How Much Training is Enough?


I’m a bit biased on this subject as I’m a firearms instructor, but there is no such thing as too much training. When I started in law enforcement we qualified once a year and many departments still do. Fortunately the passing score went up from 70% to 80%, but is that enough? I don’t think so.

The problem is departmental budget constraints and officers’ personal financial issues. Let’s face it; cities, towns, and counties want us to do the maximum amount of work for the least amount of money! That leads to working part-time jobs and off duty department sanctioned side gigs. Trust me I know, because during my tenure in blue, I wore the uniform of two departments and had a side business. Did I get rich? Not by a long shot, but I did survive and had a healthy income.

The problem with shift work and working multiple jobs is that it leaves us little to no time for training on our own, and even less money to spend on ammunition to train with. Even if you are one of the lucky few that makes a great salary are you training properly or just reinforcing bad habits and training scars? I’ll answer that question for you because most of you are doing it wrong.

Most cops go to the range and imitate their qualification routine in a static environment. Very few seek out top-tier training from a true professional. Paper targets at the local air-conditioned indoor range don’t shoot back nor does this present a realistic view of what you will inevitably encounter.

My personal turning point was after two years on the job. One night shift, I was surrounded by 25 to 30 people at a domestic disturbance. I quickly realized I was alone, had a severe lack of ammunition, and would need to engage multiple targets if things went south.

A few well-chosen words and my demeanor (read suicidal attitude) defused things to a manageable point until back up finally arrived from a neighboring town. Yes, I was working my $15 an hour second job in Mayberry RFD when this happened. The problem is that no matter where you work, back up is too far away when you really need them.

After that night, I convinced a small group from several departments to have a weekly shoot and grill out. It was comprised of shooters of all levels and we learned a lot from each other. As fun as this was, it wasn’t realistic training. I would call it imaginative training because we tried to make what we considered to be realistic.

A good example was that we would run the POPAT (POLICE OFFICER PHYSICAL AGILITY TEST) then shoot multiple targets or clear the barn and even manipulate the weapon one handed. It was actually pretty high speed, low drag for a bunch of country boys.

It wasn’t until I got REAL training from a REAL professional that I realized that we were doing a lot of good things but missing most of the fundamentals. The state-sanctioned officer training for active shooter response, and rapid deployment is a great starting place. The problem is that these instructors are locked into a curriculum set to be taught within a certain number of hours. There is no possible way that even a weeklong class can take the place of regular training.

Unless you happen to be SWAT or are on a special response team of some description, more than likely you haven’t been trained well. What has happened is that you were pointed in the right direction and left to your own devices to fend for yourself. It’s time to literally take responsibility for your own life and set aside time for training and the money for ammunition.

No matter where you live there is a top-notch school within driving distance. I know this because I talk to them daily in the course of my personal business. These instructors may not be on television or have their own firearms accessory lines, but their resume reads almost identically to the gun gods we all know.

Normally you can look to spend about half of what the huge name instructors are asking and most give great group discounts for current officers. Honestly, you’d be surprised at how quickly your skill level increases by attending a class quarterly and then practicing those techniques between classes.

Your wife, parents or family would agree that it’s money well spent because it can save your life. Don’t wait until there are bullets flying in your direction to consider more training. By then it’s too late and your lack of training could cost you your life.

David served his community for ten years as a police officer before moving into the private sector taking on government and corporate contracts. He is currently a firearms instructor, and recently started a website dedicated to connecting students to experienced firearms instructors.

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