Training on a tight budget

Last year I sent out several inquiries to my firearms training friends, looking for their perspectives on training on limited budgets. I received a variety of responses, ranging from several texts of “Do you want me to just write this article for...


Last year I sent out several inquiries to my firearms training friends, looking for their perspectives on training on limited budgets. I received a variety of responses, ranging from several texts of “Do you want me to just write this article for you?” to a number of courses of fire currently in use with the sender’s department. I wasn’t surprised to hear that everyone already had a low budget plan in place.

Some of the texts had simple descriptions. For example, LET contributor Dennis Haworth described a portable running man setup that uses 4 carabiners, 2 ropes and a target platform that rolls. Correctional Sergeant Ernesto Castro, a range master for his facility, recommended using vehicles to practice simple skills like carbine-handgun transitions.

John Hall sent me the courses of fire for a portion of his class on unconventional shooting positions. John and I have held classes on the same range, so I am quite familiar with these drills. If your department uses them, long sleeves and a change of pants are necessary. I am a firm believer in making these drills quite vigorous.

Paul Markel recommends Airsoft and BB guns — particularly Crosman Airsoft — and I do, too. I am also a firm believer in subcaliber training, and I use Crosman pellet pistols for marksmanship training. Many manufacturers are recognizing the utility of sub caliber training by providing rimfire versions of their centerfire duty firearms. For example, Ruger has produced the Ruger 22/45, a complement to the Ruger SR 1911. Really, it doesn’t get better than this.

Paul Markel is the kind of trainer whose passion for realistic scenarios and training methods is self evident. What I like about him best is the fact that his material, written and on video, is entertaining. His weekly television program (see paulmarkel.com) is a “must see” and his articles, which appear in some of the best venues, are on top of the “most talked about” list in firearms news. Oh yeah — he can shoot, too. I have included his part in its entirety.

Firearm training encompasses a vast collection of skill sets, including threat recognition, manipulation, mindset, decision making, physical training and confidence.

Some skills, like mindset, are harder to develop than others. The subset of mindset, determination (mental toughness, tenacity), is a skill developed over time from personal experience. It is harder to hone this skill on the range or training center, but classroom training like Street Survival has a significant amount of validity. For example, living a mantra like “I’m not going to die here. I will keep on fighting until I win” is a viable counter to “I’m not going to jail this time.”

The officer needs to be mentally, ethically and physically competent in order to be effective. That is, he must be able to apply training and judgment to each situation in a timely manner.

For example, if we take John Hall’s drills (depicted later in this article), which are designed to create a foundation for nontraditional shooting positions, the officer reinforces that he doesn’t need to be crouched or in a modified Weaver in order to be lethal.

Using Markel’s philosophy on Airsoft and BBs, officers will learn, often painfully, the nuances of slicing the pie. The sting of force-on-force tools is an effective motivator.

Physical manipulation training is also an essential part of firearms training. This is often misnomered as “muscle memory.” My shift sergeant, now retired as the lead instructor of the Trident Farms Academy, used to tell his students, “If muscles had memory, I would still look like I was 20.” Actually, physical manipulation is the method by which the brain routinely seeks more efficient normal pathways to learn a skill. Eventually, a skill is “learned,” where the components are fused together into a single smooth motion. This is the same reason why a novice golfer lacks a smooth transition in their swing until they repeat the motion hundreds of times.

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