Location: New York, New York

Friday, January 04, 2008

This is a long article but well worth the few
minutes it will take to read it thru to the end.
Recreational Shooting:
Are you doing enough?
By Michael E. Clark

There is less than a 2% chance, during a 20 year career, that a police officer will have to draw and fire their weapon in defense or aggression. Which leaves a burning question: Are you prepared to bring accurate and decisive fire upon an armed opponent intent on doing you harm?

We all remember the Police Academy and the excitement that driving through the cones at high speed brought, as well as going to the Range to learn to shoot and eventually qualify. If you’re lucky, you are from a smaller agency whose academy allowed for more personal attention to be given to students, purely as an element of instructor to student ratio. Other larger metropolitan agencies may have had a 10:1 ratio whereby the instructor is forced to assess his/her ten charges on day one for basic firearms training. On average 6-7 will pass with little help. One or two more will need basic instructions repeated to alleviate excessive grip (milking), flinching (anticipation), and to correct sight alignment/trigger control. The last student, while earnest and redeemable, requires constant supervision. At first for safety, then tutoring with additional ammunition, but most of all, the one on one attention of a dedicated instructor. There are scores of great instructors in my department who have to work with such ratios. Complimenting those who are doing well, encouraging those who show improvement each day, and working tirelessly to convey the concepts of basic marksmanship to all, in far too little time.
They have my admiration because I worked among them.

After graduation, we went home with our shiny new badges, I.D. cards which quietly let us go 70 instead of 55, and brand new guns. Us “buffs” were at the range the next day. Some got their feet wet at new commands for a week, then called Academy buddies and went shooting together on days off. Others still, hung the gun in their lockers, let their hair grow back to pre-academy lengths, and only shot twice a year when forced to qualify. It takes all kinds, and as time passes, life gets in the way.

The new recruit is generally single, 20-25 years old, and living at home. A small number will enter the Academy married, with even fewer having children. Decisions to ‘carry’ or not, to buy an off-duty, and whether or not to bring it home and how to store it are as varied as the department is diverse. We struggle to top-pay, get married, buy a house, get second jobs, fix up the house, have kids, coach teams, work ordered O/T, and try to find time to go fishing ONCE in a while. But I guarantee you USED shoot more.

The point of the aforementioned is that shooting is a perishable skill. Have you ever noticed that when you drag out the cleats and the softball bat in April/May for the precinct team or bar league, that you’re a bit, “rusty” ? It takes a week or two in the spring for the golf swing to come back. Maybe it’s getting back in the gym after a prolonged absence and you can’t lift as much? The same principles apply to shooting. It’s a ‘use it’ or ‘lose it’ type of deal. Even shooting ONCE between qualifications is better than not shooting at all. Excuses are where you find them. “The job sucks”, “We don’t have a contract”, and “ I’m not PAYIN’ for ammo….” are unaccept-able reasons for NOT investing in your (or your partner’s) survival.

Summer is long over, your softball team finished last, and your coaching duties are done for another year. The beach is too cold, the boat is out of the water, and the leaves are all raked up. On your day off, the kids are at school, your spouse is working, and you plan to watch the games you TiVo’d during the week. But instead of being an arm-chair warrior, why don’t you plan on bringing home your gunbelt and hitting the range.

There are many and diverse types of shooting venues out there to accommodate all skill levels and budgets for your desired type of firearms training. When I was single (and yes, living at home) I would pick vacation to go to Smith & Wesson Academy each year for a week. The training facility is in Springfield, Massachusetts just outside the gate of the plant. It is only 2.5 hours from NYC, 5 miles north of the Conn. Border on I-91 and can be driven without the hassle of transporting firearms on a plane. Classes run from 1-3 days on the civilian side of the house, where many entry level skills can be learned. Law Enforcement training, for the serious shooter, can be had over 5 days for $900 with ammo included and excellent instruction. Skills like shooting while moving, low-light shooting, room entry (slicing the pie), multiple targets, reload drills, and extensive emphasis on holster work from a level 2 or 3 security holster is undertaken. Day five of Tactical Pistol includes force-on-force Simunition drills. [] Sig-Sauer in northern New Hampshire, offers courses from 4 hours to 5 days and ranges from $95- $850 for an even larger variety of courses than S & W. [] For the truly insane, checkout Blackwater USA and expect a Navy Seal indoctrination to tactical shooting. (read: Double Diamond skiers only) []

Now if schools are not your thing, or between the family Disney trip, a used station car around 1998, and going away shooting, a school is just not in the cards, try this: Go to a shooting match. There are many shooting games out there, too many in fact to list, but the two best for the Patrol Officer are P.P.C. and I.P.S.C.

Police Pistol Combat is an N.R.A. sanctioned style of competition that emphasizes marksmanship and unconventional shooting positions. Firing is done from 3, 7, 15, 25, and 50 yards. Positions range from one-handed close in, to right and left-handed barricade, kneeling at 25 yards, and sitting with the gun held on your knee for support and prone (flat on your stomach) at the 50 yard line. It may sound daunting, but after a few weeks you’ll be both surprised and pleased at your ability to engage a man sized silhouette target with confidence at varying distance. Check out the New York Police combat Association’s website [] for a schedule of matches and information. Matches are held from April through October outdoors in upstate Monroe, N.Y. @ Monroe-Chester Sportsman’s Club. Indoor matches can be had at Master Class Shooter’s Supply year-round. [] (845)774-GUNS The owner, Dennis, is a Sheriff and competitor himself, finishing in the N.Y.S. Governor’s Twenty for over two decades.

International Practical Shooting Competition is run by the United States Practical Shooting Association or U.S.P.S.A. and put simply is ‘run and gun’. Now I don’t say this to be cavalier, nor make it sound reckless, but if you have EVER wanted to shoot while moving…this is for you! I.P.S.C. is a sport which emphasizes ACCURACY and SPEED both. It can be an excellent tool to advance your pistol skills so long as you train to have the discipline and frame of mind to VERIFY your target before you fire. This sport can make you fast and accurate, but for us there is never, EVER the assumption of a shot.

Basically, I.P.S.C. matches have 5-6 “stages” where club members go to great lengths to set up ‘props’ on the range with various shooting scenarios. You arrive at the range, pay your match fee, $20-50 dollars (quit whining, you’ll pay $100 for a round of golf, right?), get squadded with 6-10 people, then do a ‘walk-through’ of the course before it is fired. You will shoot with all skill levels and some for whom shooting is akin to religion. Everybody there (read: those that DON’T carry guns for a living…) are there because the WANT to be. They are good. They might even break your chops a little, but they will ALL help you enjoy the sport and become a better shooter. Trust me, nothing is as ‘ humbling ‘ as getting your proverbial ass-kicked, at a weekend match, by a woman who works for Cablevision.

You may start up-range with the gun in the holster and your hands above your shoulders in the ‘surrender position’. At an audible start signal (P.A.C.T. shot-timer) and while standing in box A, engage three falling steel targets (pepper-poppers) 10 yards away, which are 10 inches wide. Then move to shooting box B (7 yards diagonally down-range to the right), engage 2 cardboard targets (T1 & T2) through window #1 with 2 shots each. Perform a mandatory re-load, then pivot – engage 2 paper targets (T3 & T4) through window #2 with 2 shots each. Open door, (yes the real door and door frame anchored in the sandy range) and proceed down-range (12 yards diagonally left) while performing a mandatory re-load (preferably on the run to save time…) and stop in shooting box C. Engage falling steel target #4, which activates paper target (T5) on a “swinger” (via a pull-chain and counter weight) that swings through its ‘arc’ back and forth through a wooden window frame, only visible at the 12 o’clock position until it stops swinging which burns time.

The variety of stages is only limited by the match organizers and the club members creativity. Area and Regional Championships are up to 9 stages and often have intricate props such as running across chain supported docks suspended over kiddie-pool moats and start positions that include sitting in the drivers seats of junk cars towed on to the range. It is extremely challenging and located out in Westhampton, L.I. by Gabreski Airport, exit 63 off Sunrise Highway. Matches @ Long Island Practical Shooters are year round and quite varied from I.P.S.C., GLOCK, 3-gun (Carbine, Pistol, Shotgun) Scoped Rifle, and Shotgun matches. The President, Frank, is a friend of 13 years and the members are all top-notch. []

One of my biggest frustrations when I was an Instructor and trying to recruit people to shoot, was someone who said, “I’m not good enough to enter competition.” Well, you’re not gonna get any better if you don’t go to one, are ya? It’s a perpetual Catch-22. “If I were a better shooter, I’d shoot competition.” If you shot competition……you’d become a better shooter! You see my point.

Here’s another: “All that crap costs money.” With your duty belt, service weapon and magazines, you already possess the necessary equipment to enter basic competition. I shot for years with my service 9mm before investing in better guns and holsters. You should have safety glasses, and if you don’t already, then break down and invest in a good pair (spend $30 for 29-31 decibels protection) of shooting ear muffs. You can get them in Sports Authority or your local gun store.

Still haven’t convinced you? Okay, for the extremely budget conscious among you, there’s your department range. My department has a practice program whereby by any officer can call ahead and/or go to the range on a designated day and time each month and practice with 100 free rounds. Again, excuses abound, but if YOU haven’t called or tried to go YOURSELF, then don’t take your friend’s word for it that, “Oh that stuff never works…” , or “…they’re never open.” Call and harass them until they let you shoot just to shut you up! I don’t know an Instructor worth his/her salt, that won’t MAKE time to train a cop that simply wants to be trained. If you show a real desire to be there for a month or two, you can usually finagle a few extra boxes out of them. (Note: Bring coffee)

I highly recommend taking your duty-rig to the range. The shooting you do during your annual qualification is ‘canned’ for large scale and safety. Do you have the confidence to draw from the holster quickly, take a flash sight picture, assess the threat, and put accurate fire on target? If you can’t answer that question in the affirmative, then you’re not training enough.

No police officer should be afraid of their firearm. It is a sacred tool. It is your lifeline in a true emergency. There is no “time-out”. There are no “do-overs”. On the day you are called upon to enter a deadly confrontation, you should already know what the outcome will be. You’ve committed to the battle even before you knew you were in it. You possess Instinctive Shooting ability and have reflexes borne of thousands of repetitions pulling from the holster on the range perfecting your drawstroke. With a dry gun at first, then ½ speed utilizing the 4 step draw. Eventually getting faster until you have a shot-break that is both fast AND accurate because you’re on ‘auto-pilot’ from hours and days of hard-won muscle memory. Once you determine Deadly Physical Force has been, or is about to be presented, you know you will win the encounter because you HAVE trained for it. The ‘pucker-factor’ will still be there, but it won’t be paralyzing.

Finally, and if nothing else, just go. Try to find someone at work who likes to shoot and ask if you can go with them. If you go alone, start slow. If the rounds are not going where you want them to, concentrate on sight alignment and trigger control. The slower you pull the trigger, the more accurate the shot…and work from there. If you’re still having trouble, then look me up at a precinct in Midtown Manhattan and I’ll shoot with you.

There is Olinville shooting range in the Bronx, Westside Pistol Club in Manhattan in the 20’s near Park Avenue., the Nassau County Range at Mitchell Field in Uniondale, L.I., and Master Class upstate in Monroe. Range fees run $6 - $12 hr. and 9mm ammo runs $10-15 box/50 at Sports Authority, slightly more on the range. There is nothing wrong with shooting factory re-loads for less money, just set aside your duty/carry ammo to load for the street when you leave.

Sweat in Training, so you don’t Bleed in Battle.
Stay Safe.
By Michael E. Clark
Editors Note;
There are PPC matches held on Long Island also.
Directly below in this blog you can find times,
dates and contact persons for PPC matches.


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