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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Firearms 101

Not everyone carries the same gun; familiarity with yours isn't enough.

October 07, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I must admit that I was lucky as a lad to have the father that I did. He was a U.S. Navy chief gunner's mate in WWII. He taught me about firearms, hunting, safety, and most importantly how to shoot straight in life. Being around firearms is secondary to me, but not all are that fortunate.

Find a Gunsmith, the Armorer, or the Rangemaster

More and more, I find that young officers coming into the vocation have little or no knowledge about firearms. Do not worry; from my perspective as an old firearms instructor, such new officers often become some of the better shooters because they don't bring bad habits to the classroom and range. The issue will be broader firearms familiarity. Herein lies the problem.

Officers should fully master their issued service weapon as well as their secondary weapon. If you don't have a secondary weapon yet, get one. And become familiar with as many other models and types of firearms as possible.

Say you're on duty and you contact some thugs who have guns. Now, they are cuffed and stuffed but you have to clear or make their guns safe for transport and log into evidence. If this is the first time you have ever seen this design of weapon, then what are you to do?

Most in such a situation will secure or isolate the firearm until a more experienced officer handles it. But what if you are the only officer on the call, leaving you to handle this strange or exotic weapon? It may or may not be tactically sound for you to attempt this; therefore you'll be in a safety void.

I strongly suggest you go see your range staff at the academy for some one-on-one introduction into the world of firearms. I was lucky that my academy's curriculum included a block of training on types and designs of firearms. This included how to safely clear them. The instructors had a variety of long guns and handguns, civilian and military. No matter how much you knew about firearms, you had to take the class and pass it.

If you are an academy staff member, FTO, or armorer and this training is not offered in your agency's academy or FTO program, start it now! I have been told of officers attempting to clear weapons on scenes who had accidental discharges. This is senseless. Everyone has heard the story of some officer unknowingly parading a loaded gun into the property room. To avoid such an error, we must ensure several things.

Safety cannot be compromised. The late Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper once said, "Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands." Well said, Colonel. This will require learning and, more so, it is good to refresh even the seasoned officers on this, for with too much seasoning one can become complacent.

Ask NOW for Help

If you are a recruit or still riding with the FTO and you have any worries about your skills in this area, ask or seek help now. The basics may be blushed over in program, but the safety you learn today may save others, if not yourself, later on. So do not skimp. Some may say that they can observe a video or read a book; they're wrong. This requires hands on training.

Walking down the aisles of a gun shop and viewing an auto loader, double barrel, and so forth will not cut it. Get your hands on them and fully understand what you are performing here. Just a casual gaze is not going to make that weapon function for you.

Do not forget the important safe practices of using a backdrop or using the clearing barrel. Nothing here can be a shortcut, or it will be the exit ramp to disaster.

Train Smart, Train with Meaning

Tags: Firearms Training, Training Academies, FTOs


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

policediver16773 @ 10/9/2009 9:37 PM

Excellent article and most informative. Being an FTO I'm definetly going to bring up these points with my next "newbie", I especially enjoy articles such as this one, as they tend to make me sit back and think.

THANK YOU for helping to keep the LEO community safer!!!

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