Evolution in Training – The Importance of Staying Current

When people see the topic of evolution, it usually brings forth some heated arguments.  This article is about how we fail to evolve as firearms and tactics instructors.  This failure of evolution has brought forth a lot of heated arguments as well.

I don’t see this failure as much in the larger, more mainstream firearms and tactics schools as I do in the smaller ones.  Certainly it exists in larger schools.  I see it more often in training at the local level, and mainly in institutional organizations and police training. These schools often have instructors that have been around a while, and generally they haven’t been to a school to upgrade their skills and knowledge since Carter was in office.  And the curriculum shows it.

This is not a slight toward those of us that have been around a while.  I’m closer to 50 than I am 40 these days.  And I understand that larger organizations are harder to change when it comes to policies and curriculum.  The bigger the ship, the harder it is to turn.  Got it.  Check.  It is the mentality that change is bad, and some instructors/organizations are down right hateful about it.

A couple cases in point:

Going back about five years, I attended a firearm’s instructor in-service on the carbine.  The first morning of class, the lead instructor enters the room carrying a cooler.  Instructor introductions are completed, as well as the admin paperwork, and the lead instructor opens the cooler.  He asks one of the students to make a note of the time.  He then pulls an EoTech red dot sight from the cooler.  He states that the EoTech had been in the cooler, which had been in his freezer over night.  He tells all of the students not to wipe the glass, and to hand it around to see if it was usable.  When it came to me, I could see the dot, but of course it was fogged over due to the temperature change.  We wasted 27 minutes of class staring at the EoTech, before it was finally clear to see through.  The lead instructor then proclaimed that red dot sights were useless and a liability to law enforcement.  And further went to state that we had been shooting people with iron sights for years and it worked just fine.  HUH?????  He then sent us all to the parking lot to get our rifles, and also sent instructions that all red dot sights must be removed before coming back in the building.  He instructed that we would shoot the course for the week with irons “like real men”.  WHAT?????  Welcome to 1970.  We went to the parking lot, I pulled the Aimpoint off my rifle and successfully completed the course at the end of the week.  When someone brought up the topic of red dot sights and why the instructional staff was so violently against them, the staff presented a diatribe of information that was current and correct for 1970.  It had no bearing to the current crop of red dot sights available today.  Their catch all was the fogging issue of taking the rifle from a warm cruiser into a cold environment or vice versa.  I posed a question to the staff.  If their family was being held by a hostage taker, would they prefer the police sniper who was going to take the life saving shot to use iron sights “just to be safe”?  I pointed out that snipers use glass on their rifles going back into the 1960’s and have found work arounds for advantage of a magnified optic as it comes to fogging.  I got a befuddled look.  The subject was changed fairly quickly after that.

Another large agency was having a high level meeting to allow weapon mounted lights among the rank and file of their 1200 or so troops.  Most of the meeting was staffed by the rank of Major or higher.  The academy Lieutenant  and the Lieutenant  that was the SWAT team leader was also in attendance.  Both Lieutenants had heavy, full time SWAT backgrounds and were the products of the best training that money could buy.  They pushed for a training program for weapon mounted lights, and authorization of such equipment for the rank and file.  As the story goes, a Colonel leaned across the table as the SWAT LT was giving the presentation about proper usage of a weapons mounted light and stated “Hell son, we’ll have officers pointing guns at people during building searches at two in the morning.  We can’t have that.”  The LT didn’t miss a beat and told the Colonel that when you did a building search without a weapon mounted light at two in the morning, you generally pointed guns at who ever you found inside.  The purpose of a building search was looking for bad guys.  I’m sure the Colonel presented the same befuddled look I had witnessed from the inservice instructor.  Here it is several years later, and that agency is still strictly prohibited from using weapon mounted lights, unless assigned to SWAT.

I’m at a serious loss to understand this mentality.  And it is frustrating for many of us to say the least.  To stay proficient, we must evolve.  Our opponents seem to have no problem evolving.  We must evolve our equipment, and our tactics if we are to survive.  As instructors, when we quit learning and adapting, we begin to cheat our students.




This entry was posted in Competition, Fitness, Modern Service Pistols, Training by Jerry Jones. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

14 thoughts on “Evolution in Training – The Importance of Staying Current

  1. Wow jerry you nailed it son,with this article.overcome,adapt to tactics and the gear gear that comes from the times we live and breathe now.if your not learning your not helping your self,staff,or the student.great read.
    Stay low and reload.

  2. At least someone finally posted a pic of that mysterious firearms “instructor” responsible for the “support-thumb-behind-slide technique, the carbine/shotgun in-rack trigger press check, and other “tools for the tool box” techniques that somehow escaped.us mainstream shooters and instructors.

    I know of one dept that allows weapons lights for service pistols, but not the holsters designed to accomidate them. Or the story that a major federal agency would not authorize speedloaders for their revolvers for many years because an old chief couldn’t figure out how to make them work.

  3. I am not at a loss for why they are like that. The worst offenders sit in offices rather than patrol cars. They have no skin in the game.

  4. Great article, especially about the mindset of law enforcement supervisory personnel. In my 23 years’ experience, this mentality is the RULE rather than the exception. Ultimately, it played a role in my moving to a different role in LE because change is practically impossible until those in command retire.

  5. Jerry,

    Hear , hear, well said! I battled the people you described my entire career. I’m former LE (28 YEARS), SWAT officer (22) years and military (reserve and active duty) from 1978-2011. An instructor in both arenas (retired now). I still contract, instruct and advise groups and organizations. Remaining relative, informed and objective is a constant struggle. I still have problems and strong disagreement at times. I attempt to remain grounded and evaluate everything as impartially as I’m able. I continually learn new things from students, other instructors and peers. “Time waits for no man”, I’m proud to say our agency fields over 500 SWAT personnel and provides some of the finest training for the exact reasons you have outlined above. I was a master instructor prior to retirement and overcame the morons in HQ and the POGs. Our new instructors in the lead now are better trained, more humble, less ego driven and more diverse in multiple disciplines then I ever was at the same stage in my career. Humility, adaption, objectivity and flexibility are hard to learn. Excellent article!


  6. You should do an article on dealing with fogging and similar issues associated with optical sights.

  7. I’m in the same state and have done that exact same in service rifle class. I just shook my head when presented their opinion on optics. What they refuse to accept is that many of our agencies are using or authorizing optics and they are training instructors with iron sights. While most of us have no problem training our people on optics, some “instructors” will not be able to effectively train their officers because they have no idea how to use the optics that their officers are using. We would be better served if the instructors were trained to use and train on whatever the agency is using and then push agencies to authorize the best equipment for their officers. Unfortunately our state is stuck in an attitude of catering to the lowest common denominator instead of staying current.

  8. Well stated Jerry, and dead on target.

    Too many instructors and bosses think they have “arrived” and quit training or learning. What one of my gurus calls “incest and in-breeding” is rampant in law enforcement.

    Like water, you are either moving forward or you are stagnant.

  9. I couldn’t agree more. The biggest challenge I face as an instructor is trying to make the administration understand the need for keeping training current. And keeping my training updated. In the past 11 years, I have sent myself to more training on my own dime and time than the department. Such is the cost of maintaining your skills and passing that knowledge onto those your entrusted to teach.
    Be Safe

  10. Your story about the weaponlights really resonated with me; I’ve been fighting that battle since I became a firearms instructor six years ago. Right now we’re at the same place you are – weapon lights are finally on the authorized equipment list, but if you ask anyone in a position to know, they tell you only SWAT can use them (despite nothing in the written policy to that effect). One office-dwelling higher-up told me “as soon as the LAPD starts using weaponlights, we’ll start using weaponlights.” I can’t say for sure, but I’ve heard that the LAPD’s been using them for years. Unfortunately that falls on deaf ears around here.

    • We’ve been using rifle mounted lights since at least 2001/2002 and pistol mounted lights since at least 2004… Our SWAT team has been using them since 1984.

  11. The troopers here in Kentucky fought the weapon light battle with a member of thr command staff but have been issuing them with the rifles for the last 3 years or so.

  12. After being an Instructor for going on 4 decades, my training never stops. I am a student of the gun, and pass on what I have learned. That said, there are only so many ways to shoot a gun, and we didn’t invent it. There is no new style or old style. Yes, there is new technology, and old technology. But in the end, if you do not understand the fundamentals, all the new crap in the world won’t help you. Sorry. Just my experience, yours may differ.

Comments are closed.