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Range Days in Paradise

Two weeks of NRA firearms instructor training with the Honolulu PD was more than a tropical vacation.

January 01, 2004  |  by Joe Kerper


NRA instructors worked very closely with attendees and questioned them throughout the training to make sure they would be able to answer their own students’ questions when instructing them on the range.

Patrol Rifle Instruction

One of the NRA's more advanced courses is the patrol rifle program, which students say starts off in high gear and never really downshifts. "This is my favorite school," says Campbell, sporting a grin that already tells his students what he thinks of teaching them ways to improve their shooting and handling of a patrol rifle. Students worked through the basics of field stripping their rifles, loading and unloading with dominant and non-dominant hands, and safely handling their rifles.

"I like to keep this class really fast paced," says Campbell. "We're always concerned about safety, of course, but I want everyone out here giving me 100 percent, all the time. From when the range goes hot until each drill is over, I need to have each officer thinking only of the game at hand."

Campbell takes great amusement from watching the students perform drills that require them to fire their rifles at targets ranging from 3 yards to 50 yards. "I can't say that they'll ever be in a situation where they will have to fire a rifle at three yards," explains Campbell, "but this way, it's not something that is completely foreign to them, and they'll have at least a basic point of reference to fall back on."

The patrol rifle training also requires students to transition between rifle and handgun, a skill that, depending on whether or not you have your rifle slung and your firing position, requires a surprising amount of practice to fully master. "This is a great skill to practice; it's not something that we do all of the time, but I can see where this would be really useful," says student David "Bo" Boesing.

Another drill that Boesing found particularly useful was the shooting from cover exercises. "The instructors put a piece of cover in front of everyone on the firing line, and didn't tell us what to do with it," explains Boesing. "Then our two instructors just stood back and watched to see which students would take the initiative and use the cover to their advantage while firing. It teaches you that you have to think about your surroundings all of the time. Even when you're out on the range, you should look around and figure out where the best cover is."

"We're not here to make it easy on these folks," says Schlernitzauer. "We're not doing our job if we let them get away with not paying attention to each little detail that they need to learn and master."

Campbell concurs, "If we can do something, safely, to add stress to the class, to make them work that much harder, to stay focused on the task at hand, then you better believe we're going to try it. Whether it's the blast of a horn, me shouting something other than the command to fire, or whatnot, it's our job to make these guys think before they act, and make them understand why that process is so important," he says.

One of the most interesting aspects of the patrol rifle class is the low-light firing program. Both instructors agree that students new to this type of training always share the same concern: accuracy.

"But what you find is actually quite the opposite," says Campbell. "In dim light shooting, most of the time, you'll actually see the students' groups getting tighter." Campbell attributes this phenomenon to the fact that low-light conditions force the shooter to concentrate on his or her sights. "In the low-light conditions that we have on this range, all you can see is your front sight and your target. There's really nothing else to focus on and possibly distract you."

Another advanced technique taught during the tail end of the NRA patrol rifle instructor school was the concept of the safety circle. This technique allows an officer armed with a patrol rifle to safely carry it even in a relatively crowded environment by positively ensuring that the muzzle is close to the chest and perpendicular to the ground. While that may sound like a common sense kind of movement, it requires a slightly unusual grasp of the rifle, and new muscle memory.

Some extremely creative student-designed training drills rounded out the week. From incorporating push-ups as a stressor, to making students run up a hill and shoot balloons at up to 50 yards away, to reassembling an already field-stripped patrol rifle, and everything in between, each team managed to devise something that called upon skills learned during the past week.

NRA Training

NRA law enforcement instructor training classes are scheduled across the country, and all-new lesson plans, manuals on CD, and CD training aids are available for sale to law enforcement officers and agencies to help ensure that it's easy to stay current and pass on knowledge to fellow officers back home.

"We provide our students with the manuals, handouts, and targets that they need to complete our courses," says Glen Hoyer, manager of NRA's law enforcement training department. "For $450, or about half the cost of most law enforcement instructor schools in the country, you'll get first-rate instruction, all the information needed to plan your own class, and plenty of new training methods and ideas to stew over."

Closed schools, according to Hoyer, are an even better deal, and may save your department $1,000 or more by training your department or a group that you select all at once. "Closed schools are by far the most economical way to go-if you've got 20 interested students, this is what you want to plan for," he says.

For more information on NRA's law enforcement training options, call (703) 267-1640, e-mail at lead@nrahq.org.

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Tags: Firearms Training, NRA, Patrol Rifles, Honolulu PD, Low-Light Training

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