Firearms qualification standards

Ubu52 (in the comments here) found a description of the course of fire for qualification standards at several different gun schools and law enforcement agencies (see also parts 2, 3 and 4).

Frequently the anti-gun people claim the police are “highly trained”. At my next opportunity I’m going to put the Lewiston Pistol Club through as much as the LAPD qualification (Ubu52 is particularly interested in these results) as is practical. It’s not entirely clear what target is being used so some additional effort will have to be given making sure we come close on that.

From looking at the course of fire my guess is that nearly everyone who attends the UPSPA matches can pass the Combat Qualification course of fire with flying colors. The bonus course will be tougher with only a few achieving “Distinguished Expert” level but many will achieve “Marksman” level.

If the results are that even C Class USPSA shooters can pass the LAPD Qualification course (which I believe they can) will that cause the anti-gun people to drop that line of argument against us? I doubt it.

But it will give us another opportunity to demonstrate the facts are not relevant to them.

19 thoughts on “Firearms qualification standards

  1. I applaud the effort, but I’m curious about the number of misses or strays by CCW holders that injure bystanders being a major issue? I thought some one posted that the police are substantially more likely to shoot innocent bystanders during an incident. Some factors might be that we are drilled that every bullet has a lawyer attached and police are involved in lots of incidents.

  2. The general argument from hoplophobes justifying the exlusivity of firearms to the police isn’t simply that the police are better trained marksmen than the general public, but that the police receive extensive training in when to use force and how much to use. As a former military policeman who served in the Guard with a lot of civilian LEO’s, I gotta say, this is true. Cops get a LOT of “use of force” training.

    Mind you, I don’t think the hoplophobes arguments make any more sense than a mime tripping on LSD when examined in the light of the 2nd Amendment and our natural rights, but we should accurately characterize our opponents’ arguments.

    … just whiling away my time saving for my next (and first) firearms purchase….

  3. I think this will be fun to see (if you tape it). There are LAPD shooting range videos on youtube that might show you the targets.

  4. As a short practice for IDPA, I put myself through the Federal Air Marshal Qualifier about every other month or so. I’m a C Class USPSA shooter, and I can *almost* clear it with a dead-stock CZ P07 in a Supertuck.

    Re: Use of force, what’s missing from CCW and USPSA and IDPA is any kind of escalation training: How do you handle harsh words or a fist? What do you do if a fist turns out to have a knife? That’s the hole in the civilian training donut.

  5. Prevalent target on most police ranges is the B-27 silhouette. Ill also bet that a call or email to the LAPD firearms training unit would provide the exact target they order if you want to duplicate exactly their course of fire.

  6. BikerDad and ExurbanKevin hit an important nail on the head. As any D&D player knows, there’s a difference between intelligence and wisdom. USPSA’s emphasis on speed and its square range setting can produce formidable DVC. IDPA encourages better use of cover. What’s lacking from the simulation is exercise of judgement. Video simulators are expensive. Force-on-force and role-playing do not make for fast stage clearance times. They required experience to execute and referee that most clubs lack.

    Marksmanship and gun-handling are great foundational skills. FAS’s Advanced Tactical Handgun and Insight’s Advanced Confrontation Simulations are opportunities to build on that foundation. Taking FAS’s old FAS-3 class was a real eye-opener on the limitations of IPSC-as-preparation-for-hostilities.

  7. When I was running USPSA matches at the SWPL many many years ago, we had a lot of LAPD, LA Sheriff’s officers as members. Even an FBI SWAT team member or two. The average patrol officer showing up for the first or second time would be beat by more than 2/3rds of the competitors. Once an FBI SWAT team members showed up for his first match while I was range officer and promptly DQ’d himself for safety violations. Real multiple ones, not technical offenses.

    There are some LEO among the top shooters in USPSA and IDPA. But the average officer, meeting training standards of any department, is not competitive at all, and would take a lot of practice before reaching the middle tiers of competition.

  8. I have yet to run across a standard LE qual course that couldn’t be passed by anybody who could stand flat-footed, aim at the ground, and hit it.

    In twenty years of being in the firearms industry, I have had the opportunity to see LOTS of police officers shoot. Those that are good are generally good because they are also firearms enthusiasts and sport shooters in their spare time. Most cops aren’t.

    In other words they are good shots in spite of being trained and certified by their department, not because of it.

  9. +1 Tam, My neighbor just got his shield, and he’s a gunnie. He challenged a buddy from the academy to see who got a better qualifying score, so he was hitting the range twice a week, and his Dad was bitching to me about him cleaning out the ammo locker!

    I talked to him the day before the qualifier and he expressed he was nervous. I told him he could run the test drunk and pass.

    IIRC passing was 70, and he scored a 98. He told me the setups and they were all pretty easy.

  10. I remember Mas Ayoob writing in the ’90s about how he liked to go to various Shooting Schools and P.D.s and just do the Quals. His premise was that the more Documentation you had on just how good you could shoot, especially from the various Law Enforcement Agencies, the better defense you had if you ever had to go to court over a shooting.

    Of course, this means nothing to those Mentally Ill Anti-Gunners and their Phobic reactions to the mere presence of Firearms, nor to those who wish to destroy the RKBA for Political Power, but it does help in the Judicial System.

  11. Joe, I have a high school friend who has been a street cop in Seattle for more then a few years. When he moved up here we went to the range a few times, I was surprised in a not so happifying way by what I saw at SPAA. A couple times for Birthdays he’s given me large baggies of issued practice ammo, I try to have him shoot that with me and I encourage him to plan range trips instead of giving away ammo.
    You know the King County range that I teach at. Having a board vote there I’m part of the group that Okays (and we ALWAYS Okay) range requests from police departments whose names I think many of your readers would know. We -give- them free and exclusive use of our range (not an easy prospect in a county with so many shooters and so few ranges). They have their own range masters, amorers and really cool go fast guns. Back years ago I went down a few times to observe. But… I decided that while I wanted to support their efforts to train I didn’t have to put my body down there in order to.
    You and I talked after the grassroots meeting at PLU about how long it’s been since I routinely shot USPSA but I’m unhappily confident I could out do 90% of my uniformed friends on an average day (as a defender). It’s like the military; we buy them the cool guns, we -make- them wear them and hang out with people most of us don’t want around, but nobody buys them the range time or the practice ammo that they really need. That WE really need for them to have. It’s a shame in the most literal sense IMHO.

  12. “Those that are good are generally good because they are also firearms enthusiasts and sport shooters in their spare time. Most cops aren’t.”

    Tam, many years ago, I know from the “trusted source” I typed about one message up, that firearms enthusiasts were -tested- -out- of the urban police departments in my state. Being “interested in firearms” was a question on the psych board, and folks answering yes ended up working for smaller more rural departments. (Less money, less support, less backup…)

  13. The only law enforcement officers in the United States, other than special unit members (like SWAT etc… ) that I know of, that get really excellent firearms training, are U.S. Marshals, and Secret Service.

    The Marshals service firearms training at Glynco (officially part of FLETC, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) is well known for their excellent quality of instructors, and realistic training.

    Similarly, the shooting instruction at the USSS J.J. Rowley Training Center at Beltsville Maryland (commonly known simply as Beltsville), is excellent.

    The initial shooting instruction for the FBI is also good (particularly their shoothouse regime, which is among the best in the world), but most FBI agents do not generally maintain a high degree of firearms skill throughout their careers.

    I’ve seen the firearms training and qualification for a number of law enforcement agencies (I have been a law enforcement trainer myself, in Massachusetts, and Arizona), and they are almost universally, at best, unimpressive; and at worst are I believe open invitations to both liability, and to officer injury.

  14. I believe that if you look at actual defensive shooting statistics you will find the answers. The rate, the per-shooting incidence, of bad shootings of all kinds (bad judgment, missed shots, bystander shootings, et al) was higher for regular police than for CCW holders back in the ’90s, and I bet the numbers haven’t changed much. That would take into account the mechanical shooting skills, the judgment and personality issues all at once.

    I don’t find it hard to believe when you consider the level of scrutiny that the average gun owner has been under. We know that the simple act of purchasing a gun is enough for some people to want us arrested, to say nothing of actually stepping outside of our homes with guns.

    Cops are generally going to be more casual about their own carrying of guns. The public doesn’t generally start in with the Grand Freak-out Festival (the GFF) when they see a cop with a gun, as sometimes happens when a regular citizen is seen carrying. So who’s naturally going to be more guarded in their actions?

    I think that also explains the stark reduction in total gun accidents while gun ownership has been on the rise. It also explains the “Range Nazi” – the guy who doesn’t want the range shutdown, so he brow beats all the shooters.

    That would all fall into my “yes” answer to your Just One Question too– it’s all part of the equation.

    It’s a decent theory anyway.

  15. @BikerDad, When I took my defensive pistol classes from Insights we were told that while they taught us the legal aspects including force continuum, use of deadly force, etc. what they had found was that students essentially ignored the law when in a confrontation. Even if the law said they were legal to shoot someone they did not unless their life or an innocent family member was in immediate danger (i.e. broke down a door to enter the home but had not yet come up the stairs). Even if the law said they were not legally allowed to shoot (i.e. duty to retreat) they still would shoot if their life or an innocent family member was immediate danger. Hence, I am inclined to believe that use of force training probably isn’t all that critical. This is not to say I think it should be discouraged. Just that statistically the effects may be in the noise.

    I have gone through the shoot/no-shoot simulators and think they are a great training aid. It pleases me that most law enforcement are required to go through them frequently.

    What have not seen in qualification requirements (I haven’t looked closely enough at the document referenced to see if there are some in the larger sample I now have access to) was targets representing innocent people. But in USPSA and IDPA courses of fire we have them all the time and are heavily penalized for even a tiny “scratch”.

    My experience with the shooting abilities of police officers is congruent with that expressed above. But plural of anecdote is not data. If we can document the qualification scores of “a bunch of beer guzzling, uneducated hillbillies playing with deadly weapons” it will be far more useful than what we have now.

  16. Joe, that sounds about like what I’d expect of people who carry specifically to defend themselves and family/friend if everything goes to hell. “Yes, I could have shot him, but he didn’t come in the door/up the stairs/around the car.” “I know the rules say I shouldn’t have fired but I/daughter/son/whoever was going to get hurt if I ran, so…”

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