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Firearms Qualifications - What are we testing?

Thursday, July 29, 2021 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

What should be in a qualification course of fire?  I have seen too many LE firearms instructors wanting to turn their agency qualification into a combat test.  They include shooting on the move, shooting from cover, etc.  They believe that passing a combat-style qualification will better prepare them for a gunfight.  What they fail to realize is that there are too many factors involved in a gunfight that can not be replicated in a qualification...so it's pointless.

Another thing to consider, something I have stated in previous posts and online articles, is that qualification is a test. And instructors can not coach a shooter during a test.  So making shooters do combaitve skills without the ability to coach them to make them better, again, is pointless.

There are many skills that are taught with each weapon system (pistol, rifle, shotgun)...and you can't put every skill taught into a qualification. I guess you could, but it would probably be 100 rounds or more and that is a waste of time and ammo.  So which skills should be tested in a qualification?

First, what is the purpose of a firearms qualification?  It's not to give the false sense that an officer can win a gunfight...we've already discussed that issue.  It's purely for liability reasons.  It's so an agency can say that an officer has met MINIMUM STANDARDS with the firearm which enables them to carry and deploy with that firearm.  So, qualification is a minimum standards test...not a gunfighting test.

So, as an instructor, what are the minimum skills we think an officer should be able to perform with a firearm? My list is pretty simple...

  • Load & unload a firearm
  • Present the firearm (from the holster or low ready)
  • Demonstrate good marksmanship at longer distance
  • Demonstrate practical marksmanship with speed at mid-range distances
  • Demonstrate precision shooting with speed (head shot) at close-range distances
  • Demonstrate a good shooting platform and recoil management during rapid fire at close-range distances (string of five or more shots)
  • Weapon manipulation - Demonstarte an empty gun reload (worst case scenario)
  • Weapon manipulation - Demonstrate a complex malfunction clearance (worst case scenario), anything that can not be fixed with a simple tap/rack...a double feed is usually the easiest to set up.

All of these things can be tested with 20 rounds of ammunition for both pistol and rifle. A shotgun qualification would be modified differently due to the low ammo capacity, but the same topics would be tested.

We can all agree that other skills taught in relation to pistol, rifle, and shotgun are also important...but would you classify them as minimum skills that need to be tested?

Remember, the quicker you get done with a qualification, the quicker you move on to training...and training is where your shooters learn how to win gunfights.  Keep the quailification where it belongs....a simple minimum standards test of basic skills.

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