The Wish List, Part 1 - Training -

The Wish List, Part 1

What every firearms instructor wants for the holidays



R.K. Miller | From the October 2009 Issue Thursday, October 1, 2009

For the most part, I enjoy teaching cops. I especially like it when I can get on a live-fire range and help them learn how to use weapons properly and safely. Throughout my 20-plus years of standing on the firing line as an instructor, I ve identified a number of accessories that I like to have available. It may seem like a lot to haul around or store, but to me, each piece has earned its place.

Following is part one of a list of items that I think every firearms instructor should have ready at the range.

An Extra Firearm

This may seem unnecessary, but think about it: If a student's weapon experiences functioning problems to the point where they can t continue, the training may be over for that officer. Instead, I suggest that the same type of firearm the students are using be available as a backup. The officer can then continue with this important training rather than sitting on the sidelines.

My old shop, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Police Department, was proactive in this manner, and its range box included extra handguns for this purpose. Similarly, more than once during the SWAT Academy or our Patrol Rifle Instructor course, a student s AR-15 experienced problems that we couldn t immediately fix. One of us would retrieve our rifle, allowing the student to train using that weapon. Sometimes the problem is so bad such as a blown primer stuck in the receiver, or a loose extractor that it just can't be fixed, at least not right away. Conceivably, a repair attempt would pull an instructor off the line, where they are needed most.

Remember: Part of the bargain in allowing the student to use one of our rifles is the implicit agreement that the you shoot it; you clean it rule is in effect. Don t forget that eventually the student s weapon will have to be inspected and repaired.

Spare Parts & Tools

If you have the requisite armorer s training and the time to fix a malfunctioning gun, you ll also need spare parts and tools. Because I regularly work with folks using AR-15s and MP-5s, I keep handy a small tool box that includes the necessary punches, gauges and other tools. What you don t want is someone trying to repair a firearm with inappropriate instruments, such as a small sledge hammer or a rock and yes, I ve seen it happen! You must know what you re doing. In addition, quality spare parts are a must; you may end up repairing your own weapon, after all. I carry a parts kit for both the AR family of weapons and the MP-5. I know that in the latter case, getting parts has been difficult at times. One vendor that meets my requirements is HK Specialist out of South Carolina (864/590-8570;

By extension, when working with students using long guns and/or submachine guns, your toolbox should include the appropriate sight adjustment tool, as well as the knowledge of how to use them. The correct tools are critical.

Example: The front sight adjustment tool for an M-16A1 will not work on an M-16A2, and vice versa.

Note: A Leatherman-type multi-tool is a great general-purpose accessory for instructors to have with them, but it doesn t negate the need to have the proper tools for working on guns.

Electronic Ear Protection

For several reasons, electronic ear protection is a must for any firearms instructor. First, let s talk about your hearing. If you re on the range for a serious amount of time, your hearing is in jeopardy. If you ve been doing this as long as I have, there s probably a tactical walker waiting for you when you toddle out to the firing line. But there should also be a set of ears on your head. I ve got a permanent ringing in one ear, and I know it s in part due to my time working the range without proper protection.

From a risk-management standpoint, it makes sense for a law enforcement agency to provide quality electronic hearing protection for their firearms instructors. Being a realist, however, I also recognize that in these tough financial times, it might not happen. Therefore, I recommend you purchase them on your own if your agency can't. In this respect, as well as many others, it s common for dedicated instructors to obtain equipment, including hearing protection with their own wallet, rather than do nothing or worse yet, sniveling about how the department won t give them what they want. Remember: Equipment you use on the job probably qualifies as a tax write-off.

Something you might not have considered: Although the primary advantage of electronic hearing protection is the noise they block out, these devices also amplify sounds when the sounds aren t at a harmful level. That translates into us being able to hear what s happening on the firing line. For example, if you re near a student and the sound signature from the firearm doesn t resonate quite the same as the normal crack of a round leaving the barrel, it may be time to act. This audio clue may indicate the student s gun has experienced a firing problem such as a squib round. Electronic amplification might enable you to hear a student vocalize that they re having trouble with the gun, or, worse yet, have been injured. The bottom line: Investing in electronic hearing protection makes sense.

Eye Protection

Just as we protect our eyes, we much protect our vision. I ve used many brands over the years all of them good including Oakley and ESS. Whatever you choose, here are some suggestions. First, I prefer amber-colored lenses on the range, unless of course it s during low-light training. The reason: My friend Phil Singleton taught me to use these so that the students can make eye contact with you as you talk to them. As good instructors, we know eye contact is pretty darn important in the classroom. It makes sense, as Phil pointed out, that it s equally relevant on the range. Consequently I make an effort to always wear appropriate eye protection, with this lesson in mind.

Additionally, the glasses I use on the range afford wrap- around protection. Any time you re on a firing line with hot brass flying through the air, it s common sense to have this feature. A burnt cornea from an ejected shell casing isn t pretty especially because it's preventable. I also select shatter-resistant, UV-rated lenses for the obvious benefits these features provide. If you require prescription lenses, a number of manufacturers offer inserts that your optometrist can fix up for you. If you want to avoid that expense, another option is to order stick-on reading bifocals. These are clear adhesive magnification lenses that come in various strengths. I've found I can position them on the inside of my shooting glasses and with the right prescription, see the front sight in clear focus. They're removable, so you can put them on another pair of glasses, or, as I tell folks who are visually challenged in the SWAT Academy, you can even use them on the lenses of your gas masks.

First Aid/Trauma Kit

I've covered first aid before, but we re going to cover it again because I think it's so important. There s no guarantee that bad things won t happen on your watch while running a live-fire range. Don't make the mistake of thinking it can't take place. It can, and preparation is the key to mitigating the outcome (for further discussion, see Tactics, p. 21).

In this sense, I recommend two options that whenever possible should both be available at your training. The first is a personal kit. Mine is usually in a pouch attached to my belt when I'm on the range, not only in case of a student injury, but also for me or another instructor. It includes a pair of surgical shears (don t try to cut away clothing with your knife), a mechanical tourniquet, blood stopper bandages, gloves and blood clotting agent.

The second option is an extensive trauma kit. I usually position this beneath an American flag we set up on the range. The flag makes it easy to immediately locate the trauma kit under emergency conditions. The kit contains more of the above, as well as Band-Aids, burn cream, eye patches, Asherman chest seals, a bag valve, Tylenol and so on. Note: Small first aid kits purchased from Costco or Office Depot, for example, are intended for office use and aren t sufficient if you want to truly be prepared for a worst-case scenario on your range.


I've got to close now, but I ll be back next month with the rest of my list of suggested instructor accessories. By then, I expect you ll be contemplating your investment in at least some of the items we ve discussed. My closing suggestion would be to make sure that whatever you buy, it's quality stuff that will serve your purposes well.



Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
print share
Author Thumb

R.K. MillerR.K. Miller, Law Officer's Train the Trainer columnist, retired from the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Police Department as a lieutenant after 30 years of service and is currently a reserve officer with the Orange (Calif.) Police Department.


What's Your Take? Comment Now ...


Law Officer Survey

LEOs & Drug Policy

The results are in. More than 11,000 sworn LEOs took time out of their busy schedules to tell us what they think about America’s fast-changing drug policy.
More >


Get LawOfficer in Your Inbox

Terms of Service Privacy Policy