Although most agencies supply their officers with basic firearms training, there are reasons that law enforcement officers are some of the most active attendees of specialized gun training academies. Law enforcement training budgets rise and fall with the political climate. A controversial officer-involved shooting, a police officer killed in the line of duty, or a simple budget shortfall can make the administrators and the politicians increase, alter, or cut back on your range time and your survival training.
Training cutbacks often come at the least opportune times. Consider that in the wake of the recession, the 9-11 tragedies, and the subsequent drop in business travel and tourism, many city budgets are constricting. The resultant trickle down effect from these events has stung police budgets significantly, and as is their usual MO, administrators set their sights on training funds first. This comes at a time when the public demands the most professional police response and when officers feel the most threatened by a rogue's gallery of terrorists (both domestic and foreign), narcotics traffickers, and active shooters in schools and businesses.
Even in the best of economic times, a strong, tactically based firearms program is difficult for the majority of police departments to sustain. Some departments have a vigorous firearms training program. But many do not.
Such disparity in firearms training makes it hard for many of us in law enforcement to maintain our professional edge. We refer to ourselves as professionals and rightfully so. But it is our responsibility as professionals to maintain the skills necessary to do our jobs; to protect and serve the people we raised our right hands and swore that we would, and to return to our homes and families after each shift in relatively the same condition as when we left them.
If you want to hone your survival skills, there are a lot of great firearms training opportunities available. But be warned these programs will cost you a buck or two. Quality firearms training doesn't come cheap; so break out that crow bar, Halligan tool, or in some cases the Jaws-of-Life and pry open your wallet.
Some of the best training programs specialize in a crossover mix of law enforcement, military, government paramilitary professional, and civilian training. But it's hard to generalize about these programs because there are hundreds of them out there. It seems like half the retired range masters in the United States have opened up their own schools and developed Websites promoting their shooting philosophies.
For the purposes of this article, we're going to concentrate on the "biggies." The following is a roundup of firearms training centers that have been in the business for a while and have reputation for excellence within the "training community" throughout the United States and the world. Note: Each of these providers not only has its own facilities, but will also take its programs on the road and conduct training sessions with its instructors at your facility.
Blackwater Training Center
Gary Jackson, Chief Operating Officer of Blackwater Training Center, says its core philosophy is to provide a variety of modern, safe ranges; supply instruction that is realistic and practical; and staff its instructor core with professional and knowledgeable teachers.
Tactical training at Blackwater includes force-on-force exercises.
Blackwater's ranges are spectacular, including a 1,200-yard known distance rifle range with 20 firing line positions. The range is set up with firing lines every 100 yards and a military-style cantilever Butts Target System. Additionally, Blackwater provides students with seven interactive ranges, including a Hogan's Alley; a Simunition City with 14,746 square feet of buildings; and R.U. Ready High School, a mockup for simulation and force-on-force training.
Jim Sierawski, Blackwater's director of training, brings 20 years of Navy experience as a SEAL and four years of patrol experience with the Virginia Beach, (VA.) Police Department to the job. Drawing on his own training, Sierawski has designed courses to meet the particular needs of
police officers that feature special tactics and strategies to resolve incidents.
In addition to its regular set courses, Blackwater is famous for its custom courses. You tell the staff what you want and the days you want to do it, and they will put together a training course designed specifically for you and your group.
Blackwater's R U Ready High School
Front Sight Firearms Training Institute
Las Vegas, Nev.
The 550-acre Front Sight complex lies just outside Las Vegas and offers some of the finest training facilities and target systems available. The site includes 6,000 square feet of classrooms, a pro shop, 12 shooting ranges (from 25 to 150 yards), a 400-yard rifle range, nine 360-degree live-fire simulators, an underground training simulator with over 400 yards of tunnels, and a rapelling facility.
The owner and founder of Front Sight, Ignatius Piazza, was not a competitive shooter, law enforcement officer, military man, or range master. Prior to 1988, he was just your average civilian gun enthusiast. Then something pushed him to the limit.
One evening, a group of thugs drove through Piazza's neighborhood and blasted away at everything they could in what appeared to be an attempt to destroy a quiet family neighborhood full of the fruits of a decent work ethic. He was struck, not with a bullet, but with the realization that although he owned firearms and shot them regularly at the range, he was never taught the skills required to use a gun when it is needed most; to defend his life and the life of his family. This epiphany started Piazza on a quest for training.
Shotgun training is one of the many course offerings at Las Vegas-based Front Sight Firearms Training Institute.
Piazza studied under the "Father of Modern Pistolcraft," Col. Jeff Cooper. And after many courses and thousands of hours of practice over a three year period, he held Cooper's not easily acquired signature on expert certificates in special pistol, shotgun, carbine, and rifle courses. Col. Cooper's teachings inspired Piazza to reach out to others and the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute was born.
Located on 1,000 acres of Arizona desert some 25 miles north of Prescott, Gunsite Academy has been dedicated to providing the highest quality adult education in the practical use of small arms and tactical training for the civilian, law enforcement, and military special operations communities for more than 24 years.
Gunsite was founded by the Guru of "The Modern Technique of the Pistol," Colonel John Dean "Jeff" Cooper, and it adheres strictly to his philosophy of the "Combat Triad," defined as "marksmanship," "gun-handling," and "mindset."
Marksmanship in the Gunsite Combat Triad means simply hitting what you aim at. Of the three points of the triangle, it's the simplest to teach and achieve.