Training with firearms is a necessity for every law enforcement agency. Unfortunately, many agencies do a poor or inefficient job of tracking and documenting this training.
I find this odd, especially in the light of the documentation that is required when an officer uses deadly force. These days, when every officer can be sued just for doing his or her job, I believe it is critical to document the firearms training conducted by your agency.
You train. And you train a lot. But if you can't detail the relevant results of firearms training and qualifying shoots other than just scoring which officers passed or failed, then you're fueling the fires of allegations and litigation.
So with this need in mind, I started looking for software that could track all of the components that affect firearms qualification shoots and practices. What I found was CornerStone Applications' RangeMaster Pro.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, out-of-the-box solution for documenting firearms training, RangeMaster Pro may be on target. Born out of necessity, RangeMaster Pro was created by CornerStone's programmers working with the guidance of law enforcement professionals.
Perhaps it was the influence of these real cops that inspired the programmers to make RangeMaster Pro both easy to use and so graphically simple that it can run on the older computers found in many police offices.
Built on Microsoft's Access 97 engine, RangeMaster Pro can run on Windows 95, even on PCs with the decade-old Intel 486 processor. RangeMaster Pro's installation requires only 22MB of hard drive space, and it will operate on 16MB of RAM. You'll also need a CD-ROM drive and video card capable of resolutions no less than 800x600.
But don't let the simplicity of RangeMaster Pro fool you. It's actually a very flexible and powerful tool.
The software can be licensed for network use in a client-server environment, allowing multiple users to work simultaneously on data without any conflicts. For smaller agencies, just set it up on a PC at your range and use it as a standalone application.
Installing RangeMaster Pro on a 486 running Windows 95 is probably easy. Unfortunately, I tried to install it on a state-of-the-art PC running Windows XP and ran into problems, not with RangeMaster Pro, but with Windows XP's Windows registry. The problem was easily resolved by placing a call to CornerStone's helpdesk. Later, when I tried a second installation on a much older Windows 98 PC, there were no issues.[PAGEBREAK]
Here's how RangeMaster Pro works:
After following the software's quick start instructions, enter the names of your instructors and your armorers.
Now, you can set security access for the database, giving rights to certain users to update and administer the application while others may only view data when it's necessary to do their work. This is an excellent feature in RangeMaster Pro. Accounts can be created and deleted as necessary by those who hold administrative rights.
Next, populate the database by entering identifying personnel information and firearm information including make, model, caliber, and type. If you choose, RangeMaster can also track the holster used by each officer. This could be an excellent source of data for studies on weapon retention.
The software is also capable of tracking other equipment issued with supplemental fields on the corresponding screens. You can easily track anything issued to your department's officers, including ammunition, cleaning kits, targets, carbines, or anything else.
Once you have the basic information in your database, you can use RangeMaster Pro to create a "course of fire." Each course of fire can be given a unique course ID and a complete description, including total rounds to be fired, maximum possible score, passing score, distance(s) for the shoot, and the location of the training.
After the training session, you can use RangeMaster Pro's built-in reporting tools to discover who missed the qualification. You can also prepare several after-training reports using the software's built-in templates for such concerns as ammunition usage, course details, types of weapons used, etc.
In addition to the built-in query and report tools, RangeMaster Pro also allows you to use third-party tools such as Crystal Reports or custom reports. This lets agencies with hundreds of employees build custom reports that fill their needs, while smaller agencies may not find it relevant or necessary.
A revision of RangeMaster Pro is under way. Users should expect a leap to Microsoft's newer Access engine within a year. But when that happens, be warned, you'll have to jump up to newer hardware and, more than likely, a new operating system, too.
Since CornerStone's programmers are in the process of revising RangeMaster Pro, I'd like to make some suggestions.
How about an import tool? Many larger agencies have Access-compatible databases, and I'm betting that these users would rather import than re-key information.
I'd also like to see a pre-populated firearms database. Most law enforcement agencies restrict their duty weapons to a limited number of manufacturers and models. Having this information built into RangeMaster Pro would save a lot of time.
Another great addition would be some supplementary personnel features such as a field for entering the names of supervisors, days off, and unit information. With these fields, users could potentially use RangeMaster Pro not only to track, but also to schedule firearms training.
You can download a demo version of RangeMaster Pro at www.cornerstoneapplications.com.
Bob Davis supervises the San Diego Police Department's computer lab. He has 26 years of experience on the force.