Top Tips from Experts - Training -

Top Tips from Experts

Important firearms discussions focus on prevailing



Dave Spaulding | From the August 2011 Issue Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Every spring I make the pilgrimage to North Chicago for the annual International Law Enforcement Education and Training Association (ILEETA) conference. It’s an opportunity to network and listen to the world’s leading experts on all things related to law enforcement trends, training and equipment. Much of the information exchange occurs in the hallways, hotel rooms, restaurants and even in the parking lot as two or more authorities on a subject cross paths and exchange ideas.

I receive the best information if I happen to be where these folks gather and just sit back and listen. I’ve learned that I comprehend the subject matter better if I don’t make rash judgments on what’s being said and just take time to ponder the information. After some reflection, I do a better job of deciding whether the new information is noteworthy or just BS designed to sell a product or training course.

This past year I sat down with a number of trainers who also share their vast knowledge with the readers of this magazine. The subject matter shared around the table included court testimony, pursuit driving, defensive tactics, firearms and everything else in between.

It’s been several months since the conference, and I’ve had time to digest and reflect upon the information shared and discussed. Below are the most noteworthy topics that highlight current issues, training tips, officer safety—all of which center around the importance of prevailing.


Ammo Costs

During the conference, I was able to sit down with Law Officer’s Tactical Ops columnist, Jeff Chudwin, and of course we talked about all things firearms related. We both expressed concern about the increasingly high cost of ammunition. It’s more than doubled in the last five years, and you should expect it to double again.

I’ve tried to pin down why the rise has been so severe while talking with industry representatives and have heard myriad reasons. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect the price is rising due to demand. As long as the demand is high, ammo companies will continue to increase their profit margin. I don’t say this lightly. I have many friends in the business, but sometimes the truth hurts.

Depending on the volume of ammo purchased, duty ammo can cost twice as much as full-metal jacket training loads, which means an agency buying duty ammo is actually buying half the amount of ammo they could be. Consequently, they’re probably training and shooting less, and if you think about how quickly shooting skills perish, this is just flat out wrong!

“I can’t believe the number of agencies that still insist on using duty-grade hollow point ammo for training,” said Chudwin. “I can’t tell the difference when I shoot training versus duty ammo, and I doubt that many others can either.” Great point!

The trend of training with duty ammo began in the revolver days when agencies were using .38 target wadcutters for training, but carrying .357 magnum ammo for duty. Naturally, the felt recoil and muzzle blast were substantially different and actually became a factor in gunfights where it affected an officer’s ability to prevail. Legal experts even maintained it could affect the outcome of lawsuits against police agencies where wrongful deaths and failure to train were named as part of the suit. Agencies quickly began to train with duty-equivalent ammo and the concerns of disparity in duty vs. training ammo faded. Jump forward to the era of the semi-automatic pistol, and we discover that even though training ammo is powerful enough to cycle the action of a duty pistol, agencies still think it’s a good idea for training ammo to have a hole in the end. Not necessary, folks!

The current generation of duty ammo comes from the factory with flash-retardant powders mixed in. The concern about overwhelming muzzle flash during conflict is no longer a factor. The truth is, more muzzle flash will be experienced using training ammo than duty loads. Because much of the recoil experienced when shooting a semi-auto pistol is generated from slide cycle and velocity, the felt difference between duty and training ammo would have to be measured with a bench rest.

It makes more sense these days to spend disintegrating tax revenues on purchasing training ammo and shooting more, rather than worry about not training with duty ammo. If an officer misses during conflict or does something to get the agency sued, it’s more likely that the lack of trigger time will be a factor in the suit, not whether the training ammo was duty-equivalent. Bottom line: Less-expensive training ammo should be used as intended. It reduces cost and expands the training program.


Spaulding’s Rule of Gun Safety

My friend Sgt. Chuck Humes calls them “The Flawless Four” and everyone who has ever trained with a firearm has heard them. They’re simple, succinct and make sense for most all firearms usages, whether plinking, competition or combat.


The Flawless Four

1. All guns are always loaded.

2. Never place your finger inside the trigger guard until the sights are on target and you’re ready to shoot.

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Dave SpauldingDave Spaulding, the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and Law Officer's Firearms columnist, is a 28-year law enforcement veteran who retired at the rank of lieutenant.


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