When it comes to setting the standard for domestic law enforcement operations, few groups garner the level of respect and esteem as the FBI. Widely considered to be the vanguard of cutting-edge law enforcement, the bureau’s choices regarding not only weapons, but also training and tactics reverberate throughout the entire law enforcement community.

Training for life and death situations on the street is one area in particular where the bureau’s direction is closely heeded. The old FBI course started at 7 yards and went to 60. Then it was reduced to a maximum distance of 50 yards. By the 1990s, the Bureau had a challenging course that kept the distance at 25 yards but had more emphasis on fast, close shooting. In 2012, after analyzing many recent gunfights involving its own agents (and, of course, other law enforcement personnel), the FBI determined that, since most of the gunfights were happening very fast and very close, the standard pistol qualification for its people should reflect that. Let’s take a look at the new course.

The new FBI course of fire starts more than twice as close to the target as the original did: a mere 3 yards. Here, as at every stage in the course, the shooter starts with the gun holstered and concealed, and with the hands at sternum level. This hand positioning reflects where people in danger tend to have their hands as the fight starts. I was reminded of what I’ll call Case One, where an off-duty NYPD officer was held at gunpoint by an armed robber backed up by a knife-armed accomplice. With his hands raised, the cop pretended to comply, and then used his right hand to deflect the opponent’s autopistol while his strong hand drew a Colt Detective Special and put a .38 slug through the offender’s brain, killing him instantly. The second perp fled and was captured later.


On the new FBI course, you’ll draw your pistol from that concealed-gun start position and fire three shots. You’ll have only 3 seconds in which to do it. And then you’ll have to do it again to show that you can perform the skill repeatably on demand. When FBI Agent Charles Winstead killed John Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in 1934, that was roughly the distance involved. Call it Case Two. Winstead killed the confirmed cop-killer one-handed with his .45 ACP 1911, as Dillinger was trying to draw a Colt .380 on Winstead and the other agents.

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