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Forensics Doc

A Cavalier Attitude Toward Qualifying

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As I do most Fridays now that I'm on a 4-day work week, I went to a local indoor range last week to put a few rounds downrange before an IPSC match the following day. A short time after I arrived another shooter took the lane next to me, hung up a 50-foot silhouette target, and proceeded to load the magazines for his Beretta 92. After a few minutes he leaned over to my side and asked, "How do I get the target downrange?" "Try the switch on the left", I replied. He then pushed the switch and the target went downrange 10 yards.

The guy then began shooting, and since I was in the lane next to him I couldn't help but notice that he was all over the paper (not just the silhouette, the paper!), top to bottom, side to side. The closest thing I could find to a group would have been defined by the margins of the target (35X22 inches). He then tried to return the target, but pushed the switch the wrong way, sending it farther downrange rather than closer. Each time he changed targets he managed to push the directional switch the wrong way, bringing the target closer when he needed it farther away and vice versa.

Feeling comfortable that he was now in the ballpark, Bubba ran the target down to 25 yards and began blazing away. Half a box of ammo later he hadn't poked a hole in the paper, much less the silhouette. He then left, purchased another box of ammo at the front counter, returned, and began firing away. About 20 shots or so later I began to see a few holes in the lower left corner of the target, about 18 inches from the X-ring, and about 20 shots after that I began to see a few in the shirt sleeve cuff of the silhouette. He never got closer to the X-ring than about a foot or so. He finished the box of ammo, packed up his gear, and on his way out said to me, "Got to qualify with this thing tomorrow and I can't shoot for s**t!" "You're in deep doo doo, pal", I replied, and he then left. I retrieved his discarded target after I was through and counted 7 holes in the silhouette, 45 on the paper but not on the silhouette.

I have no idea what his occupation is. Maybe it's a policeman, maybe a security guard, but it's definitely something that requires him to carry a weapon frequently enough that he's required to qualify with it at least once a year. And if he's required to carry a weapon it seems to me like he should take the time to become proficient with it. But, no! Bubba's cavalier attitude toward qualifying was that this is something he had to do, not something he needed to learn to do.

In retrospect, I would have liked to have taken him aside and said, "Look, dumbass, quit treating this like it's a test you have to pass in order to keep your job! Think of it as a skill that might keep you or me alive someday. Think of it as a skill that might keep your wife from becoming a widow or your kid from growing up without a father." Certain life lessons are lost on some folks, and I have no doubt he was one of these, but it was obvious that he had not been to the range to practice recently, if ever, and it's doubtful that he'll return until the day before he has to qualify again.

Folks, I work in the medical examiner's office, and I see an average of 8.2 autopsies per day, 365 days per year. Many of these are shootings, and a few are police shootings. I get to see where the shots were, how the ammo performed, and what works and what doesn't. So many times in police shootings the shots are poorly placed and death is caused by a single lucky (or inordinately good) shot or by a large number of very poorly placed shots. This is understandable, because as tough as it is to accurately place shots on paper, it's infinitely more difficult when 125-grain 9mm bullets are headed back in your direction from the perpetrator's gun and your shooting position is considerably different than the one your habitually use at the range. Also, an adrenaline rush does the most remarkable things to a sight picture. Still, if you can't place your shots on an inanimate piece of paper, how much more difficult will it be when that piece of paper becomes a 3-time felon whose sole purpose is to avoid going back to prison no matter what happens and no matter who gets in the way?

I can only hope that this individual is fortunate enough to make it to retirement without having to use his weapon or that he failed qualifying the following day and now has a job that doesn't require him to carry a weapon.

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Hey why didn't you give the guy a hand?. All he needed was one look at your target to see what kind of shooter you are. I am a police trainer I get 150 rounds a year to teach my guys to shoot 40 rounds is the qual course. Budget reasons don't ya know. Most of my cops are not shooters. Cops spend a bunch of their own money on equipment work goofy hours and like I said they are not shooters. I know when I am at the range and I see some one is needing help I give them a hand if they want it.

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Hey why didn't you give the guy a hand?. All he needed was one look at your target to see what kind of shooter you are. I am a police trainer I get 150 rounds a year to teach my guys to shoot 40 rounds is the qual course. Budget reasons don't ya know. Most of my cops are not shooters. Cops spend a bunch of their own money on equipment work goofy hours and like I said they are not shooters. I know when I am at the range and I see some one is needing help I give them a hand if they want it.

Having been a cop myself for seven years, I'm aware that most are not shooters, and heaven knows I'm aware that much of the equipment is paid for by the cops themselves. In these days of limited departmental budgets, ammo and range times are often sacrificed, however essential to the job. And, for the most part, I try to help those at the range when I see an obvious problem. On this particular day, however, I was pressed for time and just didn't have time to help the guy.

Nevertheless, I still think the individual has to shoulder the responsibility for becoming proficient in something that's an essential part of the job. The less competent the individual is with the weapon, the more time they need to spend in practice, even if they have to foot the bill for the ammo and range time.

Edited by Forensics Doc

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Let's just hope the qualification test he takes is tough enough for him to fail. If he manages to pass, the problem is not with him, but with the test.

Same thing at the DMV. IMHO, the tests for a drivers license are way, way too lenient. Let the truth be told, over half the folks driving today are probably only on the road because the tests are kept simple enough for the lowest common denominator to pass. If the tests were strict enough to make sure we REALLY could handle these big pieces of iron properly, the auto market wouldn't be anywhere near as lucrative as it is for all those involved in it.

Always follow the money if you want to know why something is so ;-)

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"Nevertheless, I still think the individual has to shoulder the responsibility for becoming proficient in something that's an essential part of the job. The less competent the individual is with the weapon, the more time they need to spend in practice, even if they have to foot the bill for the ammo and range time."

You are so right about this its too bad they wont take the time to do it.

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Ive never understood the cavalier attitude toward qualifying. It's a tool along with a host of others used in the job. Shouldn't you be proficient in its use?

OTOH I've seen LEOs practicing their qualifying. One stated he was going for a perfect score. A matter of pride for him. Thank you sir.

Drifting a bit. CCW qualifying was shock to me. I just looked at it as another stage. String 1: Freestyle 6 shots, reload, 6 shots at 6 feet, Virginia Count. String 2: Same at 10 feet. String 3: Same at 15 feet. Any hit on the black of a NRA B-27 is an Alpha. Two people out of the 15 in the class flunked it the first time around. One flunked it the second try. Why bother carrying a tool for self defense if you don't know how to use it?

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I am fortunate enough to work for a department that actually puts forth some effort at training. We just finished our annual firearms training over the past week. We got to spend two days at the range and were each given 1000 rounds for those two days. Having said that, I was once again disappointed with the attitudes of most of the officers there during my two days at the range. Their chief concern was "What time are we leaving?" Few of them seemed concerned about truly improving their skills. At the end of the first day only two officers (myself and one of our rifle instructors) actually loaded our weapons before leaving the range. The rest left with empty weapons.

I invite all of the guys I work with to come shoot with me whenever they want. Our department pays for us to have access to a local range whenever we want, at no cost to the officers. All you need to do is show up and bring ammo. Yet, there are just a handful of us, out of 65 officers, that shoot with any regularity. Its just sad.

Edited by bierman

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OTOH I've seen LEOs practicing their qualifying. One stated he was going for a perfect score. A matter of pride for him. Thank you sir.

Friend of mine was dissuaded by his instructors at the academy from firing a perfect score on the qualifier. They believed it would make them a target for lawyers in a shooting.

"you shot a perfect score but couldn't wound the suspect in the leg instead hitting him in the chest?"

Probably not valid, but one they reinforced at his academy. (1980's)

I have been getting a lot of LE's coming to our indoor idpa match. . They are guys wanting to become SWAT and take every opportunity at all the range time they can. Not only are they very nice and bright guys, but they are mighty good shots too. Nice contrast to some of the horror stories out there.

Ted

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Friend of mine was dissuaded by his instructors at the academy from firing a perfect score on the qualifier. They believed it would make them a target for lawyers in a shooting.

"you shot a perfect score but couldn't wound the suspect in the leg instead hitting him in the chest?"

Probably not valid, but one they reinforced at his academy. (1980's)

We quit using scores several years ago. Once the instructors get to 70% on your target, they stop couting and mark down "Pass". Helps avoid the above mentioned issue.

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