The Shooting Instructor

The following information on the shooting instructor comes from Section 44 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

It is the shooting instructor’s duty to first see that the range is safe and to explain to the men SAFETY ON THE RANGE, which may be handled in different ways.

The officers may be instructed to leave their revolvers in their holsters until called to the firing line or a still safer way is to ask each officer as he enters the range to step to the firing line, unload his revolver and deposit all ammunition in his possession there. Another very good way is to place a table in the range and, as each recruit comes in, to see that he places his revolver and all ammunition in his possession on the table. Count to see that all are accounted for; too much cannot be said about safety, not only to others in the range but to the officer receiving instructions.

AND STILL ANOTHER SAFETY NOTE. If revolvers are not unloaded at the firing line as each officer enters the range, every one must keep his hands away from his revolver. I mention this as I have been present when several different officers or guards have unthinkingly placed their hands on their revolvers and fired a shot through the holster. Another accident which frequently happens is when a guard unloads his revolver, cleans and oils it, loads it again and, after holding the revolver in his hands for a few minutes while talking to some friends, deliberately aims at a target on the wall and drives a bullet through it. Whenever your hands are near your revolver keep your mind on what you are doing until you take them away again. Day dreaming and handling a loaded revolver bring a smile to no one’s face but the undertaker’s.

The beginner is bound to aim the pistol at his feet or swing the muzzle over his shoulder, making all parts of the range unsafe. The first instructions should be with the revolver empty for a single-action shooting. New men should be taught how to stand, how to aim, the use of sights, trigger squeeze, holding the breath, flinching, and the value of dry shooting. The shooting instructor should note every man’s errors, but not call the attention of the firing squad to any one man; he should make the correction general. The shooting instructor should give short and interesting talks on “Lack of Interest,” and if you find some of the men that do not show interest in this branch of police work you will find them careless in other things connected with their duties as a police officer.

Again I am going to mention safety, as that is a subject that a shooting instructor cannot talk about too often. In fact, while he is talking to his men, he can look along the line and see some one with his revolver pointing at his own feet or at his neighbors. Remember a firearm is always dangerous unless the cylinder is open and out of line with the hammer, if it is a revolver; and slide open or fastened in a rearward position and magazine out of pistol, if an automatic is used.

The shooting instructor will find some of the men who will hold well until the instant they squeeze the trigger. Then they will take a death grip on the arm, close their eyes, shut their teeth, and pull down on the arm as the explosion occurs, shaking the bullets out instead of shooting them, consequently a wild shot. A very good way to show the beginner his error is to slip an empty shell into his revolver if he is flinching or pulling down, for he will do the same with an empty shell. Or, the revolver may be taken by the shooting instructor who, without the knowledge of the pupil, will set the cylinder back so that the hammer will fall on an empty shell. This will show clearly what happens when the explosion and recoil are expected. Flinching can easily be overcome if the shooter will only take the advice of the shooting instructor.

The shooting instructor can easily instruct the men in the proper way to stand and this may be varied slightly by men of different size and build. If instructing for practical police shooting then the position is: revolver in holster, hands at side, and in standing or walking position.

Beginners should be placed near enough to the target so they can hit it and can more easily see their errors. This is more essential in police work than in any other kind of shooting, as most of their service shooting is at short range.

At the shooting class practice some of the men will show marked improvement over others, so these men should be put in an advanced squad, shooting a harder course and at different ranges. The result is—more interest will be shown by the advanced squad, as they know they are improving; more interest will be shown by the men in the novice squad for they will use renewed efforts to reach the advanced class. Ten, twelve, fifteen, and twenty-five yards have proven the popular distances for police work.

Both silhouette and target shooting will give the officer experience, confidence in himself, and confidence in his revolver, all of which is necessary for a successful officer. One hundred yard target shooting and one hundred yard silhouette shooting should be practiced by the officer, who will then know the possibilities of his revolver. While the revolver has always been considered a short range weapon, an experienced shot can easily demonstrate that it is very accurate at one hundred yards and that the silhouettes may easily be hit at two hundred yards.

A good shot is an honor to any force and is known to the crook as well as to his brother officers. An officer succeeds in his chosen profession by being able to handle himself and the arm he carries. He creates a respect that will live as long as he is connected with police work.

Every officer will ask himself after a few weeks: “Am I improving?” If he has faithfully followed the rules of practical police shooting he has and can prove it to his own satisfaction. If he has taken it up in a half-hearted manner he has improved very little. If he has said to himself that he does not need practical police shooting, that he does not have to listen to the shooting instructor, he will regret it the first time he is called upon to defend himself.

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The Shooting Instructor

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