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Columns : In My Sights

Practice the Way You Want to Play

Training in comfort when you work in the cold and hot is as foolish as playing football without protective headgear.

February 01, 2007  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

The other day I was on a wonderful modern indoor shooting range at a local PD. It is so convenient and comfortable, and it's equipped with the latest lighting options to recreate the various light conditions an officer may face on the street. As I was talking to the rangemaster, though, all I was thinking about was all the outdoor ranges I had qualified on, from the heat of Tucson to the frozen ground and howling winds of 21 degrees at Chinle on the Navajo Reservation.

That last one was quite an eye opener. We were in our heavy long johns, winter jumpsuits, and heavy coats; it was so hard to qualify. The hardest part was the fact that back then we carried our spare ammo in belt loops.

The fake leather loops shrank so badly from the cold we could not get the damn bullets out without the greatest effort. Even our holsters shrank in the cold and our handguns couldn't be drawn unless we had belt keepers on, and even then our ability to clear leather quickly was diminished. As soon as we were done, I put a snubby in my right coat pocket and a speed loader in the left and that's how I patrolled in the cold from then on. The thing was, we would not have known of our equipment's limitations had we been shooting on an indoor range.

I thought about what I learned shooting in the cold way back when, as I watched the officers of the local PD leave their heated range where they trained in shirt sleeves. It was 21 degrees outside and getting colder. They put on their coats and hit the streets. Which made me wonder if any of them had actually trained in those coats.

One of the principles we "win" by is "practice the way you want to play." But one of the things we sometimes forget with our modern conveniences and comforts is that we want that practice to be as close to "game conditions" as possible.

I played center in football all through school, and the one thing I was really, really good at was long-snapping the ball back to the punter and holder. This is taken for granted by most fans, but it's not easy. The only way that you can get really good at it is through numerous repetitions. So I used to spend a lot of time in practice working on my long snap.

Now, the long snap is hard in lineman's pads and at first I took my helmet off so I could look back between my legs better and snap my arms harder. The coach would race over every time he saw me do that and snarl "Smith, put that damn helmet on unless you plan to go into the game without it!"

The point is: When we do get the time to practice at the range and train for the street, we need to make sure we do them in "game conditions."

I asked the rangemaster of that local PD how they did their qualifying in the winter, and he said they not only made the officers wear their parkas but also their gloves when qualification time came along. I looked at the huge fellow, thought of my coach, and imagined him shouting "Smith, put on those damn gloves unless you plan on hitting the street without them!" I like that guy.

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' "Street Survival" seminar.

Tags: Firearms Training


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