Can Officers Learn From a Competition Shooter?

Most academy and qualification training with firearms is devoted to shooting at stationary silhouettes at 25 and 50 yards. This isn't the real world. In the real world, the bad guy is pumped full of adrenaline and is mobile.

Brian Ostro Web Headshot

Second to the brain, the firearm is the law enforcement officer's most important tool. So why do we give it barely adequate and only rudimentary training? At times, we can become complacent or arrogant.

Officers can fall into the false logic of thinking the academy prescribed curriculum is adequate to prepare us for most real-world situations. After all, those prescribing it must know what they are doing, right? Yes and no!

Today's reality is that most agencies are faced with extremely tight budgets and legal restrictions. They'll play it safe and give you the bare minimum. It's the responsibility of each officer to make sure they'll be as well prepared as they can.

At the beginning of my certified firearms instructor training, the chief instructing counselor asked, "Who would you rather have on your side in a shootout, a competition level shooter of clay pigeons or a tactical operator?" The room was fresh with blank stares. I thought about it and answered, "competition shooter."

The chief instructor explained that different people react differently under stress and it's a case by case scenario, but the odds are that a competition shooter is someone who has received much more training against moving targets, has been forced to shoot under stress and has done this while being timed on a digital stop watch.

He or she is also someone who competes with people of a similar mindset. Quality attracts quality. These people love guns and see them as more than just tools. They are sporting equipment. Competition shooters are comfortable being pushed, they thrive under stress. They shoot against moving targets, and most importantly they do this with thousands and thousands of rounds every year.

Very few officers can claim that they devote this level of commitment to firearms training. Most see their quarterly, semi-annual, or annual qualifications as another chore to be placed on the "to do" list. How many actually stay after with the instructor and ask, "How can I improve?"

Most academy and qualification training with firearms is devoted to shooting at stationary silhouettes at 25 and 50 yards. This isn't the real world. In the real world, the bad guy is pumped full of adrenaline and is mobile.

In the real world, you don't have a perfect sight picture. In the real world, there are forces tugging at your mind and at your body. Vision becomes blurry, the body dumps adrenaline into the system, your mouth dries. It's messy physically and psychologically.

No amount of training can ever duplicate a real-life situation, but we can introduce levels of training under stress that incorporate moving targets. Targets that pop out of cover and concealment. Targets that involve judgment, and actual targets on wheels that can be controlled via remote. While some agencies effectively use simulators, there is nothing like being out there in real weather, among trees, among dirt and concrete. Those stimuli need to be there to prepare you.

Competition shooters are friendly and welcoming. Please don't be intimidated. You already know one very well. He is with you 24/7. His name is Jack Weaver — a former law enforcement officer who was a competition shooter.

Up until the 1940s and 50s, it was established doctrine to shoot with one hand with feet slightly apart. We don't need to rehash the Weaver position. That's another article, but the Weaver position is certainly not one handed and certainly does more than take advantage of the body's lower geometry.

The reason it is established doctrine today was that a few open-minded influential competitors like Col. Jeff Cooper said that Weaver was "on to something" and were open-minded enough to try something that was considered taboo and unorthodox at the time. Now, at least 100 countries around the world use the Weaver stance and it's taught in almost every academy.

How open-minded are you? It's worth a try to ask your commanding officer if the department is willing to pay for extra training. This extra training may even result in a higher pay grade and more responsibility, but the biggest payoff is that it will make you a better officer and better prepared with your firearm. Always clear the training type with your commanding officer as there could be legal and administrative hurdles and additional approvals necessary higher up the chain of command. I've spent thousands of dollars of my own money and am happy to have done so. The rewards pay dividends over a lifetime.

Organizations such as IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation), USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association), and Gunsite are organizations that have members from all areas of law enforcement, military, and the civilian world.

They have chapters in every state and almost every major nation around the world. I would encourage anyone who is serious about training to join at least one. Odds are there is a chapter that meets close to where you live. You'll meet great people who share a passion for excellence, and I guarantee you'll have fun.

About the Author
Brian Ostro Web Headshot
NRA Firearms Instructor
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