Photo courtesy of Scott Smith.
The SIG Sauer Academy is rapidly becoming a must-train location. The Epping, N.H., academy once offered only basic handgun shooting and armorer courses. Now, it offers competition shooting and advanced tactics for police and military units, including active-shooter response and executive protection.
The academy is contracted out to various local, state, and federal agencies and is used as an area to teach new weapons systems.
While you may not find a 1,000-yard outdoor range there, you will find numerous bays that offer you every other shooting opportunity. You'll be able to engage steel targets, and perform close-quarter drills and precision shooting at ranges up to 300 yards. Numerous indoor shooting lanes feature the latest in reactionary steel and moving targets designed by Action Target.
The class I attended was taught by Todd Horn, a retired Portsmouth (N.H.) PD police officer.
Initially, we were introduced to SIG Sauer's training method — S.I.G., or Simple Is Good. The goal is to keep training instruction and objectives simple to make it easier for the instructor to teach and the student to learn. We even covered keeping questions and answers simple, direct. This reduces misunderstanding of what is said and heard.
Misunderstanding comes from too much information. Adults bring preconceived ideas, opinions, and life experience with us. When we are given too much information, we break it down or filter it into what we "heard." We may not hear the essential items, clouding learning and making the teaching/learning curve more challenging. Part of the SIG concept for instructor-level courses is to teach adult learning and overcome the filtering process. By keeping training evolution short, interesting, and to the point, the ability to filter and interject formed opinions is reduced.
SIG promotes the "buy-in" or "Why should I believe what you teach me?" Buy-in starts with your credentials, showing your ability to do what you are teaching, and showing relevant anecdotal pieces to reinforce your point. The "buy-in" also helps prove that you can shoot in and around vehicles, operate a weapon with one hand, and why you need to do these things.
By keeping students engaged in the class, filtering is reduced. Asking questions is stressed — not simple yes or no questions, but ones that require a concise answer that reinforces the learning curve. Having students act as one another's coach or trainer increases the ability to grasp a concept. This shows them firsthand how a technique works or doesn't and how to correct it.
The course also covers basic marksmanship skills such as stance, grip, sight alignment/picture, trigger control, follow through, and breathing. These are the key to being able to shoot and must be reinforced. Safety is continuously stressed throughout the course. This means teaching muzzle control and trigger-finger discipline; never sweep the muzzle across something you don't intend to shoot. While it might sound overly simple, this includes your own body parts (sweeping a leg or hand) and others around you.
Next, it was off to the range. Time to shoot? Not so fast. When teaching novices or "experts," first reinforce the basics using the wall (dry-fire) drill to teach focus on the front sight, trigger control, and reset. Going live fire, we did the "hole" drill, where you put one bullet into the hole of another at three yards, moving back as you improve.
We soon learned that high-speed training requires mastering these basics and doing them faster and at greater distances. You can't shoot fast and accurately without mastering the basics.
The next evolution was basic survival skills such as shooting with movement, pivots, shooting on the move, shooting moving targets, and lateral moving. Before doing each of the drills during live fire, we did them dry to reinforce safety.
Performing low-light shooting techniques is also stressed. This means you must be able to execute the Roger's/Surefire Method, Harries, and the FBI, and you must be able to employ weapon-mounted lights. On the street, officers may need to use one or all of these methods. Instructors must be able to correctly demonstrate them, discuss the weaknesses of each, and explain why trainees need to try them all.
An armed professional who becomes involved in a shooting may lose use of his or her dominant hand. How do you carry on the fight? We covered drawing, reloading, firing, holstering, and how to stay in the fight.
We discussed what real cover is; what really stops bullets versus concealment. Believe it or not, very few things we duck behind are true cover. Modern handgun bullets will penetrate concealment such as a refrigerator, car door, most windows, and furniture. Real cover is a brick wall, car engine, a big oak tree, and other items that are relatively impenetrable.
Too often, agencies teach their officers to shoot a qualifying score so the officers are qualified, rather than teaching to survive a shooting incident. This is where FTOs/FTUs have to work to include movement, cover, and reload in qualifications. By doing dynamic training — be it live fire or dry fire — an officer's skills are enhanced, increasing the odds of surviving a shootout.
Sadly, as I work on this article, we see evidence of the need to survive, not qualify. So far in 2011, there have been 32 officers killed in the line of duty, over half in shootouts. Do we need more "real world" or qualification training? Work to train yourself and your officers to survive on and off duty.
Also, the Semi-automatic Pistol Instructor course gave me new insight into teaching others. It was without a doubt one of the best firearms courses I have taken. It will make instructors more aware, skilled, and knowledgeable.