Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Monday, October 05, 2009

First day of Firearms Instructor School.

First, I noticed that the class is small. Just 6 of us.

I was impressed that they gave full measure for this class. We did NOT go home early. We did NOT take a long lunch break.

We talked about the role of the instructor, and spent a goodly time on the issue of integrity. I was pleased with this. Integrity needs to be adhered to, when you're a lowly officer, qualifying chiefs and lieutenants and other superior officers (or buddies!) to carry guns. Sometimes you're going to have to tell them to re-shoot. And if they don't do it on the re-shoot, they have to take a remedial class. And if they don't pass after the remedial class, then what?

The pressure to pass someone who failed can be very strong. But you can't do it.

In my department, I work with a handful of men. I eat with their families. I know their children's names, and all their wives. That's a tough one to have to tell them that they didn't qualify, if we set a standard that they don't meet. But I may very well have to do that, at some point. I'll for damned sure keep the standard high. And I'll raise it.

After lunch, we took a pre-test, and went to the range. This was a nice indoor range, and the targets were computer-controlled. The range officer stood behind us with a remote, and rather than giving us an audible signal to shoot, would tell us to make ready, and the targets, which had been hanging edge-on to us up to that point, would turn 90 degrees and give us the alotted time to shoot at them before quickly flipping back to edge-on, at the end of the given time.

A typical instruction would be: "Six rounds, fired from the holster at 25 yards, in strings of two shots each over 5 seconds. Shooters ready!" Flip. Target is presented for 5 seconds while you leisurely draw your pistol and shoot it twice before the target disappears. "Reholster! Shooters ready!" Flip. 2 shots. Repeat.

We shot the same course with revolver as we did with our duty pistols.

Some of the people in there had rarely shot revolvers before, and had borrowed one.

Two of the guys with borrowed revolvers were SWAT guys that I knew from the County. I saw their revolver targets, and commented on how tight the groups were. Considering a third of our shooting was done at 25 yards, the fact that their timed, offhand groups were all under 6" was impressive.

They failed, and had to re-shoot.

"Huh?!? There's a mistake here!" I said. I pointed to my target, that had passed easily with two thrown shots and a "group" on target that looked like a shotgun pattern from a distant range. If my piddlin' efforts had passed the 90% requirement, then surely theirs had.

But no.

They reshot. I asked if I could reshoot, too, just for the trigger time. This time, I threw THREE shots, and my group was even wider, but I passed again. (I had also put all my shots at less than 15 yards into the head, which was fairly tight but for one that hung outside of the ear of the silhouette.) But this time, I had noticed something about how I shot, and how the others shot. Generally, I was reholstered with a loaded revolver as the targets turned away from us. Some others shot right up to the last semi-second. Sometimes I would have partially reloaded my speedloader before the targets turned away.

Their groups were small, but in the end, they were scoring low because they weren't finishing their strings before the end of the time limits.

I'm not a licensed instructor, so I let the chips fall where they may. Luckily, the guy who was in the most trouble managed (barely) to make 90%. I told him my theory. "In the spirit of this Instructor's Course, you want my diagnosis of what your problem is?" I asked. He nodded assent. "You're too much of a perfectionist," I began.

"Well, I didn't do perfect with the revolver," he said, dejected.

"No, you did great with it, and a borrowed gun, too," I countered. "The problem was that you can't bear to see your tight groups open up. How dead do you want your target to be, anyway?"

"Accuracy is important," he said.

"It is! And I admire that you're accounting for every shot. But a necessary shot not taken is a miss. Turn up the volume, shoot faster, let your groups open up a little, and WIN. You don't get scored for Closest To Center. You get scored for Hits on the A-zone," I said. "Don't forget that your only problem is that you're such a good shooter, you've been penalizing yourself for anything less than perfection."

"Thanks," he said, and smiled, and maybe some of that smile was genuine.


We all asked to stay late and shoot longer than the time alotted. It's a motivated class.

I picked up about 200+ .38 Special cases.

The guy beside me shooting his custom Kimber picked up all his .45 acp cases, and all the auto cases were either .40 or .357 Sig; I didn't want them.


I challenged the guy with the Kimber beside me to shoot headshots during a followup round. The instructor heard this and got my promise to do 10 pushups for every dropped shot. My range buddy chickened out, and I still have thirty pushups to do. :(

More soon. Tomorrow morning is shotguns.

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At Monday, October 05, 2009 10:36:00 PM, Blogger J.R.Shirley said...

Sounds like good training.

At Monday, October 05, 2009 10:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>The guy beside me shooting his custom Kimber picked up all his .45 acp cases, and all the auto cases were either .40 or .357 Sig; I didn't want them.

Bah! Heresy! You should gather up all that .40 and donate it to a less fortunate shooter who doesn't get ammo from the PD - like me!

At Tuesday, October 06, 2009 9:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! That brings up one of my gripes with a lot of training - the cue to shoot real world will most probably (IMHO) be visual, not audible.

On another note, seems that your getting good instruction.

Al T.

At Tuesday, October 06, 2009 9:31:00 AM, Blogger Don said...

You're going to be very good at this.

At Tuesday, October 06, 2009 9:33:00 AM, Blogger Julie said...

sounds like a great day ... enjoy tomorrow ...

At Wednesday, October 07, 2009 12:07:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Sounds like a GOOD class, with a good instructor instructor... or is that redundant?

At Thursday, October 08, 2009 11:52:00 AM, Blogger makeumdothechicken said...

I graduated FBI Firearms Instructor School about 3 years ago. It was the most challenging course I've ever taken. Since graduating I have served as an instructor for my department and have had the opportunity to work with dozens of shooters. It can be very rewarding because you can see their confidence increase and you know that the training they are getting may save their lives and the lives of other people.

The frustrating part of it comes when you are dealing with agency policies and politics. My agency requires that every officer carry an H&K USP .45. It's a good pistol but the problem is it isn't a good pistol for every officer. It has a very large grip to accomodate the double stack magazine. Officers with smaller hands really struggle with this pistol. I've worked with a lot of officer's who when they qualify with their off duty gun shoot 100% scores consistently. It is obvious they know how to shoot and that they understand the basic elements of marksmanship. They then shoot with the larger gripped pistol and they struggle to qualify. One pistol just doesn't fit everybody. I would much rather work with somebody that is carrying a pistol that they can shoot accurately and consistently than I would an officer who is carrying a pistol they can barely qualify with because the accreditation process requires every officer carry the same gun. The adminsitration won't hear of it. The manufacturer has told them that this pistol fits everybody therefore it is the gospel. It's ridiculous.

Another frustrating thing we have dealt with is that we wanted to identify the officers who have the greatest struggle with shooting and provide them with additional training to get them up to speed. Makes sense right? If you struggle with a skill you get a tutor and strengthen your weakness. We were told this was completely out of the question because if someone was identified as a weak shooter and then were involved in a shooting the department would incur additional civil liability for allowing a "problem shooter" on the street. The department then changed from scoring the targets on qualifications to a pass/fail form. You have to score at least 70% to qualify but the score isn't recorded. You are put in the book as a pass or a fail. The department did alllow us to hold open shoots on the range for officers who wanted to come in on their own time and shoot with instructors. The problem was most of the problem shooters didn't take advantage of it. Most people don't enjoy doing what they aren't good at and aren't going to come in on their own time to do what they hate. We were able to convince some of the worst ones to come and they were glad that they did because they don't dread qualification time anymore.

Being a firearm instructor is like everything else in law enforcement. You take the good with the bad and realize that you are never going to make it as good as it can be because the bean counters, lawyers and administrators get paid a lot of money to make sure you can't.


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