Photo: Nick Jacobellis.

Photo: Nick Jacobellis.

To improve your firearms proficiency, sometimes we need to train the hardest for the tasks we are least likely to perform. In addition to being able to qualify with on- and off-duty firearms, law enforcement officers must also have a thorough understanding of the tactics during an authorized use-of-deadly-force situation.

In this multi-part series, we'll cover various ways to improve your proficiency with firearms. Even if you don't consider yourself a gun enthusiast, you must agree that firearms are the primary tools of the law enforcement profession. We'll give you innovative ways you can implement into your firearms training.

A serious problem facing the law enforcement profession today is the lack of firearms proficiency by some sworn personnel. Law enforcement officers who require more that one chance to qualify or who barely qualify need to improve their skill level with the firearms they carry on and off duty.

It's truly scary that civilians who pay for their own ammunition and, in some cases, firearms instruction can out shoot some of society's protectors. How can LEOs struggle with marksmanship after receiving excellent basic and in-service training and free ammunition for practice?

One reason why law enforcement officers fail to qualify or barely qualify is due to a lack of motivation. How else can you explain why anyone who serves in law enforcement is unable to qualify on the first try or consistently obtains a barely passing qualification score? There are law enforcement officers who work hard to improve their marksmanship capabilities and others who don't.

One problem involves law enforcement agencies that don't make remedial firearms training mandatory for sworn personnel who fail to qualify or barely qualify with their on-duty service handgun. While it's commendable that a law enforcement agency will hold remedial training sessions, the problem occurs when the LEOs who need to improve their firearms proficiency fail to take advantage of this free instruction. Every law enforcement agency that has lousy shots in their department is a time bomb waiting to go off from a liability standpoint.

If you think I am crazy, you need to talk to some civilians who honestly believe that cops should be able to shoot guns and knives out of the hands of criminals. All it takes is one person who believes in this ridiculous premise to contaminate the minds of other jury members in a civil or criminal trial.

I also find it completely idiotic that firearms instructors and members of a law enforcement tactical team are generally required to achieve higher firearms qualification scores than regular law enforcement patrol and investigative personnel. Am I missing something here? Why are firearms instructors and SWAT cops the only ones held to such high standards? Does anyone really believe that law enforcement patrol and investigative personnel are somehow less likely to be required to use firearms in the performance of their duties?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all law enforcement officers should be capable of protecting life and property with the different tools of the profession.

Anyone can have an occasional bad day but giving a properly trained law enforcement officer three chances to qualify is absurd. If you're unable to master the basic fundamentals of firearms marksmanship after attending a basic training academy and you are unable to cope with the stress of qualifying with your service handgun, how will you handle the stress of using authorized deadly force in the field?           

My position is simple. If you achieve the same passing score required for firearms instructors and SWAT personnel, you should be permitted to retain your firearms authority. If you fail to qualify on the first try, you should be permitted to try one more time.

Even if you qualify on the second try, you should be required to attend mandatory remedial firearms training to improve your firearms proficiency so you can consistently qualify on your first attempt. I don't think this is asking too much of people who carry a firearm for a living.

Failure to attend mandatory remedial firearms training should be an administrative infraction resulting in immediate transfer to desk duty with the temporary loss of firearms authority until the officer can improve their firearm proficiency to the satisfaction of the agency administrator. If you fail to improve and are still unable to qualify on the first try after receiving remedial training, you should remain in an administrative position until you are able to qualify on the first attempt.

There also should be a reasonable effort to improve the firearms proficiency of officers who consistently barely qualify. How this is resolved should be left up to individual agencies and the entity that certifies training standards for law enforcement agencies.

The only way to improve your hit potential is to train with a proper instructor. Practicing on your own should be done once you master the fundamentals.

Remember, cops carry guns for a reason. Improving your firearms proficiency will put you in a better position to protect yourself and others. You can also do nothing and remain a substandard shot. The choice is yours to make.


Nick Jacobellis
Nick Jacobellis

Special Agent (Ret.)

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former New York police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

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Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former New York police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

View Bio