Professionals and (lack of) training

“Only police (and military) should have guns, because they are trained.”

About that….

Reason Magazine had a short piece discussing the DOJ’s investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department over excessive use of force.

Police violence, and especially questionable shootings, provide a real-world example of why the state shouldn’t be granted a monopoly on the use of guns by measures curbing the individual right of self-defense. It also shows what’s dangerous about the assumption that state agents are innately more qualified in the use of firearms than civilians looking to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Indeed. People are always disgusted at police corruption, police brutality, and yet for some reason also think it’s fine to give police the monopoly on power. I’m not sure people are thinking things through.

But to their last point about state agents being more qualified than private citizens is what I want to address.

It appears the majority of the public grossly overestimates the training and skill of law enforcement officers. Now, there are certainly exceptions. Austin Police Department has a marksmanship team, and I know numerous LEOs that are quite skilled and practice regularly. But the sad reality is, these folks are the exception and not the rule.

Here’s some perspective:

An ACTIVE police department generally qualifies with their pistol 4x per year. The assault rifle gets much less attention than the pistol in a police environment; however, there are some officers that are required to qualify with it. Active duty soldiers in the army qualify with their assault rifle 2x per year. Reserve components qualify 1x per year. Although Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare would have you believe otherwise, the infantry soldier doesn’t carry a pistol in combat. That’s pretty much reserved for Special Forces. Military officers are issued pistols but usually receive little to no training with it. There are exceptions to this rule but they’re few and far between.

Now let me be clear about this: qualification does NOT mean training. Qualification is a TEST. The minimum army standard for rifle qualification is 23 hits out of 40 rounds fired (page 6-16 FM 3-22.9). For the pistol its 16 hits out of 30 rounds fired (page A-9 FM 3-23.35) Police standards vary state to state but the standard is never 100%.

Why is this important?

Heres why: For a soldier with a rifle, the standard is that missing every third shot is acceptable. For the pistol, every other shot. Now I’m not just talking about missing center mass here, I’m talking about complete misses. For police, the same principles apply though the number of acceptable misses will vary from district to district.

The public servants that everyone claims are the “trained professionals” – are qualified to carry their weapon with a test where it is OK TO MISS THE TARGET COMPLETELY as long as they don’t do it too many times.

To measure just how acceptable or unacceptable this standard is, a simple litmus test can be used. Simply imagine your spouse, child, mother, father, brother, sister or even yourself standing next to a bad guy. A cop or soldier starts shooting at said bad guy. How acceptable is it that the cop or soldier shooting at a person very VERY close to you has trouble putting every round he or she fires on a STILL PIECE OF PAPER at distances of 25 yards or less? A perfect example is just recently two cops in NYC (who were seasoned ten year veterans on the force) had a shootout with a man at the base of the Empire State building at a distance of LESS THAN 10 FEET. NINE innocent bystanders were injured by the officer’s stray bullets.

Let that sink in.

They don’t have to train, they just have to qualify. And in qualifying, the test makes it acceptable to miss the target completely.

And where do you think that miss winds up?

This is why I call it an “unacceptable hit”, because it’s not a miss – that bullet will always hit something; it’s just a question of if the hit is acceptable or unacceptable. And not hitting the target and calling it acceptable? To me, that’s unacceptable. Yet, that’s all the professionals – the folks that so many rally behind being the only people qualified enough to carry a gun – have to do. I’d like to hope that my fellow man doesn’t actually want this, just that they don’t know any better.

Well now, hopefully you do.


The people who carry concealed are worried about getting sued and going to jail if they miss. They’re not backed by any department or government if they screw up. They’re also not bound by any statutes of limitation or rules of engagement stating they must procedurally go through some ridiculous escalation of force before they use their gun. For them, the moment their life is threatened it is do or die. They are their own first responder. They must fire and fire well. So you know what they do? They go to the range and practice. They practice for the moment they hope never comes. They Youtube every reputable instructional video they can find. They join the NRA and subscribe to the American Rifleman with drills in it. They join the US Concealed Carry Association and get practice plans from them. Some go as far as to pay for private instruction. They practice because their life or the life of a family member may depend on their ability quickly and accurately put their gun into action. In addition to life and death, whether or not they go to jail depends on their ability to accurately assess the situation and NOT MISS AT ALL if they are forced to use their gun.

The liability for a private citizen is much higher. The stakes are much higher, therefore there’s greater incentive to get it right. Carrying a gun brings a high responsibility. No, none of us can be perfect, no one is above screwing up or failing. But we must strive high and work hard.

Ask anyone thats been there, getting shot at is not something you can practice for. We are all human; soldier, police and civilian alike, and we are all scared to death when it happens. Defending one’s life and family with deadly force is a right inherent to being alive, not to owning a badge or a uniform. The ability to handle a firearm while being shot at depends on your lowest level of training. The most qualified people to shoot back in a life and death situation are the ones who regularly PRACTICE shooting. That may be a cop. It might be a soldier. It might be a teacher. It may be a grandma. It may be a bus driver. Could be a teller at your bank. It could even be your pastor. The point is that the idea of limiting self defense with a gun to a limited quantity of people such as soldiers or policemen is ungrounded. There is virtually no gun fighting /military training out there that a civilian cannot get. There are so many tactical shooting schools out there available to the public its silly. Sure, civilians have to pay for it, but at the end of the day its training cops and soldiers just don’t normally receive.

There just is no magical voodoo that makes a cop or soldier better with a gun.

There is only practice. There is only the will to get better and the drive to do it perfect every time.

Some might consider this a reason to mandate training. I firmly believe that individuals and society as a whole are better off due to education. The more education an individual receives, the better off she and everyone is for it. We know how education empowers and enables us to rise above, there is no reasonable situation where too much knowledge and skill is a bad thing. I encourage people to seek out as much education, teaching, schooling, knowledge, training, and practice as they can. But I stop short of mandating it, because that rarely generates results (and opens a massive can of worms). You cannot mandate responsibility – else our country wouldn’t be in such the mess that it is (besides, there’s a certain irony in mandating responsibility). You cannot  mandate motivation. These things must come from within. And yes, it will mean there will be those less educated, less skilled, and perhaps a danger to themselves and the community; but such is the cost of greater freedom for all (which includes us doing what we can to help those improve their education and skills; to help uplift and improve).

Just accept that because someone’s job is to carry a gun doesn’t mean they have some innate proficiency or that their job provides them enough “on the job training” to actually use it well. And accept that because someone may not professionally carry a gun, doesn’t mean they lack skill and ability.

3 thoughts on “Professionals and (lack of) training

  1. The State of Washinton doesn’t allow clean misses. Don’t be too impressed though. The time limits are generous enough that I could draw a five shot j frame from a pocket holster and put six shots on target in a shot string where I wasn’t expected to reload. To top it off, retests were only limited by available ammo. This was as of six or eight years ago so it may have changed but I doubt it.

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