Training Facilities: Throwing money the wrong way
I note that whenever a tragedy occurs, line of duty death or raid gone wrong, money is thrown at the problem by building a less than functional training facility. Chiefs and Sheriffs do not know about what officers need nor do they research it. They tend to build a high dollar training facility with all the whistles and bells to include, lights, smoke, audio systems, etc. It makes them feel better, but does not solve the training problem. When all is said and done, a limited amount of good training can be done there at one time and most of the agency personnel go without the training they need. The sparkling new facility is a show piece of cosmetic jewelry that the administrator can brag about. It may be pretty, pretty useless is the overall training scheme.
Flat ranges are an afterthought at most agencies. They may have one firing line that will support many shooters, but it is often used for a quick qualification or multiple qualifications depending on the size of the agency. Sections within the department struggle to get range time because of “quals.” As we all know, qualifications are an academic ticket punch and not training. Structured training is thought out, stair-stepped and continuous. Structured training addresses trends in the criminal community or gaps in the existing training program. Beside a large bay, a few smaller bays are needed for concurrent or remedial training. Also, push them out to 100 yards. I have had three officers in the last month come out with a supposed 50 yard zero. All three did not have a round on target when shooting at 100 and 75 yards. I am not a fan of 50 yard zeros, but I will save that for another article. What is needed? First, for larger agencies, a couple of large flat bays that will support the massive qualification effort. Next, a few smaller bays for remedial shooters that fail qualifications. Finally, a few more bays for in service training so qualifications do not put a stop to all agency in-service training. Before officers attempt live fire shoot house training, they must have safe weapon handling and marksmanship skills which come from the flat range.
Bullets Traps vs. Granular vs. Dirt
First all, work. All have pros and cons. I have Dirt at my facility because of cost to maintain and ease of repair. Granular would be my next choice as it can be cleaned out and most likely recycled. Bullet Traps are my lease favorite for several reasons. They must be maintained and you have to use frangible ammo. Fran ammo is expensive and while “green,” it wears down your barrel significantly faster than traditional ammo. Training wise, with a dirt or granular backstops, I can put a great deal or more targets up, high and low to give the officer more visual props to discriminate. Bullet traps can cause training scars as students may start looking for traps vs. doing a proper scanning sequence with each run.
Most Shooting Houses are built by companies that don’t know how to set up or structure training. Trying to get 3 teams to run three of the same scenarios or different scenarios in a small house set up can be impossible. This means that the structure supports 5-6 individuals at a time and not three teams of five-six for a total of 15 in a training session, which is ideal. A simple facade, or several of them in short bays would support a team of 5-6 which means, if you had four of them, you could keep 20 people busy in the morning and 20 in the afternoon for a total of 40 in one day. This is critical to get the training out to larger agencies.
The above “Bay” type scenario would sustain the following “Hard Skills” training: • Center Fed Room • L Shaped Room • T Intersection • Outward Opening Door • Inward Opening Door • Single Officer Open Door Pie Pistol Right and Left • Single Officer Closed Door Pie Pistol Right and Left • Two Person/Team Entries • Window Contact • Body in a Hallway Dead • Body in a Hallway Medical • Flash Light Day • Flash Light Night • Pistol Day • Pistol Night • Rifle Day • Rifle Night • Vehicle Dismounts and approaches • Bad Bobs and Displacing People • Sims and role players all of the above In addition to the above, breaching doors can be used so patrol and SWAT can practice breaching to gain access to a target. Yes, it is only two-rooms. I have a training philosophy that if you can clear one room correctly, you can clear a thousand without a problem.
The above Shoot House can accommodate the following: • Two team hallway movement • Multi-team hallway movement • Room to room shots • Shots from Corner Clear • Shots from room coverage
As a long-time trainer, I see a great deal of high dollar shoot houses that don’t support training or become obsolete because training cadres don’t know how to use them. In addition, most don’t support multiple training teams at one time. They become a high dollar metal box which is rarely used. The average cost for a small rifle grade shoot house is over $500k. I have seen elaborate shoot houses cost millions. Finally, training is not maximized by an inefficient shoot house. As for smoke, video and audio systems, it is generally a waste, is not used and breaks down. It is too costly to repair and generally stays broken. Officers are not in need of movie studio sets, but simple training facades that resemble what angles they encounter on the streets and where they may have to engage bad guys. In short, they need reps and lots of them.