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


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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.


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