12 range tips to improve survival during deadly encounters

Since very few officer-involved-shootings (OIS) occur with peace officers squared off, standing in the upright position from the 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25-yard line, perhaps it’s time to implement tactical shooting in your qualification course, if you’ve not yet done so.

These suggestions will challenge your officers and improve their ability to survive a deadly encounter.

12 range tips
  1. Require shooting from the left and right barricade positions. When shooting from the weak side, the shooter will quickly learn whether they prefer to shoot with their weak-hand, or modify their stance and shoot with the strong-hand from the weak side.
  2. Modify shooting positions from standing, kneeling, and prone. Yes, I’ve heard complaints from officers being forced to shoot from the prone position while wearing their cleanly pressed duty uniform. This issue has merit, but there are resolutions to the problem.
  3. Implement a course of fire with an elevated heart rate. (Running, pushups etc. prior to shooting.) All of a sudden the steady aim and smooth trigger pull is not so easy.
  4. Deploy a course of fire from the sitting position, similar to eating in a restaurant or stationary in the police unit. Drawing from the holster while seated is more challenging than you’d think.
  5. Practice firing while on the move. This is one of the most difficult skills to master, yet vitally important.
  6. Implement shoot, don’t shoot, scenarios. The brain needs to coordinate with the trigger finger.
  7. Weak-handed shooting should be part of the course. It is not unusual for officers to receive catastrophic injuries prior to firing in defense of their life.
  8. Low-light firing will challenge your officers to figure out lighting arrangements.
  9. Use live fire as frequently as your budget will allow. When cutting expenses, it seems like reducing qualification time at the range, and/or moving to dry fire training is the answer. Yet one lawsuit from negligent training will undo all the money saved due to frugality.
  10. Alternate the course of fire. Never repeat the same qualification course back to back, or within a short period of time.
  11. Make the officers fire backup weapons (if they carry one) during qualification with their primary duty weapon. This will help determine where it is carried.
  12. Intersperse clearing drills during qualification. i.e. Randomly load a few dummy rounds in magazines before shooting. Then see how well officers can implement the basic “tap, rack, and bang” method. This adds a level of stress during timed drills making concentration paramount.
Change leads to resistance

If these 12 range tips are new to your organization, expect resistance. But hopefully this information is old hat to your agency.

Finally, I once had a partner complain about shooting from the prone position until he was involved in a deadly shooting from the ground. Suddenly he sang the praises of this mandate. Another officer had the same comment regarding the clearing drill. He was in vocal opposition until his gun jammed during his OIS, and the muscle memory kicked it to resolve the problem and save his life.

What suggestions do you have?

As always, be safe out there!

– Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today