[su_heading size=”30″]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.[/su_heading]
STORY BY STEVEN PAUL BARLOW PHOTOS BY NRA
[su_dropcap style=”light”]T[/su_dropcap]he 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.