Training for deadly force encounters

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Author: Timothy Hoff
Date: Mar. 2012
From: The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin(Vol. 81, Issue 3)
Publisher: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,184 words
Lexile Measure: 1330L

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For firearms instructors, it does not suffice to simply teach fellow law enforcement officers how to shoot. Each officer must master important fundamentals of marksmanship, such as grip, stance, sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger control. The duties of instructors include more than teaching students to hit a bull's-eye. Instructors must prepare them to survive deadly force encounters, or, in other words, to win a gunfight.


It is widely recognized that firearms qualification courses do not fully represent a real-world gunfight. Qualification courses measure officers' ability to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship, but with no one shooting back. Traditional flat-range drills help officers develop basic weapon handling skills, such as the draw and reloads, some of which also are tested during qualification courses. Mailboxes, automobiles, and other props can be positioned on the range to teach officers to seek and shoot from positions of cover and concealment. Reactive steel targets, especially dueling trees, can create safe, simulated "gunfights" in which two officers shoot against each other. These head-to-head competitions create stress by pushing the officers to shoot quickly and accurately.

Even more so than these tactics, shoot houses provide one of the best instruction tools to prepare officers for the threats they will encounter on duty. A shoot house allows instructors to teach law enforcement techniques, such as how to enter and clear rooms, hallways, and stairways, as well as team tactics. Shoot houses may be constructed to allow live-fire training with either simulated or actual duty weapons. The walls of live-fire shoot houses may be built from used car tires filled with sand or ballistic steel walls covered with wood. Top-of-the-line shoot houses even offer moveable walls so the interior layout can be tailored to the mission. The more realistic the environment, the greater the training benefit. A shoot house proves valuable because it helps teach officers how to minimize risk to themselves during violent encounters. Officers learn tactics to clear rooms, hallways, and stairwells while decreasing their exposure to potential threats. They also build confidence by working as a team.

Unfortunately, high startup costs pose the biggest obstacle for developing shoot house training programs. Well-equipped shoot houses can be expensive, especially ones that incorporate multiple rooms, hallways, and stairs. The budget cuts and layoffs of today's economic climate make funding difficult. Additionally, local zoning ordinances can cause difficulties for departments seeking to build one of these facilities.


Fortunately, the FBI's Detroit, Michigan, office identified a solution to develop a real-world tactical training program, even under these constraints. FBI Detroit does not possess its own shoot house; in fact, most FBI field offices do not own a dedicated house for conducting force-on-force or scenario-based tactical training. However, this did not prevent the agency from delivering high-quality, realistic training to its agents, as well as other officers. By partnering with the city of Dearborn, Michigan, FBI Detroit provides instruction for deadly force encounters for agents and task force officers, using residences complete with kitchens, bathrooms, stairs, and basements....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A283489545