We all know “that guy” (Not the one in the picture, if you do know him, you know he’ll kill me for accusing him of not training).  I’m talking about the  guy that goes to firearms instructor school, has all the answers upon graduation, and never trains again.  He is the “INSTRUCTOR” (It says so on the back of his red polo shirt, and the red hat he bought from Gall’s).  The scope of this article is not about him, or the folks you know like him (or her).  This installment is about the reality that I and many other instructors have found that the police instructor doesn’t get to train as much as we’d like to after getting in the position.  If at all.

In early 1997, I worked for a small agency.  I had been out of the Marines for five short years, and frankly knew everything there was to know about firearms.  You could just ask me and I’d tell you so.  I got the opportunity to go to the FBI Firearms Instructor School in mid-1997.  I just knew that within the first week, I’d be teaching the class.  I also knew that being a firearms instructor, I’d have he keys to the ammo locker,  and could train and shoot countless rounds of ammo like the bronze idol I thought myself to be at 28.

My performance was particularly weak during that two week course, and I realized how little I knew.  Then the reality of being an instructor set in over the next year.  A lot of agencies do consider you to be “trained” at that point, and very little instructor development time is given.  With supervisors looking at man hours, schedules, overtime, and budgetary concerns, the stark reality for most instructors worth their salt is training comes at their own dime, on their own time.  Time and agency training dollars become very precious commodities.  Now, this isn’t a gig toward any agency.  It is just the norm I hear from instructors from agencies large and small.  And the more areas you instruct, the greater the battle for time becomes.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I have always had good support from supervision, and got to train on company time, and on my own time.  But, even so, it still isn’t the utopia of brass piled hip deep that I thought it would be in 1997.  From speaking to instructors across this great nation, the trend of burnout comes with a few years because the lack of continuing education instructors get.  Most guys feel like they have become heavily armed baby sitters with nothing but a goal in life of getting ten percent of the agency to shoot a seventy percent passing score.  The frustration also seems to set in that they spend so much time with said ten percent of the agency, that the other ninety percent get ignored.  Or they feel like they aren’t teaching people to be gunfighters, to have the tools necessary to win in deadly force encounters they may face on the job.  Instead, they often feel like they are teaching officers to be test takers, to hit that magical seventy percent needed to pass for another quarter, bi-annual, or yearly qualification.

In many places, the training unit has taken such a serious hit on the budget that live ammo for training is becoming hard to come by.  One agency I know of has been reduced to four live rounds per year in practice.  One of the instructors told me it makes his head want to explode.  I’m tracking with his frustration on that, as instructors we know that it is such a perishable skill.

There are no  magic answers to these issues.  But we have to do something.  Time to get creative.

In bad budget years, it is easy to say “We don’t have the money for a lot of ammo, so we’re just not going to train”.  I say train.  It is a great opportunity to get a lot of dry fire repetitions in with the troops.  The dry fire will also be hugely beneficial to the ten percent that we spend so much time with.  You can then construct short combat courses on steel that take very few rounds to appease the emotional candy of making the gun go bang in training.  Low round count can actually be some of the most beneficial training scenarios that we as instructors can present.

Take some time for yourself to get out and take a weekend course from one of the 1000 good schools  that have popped up in the last five years.  Clint Smith once said that all the new schools popping up, and it was a good thing.  And he is RIGHT.  Used to be there was about a dozen good places to go and you had to travel for hours to get there.  Now, you can shop around and find something within a couple of hours of the house.  Do your research, and spend your money wisely.  It will not only pay a dividend with your skills you bring to the table as an instructor, but it’ll also help out your mental health the next time you step out on the range.

I am a police instructor.  But I’m always a student first.



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About Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones has been a Sheriff's Deputy in Kentucky since 1996. Jerry is currently assigned as a patrol deputy, firearms instructor and senior operator/training supervisor with a multi jurisdictional tactical team. Jerry is Kentucky POST certified to teach firearms, SWAT, and sniper operations and deployment at the Academy level. Jerry is also the President/CEO of Operation Specific Training and the Law Enforcement Representative for Apex Tactical Specialties.

6 thoughts on “I AM THE POLICE FIREARMS INSTRUCTOR- (I never train anymore)

  1. To increase the importance of low live round training exercises, you could make them into last resort scenarios, making the officers actually care about round placement versus spray and pray.

  2. I fully agree with your observations on instructors stagnating in their own training. An instructor should regularly seek more challenging opportunities to hone his own skill set and perhaps acquire new insights to pass on to his own students.

    I have also observed that many law enforcement officers are not receiving the training to be gunfighters or even to shoot well. It’s interesting to see that non-LEO students in tactical firearms courses are there because of a genuine interest in building skill sets and often out-perform the LEOs sent by their departments for training. The non-LEOs are spending their own money for courses because they have a genuine personal interest in learning the subject matter.

    With Americans purchasing a flood of firearms in recent years, it is more important than ever to get the word out about firearms instruction, to encourage them to participate and develop at least a basic level of proficiency. We have a duty as instructors to ensure the Armed Citizens are properly trained in the use of arms, to ensure they can prevail in a gunfight while minimizing the risk to innocent bystanders.

    GunTrainers.net was created as a free service to make it easy to find a local school with a simple zip-code search. The more instructors create their free listings, the more effective it is. We are doing our part to lead the Armed Citizens to the firearms instruction that will make them more safe and effective with their arms.

  3. While I was reading this article, I was thinking how did this guy know my story. I became a firearms instructor in 1996. Went to the California POST FBI course. Have been working with that 10 percent of troubled shooters in my department. at the cost of not giving enough attention to the 90 percent.

    This article is so to to life. I’m printing it for my bosses to see. Thank you for your insight. I and my fellow instrutors have always paid their own dime for the instructor schools. We feel it is better to get good training so we can be more profient as trainers. Or we could be like some and just complain that our department won’t send us to schools.

    Thanks again for such a good article.

  4. Thank you very much for your article! It not only brings back a lot of my experiences but gives me a few ideas for the new economy and ‘ordinance-funding.’ Few people realize unless they have done it that in order to teach people (esp brr a class of A type personalities where credibility is hard to come by) ANYTHING. You have to have a huge step above graduate in knowledge and people/question handling skills. In teaching you always get questions you never thought of while learning, training, pure experience and learning how to be an instructor and you either have to know the material so well that w/o hesitation give a good defendable answer or have the sincerity and courage to say you don’t know but will give a good answer at the next class. One ends up spending a lot of his/her own money buying more quality learning materials, keeping current by taking courses and buying more gear in order to keep up with current courses e.g. knowing nearly instinctively how to clear a jammed shell in any shotgun etc.

    I’ve helped instruct def/tac classes since the early 80s but because I don’t have some experiences nor some of the current methods, when I do assist now, during the more advanced classes, I concentrate on safety and going back to basic skills on the range while listening myself to the head instructor.

    Because of this not only am I able to choose the best courses for myself but I have the utmost regard for the good instructors out there and KNOW how much more they know then they might appear. I’m sure that includes you.

    The article comes close to home for another reason – I’m getting older and I would like to share my own knowledge and experience as much as I can since it would be a shame to have it all disappear.

    Again, thank you so much!
    Kathy Sato
    Pasadena, CA

  5. The Army only requires us to qualify 2 times a year. It Is either on paper or on a pop up range. It is the same every time. Guys will argue and compete over who can qualify the best on the same range we have been shooting for 5 years. I get funny looks, confused stares, and questions when I tell fellow soldiers that I paid to go to a shooting course. The usual remark is someone telling me that if the army doesn’t provide it then you don’t need it. Or they will tell me I am stupid for spending my time and money to “work” on the weekends. If I don’t qualify expert with the rifle then all the comments about the multiple pistol courses I have taken will start to fill the office. The sad part is that in the LE/MIL community most people either don’t think there is more out there or they don’t want to know what is out there. Most of them fear failure and would rather not go to a course where they would be challenged and thus popping there egos. I took my first Tactical pistol course in sacramento from Max Joseph at TFTT. I was blown away at how poorly I did. I passed the course but it was a good lesson for me to always remember that my training is not complete.

    great article
    Nathaniel chance
    Ft. Lewis, WA

  6. Great article! So true.
    My thought is if my weapon is going to save my life or someone else’s I want to be the best I can be.
    Times have changed for the worse.
    I want to be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.
    Right now your saying WHAT! Is this dude crazy? Yes I am! Crazy to survive.
    What I mean by Zombie Apocalypse is a generic term . When that mentally ill person comes into to that store or restaurant and starts taking people out.
    The crazy guys on the motor cycle trying to kill the guy in the SUV. Guy was shown using his helmet to smash the car window.
    You need to be ready.
    With budgets tough and you take your job seriously you may have to pay for some of your own training, buy some ammo. It’s tax deductible. I enjoy going to the range and shooting. It relaxes me. Call me crazy.
    I used to think dry firing was crazy till I read Bill Rodgers book. What a difference it makes and it’s free.
    Example work on drawing from the holster backing up and dry firing.
    While seated draw and dry fire from different positions then get to a standing position or to cover. Just getting out of your car. Just a few examples.
    Scenario. Your in your car doing paper work. Some one comes up to the car draws down. What to you do? Your not in that good stance to draw and fire. What do you do?
    Some one takes you down and you can’t get to your gun. What do you do?
    You see a hoard of Zombies slowly walking towards you while your eating a cheese burger. Do I have enough time to finish the cheese burger then take out the Zombies. LOL . Just kidding. You’d be eating a hot dog.
    Expect the unexpected then it’s not unexpected.

    When you go to the range go with a plan or a goal when you shoot. Just like when your training in MMA. You don’t go in training with out having a plan and goal for that day.
    Make those rounds count. Shoot, dry fire and repeat.
    I do not claim to be an expert. This is just my two cents.
    A training mind is a learning mind. Repetition is the Mother of Skill.

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