May 26th, 2017 by Sam Morstan

A growing number of law enforcement agencies depend on the National Rifle Association for supplemental firearms training, from classroom and range settings to sanctioned competition events.

STORY BY STEVEN PAUL BARLOW PHOTOS BY NRA

The NRA’s Tactical Police Competition, or TPC, events, held across the country, require officers to use duty weapons and gear, and can involve transitions from one type of weapon to another.

The officer entered the room, heart rate elevated, his carbine leveled and at the ready. He tried to control his breathing. There! Three to his left – two armed terrorists and a hostage. He found the trigger and squeezed. He’d eliminated the threats, but there was no time to lose. He worked his way quickly, but methodically, through the maze of rooms, careful to use available cover as he scanned for more threats.

A range officer follows a competitor through each TPC course of fire to time the stage, to watch for rules violations and to ensure safety.

This time around the scenario was simulated, part of a competition. But there was more than a trophy at stake. The competition served as training, preparation for a time when lives would be on the line, when the threats and hostages would be real. The competition was tailored specifically for police officers, for the real situations they face, and it was conducted by the National Rifle Association.

When we think of the NRA, we often visualize the organization at the forefront of protecting our Second Amendment freedoms; the group that fights against the often absurd proposed legislation by elected officials who believe the government should be our only protector and that we don’t have the right to take on the responsibility to defend ourselves.

TPC competitors are often forced to shoot from unconventional positions.

As more officers carry patrol rifles in their vehicles, training and competition in their use have been increasingly important.

Unfortunately, because of this vital and public phase of the NRA’s work, the organization’s other programs can often go unnoticed. There’s the Eddie Eagle program on gun accident prevention geared toward children from pre-K through the 4th grade. About a million people attend firearms training courses each year that are taught by NRA-certified instructors.

The NRA has multiple programs for women, including Women on Target shooting clinics, Women’s Wilderness Escape and Refuse to be a Victim. There are youth education, training and competition programs. Add in the NRA’s gunsmithing schools, range planning services, the Hunters for the Hungry program that helps to feed the poor and the hunter safety programs that many states have adopted and you begin to get the idea.

But there’s more. To preserve our firearms heritage, the NRA also operates three museums in Virginia, Missouri and New Mexico that showcase historic firearms. When it comes to civilian competitions, the NRA sanctions about 11,000 shooting events, including 50 national championships each year. Shooting disciplines include air gun, muzzleloading, pistol, rifle and silhouette. While the media seems to seek out politically motivated, high-ranking police administrators on the side of strict gun control to interview for their reports, it’s been my experience that the average cop on the street is pro-gun.

Once an officer receives final instructions, he is on his own through the TPC course of fire and must make splitsecond decisions on how to “solve” the tactical problem.

THE NRA HAS BEEN PRO-LAW ENFORCEMENT since its inception. It created a special Law Enforcement Division in 1960 and has been active in training police firearms instructors and fostering police firearms competitions ever since.

Most police agencies have their own firearms instructors to train and requalify their officers, but who trains the instructors? Often, it’s the NRA. In fact, the NRA has trained and certified more than 55,000 law enforcement firearms instructors over the years. Currently there are more than 12,000 NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructors across the country.

TPC courses of fire can entail anything a police officer might face on the street.

The NRA training is centered on the use of handguns, shotguns, patrol rifles as well as select-fire and long-range rifles in tactical situations. Instruction is conducted both in the classroom and on the range. In recent years, military personnel and military contractors have also been trained in police tactics, as their roles sometimes include policing as well as combat missions.

Because maintaining a police agency’s firearms often falls on their firearms instructors, the NRA Law Enforcement Division often coordinates their training with the armorer schools of several manufacturers, including Heckler & Koch, Beretta, FNH, Glock and Smith & Wesson.

Police Pistol Combat (PPC) events divide shooters by gun type and skill level classifications.

Police SWAT units normally train frequently, but time and money enter into the equation for the average cop on the street. As a result, many police departments conduct in-service firearms training and qualifications only once or twice a year.

Officers who want to train more frequently to increase their proficiency are often on their own, and the NRA helps fill this gap by offering opportunities for officers to keep their firearms skills sharp through their numerous competitions.
POLICE PISTOL COMBAT (PPC) events are sanctioned by the NRA, and are open to full-time active law enforcement officers and, more recently, to military police. An officer doesn’t have to be a member of the NRA to compete. There are divisions for both semiauto pistols and revolvers and shooters are divided into various classifications according to their results in previous shoots.

The NRA also sanctions Tactical Police Competition (TPC) events across the country that require the use of actual duty guns and gear, as opposed to competition-specific “race” guns and holsters. These competitions are open to law enforcement officers, military personnel and private sector officers.

While certifying police firearms instructors, the NRA works with firearms manufacturers, which often provide armorer courses on maintaining specific duty weapons.

“The officers that participate in the Tactical Police Championships not only get to put their training to the test against other LEOs, but get to see where they can improve,” said Marc Lipp, the NRA Law Enforcement Division competitions manager. “This isn’t like competitions where shooters bring in customized guns and gear – they’re using the same gear they use in the line of duty.”

Each of these matches consists of four to seven courses of fire for handgun, rifle, shotgun or combination of those. There are skill-based courses of fire to test an officer’s handling proficiency and accuracy with a particular type of gun.

Certain custom features are allowed on firearms used in PPC competitions.

There are also scenario-based courses of fire that place the officer in hypothetical situations that the officer has to solve. These courses of fire might include assessing threat and nonthreat targets, shooting from various unconventional positions and making tactical decisions on how to move through the course using cover and navigating barriers, managing the available ammo, and finding the right balance of speed and accuracy.

Competitors in NRA-sanctioned PPC events come from agencies across the country.

“We aim to present scenarios LEOs would face on the job in order to accurately evaluate their skill level,” said Lipp. “It might be a competition here, but it could be a matter of life or death on the streets, and being able to respond to realistic situations is the best way for officers to train.”

These competitions can be eyeopening experiences for officers.

“The TPC is intentionally uncomfortable to navigate, and a lot of newcomers aren’t prepared for how challenging it is,” he said. “That’s good, because it forces the officers to face their training deficiencies head-on and make improvements in key areas. In the field, they’re not getting commands from a range tower on how to solve a problem – they need to know how to approach fluid scenarios in fractions of a second to deescalate potentially dangerous situations.”

 

 

PPC events entail shooting from different positions too.

THE NRA’S NATIONAL POLICE SHOOTING Championships will be conducted in Albuquerque, New Mexico, beginning September 16 this year. The national shoot is open to law enforcement professionals from around the world. Unlike other national competitions, there are no qualifiers or invitations needed. You compete against officers in your own classification. Unclassified shooter can also compete.

Reloads are often part of shooting stages in the PPC events.

TPC events are often very challenging, both physically and mentally.

So, the next time you get pulled into a debate with a gun-control advocate and the NRA is mentioned, you can help set the record straight. More than just a special-interest lobbying group, the NRA is deeply committed to firearms safety, training and competition, with special devotion to our nation’s police officers. ASJ

To learn more, visit the NRA Law Enforcement Division at le.nra.org.

The National Rifle Association created its Law Enforcement Division in 1960, and has been training officers and conducting competitions ever since.

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