Late in 2010, I began began to shoot competitively on a regular basis. I am typically shooting two matches per month and sometimes three. A frequent theme that I hear professed or see posted online by competitive shooters is snide references to their perceived lack of accuracy on the part of peace officers when involved in deadly force situations. These statements both amuse and miff me at the same time. This piece is my response to those who have such a mindset as I would like to put some perspective into play.
Truth be told, the percentage of peace officers that are “gun people” is rather low. By “gun people”, I mean those people who actively participate in voluntary training and become true students of the art of shooting. Unfortunately, on a profession-wide basis, the standards for qualification are too low, and too many peace officers are satisfied with turning in a passing score on the range only to not come back to the range until the next mandatory qualification day. Simply put, too many peace officers view qualifying and training (note I make a distinction as they aren’t the same thing) as a necessary evil. Where the competitive shooters make a mistake of logic is that they tend to look at peace officers as a single entity while discounting that the percentage of competitive shooters compared to the proverbial average gun owner is actually quite low as well.
The typical pistol match involves either a set course of fire that is known to the shooters, or the shooters are briefed and get a walkthrough of the stages prior to their run. Competitors know when they go to a match that they will be involved in a shooting activity. Competitors get to pick their firearm and ammunition and all of their equipment within the rules of their respective sport, and said ammunition usually consists of low recoiling loads, and the firearms are often modified. Shooting “non-threat” targets results in a time or points penalty, and the targets don’t shoot back. Contrast all of that with the fact that peace officers are usually get a standard issue firearm with modifications prohibited by the ever present liability fears. The ammunition issued to the peace officer is defense loads designed to stop threats and not simply punch holes in paper, and while we all accept the fact that any call may be the call that erupts into a gunfight, I have yet to read an after action report from a shooting in which a range officer asked the peace officer if they understood the course of fire, if they were ready, and then activated a buzzer to signal that the shooting could commence. Oh yeah, the bad guys do shoot back, and shooting those innocent bystanders and hostages brings a whole host of consequences.
I propose the following: I’ll post a sign up sheet for all of my competitive shooting friends, and sometime between now and in the next 20 years I’ll set up a surprise scenario and spring it on you with no advanced notice or walkthrough. We’ll figure up your score and establish a true baseline for comparing the combat accuracy of peace officers and competitive shooters. It’s only fair, right?