Study: Why Police Firearms Training Sucks


Force Science Institute:

By the time an average police recruit completes typical academy firearms training, how much more skilled in shooting is he than a person who has never shot or even held a handgun before? Not much, according to a first-of-its-kind study by the Force Science Institute that is set for publication in an international law enforcement journal . . .

“[T]his study’s results indicate an alarming need for improved firearms training for officers,” writes lead researcher Dr. Bill Lewinski, FSI’s executive director. After finishing academy instruction and practice, new officers “were a mere 13%” more accurate than novices in shooting at distances where a high proportion of officer-involved shootings occur.

“What these statistics appear to imply,” Lewinski states, “is 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 weapons that is expected of them.” This training deficiency “may result in injury, death, or other severe consequences.”

Also revealed in the study: At close quarters, untrained shooters often aim for the head, the most vulnerable and critical part of an officer’s body in a gun attack. And they hit accurately with disturbing frequency.

TEST SUBJECTS. Lewinski’s research team tested 195 male and 52 female recruits and students on ranges at two police academies and one college with a law enforcement preparation program at geographically separated locations in the US. Most of the volunteers had not yet been exposed to academy firearms training, but roughly 25% had completed that course of instruction.

The subjects were divided into three categories:

• “Experts,” who had finished formal handgun training through the academy or in the military

• “Intermediates,” who had not yet received academy training but had some personal experience in shooting, either through hunting, recreational sport, or military training for a long gun

• “Novices,” who may have fired a weapon once or twice but for the most part had never held or shot a gun “in their life.”

After choosing a 9mm Glock, .40-cal. S&W, or 9mm Beretta semiauto, the volunteers were told to quickly shoot three rounds each at a total of nine grey-silhouette targets which were randomly placed at staggered distances ranging from three to 75 feet. Where they were to aim was not stated–only that they should fire at each target “as quickly as they could without compromising accuracy.”

SURPRISING HIT RATES. Generally, the Experts scored the most hits. But the edge they enjoyed often proved, at best, surprisingly narrow. Notably:

• At most distances, there was “no significant difference” in percentage of hits between Expert and Intermediate groups.

• Against targets 18 to 45 feet away, Intermediates actually registered a higher hit ratio than academy trained shooters–about 41% vs. 38%.

• At three to 15 feet, where most officer fatalities occur, Expert shooters hit one of the major-damage zones on the target “with eight out of nine bullets they fired,” the researchers found, while Novices hit “with seven of the nine bullets they fired”–a scant advantage for the trained recruits of just a single round.

Considering the high volume of shootings that occur “at such close ranges, officers need to have a better advantage over threatening suspects,” Lewinski writes.

• It was not unusual for Novices to cycle through rounds at a cadence of one quarter to one third of a second per shot.

• At longer distances, Novice accuracy fell off significantly. But Intermediate shooters, apparently able to adapt their long-gun experience to handgun firing, continued to be “nearly identical” to the fully trained Experts.

In summary, Lewinski writes, “[I]ndividuals who had completed standard law enforcement academy firearms training were not more accurate in their shooting” than those with Intermediate skills and “were only moderately more accurate than individuals who…had little to no handgun experience… It was unexpected that the Novices would be so accurate in comparison….

“These findings underscore that critical importance of officers taking every step necessary to maintain control of their weapon,” he continues. “Officers will often shoot at a suspect in an attempt to end their efforts to gain control of the officer’s gun and these findings highlight why this is understandable and necessary. The result of a suspect gaining control of an officer’s gun–even someone who has little or no experience firing a gun–can be catastrophic.”

HEAD VS. BODY. Also, the researchers surprisingly found, “the number of headshots taken significantly varied between groups.”

• At three feet, for example, the academy-trained Experts attempted and delivered headshots with only 21% of their rounds, preferring body hits by more than a three to one margin. Novices and Intermediates, by contrast, went for and scored head hits about 57% of the time.

• At nine feet, successful attempts at head strikes by Experts had dropped to 6%, while Novices were still firing a quarter of their rounds to the head–“shooting more dangerously than the trained recruits,” Lewinski told Force Science News.

Lewinski speculates on the placement differences: “While officers are trained to sight and shoot at a suspect’s center mass, novices have no training at aiming or handling a weapon, and therefore are more likely to aim where they are looking.

“In close contact social situations, [untrained] individuals tend to look at the face, watching for facial gestures, expressions, etc.; therefore, shots aimed at the head during close-encounter shootings may be more heavily linked to natural instincts, resulting in shooters automatically pointing the gun to where they are looking, directly at the ‘face’ ” of the target.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR CHANGE. “[L]aw enforcement officers are expected to perform at a much higher level” than lesser or untrained shooters “and to do so under highly stressful conditions,” Lewinski writes. So why didn’t newly minted officers fresh from firearms training significantly excel and why, according to other studies, do working officers’ gun skills tend to degrade over time?

Lewinski points to two important potential culprits related to traditional police training:

1) the tendency of instructors to use “block education” in firearms training, and

2) the tendency of officers to lock into an “internal attentional focus” when firing, because of inadequate practice.

• Block education, he explains, is a teaching format in which skills are broken down, taught, and repetitively practiced in “long-duration sessions over a short length of time (i.e., four- to eight-hour classes over the course of two to four weeks, each class teaching a new skill component).”

This is efficient and can be beneficial for short-term learning, Lewinski says, because students tend to pick up the new skills rapidly. But “block training, which is used in most academies, including the ones in this study, produces one of the highest rates of swift deterioration of a skill once it is acquired.”

Extensive research, he says, has shown that “when individuals are challenged with complex, unusual, and new conditions,” those trained and reinforced at frequently spaced intervals over longer periods of time tend to perform much more successfully and better avoid skill degeneration than those who have had block education.

“Spacing out instruction and practice over time gives your brain the chance to better consolidate and integrate information about the skill on which you are working,” Lewinski says.

• Internal focus, he explains, refers to a shooter’s predominant concentration on his or her weapon and body. “Here, officers’ attention is on themselves, on their grip, trigger press, stance, body and arm alignment, balance, sight picture, and so on.

“They haven’t had enough practice to move past this concern about the manipulation of their weapon to an external attentional focus, where their visual and cognitive concentration is on their target and their situation.

“That state can be reached only when weapon management and the motor movements of shooting are so ingrained that they’re automatic, freeing an officer’s mental resources for observation, cognitive processing, and immediate decision-making.”

Considering that the average academy offers only “a mere 60 hours” of firearms training and in-service perhaps 12 to 16 hours or less a year, it’s currently difficult if not impossible for officers to reach that level of expertise without supplementary training and experience on their own, Lewinski points out.

Addressing these concerns, the researchers note, should be an important part of efforts by academies and in-service training programs to improve officers’ preparation. The study further suggests that trainers may want to expand their instruction to include head-shot tactics for extremely close encounters, especially considering that gang members and some other offenders are now wearing ballistic vests to defeat center-mass firing.

Greater emphasis also needs to be placed on teaching “pattern recognition” that allows officers to pick up quickly on pre-attack cues and thereby better dominate or avoid gunfights, Lewinski says.

The full study, titled “The Naive Shooter from a Law Enforcement Perspective: Hit Probability,” is scheduled for a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Police Science and Management, based in England. Articles can be accessed for a fee through the Journal‘s website:

In addition to Lewinski, the research team included Ron Avery, president/director of training for The Practical Shooting Academy; Jennifer Dysterheft, a doctoral student in the Dept. of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois; Nathan Dicks, assistant professor in the Dept. of Human Performance at Minnesota State University-Mankato; and Jacob Bushey, a master’s student in exercise physiology at Minnesota State.


  1. My academy basic firearms training was 40 hours split between classroom and range time – my annual is 20 hours with 16 of those being on the range. I don’t know that anyone in the class really learned anything at all. Most people were able to complete the qualifier on day one, but, we were still required to go through the entire class. The qualifier is a 60 round course with the furthest target being 25 yards. Most of the training consisted of boy scout basic stuff. There was little movement taught, and they didn’t focus on getting out of the holster quickly. I had a really big advantage having been a competitive IDPA shooter.

    But, yes, the study is right. Law enforcement firearms training sucks and it sucks big

    1. avatar Tile floor says:

      Ours was 100 hours, about 80 of which were spent on the range. I feel the quality of instruction I received was very good, although I realize this is certainly the exception rather than the rule.

    2. avatar Kelly says:

      What most officers forget is, you can’t just go through an academy then qualify twice a year, and forget it any other time. It is a skill that must be worked and developed and I don’t know very many officers who take the time for practice.

  2. avatar Pieslapper says:

    Perhaps they focus too much on shooting at dogs ?

    1. avatar Aerindel says:

      Ha, good one. Agree.

    2. avatar Will says:

      Haha doubt the dogs would even flinch with shots like this ^^

  3. avatar Missouri Mule says:

    Why is the response command by so many instructors “GUN!”?
    I think Chicago is the only city where a police chief has told the officers to shoot concealed handgun carriers on sight.

  4. avatar mike oregon says:

    One of the most unsettling moments of my life was when 2 current law enforcement officers removed from a 3day tactical pistol course early on day 2, because they were not able to safety handle their weapons, or hit with any accuracy,

    1. avatar NWGlocker says:

      Yes, some of the undesired findings are because how people (law enforcement or the non-LE armed civilian) are being trained. 2 and 3 day courses are the norm– and sure sound like “Block Education”.

      Probably more ideal to have shorter training sessions more frequently…if someone is willing to offer that. Anywhere.

      1. avatar mike oregon says:

        When I took this course I was told that this class was the beginning of training, my responsibility was to practice the techniques, I hit the range every other weekend, with a focused 6 hour class quarterly. It costs in money and time, but I believe competence is worth the price.

        1. avatar MarkPA says:

          “It costs in money and time, but I believe competence is worth the price.” I admire your dedication; whether it be to your vocation or avocation. I’m willing to dedicate only a fraction of (what I imagine is) your effort.

          That point conceded; do we strive to maintain a community of PotG consisting only of aspirants to the level of black-gun-belt? If so, it will be just 3% who remain to fight for the RKBA.

          I’d rather see, in this study, an encouraging interpretation. Novices and intermediates perform relatively well compared to police academy graduates. ‘You too, Mr. & Mrs. Sixpack, are probably competent to learn some skills sufficient to play an active roll in defense of self and dependents.’

          In the face of some grand-scale attack, I’d rather be joined by a multitude of neighbors who could lay-down a field of fire vs. be standing alone at the entrance to my culs-de-sac. Long before that point, I’d rather be seeing lots of NRA stickers in the parking lot as I go to vote.

  5. avatar Bill Kohnke says:

    There’s another way to look at the data. Everyone has innate potential or basic motor skills, from which greater skills can be developed. But how much ability must one have to be judged truly superior? As an example, in professional aviation a pilot is believed to have mastered most of the necessary skills of flying within the first few hundred hours (some may claim the first 2,000). After that, it’s mostly maintaining proficiency. Yes, learning continues, but at a much reduced rate because little that is new is introduced into the pilot’s routine. As a result, there is little, if any, measurable difference in pilot skill between a 2,000 hour pilot and a 20,000 hour pilot (though the latter may have more aircraft type ratings). The same can be said of the average shooter, whether a soldier, security member, police officer, or amateur shooter. A professional shooter, like a professionalism boxer or golfer, will exhibit a higher skill level due to constant practice and an emphasis on challenging his own abilities within his narrow field of interest. This focus may not be practical in terms of the time and money needed to train the average department officer or academy student. If an agency believes their personnel need to be vastly superior in their ability to defeat criminals, then not only will they need a greater emphasis placed on tactical firearms training (of which accuracy is only one factor), but they will need enhanced skills in driving techniques, forensics, jurisprudence, unarmed and nonlethal combat, body language, and so forth. Developing such a syllabus and measuring its effectiveness would be an interesting, though daunting task for any training academy or proficiency program.

    1. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

      Not sure if I agree. There are some people who seem to hone their skills to entirely different levels from increased time spent doing a certain activity. Look at Erich Hartman of the Luftwaffe, (352 kills!) Jerry Miculek shooting or for that matter Carlos Hathkok or Chris Kyle. You may be right in general but some people our blessed with unrivaled abilities. Generally they work damn hard on top of it.

    2. avatar Andy says:

      Very well stated and agree. I am a firearms instructor and been a cop for 46 years. Retired state police and been a city, county and federal command officer and detective as well. First, a couple hundred people for a study is not very reliable. And, if a police department were to try and put thousands of hours into firearm initial training, the populace would go nuts at the cost and time required. Plus, the study also forgets to take in all of the initial training, plus constant training updates, especially today that states demand, at least in my state, so they can handle all of the new duties being dumped on the police today to stay up with since no one else wants to deal with such as dealing with mentally ill people who have been let out of mental health facilities. Police departments have been dumped on to solve all of today’s problems, including many non traditional roles. Many departments also use police simulator programs for situational subsequent training. One flaw in training that I make my officers do is most are not taught to shoot past 15 yards, everything is combat shooting nowadays, where most shootings occur. Plus, I am sure the author o this study has never been involved in a shooting where someone actually pulled a gun on him and that is something you can not truly train for until it happens to you. I had a young officer once tell me he knew what he would do and I told him you have NO IDEA until that happens to you, are you going to react appropriately or crap in your pants.

  6. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    We FOIAed the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) that Michigan law enforcement are trained to. It’s not very rigorous. You can see them here, with the Firearms Standard Course of Fire on page 14.

    1. avatar racer88 says:

      Wow! That’s a pretty easy course. The time constraints (given the target distance) are VERY generous (and would be deadly in the real world, IMO).

    2. Here is what PA looks like. Somewhere, I have 4 pdfs from a few hundred different agencies that details the handgun qualifier of each one. I have to track down those documents.

      Edit: I found the link to the big doc of qualifiers.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Danny Griffin,

      Your link appears to be broken. I clicked on it twice and both times my Internet browser displayed a 404 Page not found type of error.

      1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

        The URL is good, TTAG just didn’t include the .pdf as part of the hyperlink. So either add .pdf yourself or copy and paste the link. Sorry TTAG messed it up. 😀

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


  7. avatar ThomasR says:

    I usually shoot about twice a month, 50 shots each time. I was thinking at one time to be a medic on a swat team, (not anymore). I shot against active duty cops going through a swat class. I was significantly better; the cops running the class made sure to let the swat trainee cops know that they were displeased with that. Mmm, yeah, pretty marginal.

  8. avatar Ralph says:

    I would prefer it if the police actually trained LESS in the use of guns and MORE in the use of brains.

    1. avatar Pieslapper says:

      Preach it!

      1. avatar Andy says:

        Two fools heard from.

  9. avatar MIKE CROGNALE says:

    The best firearms training, in my opinion, can be had at Frontsight. This is NOT to disparage any other training establishments. I joined there a few years ago and love it. They advertise that their training is superior to any police academy training any where. I cannot comment on that but I have been a shooter for nearly 50 years. My Dad taught me rifles and the service taught me the rifle and the handgun. Frontsight was far better than anything I’d had to that point.
    My 2 cents worth.

  10. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    At close quarters, untrained shooters often aim for the head, the most vulnerable and critical part of an officer’s body in a gun attack. And they hit accurately with disturbing frequency.
    Darn video gamers again! Hey, Call Of Duty makes you a high speed low drag operator. I was a sniper with a Springfield .30-06 rifle in Big Red One; so I am ready for the SWAT sniper team.

  11. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    I still remember when I was a sophomore in high school coming to the conclusion that I was much more effective with my Nylon 66 rifle versus the cops with their .357 revolvers..

  12. avatar Eric says:

    I conclude from his study the even naive shooters can very effectively defend themselves with a gun.

    1. avatar Another Robert says:

      My take too. That part at least was reassuring.

  13. avatar Dannytheman says:

    Take a quick look at the picture, guy on right has modified Weaver and thumb tucked under. I’m betting he is low right every time.

    1. avatar 2AMexican says:

      I’d take that bet. That is how I was taught in the academy20+ years ago and it is still how I shoot. I am pretty damn accurate is I say so myself.

      1. avatar Retired LEO says:

        Problem is he’s aiming. They’ve gone back to teaching point & instinct shoot, just like they discredited in the 60’s’s & 70’s.

        1. avatar Sgt. Zach says:

          Umm…No, “they” don’t. I’m the firearms instructor for my agency, and the only thing I teach my officers to focus on is the front sight. The “point-n-shoot” method was disproved, and discarded, years ago. ANY modern instructor is teaching to use the sights, any legitimate instructor anyway. “Anchor point” is taught briefly now. But if you can’t hit a body at “bad breath” distance, you need to stop carrying a gun, and the only thing you need to be doing is gaining realstate after the first couple rounds…then use your sights. On a national average, the sights are king again.

  14. avatar MarkPA says:

    Excellent info; and the study needs to be repeated.

    I wonder if skill at shooting is more-so an innate talent and less-so a learned skill. E.g., my daughter is an artist; she can do pretty good work. I’m sure that had I devoted a lifetime to practice that I would remain mediocre. I shoot with some regularity, my son hardly at all. I think he is a better shot then I am. IF-and-to-the-extent that this is so, then the issue is less-so the extent or kind of training the police get; rather, it is screening for the innate talent.

    The public-policy implication of talent over training would be that a blue uniform and a qualifying score from the police academy means little in differentiating Only-Ones from the unwashed masses. You have only 2 rational choices:
    – admit that a low level of skill is sufficient for police or civilians to be “qualified” to carry; or,
    – screen both police and civilians for a uniform high level of skill.

    Another topic that needs to be studied is the skill at SHOOT/DON’T-shoot scenarios based on a standard for lawful use-of-force. Do cops do any better than civilians? How much does it matter if the civilians are first trained in the rules-of-engagement for lawful-eu-of-force vs. if they undergo the trial without training operating on their own internal moral code?

    The test just completed tells us something about stopping-power of the subjects’ marksmanship skills as well as the potential for collateral damage when they miss. It tells us nothing about whether they have any skills in making snap judgements to kill a target.

    I think both skills (marksmanship and judgement) are equally important.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      A gentleman delved into the idea of nature versus nurture when it comes to skills at something. What he discovered is that pretty much anyone can be a world class guitar, piano, hockey player, etc. etc. etc. as long as they are willing to invest 10,000 hours of practice.

      In other words the idea of “innate talent” has very little bearing. Sure, if something required extraordinary strength, then a person who was genetically gifted with a large frame and muscles will outperform a small person no matter how much training that small person achieves. In terms of physical skills/coordination where average strength is more than adequate, it all comes down to hours of practice.

      For anyone interested, I believe he stated that you need something like 1,000 hours of practice to be really good at something and 2,000 hours of practice to be a “professional” … and then 10,000 hours to be world class as I wrote above. (He wrote a book about it.)

      Now, keep in mind that there may be a LOT of skills that you develop in some other activity that contributes heavily toward shooting skills. Many hours of sports like baseball or ping pong that require intense focus and accuracy may count somewhat toward your hours of practice for shooting proficiency. Think about it: lining up a baseball bat to contact a ball moving at 50+ mph and hit the ball accurately (and with power) to put the ball into play requires incredible precision within a fraction of a second. The same applies to ping pong where you have to move your body into position and then strike the ball with a paddle to put the ball (with appropriate spin no less!) to a specific location on a table. Again, it requires incredible precision in a fraction of a second. You need those exact same skills to draw and put shots on target as fast as possible.

      1. avatar MarkPA says:

        Thanks for reminding me; I now recall reading something along these lines. However, you and I are thinking about different ends of the spectrum.

        Let’s use driving as an analogy. Put a young teenager behind the wheel and he will be awful. Has to practice in a big empty parking lot for a while. After a while, the teenager builds up the skill to pass the behind-the-wheel test and we give him a driver’s license. It will take a few more years before he reaches – let’s say 80% – of his peak skill set.

        An extremely small number of drivers will ever become professional race-car drivers. We admire these professionals’ skills; but they don’t make-up the mainstream of life-on-the-road.

        The study you site seems to say that a large fraction of the population could become very highly proficient shooters or race-car drivers if only they invested 10,000 hours of effort. That’s fine; but hardly a practical way of building a nation’s population trained-to-arms or trained-to-race-car-driving.

        I’m really interested in the beginning of the spectrum. By analogy, the stage between getting a learner’s permit and getting a driver’s license. What is it that explains the difference between my daughter’s abysmal performance at an early level vs. my son’s great performance at that same level?

        Neither of my kids is of race-car-calibre today behind the wheel. My son is still better than my daughter. Still, my daughter can drive safely.

        What is it that we have to do to train the majority of our nation to arms so that they are capable of carrying? Do most people have enough natural talent to be about as competent with arms as they are as drivers? Is only a modest amount of range-time needed to get most medium-talented people to to this level? If so, then such findings – scientifically supported – would take the wind out of the sales of the Antis argument that gun-carriers ought to be be a highly select class of Only-Ones who – having graduated from the police academy – are identifiable by their blue uniforms, shinny badges and – most importantly – employer identification on their W-2 forms.

        Can – and should – society pay to move police officers up the proficiency scale? Probably so. These should probably get 1,000 or 3,000 hours of gun training. (At such a level they still wouldn’t have the proficiency of a really serious amateur who invested 10,000 hours in honing his skills.) It will be REALLY REALLY expensive to the public treasury to train most of the police officers in 1,000 or thousands of hours of gun skills. Is it worth it? At what point do diminishing returns set-in?

        Maybe the skill to shoot a gun with adequate success and safety is somehow similar to the skill to drive a car. Perhaps most teenagers could learn to shoot a gun to a competence level comparable to that required to pass a driver’s license test.

        There is a myth among the Antis and the general public that police academy gun training separates the men from the boys; and, the a second myth that chasm between the two is vast. This article confirms anecdotal reports that neither of these myths is well founded. This evidence supports our Founders’ confidence in the People as arms bearers.

      2. avatar Garrison Hall says:

        ” . . .What he discovered is that pretty much anyone can be a world class guitar, piano, hockey player, etc. etc. etc. as long as they are willing to invest 10,000 hours of practice.”

        Well, no. I can speak to the collective experience of a number of guitar players. One of the saddest things to see is a dedicated guitarist, someone who has spent years working for hours and hours everyday on their craft, who discover after all that work that the best they’re ever going to be is a B or B- minus. Yes they can play the music pretty well, but they’re never going the reach true virtuosity. For many, it’s a emotionally crushing experience. Music schools are often populated with quite decent guitarists who aren’t by any measure virtuosos. Virtuosity is a gift, it’s not something you attain through practice alone. Practice can enhance virtuosity but it cannot create virtuosity in and of itself.

        In my estimation, virtuosos guitarists have significantly enhanced visual, aural, and tactile learning skills. One player I know could play enormously complex flamenco music, including note-perfect falsettas at age 13. He’d never been to Spain at that time and had taught himself to play the music by listening to old Sabicas recordings. Years later we were sitting in my living room listening to a recording of Bach lute music played on guitar. The guitarist was making some cross-trills that neither of us particularly liked. My friend commented, “this is how I think it should sound” and, picking up my guitar played a perfect rendition of the prelude we’d just herd . . . without the cross-trills. These people are the “naturals” of the world. They have a special gift that can’t be attained through even the most dedicated practice. You either have it or you don’t. Alas, I don’t. Just sayin’.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          I agree with you. Once you meet a few of the people who “have it,” (regardless of their specific area of skill and expertise), you can see that, even if you devoted your entire life to it, you will never, ever be as good as they are, with as little effort as they seem to devote to it.

          I’ve seen this in martial arts. There are some people who are just naturals – they move with a speed, precision and grace that cannot be affected or imitated. Their training didn’t give them more speed or grace – it gave them power and specific targets/purpose. As much time as I put into training, it might have given me the ability to hurt someone pretty well, but I was never going to look graceful and elegant doing it, I knew it, and set my expectations accordingly.

          The Japanese language has a term for people who “have it:” “Shibumi” – meaning “effortless perfection.” For those who ‘have it,’ they make perfect execution of a skill look casual, unhurried and without conscious thought.

      3. avatar seans says:

        The whole 10,000 hours of practice has been discredited at this point. There are so many more factors going on than just practice.

    2. avatar Aerindel says:

      I would argue the ability to do anything for 10k hours without getting bored is an innate talent in itself.

  15. avatar M9A1MAN says:

    Being in law enforcement myself for over 6 years, I can say that I agree with the article 100%. Law Enforcement training overall is a JOKE, especially the gun training. Ever since graduating the academy I shoot at least once a month on my own time because our department only makes us qualify once every 4 months and we only shoot 20 rounds! When I tell my partners that our gun training is inadequate they look at me like I’m crazy, until I take them to the range and show them what shooting is really supposed to look like. When I asked my Lieutenant why the department does so little firearms training and why the qualifications are only every 4 months, he replied “its cheaper to pay out law suits via insurance and other funds, than it is to pay for more ammo, more instructors, more equipment etc.” So sad.

    1. avatar J O E says:

      Time to find a new department with a mentality like that.

      1. avatar Retired LEO says:

        Most SC department’s require 50 rounds of FMJ ANNUALLY with primary weapon none with a back-up and 25 double ought buck if they carry a shotgun.

        Went out to get rid of some old ammo last weekend. First time 2 other officers I was with had shot more than white box. I let them shoot federal JHP all 3 of the others commented on what a big difference there was between duty ammo & practice. But more than they had fired since they were sworn.

  16. avatar FUDD says:

    Lesson learned:

    Dont bring a hangun to a rifle fight.

    Almost everything is a rifle fight.

  17. avatar tdiinva says:

    There is another possible conclusion to this data, i.e., armed self defense doesn’t really require a lot of training, It’s not like the novices weren’t hitting targets at the most likely ranges for self defense. And I like the study’s conclusion about situational awareness. The reason police officers need to be well trained is not to become Dirty Harry. It is to exercise judgement on when and where to employ deadly force.

    1. avatar JWM says:

      We’ve seen it time after time here on TTAG. Citizens with little to no training(one who’d never fired his weapon til his home invasion dgu) come out on top in a life or death fight. Anybody remember the 90 something that sat in his easy chair and killed the young hulk with one shot from a .22 rifle?

      Justifiable shoots for us citizens happen at living room ranges. It takes no real expertise, just a desire to beat thebad guy to win. And I’ve yet to see an instance in any of these fights where the bad guys didn’t attempt, if they were able, to deass the place as soon as the shots were fired.

      Our best training is in safe gun handling. Followed by shoot, no shoot judgement. Marksmanship and tacticool training are dead last in priority.

      1. avatar g says:

        Um, you don’t train much.
        Hope you can use your shoot no shoot training to keep the rounds in the bad guy so you don’t kill household residents.
        Stories don’t trump data.
        You can’t miss fast enough to save your life.

        1. avatar MarkPA says:

          “Stories don’t trump data.” Absolutely true. Anecdotal evidence is suggestive of interesting theories but it needs to be backed-up by credible and pertinent statistics.

          The probability of any particular individual being the victim of an attack are extremely low.
          The probability of an untrained person having a gun – at hand and being willing to use it – are also low.
          The intersection of these two low-probability circumstances is extremely low. Therefore, there aren’t really a lot of anecdotes; nor a good basis for a statistically-valid study.

          All the foregoing notwithstanding, such anecdotes do suggest an interesting theory worthy of investigation. What is the level of training of a statistically meaningful sample of DGUs?

          My speculation is that quite a few low-training and low-practiced gun owners do acquit themselves in DGUs. I.e., they survive and the assailant flees, is wounded or even killed. How do such low-trained/-practiced gun owners fare compared to victims of attacks armed with lesser means (pepper spray, sharp/blunt objects, fists)?

          It is likely the case that a modest amount of training and a modest amount of practice is sufficient to raise an effective defense with a gun. If that could be demonstrated by scientifically meaningful evidence it would encourage newbies to consider a gun as a defensive measure and counteract the Antis’ Only-One meme.

        2. avatar JWM says:

          g, I’ve been shot at and shot back. I base my statements on having been there and done that. We just had a post about deploreable training for cops. The same people that denigrate the cops for a 48 training course go for a weekend at gunsite and consider themselves well trained.

          How much training do you need to run off a tweaker? I’ve done it when I was unarmed.

  18. avatar Retired LEO says:

    Most SC depapartments get a 50 round annual requalification and 25 rounds 12gauge 00 Buck if they wanna carry a shotgun. No standard for AR or mini-14. Only exception is instructors, we shoot average 10 times that. I teach NRA patrol rifle & duty weapons. Personally I have them run 1,000 rounds of. 223/5.56, 300 of double ought and/or 1,500 rounds of pistol. Have a few that do 9mm, 40SW. & .45cap if there. department. authorizes personal or choice of weapons. Have 3 that use. 357Sig also, any that carry a back-up (not many) I try & get them to need another 500 of approved caliber (.32,.380,.38,.357,9mm,.40SW. .45 gap or acp) that’s all that’s approved for carry. I still stick a. 41Mag & .44spl. in behind my vest. 357 on the ankle and revolver. Instead of a semi on occasion along with a wood baton never an ASP except for inspection. I refuse to carry a TASER I teach the damn things & refuse them. I get more from Pepper Spray, baton and showing respect & getting it in return than ECD, threats & treating citizens like subject-pieces of dog crap even if deserved.

    Don’t get me wrong I won’t hesitate too crack them if deserved but not because I’m scared or to prove I have a pair. That’s the problem with minimum training and little continuing education coupled with a scary amount of beginning ininstructions. I went to another. States [email protected] 18, 680 hours. Moved back here got 50 hours legal update and a handshake, I had more training than my Sergeant. Training has increased but still most states laugh at the training hours. If moved to PA I would run for constable or sheriff’s posistion to be responsible to the citizens as ALL law enforcement should be. Not just elected officers.

  19. avatar dwb says:

    What this actually shows depends on perspective. CCW holders are less deadly and get less training than police. The kind of training we give (shooting at paper) is overrated while incentives are underrated (police are shielded, unlike the direct financial and legal risk the rest of us face). Practice is probably more important than training. But for all the gnashing and waiking about constitutional carry (“training!”), novices are in fact not half bad compared to police.

  20. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    “Why Police Firearms Training Sucks…”

    And we get into long-winded studies that, while interesting, do not answer the question, namely “Why?”

    Here’s the answer to “why” and the answer why lots of other government-employee training sucks, regardless of whether it is handling firearms, chainsaws on a wildland fire line, driving a vehicle at high rates of speed, or directing traffic at the scene of a car crash:

    Government employees use training to gain a credential, not to become competent. Government jobs have a requirement of credentials to gain, retain or advance into a particular government job. If the government instead interviewed, selected and retained people with actual, demonstrated competence for the job at the time of hiring, we’d have competent employees in government, and somewhere, there is a government employee union rule chiseled into stone tablets that states “this shall not be allowed to happen, ever, for any reason.”

    With cops, they’re required to take POST training. Firearms training is part of POST. To see what firearms course are required, let’s have a look-see at them. Don’t take my word for it, let’s look at the California course offerings on firearms:

    Look at some of the paucity of hours that are attached to these courses. The one I find to be the most amusing is “Rifle Marksmanship and Sniper,” at 48 hours. We’re talking a six-day (8 hours a day, don’t want to over-work the civil servants, I’m sure) course on rifle marksmanship and “sniping.” This is a laughably short amount of time to anyone who has really worked to become a good rifle marksman.

    But… attending this course gives LEO’s a credential, which means something within their employment system. You could be a much better rifle shot, with a much better understanding of the statute and case law on use of force and liabilities in such situations, but you won’t get even a hearing for taking such a job unless you have all the other required credentials for a cop.

    Cop firearm training might suck rocks clean off the ground – but it is cop firearm training, which we proles cannot obtain. Therefore, the present cop firearm training serves the real purpose of their training – to create a barrier to entry for non-government people.

    1. avatar Jjmmyjonga says:

      Good point – it is ALWAYS about the money in the end. And now, commonly with retirement lasting longer than years worked, level of pensions are VITAL. Do away with unions, and you now have a right to work system (“American”?) where one is paid/retained/let go based upon ability/proficiency in job, and one must take responsibility for ones actions and in-actions at work. Goes for all government employees/teachers in most locations as well. Just an extension of the welfare/entitlement system beneficiaries many LEO spend much of their time pursuing.

    2. avatar ropingdown says:

      DG, your explanation is succinct, fit the reality I’ve seen, and is favored by Occam’s Razor.

  21. avatar mk10108 says:

    The simple answer is COST. 100-150 dollars a month in ammo at a range x number of officers = drain on budget.

    Cities rather invest in ticket writing, cash & property seizures to fill the coffers. God help the blue crew going against a determined, well trained shooter.

  22. avatar Hannibal says:

    Police firearms training is not geared to create expert shooters. It is geared to set a baseline that offers a reasonably amount of liability-protection while still being easy enough for… challenged shooters to pass.

    This has gotten worse as departments will do anything to avoid shitcanning certain recruits because they are preferentially needed\hired.

  23. avatar BubbaGun says:

    What departments need to focus on is providing facilities and resources for cops to shoot on the move in scenario and drill based shooting. Not instruction. I spend 26$ a month to be a member of a gun range that holds IDPA and outlaw matches where we run high speed shooting stages every week. We shoot about 100 rounds each time and this allows us to perform every type of reload, malfunction clearing, movement, prone, cover, low cover and most important missing non-threat targets and getting real hits. Sure it’s not like real combat by any means but it allows a person to run their tool hard and make the use of a weapon system automatic. I know instructors love to hear themselves talk but people pick up concepts easy. That’s not the issue. The issue is plain old trigger time and that’s why almost every cop that comes to our matches loses to our civilian shooters. Even the ones who are instructors and experts. Certainly there are a couple of exceptions but I shoot against people who we’re rangers, special ops, SWAT team leaders, instructors and beat them out of the holster, in accuracy, speed and just about every category. Just something as simple as stepping off the X and shooting on the move. The answer is out there staring cops in the face but they first have to face the fact most permit holders shoot better than they do. That won’t be easy to swallow. In my area we have at least 1200-1300 shooters in sports that far out skill the LEOs of the area. Again there are some exceptions. Some cops do actually train and they make it happen.

  24. avatar Gregory says:

    Here is the root of the problem: A large number of academy recruits have never handled a firearm in their life. The training is insufficient and those who do poorly are pushed through. In Florida, colleges run police academies and it is all about the MONEY. Anyone applying to a police academy should have to prove their proficiency with a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle prior to being accepted. I have worked with officers that should never handle firearms.

  25. avatar Bob108 says:

    With all the training aids and techniques today – SIRT guns, dry fire, visualization, etc. – and cheaper shoot alternatives – .22 conversion kits, .22 caliber replicas of larger guns, etc. – I blame the officers just as much as their departments. In my day job, it is understood that we are responsible for our own career advancement. If we want to remain proficient at our skill, we pay for our own classes, buy our own books, and study on our own time. For my hobby, self-protection, and part time job, I shoot 200-500 rounds a week, and dry-fire/laser train about 2 hours a week. I pay for this training myself. If cost of ammo became too much, I would divert my range time to more dry-fire/laser training. The point is the LEOs need to take responsibility for enhancing this skill. You would think they would be motivated considering it could save their life.

  26. avatar Don Dougherty says:

    I started my career in 1982 and during my training at the, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Academy our Lead Firearms Instructor, Ron Frigulti told us that your time in the classroom and on the range during your basic training will be completely inadequate to prepare you for a confrontation with an armed suspect. Ron made it clear that it would be the individual officers responsibility to hone the skills that could save his own life, just like knowing the law, being able to write a complete and accurate police report and reading all of the subtle nuances that proceed violent behavior. There will never be enough time or financial recourses in the already strained, tax funded law enforcement system to adequately give the individual officer the training and practice necessary to be more proficient, accurate and fast than the average practiced casual shooter, or criminal. I can only hope that any professional police officer will recognize that the only way to attain the ability of being ‘above average’ in any aspect of law enforcement, is to invest yourself in researching factual information, learning proper and safe training techniques and then practicing those skills far more frequently than your agency requires to qualify on the range or deal with any other aspect of your job. That dedication to my own training and education was the only thing that made it possible for me not only to last 31 years on the job but to also be able to walk away from my career without the necessity of regular doctors visits.

  27. avatar Mark Chamberlain says:

    Another aspect not talked about. An upper torso shot may not end the fight in time, especially close quarters say 3 yards or less. There are many cases of assailants continuing to fight long enough to do damage to their opponents even after taking a fatal and even a heart shot. The close quarters fight may require a well placed shot to the head to end the fight in a timely manner. Cops should remember that just because they put rounds in the upper torso and the rounds reach the goodies and do their job does not mean the fight will be instantaneously over.

  28. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    The notion that most LE officers possess advanced or above average shooting skills is a myth and always has been. Since training budgets often mirror officer compensation, agencies with better pay and benefits usually have better firearms training programs because funds are budgeted for that purpose.

    The average law enforcement recruit in the academy receives only the minimum or slightly above the minimum training mandated by the State licensing authority, which varies greatly from state to state. Most initial firearms training of law enforcement recruits is basic with the goal of novice firearms proficiency. Only a few state and local governmental entities actually appropriate the funds necessary to provide in-academy and post-academy advanced firearms training.

    Officers employed by small town PD’s or rural SO’s are usually lucky if their agency provides more than a box of ammo annually for qualification. It would be great if politicians and bureaucrats mandated State licensing authorities to require all state and local agencies to provide the ammo and training necessary for officers to achieve and maintain advanced or above average skills, but that will never happen.

    A state or local agency providing 500 rounds annually for practice and training is a rarity, and law enforcement haters would be the first to bitch and moan if an agency provided the round count and covered the costs necessary for all officers to achieve and maintain advanced or above average firearms skills. Just as civilian shooters with advanced skills, most LE officers who are advanced shooters obtain and maintain those skills through personal initiative using personal funds.

    Since politicians and bureaucrats set law enforcement budgets, the reason that the average law enforcement officer is and will remain a novice shooter is simple, advanced or above average skills are achieved through repetition and rounds down range that are an expense most politicians and bureaucrats believe is better spent on other budget items.

  29. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    The notion that most LE officers possess advanced or above average shooting skills is a myth and always has been. Since training budgets often mirror officer compensation, agencies with better pay and benefits usually have better firearms training programs because funds are budgeted for that purpose.

    The average law enforcement recruit in the academy receives only the minimum or slightly above the minimum training mandated by the State licensing authority, which varies greatly from state to state. Most initial firearms training of law enforcement recruits is basic with the goal of novice firearms proficiency. Only a few state and local governmental entities actually appropriate the funds necessary to provide in-academy and post-academy advanced firearms training.

    Officers employed by small town PD’s or rural SO’s are sometimes lucky if their agency provides more than a box of ammo annually for qualification. It would be great if politicians and bureaucrats mandated State licensing authorities to require all state and local agencies to provide the ammo and training necessary for officers to achieve and maintain advanced or above average skills, but that will never happen.

    A state or local agency providing 500 rounds annually for practice and training is a rarity, and law enforcement haters would be the first to bitch and moan if an agency provided the round count and covered the costs necessary for all officers to achieve and maintain advanced or above average firearms skills. Just as civilian shooters with advanced skills, most LE officers who are advanced shooters obtain and maintain those skills through personal initiative using personal funds.

    Since politicians and bureaucrats set law enforcement budgets, the reason that the average law enforcement officer is and will remain a novice shooter is simple, advanced or above average skills are achieved through repetition and rounds down range which is an expense most politicians and bureaucrats don’t consider a priority.

  30. avatar Tomyironmane says:

    This reminds me of a thing a friend of mine in the Marines used to frequently say. “Proximity negates Skill.” No matter how well you train, if you let someone in too close who is a threat, then you are much more likely to be in a world of hurt. At the close in ranges we’re talking about in part of this test, it’s likely no amount of training will appreciably open a gap between the general marksmanship of a patrol officer and an average person. Trying to open a gap will likely, moreover, start turning patrol officers into paranoid, hair triggered armed individuals in tac gear with badges.

    I think everyone, on all sides of this debate, can see this is precisely the last thing we need.

    Perhaps the best course of action would be realistic training, focusing on shoot/no shoot and use of force scenarios. I encourage training, but make it complicated and realistic. Make it such that the scenario does not always have a bad guy who needs shooting. In fact, make sure there’s plenty of situations where there is, in fact, no notable bad guy. Make it realistic and complex, employ extensive after action review, let other officers watch runs and discuss strategy and posture and the 1001 other things that might make a situation better or worse.

    Perhaps the best piece of gear I have heard of recently that people have been pushing for is the use of body or glasses mounted cameras by law enforcement officers. I feel it is a fairly good idea; it provides a hard record of what the officer is seeing and responding to, and what they do in return, which can protect citizens from unethical police conduct, but also protect officers from unethical citizen conduct, as well as provide a record of what probable cause they are seeing for various actions. If Darren Wilson had such a device on him, it would have put paid to a lot of violence, destruction and utter bullshit, one way or another.

  31. avatar Lt. Donn says:

    Most modern agencies view Firearm Training from a Cost–Benefit viewpoint. [Most] officers will go their entire careers w/o being involved in a deadly force incident…ergo, Administration sees no useful point in advanced, training for an event that may never occur…now, Special Teams training is different…vis a vis the more likely advent of deadly force being used during a deployment. Modern Police Administrators feel expending extra funds for Human Relations & Community based, inter-racial training is more important than advanced firearm training skills. This is why the “best” among us have always sought out extra & specialized training on their own…as sadly, most agencies will not pay for such training. Ironic isn’t it…that an agency is prepared to pay out huge damage awards/judgements rather than spend more $ up-front to possibly prevent adverse litigation…”feet of clay”…and I will pose this entirely rhetorical question ” Why must someone always die or become permanently disabled before LE acts to correct a well-known problem/issue?”

    1. avatar MarkPA says:

      Your insight goes a long way to explain the narrow gap between the average “Only-One” vs. the average civilian CWP-holder. Arguably, there is a gap between these two averages. However, it is equally arguable that there are plenty of CWP-holders who are more skilled and safer with their guns than the blow-average “Only-One”.

      If this could be made clear to people in the May-Issue jurisdictions then it would go a long way to opening them to Shall-Issue. Perhaps, initially, with a high training requirement; but any Shall-Issue is better than Won’t-Issue.

      In the greater picture, even in those States that have adopted Right-to-Carry, we need to emphasize to the uncommitted and gun-control-sympathetic voter that the “Only-One” meme is a myth.

  32. Yes, some of the undesired findings are because how people (law enforcement or the non-LE armed civilian) are being trained. 2 and 3 day courses are the norm– and sure sound like “Block Education”.

    Probably more ideal to have shorter training sessions more frequently…if someone is willing to offer that. Anywhere.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email