When I first entered law enforcement in 1978, our qualification course was very similar to a form PPC match. We shot from hip level at the 3-yard line, from “point shoulder” at the 7-yard line, and then used “aimed fire” at the 15- and 25-yard line — it was more choreographed than a Broadway show. While it tested our ability to meet the standard, it had little or no relevance to the real world.
Many departments and shooting schools still confuse skills testing, commonly referred to as qualification, with training. Conventional wisdom says that all testing must be standardized, uniform, and give every student the same opportunity to succeed. Well, there is nothing standard or uniform in a gunfight, and the bad guy is not about giving the officer or armed citizen an opportunity to succeed.
Fortunately in the last several years, more and more agencies have turned to force-on-force or dynamic training that is scenario based. This has been facilitated by training munitions such as Simuitions and Air Soft. However, be warned that without proper structure and control, these exercises can turn into nothing more than a paint ball game. So what should we be doing, both as law enforcement and armed civilians?
Moving beyond simple qualification shooting to really understanding how to fight with your gun requires in-depth knowledge of both its operation and proper application. This includes drawing it quickly (and safely) from the holster.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Advanced skills can only be built on a solid foundation — the student must first understand the basics of marksmanship. You know them as stance, grip, sight picture, sight focus, and trigger control. This teaches us how to shoot without additional stressors, doing only one task at a time. It does not teach us how to run the gun or fight the gun. The problem is that many qualification courses stop here!