."

Yep. "Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast."

In that order.

September 26, 2008, 11:25 PM
OK this is my 2 cents.

Give yourself a general knowledge of these things.

Safety Safety Safety....

Sight picture - Learn what a correct sight alignment should be.

Trigger Pull - Smooth trigger pull - dont jerk it - squeeze....

Take your time - You dont have to be in a hurry right now... get familiar with how a gun works... when I was introduced to a Auto Pistol for the first time I was a little nervous because I didnt know exactly how it worked.. a revolver made sense... after all a cap gun with the rings does the same thing... or a starter pistol.

I work for a Federal Agency... I had some formal and informal training in the military and as a civilian. Whatever you learn outside of the Academy use it as a tool but leave your ego at home. Go into it as if you know nothing and let them put you through the basics. I was a good shot before the Academy but by going back to basics I became a better shot.. I shot perfect scores. I still think I have a lot to learn and constantly try to better myself.

Most of all right now have fun too. Dont be hard on yourself if you have a bad day and cant hit the side of a barn.