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Republished with permission from Force Science Institute:

In a close up gunfight, who stands a better chance of delivering an immediately fatal shot to the head: an officer who has completed typical police firearms training or a subject who has little or no experience with a handgun? Alarmingly, according to a newly published study by the Force Science Institute [click here], the odds lie with the novice shooter. And even apart from headshots, the research shows that officers on average are only marginally better than lesser-trained shooters in terms of getting rounds on target . . .

“[L]aw enforcement officers are expected to perform at a much higher level than [civilian] shooters,” writes the lead researcher, FSI’s executive director Dr. Bill Lewinski. Yet the study results indicate that “officer firearms training is not extensive enough and occurs too sparsely for officers to gain, and maintain, the expert level of accuracy with their service weapon that is expected of them.”

In short, today’s cops “may not be gaining the advantage they need from current law enforcement firearms courses.”

Lewinski’s research team explores why this dangerous deficiency exists and what might be done to correct it. Their findings appear in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed publication International Journal of Police Science & Management, under the title “The real risks during deadly police shootouts: Accuracy of the naive shooter.”


For the study, 247 volunteers, about 80% of them male, were recruited from a Midwestern college’s law enforcement program and from two police academies, one in a Northern state and one in the South. They were divided into three test groups:

• trained handgun shooters (called “experts,” for purposes of the study), who had completed handgun training in the military or in a formal law enforcement academy firearms course.

• intermediate shooters, who had not yet received academy training but had previous experience through military long-gun training or in shooting a pistol or rifle for hunting or recreation.

• novice (or “naive”) shooters, fresh recruits who “had no experience or minimal familiarity with firearms, such as only having fired a weapon once or twice in their life.”

On ranges at their respective locales, with similar environmental conditions, the volunteers addressed specially designed “Grey Man” gridded targets that allowed for measuring shot placement on the target’s head, neck, and torso within one square inch of accuracy.

Armed with a semi-automatic pistol, each volunteer was instructed to fire three rounds at the target “as rapidly and as accurately as possible” when a timer sounded, but no instruction was given on where the shooter should aim. After each three-round burst, the target was replaced and moved randomly on a motorized track to a different distance from the shooter, until nine targets at nine distances, ranging from three to 75 feet, were fired on by each subject with 27 shots total.


As would be expected, the researchers found that volunteers in the expert and intermediate groups managed in general to successfully place rounds on the targets at a significantly higher rate than novices. But there were some startling surprises.

• For one, Lewinski notes, there was no statistically significant difference in accuracy between the intermediate shooters, who had no formal law enforcement handgun training, and the so-called experts, who had completed the full certification requirements of academy sidearm instruction and practice.

Overall, experts scored more hits than intermediates by scarcely one percentage point. At the experts’ most competent shooting distance (3-15 ft.), they edged intermediates by only four percentage points, and in one category (18-45 ft.) the intermediates actually performed better than those who were law enforcement-trained.

• “Novice shooters,” Lewinski writes, “had 75% hit accuracy [at] distances from 3 to 15 ft.”–distances at which officer-involved gun attacks most often occur. Intermediate and expert shooters did better at these critical distances by “only a small margin of increased accuracy (84% and 88% respectively)….

“In simple comparison, the expert shooters hit one of the major zones on the target with eight of the nine bullets they fired at these distances…. [T]otal novice[s] hit one of the major zones…with seven of the nine bullets they fired at these distances.”

Analyzing the volunteers’ performance collectively over all distances, the researchers found that there was merely a nine percentage point spread between the success of novices and experts in getting on target. “[S]hooters who had completed accredited, law enforcement officer firearms training hardly showed an advantage,” Lewinski writes.

• Most striking were findings about headshots. “At close distances,” Lewinski told Force Science News, “intermediate and novice shooters tended to shoot at the target’s head more often and with greater accuracy than law enforcement trained shooters.”

Nearly 60% of novices’ rounds hit the head at the crucial three-foot distance, compared to just 21% of experts’ shots. That hit rate dropped to about 24% for novices at nine feet–but to a dismal 6% for experts. Every group’s hits continued to decline as distance expanded, but both intermediates and novices continued to out-score trained officers on successful headshots as distance grew.

“Officers should be aware of the potential threat posed even by suspects with minimal firearms experience,” Lewinski says. “This study demonstrates that rounds fired by novice and intermediate shooters in close proximity encounters are more likely to result in immediately lethal hits, as they fire primarily at the head.”

This is borne out in real-world encounters, the study points out, by 10 years of FBI statistics “indicating [that] roughly three of five officers feloniously killed with a firearm had fatal shots to the head and neck.”


Why is it that academy training seems to provide such little advantage over lesser or untrained individuals? The researchers identify several potential culprits:

• Different focus. During most firearms courses as they now exist, Lewinski explains, “officers are taught to focus predominately on their weapon and their body,” paying close attention to grip, trigger press, stance, body and arm alignment, balance, sight picture, and so on.

Obviously, these are important elements of effective shooting, but so long as they command primary, conscious attention they keep shooters’ attention “internal”; i.e., focused on themselves and their actions.

With sufficient practice and experience, officers “are able to move past this internal focus on the manipulation of their weapon” and transition to an “external” orientation where their concentration is on their target and the situation they are attempting to control. Lewinski writes. In this sophisticated state, weapon manipulation has become so skilled that it is automatic, reflexive, and essentially unconscious.

Numerous studies, including a significant one by FSI, have established that “external focus promotes better performance,” Lewinski notes, because it frees officers’ “cognitive resources for observation, cognitive processing, and immediate decision-making” in a life-threatening encounter.

Just how much extra practice and experience are required for an officer to transition from internal to external focus is not currently known. But in Lewinski’s opinion, the “firearms training and experience provided by an average North American Police Academy” is not sufficient to enable most officers to effectively make the leap and maintain the skill level.

With “no training at aiming or handling a weapon,” Lewinski writes, novices are “more likely to aim where they are looking”–in effect, an instinctive external focus. In shooting, he explains, novices “emulat[e] the introductory firearms training concept of initially pointing the weapon, much like an individual uses their index finger to point to an object.”

In our culture in close-contact situations, “individuals tend to look at the face,” Lewinski says. So in addressing a humanoid target, that’s where the inexperienced tend to look (in contrast to officers who are trained to shoot at center mass), resulting in the high concentration of head hits.

• Block training. Often, Lewinski believes, the instruction officers receive that should give them a decisive edge is undermined by the style with which it is delivered.

He explains: “A vast majority of law enforcement academy firearms training courses, including those in this study,” use block instruction, in which skills are taught in “long-duration sessions” over a relatively short period, “(i.e., four- to eight-hour classes taught over the course of two to four weeks, each class teaching a new skill).

“Although this method is often used for efficiency such as range and instructor availability and may be beneficial for short-term learning, block training has been observed through multiple studies to be ineffective for long-term learning and performance….

“In particular, when individuals are challenged with complex, unusual, and new conditions, those with block training consistently performed worse” than individuals who learned their skill using random, spaced, and reinforced practice techniques. While initial learn seems fast and satisfying to both instructor and students, “block training produces one of the highest rates of any type of training on the speed of deterioration of the acquired skill.”


The researchers’ suggestions for improvements going forward include:

• The goal of every department should be to enhance its firearms training to the point that officers’ weapon manipulation in response to a deadly threat is fully automatic. This will free the officers’ cognitive resources to focus on assessment, early threat detection, strategy, and decision-making and thereby improve judgment and reaction time “even if the attained advantage is measured in tenths of a second.”

• “Where agencies fall short in meeting this goal,” Lewinski says, “individual officers in the interest of their own safety need to commit to achieving that level of performance on their own.”

• “Head-shot training should be a part of the [official firearms or personal practice] curriculum,” the study notes, “so that officers can effectively deal with suspects wearing body armor [and can] stop a threat effectively in [other] situations where center body mass shots seem to have little effect or in instances where [a] head shot is simply the best alternative….”

• Officers and trainers should also consider employing mental imaging exercises to reinforce and enhance their physical training. Studies suggest that those who regularly use such crisis-rehearsal regimens tend to be “significantly more accurate in their shooting.”

• “The next innovative stage,” according to the research team, “would be teaching officers ‘pattern recognition’–how to read evolving threats and intervene or control them before they become deadly.” Given the “rapid speeds in which a gunfight can unfold and the accuracy of novice and intermediate shooters at close range,…[o]fficers should be able to react to assault cues at the earliest possible moment during an encounter to optimize their chances of preventing or controlling the incident and enhancing their survival.”

• “After basic skill training,” Lewinski writes, “athletic teams spend a large portion of their training in ‘videotape review’ of their opponents so they can enhance their ability at recognizing and being able to intervene in evolving plays.

“A similar method of incident review training should take place in law enforcement, reviewing the threat cues and dynamics of officer involved shooting situations as recorded by dash cams, body cams, surveillance systems, etc.

“This is a way to begin to optimize…tactical awareness and responsiveness…so that officers [are] able to make better decisions [and] perform in ways that maximize their own safety” as well as that of the citizenry they serve.

Dr. Lewinski’s research team for this study included: Ron Avery, president/training director for the Practical Shooting Academy, Inc., and executive director of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Tactical Institute; Jennifer Dysterheft, a doctoral candidate in kinesiology at the University of Illinois, and Nathan Dicks, assistant professor in the department of human performance at Minnesota State University-Mankato, both research assistants at the Force Science Institute; and Jacob Bushey, a master’s student of exercise physiology at Minnesota State.

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    • That and formal training usually emphasizes center-mass shooting.

      When I play FPSs I usually have to play in a Hardcore mode because the bullet damage in modeled more lethally, where as in the normal modes of play usually only head-shots immediately kill. Since I have a hard time overcoming the instinct to shoot center mass, I do worse in normal modes than in hardcore modes – where the time it takes to acquire a target and get bullets on it are rewarded more than absolute shot placement to the head. In normal modes I usually find myself dumping entire magazines into somebodies chest only to have them one shot me in the face. That doesn’t happen to me in hardcore modes.

      I think the instinct for an untrained shooter to shoot where they look (the face) is probably working counter to the center-mass training to create a noticeable statistical difference in shooting results.

      • To be fair, most FPS games represent military engagements where people have a tendency to wear level III or better body armor. In those cases, a center mass hit is not very likely to result in a disabling injury. (One of the things that the Flashpoint games got wrong, unfortunately.)

  1. In the past few weeks I read of two incidents when the Police fired as many as 80 shots and only succeeded in slightly wounding the person their gunfire was directed against and in one incident an innocent bystander was killed.

  2. How can this be true with all the practice they get shooting family pets? Maybe they should have used a golden retriever’s head as a target.

  3. The important takeaway from this is that handguns really are an incredibly effective self-defense tool in real world situations and distances even with minimal training.

    • ^ Winner.
      If you want to defend yourself and your family, tool up. Even if you can’t afford weekly range trips or the four-week course at Gunsite Academy.

      An untrained person with a gun is still more effective than an untrained person without one.

      • Yup. I’ve been saying for years it doesn’t have to be very complicated. They’re made to fit the hand after all.

        These findings don’t surprise me.

    • There are several things we can take away from this in my opinion .
      1. What you said , very valid point .
      2. A lot of people on TTAG are police bashers , every chance they get .
      3. Training to shoot a person in the chest leads to shooting person in chest .
      4. Training to acquire a target and then acquiring it , in real life , are not parallel .
      5. Different training and training requirements need review and implementation .
      6. Average folks are probably using smaller caliber hand guns , making target acquisition percentage higher .
      7. Police officers are more than likely to be shooting at a moving target than your average home invasion Joe .
      Please add your numbers 8 through ………………….

      • Ahh, Mark.
        You pretty much fell apart there. *Average* people use small caliber handguns…. What do you call a small caliber ? Pray tell. As to the sales numbers..people I talk to, and others that I know talk to,the choices in caliber use rarely fall under 9mm. A 9mm tends to ride around with a fairly large number of law enforcement. Ifthe cops were trained to hit center mass as you state, then why do they suck so very badly at it ? Some of the stories you read the safest place to be is the guy getting shot at. It`s the bystanders that catch the police rounds.
        Police shoot at moving targets….umm..home break in,assault,muggings.. You really think all these guys stand still ?
        You want to defend the police, thats fine. They do a job that is needed,but the level of abuse and lack of punishment when they violate the law is simply so egregious it makes them all smell.. Police are allowing this in their ranks. They must take care of their housekeeping if they wish to restore the prestige that used to go with the shield.

        • Wade ,
          I understand your points and I am in no qualification to dispute your feelings or statistics . I can only express an opinion based on material I’ve read and conclusions I have made . I believe most police officers today carry .40 or .45 caliber medium frame pistols , either 1911 or Glock design and do train with chest shots primarily , as they probably should , using larger caliber weapons . There are a lot of LEOs still carrying 9mm but there has been a concerted push away from the 9mm in the last decade . Most home invaders may not stand still and wait to be shot as you stated but they are often surprised by an armed home owner and surprised often means standing still . A perp knows that a police officer is armed and if they make a choice to resist or not comply they better be on the move . Lastly , I would be surprised if most home invasion type shootings were not done with 22 caliber pistols and 38 caliber revolvers and probably a great number were actually done with rifles and shotguns . Finally , you made my point about police bashing on TTAG , I still find it strange but then again I don’t live in or near a large metropolis . I’m a country boy and the police I know are my neighbors and boys I went to school with or the sons and daughters of school mates and by and large , normal human beings , having families , friends , hobbies , attending churches , school functions etc. and like the rest of us they have good days and bad days and like anyone else who would do their job , they don’t always shoot straight under the conditions they are facing when pulling a trigger on another person . I actually would be willing to argue the point that they would be more accurate if it was their home being molested .

      • Handguns are an effective tool for punching holes in paper. In an actual attack, not so much…most people survive gunshot wounds, and there are way too many reports of perps who still killed and injured after multiple critical hits. Head shots make it less likely the good guy will be successful, due to high miss probability shooting at such a small target under stress. You gotta see what happens to you when someone really tries to kill you.

      • “There are several things we can take away from this in my opinion .
        1. What you said , very valid point .
        2. A lot of people on TTAG are police bashers , every chance they get .
        3. Training to shoot a person in the chest leads to shooting person in chest .
        4. Training to acquire a target and then acquiring it , in real life , are not parallel .
        5. Different training and training requirements need review and implementation .
        6. Average folks are probably using smaller caliber hand guns , making target acquisition percentage higher .
        7. Police officers are more than likely to be shooting at a moving target than your average home invasion Joe .
        Please add your numbers 8 through ………………….”

        1) Yes, pistols are lethal without significant training, but they are also the category of firearms that the hardest to use well physically.
        2) Is just us vs. them mentality and a poor excuse. To pretend there isn’t a training issue. I come from a competitive background, and while LEOs are represented and many times skillfully so, those individuals will be the first to tell you that the rank and file gets minimal training, minimal practice with pretty minimal qualification standards, and a large number of them try to avoid doing even that if possible. It varies department to department, but it’s a recurring theme.
        3) Is definitely true to an extent, I’ll add in that if you only really trained center of mass, head shots may feel like they have a much higher chance of failure than for those who don’t know what they don’t know.
        4) I disagree within the context of the article. Mainly because nothing in the study is about real life. It’s paper punching vs. paper punching on a range with no external stressors.
        5) Definitely agree.
        6) Nope, sorry, just plain wrong. 9mm probably dominates in both areas, and the top 80%+ will be filled out by .40, .45, and maybe .357sig. The really beastly cartridges like .357, .44 magnum, full house 10mm, etc. Are primarily civilian cartridges rather than departmental purchases. Beyond that, I suspect that this study controlled this aspect. I wish the link to the study actually worked to read it in detail
        7) Movement is movement. It has nothing to do with this study as it was static targets randomly positioned at known distances. However, that makes a nice segway to my points, as it depends on what the shooters’ recreational background is.

        8) How they divided the groups does not make sense. By their logic, a guy fresh out of the academy is an expert while Jerry Miculeck is an intermediate shooter. That’s neither correct, nor a fair comparison. Even a seasoned LEO instructor likely doesn’t come close to the sheer number of hours he has spent practicing gun handling skills. There are likely very few people on the planet who come close, but… intermediate. Another example would be a top level USPSA competitor who is one of our local attendees. Done at the right time the study would have classified him as an intermediate despite the fact he was providing LEO training, but still had degree hours he was finishing up in college. Two years later, he’d have been put in the expert category because he moved form being a contract employee to and actual sworn officer of a federal agency. Their grouping is highly arbitrary. Also in this area, the guy who patterns his shotgun each year and shoots at duck form a blind as often as they can differs greatly in skill set from a bullseye shooter, who differs greatly from sporitng clays guys, who differ from USPSA shooters.
        9) Your low training hours LEO spend more of their limited training time on muzzle discipline than your average low training hours recreational shooter. They spend more time on the “don’t shoot your co-workers” skills, which is important and shouldn’t be neglected, but it really doesn’t help with the actual shooting part one bit. And it’s not just your low training hours guys either. The focus institutionally tends to be on what I categorize as team tactics and situational strategies. When they get one time federal money for training, that’s what they tend to spend it on, not worrying about individual gun handling, speed, and accuracy. That is left up to the qualification course, which for something like the FBI is pretty decent at covering the accuracy portion of the equation, but for your local PD? In many instances, it is atrociously minimal. It certainly isn’t remotely uniform over any significant geographic area.
        10) PRACTICE. For most departments, your training is your practice. Most don’t seem to provide significant support for practice, and many that do have a hugely variable attitude to how purchased ammo and other practice resources are allocated and accounted for. The most common pattern is that there is a practice ammo budget, but it is your time, and they don’t care if you use it as long as someone does. So the committed ones get lots of free practice ammo while most squeak by doing the bare minimum to meet qualification requirements. (my perspective may be skewed here as it comes mostly from those committed individuals seeking out external venues to get that practice time in. So it’s usually either the guys burning through the practice ammo, or the guys funding their own practice who tend to comment.)

    • Even little old ladies with .38 Specials. In a wheelgun. With blueing and wood grips, no Tenifer finish seen anywhere.

      So today’s lesson: There’s no need to change one’s wardrobe to all Under Armor to operate operationally.

  4. Police are trained to shoot center-of-mass (or mastiff).
    Everyone who grew up since the advent of first person shooting games has been rewarded in some fashion for headshots.

  5. Do big city chiefs really want their officer to be better shooters? I don’t think so, because if they did, the chiefs would have their men trained up. Big city mayors are far too politically fearful of officer involved shootings to to train their cops to become fast, accurate shooters.

    If they could get away with it, I’m sure that Ed Murray, Marty Walsh, Rahm Emanuel and that cohort would disarm all their cops, just as DiBlasio just did with off-duty NYPD officers who turn out to worship Pope Francis.

    • The usual excuse is cost. If every NYPD officer shot 100 rounds a month, the 35,000 or so officers would go through 42 million rounds s year, and using .25 per round, that’s $10.5 million per year just for ammo. Multiply that by 4 to get up to 100 rounds a week (still not enough for proficiency), and we are talking about a respectable sum of money, to say nothing of the overtime expense of paying these officers to train regularly, plus the cost to training officers and ROs.

      • It’s a good excuse that won’t wash. During the decade ending in 2010, the City of New York paid out almost a billion dollars (that’s billion with a B) in claims against cops. Even though that also covers cop-caused car crashes and the like, that still kinda dwarfs the ammo budget.

        • Dwarfs the ammo budget, yes, but it probably is a different color / pot of money / charge base than the ammo budget.

          We see this all the time in government at various levels. There’s $1M left in the equipment budget so you buy stuff you don’t need (use it or lose it!) at the end of the fiscal year. But the training budget is empty so you can’t spend $5k to send someone to learn how to use the new $1M 3d printer.

          It’s infuriating on many levels. But it arose from the well-intentioned thought that you can reduce waste and abuse by categorizing what money can be spent on, and making it difficult to move money from one category to another once allocated.

        • but it probably is a different color / pot of money / charge base than the ammo budget.

          @John L, NYC self-insures, so settlements come out of the general fund. I don’t know which “budget” pays for the ammo.

      • Ralph, that is one good argument, try another. 100 rounds at 0.25 per round means each of 35,000 cops costs $25 a month more? These guys, who can’t hit the broad side of a barn, in fact have never seen a barn, are making $6000/mo, but going to $6025 is going to break the city?

      • Poorly trained police, shooting into crowds of people, 12% hit rate is infinitely more cost-effective.

        Here is the un-written agreement between law enforcement and the citizen: courts declared there is no requirement for the police to protect, defend or serve the public. police are not accountable for knowing the law, can do just about anything justified by “good faith effort”; citizen casualties are just the unfortunate price the public pays for police who are not accountable to the public.

      • It only takes six to 10 rounds a week to maintain muscle memory. If I had free use of a range I could skip a couple doughnuts a week to buy the ammo to be able save my own life. Crying about the lack of training is not an excuse. If cops would promise not to shoot my dog I would give them ammo out of my stash.

    • It’s a brass decision, do they train 35,000 officers well, keeping the public and officers happier and safer. Or say screw that, let’s go and get us some of that sweet sweet milsurp, paint it GovPork Black(tm) and have us a good ole’ photo op?

      To a politician (elected or otherwise) that’s a no-brainer.

  6. What would have happened if the culled the ‘shot a rifle in basic training in the army’ subjects out of the ‘intermediate experience’ group?

    I’m thinking the ‘intermediates’ would have thrashed the ‘experts’ if only recreational shooters were considered ‘intermediates’. And I think that’s the reason why they grouped the test subjects the way they did.

      I don’t think, I know, that they (or more accurately, HE) lumped the basic training military shooters in with the recreational shooters to keep the recreational shooters from looking too good.

  7. Afraid this proves not much. Headshots are inherently risky for civilians, who have 100% liability for damage done by misses; cops have no liability (which, given the less than 20% hit rate experienced is understandable).

    Cops killed by headshots are not a useful measure; bad guys don’t care if they miss. Bad guys can unload a 30rd magazine at a cop in the attempt to put a bullet in the brain, with no consideration for 29 or so misses.

    Put people on the range, move the target/head around like a person trying to attack, and see what happens. Better yet, put people in a paintball contest and see whether headshots have as high a hit rate.

    A round 2 inches off from the center of the head probably means no damage to the bad guy. A bullet 2in off dead-center mass means a new hole in the body. Might not be immediately fatal, but a bunch of bullets 2in off dead-center mass will do more damage that a bunch of bullets 2in off the center of the head.

    All the referenced experiment tells us is that people generally hit what they are looking at (in a static range drill). But when under attack, when being fired-upon, the ability to hit the head will rapidly decline. How well would these head-shooters do in trying to change their point of aim under pressure?

    • Head shots in paintball are the norm, as little else is exposed at higher levels of competition.
      Plus, the paintballs almost always break on a head shot, and only breaks count.
      Its’ why we aim at gear as well, to increase the chances of a break.

      • Afraid I wasn’t considering paintballers in general. Looking to set up on a simulated urban environ, using the same category of shooters as in the described experiment. Purpose of paint ball would be to record hit and misses. Perhaps a better arrangement would be laser guns and body targets.

    • The majority of the head shot hits were at one to five yards, which is pretty dang close. If you are being attacked at that distance, ain’t gonna be a lot o’ duckin’ and jivin’ goin’ on.

      • Then perhaps a look at the “ice cream cone” drill police sometimes encounter might be illustrative. The attacker covers 50ft and scores a “stab” with the cone before the aware and prepared shooter can get on target and fire a round. The attacker’s head is moving constantly (closing the distance) and abruptly lowered when launching a diving thrust the last 15 feet.

        Movement changes the sight line, causing continuous sight adjustment, not to mention the 1.5sec delay cause by bringing the firearm into play. Center mass provides more target space in almost any situation imaginable.

    • Can anyone help here ? I would like to see a caliber correlation chart with a post like this one . I would estimate that most police use at a minimum 9mm , more than likely .40 or .45 calibers are preferred , where most citizen against perp shots would probably be a 22 , 32 , 38 and 9mm . Less recoil in smaller caliber will mean better accuracy even with less training . I find myself personally , training less with my high caliber pistols because I cannot achieve the accuracy I want with them no matter how much I try . I like accuracy over ‘ knock down ‘. I do shoot my big bore revolvers frequently , because it’s fun , not so much my 1911 .45 S & W . That’s just me , but I do believe that caliber choice should be in this equation .

    • Cops killed by headshots are not a useful measure.

      Especially since cops tend to wear body armor that makes them remarkably hard to kill via body shots.

  8. The difference is this..
    Us untrained crazy deadly gun nuts go to the range often and practice to get better because we want to improve.
    Cops qualify a couple times a year and rarely practice once a month..
    I’d take a civilian from the south over a shaky handed cop most of the time hands down..

  9. Surprising precisely no one. I know the very few officers that can shoot around here because they show up to the matches on their own time/dime. Group 4 (competitive/ avid shooters) would’ve been an interesting addition.

  10. The whole zombie/walking dead genre may have something to do with it. My high school daughter doesn’t play video games, but took her to the range for the first time and it’s a mag dump right to the head of the target and “this is fun dad, we should do it more often!”

  11. I think this is fascinating although sure, a more “live” exercise with paintball, laser tag, whatever would be a logical next step. It very much explains my first experience with a handgun or real firearm for that matter — no experience except a few video games and pellet long guns. I had an individual instructor, off-duty LEO, show me how to load, aim, clear, and break down the Glock 17. Then we went into the range, where I ran off multiple center target hits from 3 feet to 21 feet, and not bad at 10 yards. Both he and I were surprised at how well I did. I guess we should not have been. You know, this also underscores the discussions in some of the other threads on inviting newbies and anti’s to shoot at a range. I did well as a newbie. It gave me confidence and I was hooked. 2 pistols, 3 evil black rifles, and too much money spent on ammo later ….

  12. So…people trained to “shoot him in the middle of where he is biggest” tend to do so. I’m not really surprised.

    The close performance of the intermediate and expert groups doesn’t really surprise me, either, since they are both composed of people with essentially the same training who probably go to the range once or twice a year. They’d have to define “expert” more narrowly as someone who had advanced military or police training (SWAT/Special Forces) or advanced shooting skills (competitive shooter) to see real differentiation.

  13. An alternate conclusion is, “criminals should be aware of the potential threat posed even by law-abiding armed citizens with minimal firearms experience.” Anti-gun types should take note as well. You don’t need to be a cop or soldier to effectively use a firearm.

  14. Nine out of ten Cops could care less, have no interest in guns or training. Don’t want to train, and it’s a pain in the butt. You should see what we do, fire fifty or thirty rounds and get the hell out of there. A small percentage of Cops are dangerous. Won’t carry a second magazine when they are off duty, can’t do malfunction drills, don’t want to do malf. drills. Don’t understand what a double feed is even though they set it up to practice. And if you try to talk to them about it they know it all. I’ve seen Cops show up for work with no gun, no loaded gun no round chambered in an auto. Didn’t know how to unload an auto, take the mag out and leave a round in the chamber.
    Glad I’m retired.

  15. It’s not surprising that the intermediate shooters did as well as the experts. Unless they are competitors, too, experts don’t get the same amount of practice as recreational shooters who compete regularly in USPSA or IDPA and go to the range in between matches. See Greg Ellifritiz’s opinion about police firearms training ( Last year, Ellifritz achieved his personal goal of firing 10,000 rounds. No agency has the training budget to buy that much ammunition for every officer.

    The study implies that novices can make head shots better than experts. However, the test protocol let the shooters pick their targets. Experts and intermediates have been taught to go for center of mass rather than head. The novices don’t know any better. Regardless of how well you shoot, you aren’t going to make head shots if you aren’t aiming there. If you are a very good shot, it’s likely that you will “miss” the head every time.

    The biggest thing I would criticize about the study is that it put little or no pressure on the subjects. They were told to shoot as quickly and accurately as they could but had no incentive to push themselves. Due to their job experience, I would expect the experts to function better under pressure than the novices.

    Block training is stupid. It’s like cramming for an exam. You may get a good grade but you won’t remember much a month or a year later. I see the same thing with computer training classes. There are commercial schools that purport to teach you how to use complex software in one 8 hour day. Having been sent to such, I know that my eyeballs glaze over by the 3rd hour and I learn little after that. I always advise people to take a multi-week class at a community college with one lecture per week, reading assignments and homework. It’s cheaper and you learn more.

  16. I’m not surprised. I’m old but I’ve always(for 4 years anyway) practised head shots. I’m pretty good with center mass without really trying so I figured “why not”? Oddly enough in Chicago the po-leece always seem to shoot the bad gang-banger(usually in the back but many times in the head”he had a gun-shaped cell phone”!)

  17. What was the novice chances of missing the first shot compared to the officers? ” Not many men left, like old Bob and me…”

  18. The headshot statistic for real-life occurrences isn’t necessarily useful. My understanding is that lesser or un-trained people tend to shoot at the *threat*. That is, if they see a gun, their focus narrows to that, and that’s what they shoot at. It just happens that there’s generally a head bobbing around somewhere behind that gun. There’s also a large percentage of people in gunfights who get shot in the hands (holding the gun) but the study fails to mention that.

  19. The article does not mention anything about stress levels. I would think that, without any stress, a novice might be able to site in on a target and hit it. The difference would come in when the stress level is higher. That is when familiarity and muscle memory kick in.

  20. Just shoot at what you can hit. Train to hit the smallest target you can under physical and psychological duress. Consistently hitting targets at 200+ meters with powerful handguns is possible and practical.

    • oh puhleeeeze. 200meters is over 600 feet. few people caneven identify a discrete target at that range without optics. if the target is two football fields away, it does not present imminent or immediate danger; a shot at that range is going to be a loser in court. if you want to practice aiming small, then use 2in dot targets at 20-30ft. aim small, miss small.

      oh yeah, if one is convinced a handgun shot needs to be made at 600ft, then the heart rate will be way up there, causing loss of hand coordinaiton and trigger control. assuming, of course, you are not at a square range punching holes in paper.

  21. I suspect that if a study was undertaken to examine police shooting accuracy vs. training budget and the dominant political party controlling the PD budget that would be a correlation that some don’t want known.
    Though Bloomers ran as an R in NYC, he still ruled like what he is. An anti-gun democrat.
    One is likely to find that per officer training budget are substantially lower in D controlled cities. And that reduced training leads to more bystander victims.
    Police officers don’t always get paid enough to afford to pay for their own training.
    We also see a lack of training in non firearms related take down as well.

    I know the range I go to does a lot of Law Enforcement training as well.
    One day on my way in, I saw a couple US Marshals getting ready yo go in. They had the tactical drawer open on the back of the Yukon. Very impressive array of gear.

  22. No surprise here.
    Police officers are constantly drilled to group center of mass, as tight a group as they can get.

    Newbies dont have to overcome the training, so they should do better with unconventional training

  23. The police are trained to aim center mass BUT do the “double tap” to make sure the victim is dead. The only gun control law there should be is that criminals can’t have any firearms. Thanks for your vote, pass the word.

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