The Cutting Edge: Practical Firearms Training While Saving Ammo
Reprinted from The Training Research Brief
By Terry N. Wollert, Rodney Burnett, Ed Sizemore & Dan Balash
Futurist, Alvin Toffler1, in his 1970 international bestselling book, described the accelerated rate of technological and social change being experienced in the world as “future shock.” Toffler coined the phrase “future shock” to explain the societal paralysis caused by rapid technological change. He argued that change was accelerating at a speed where the rate of change is disorientating lots of people.
It may be safe to say that the field of law enforcement firearms instruction is not suffering from “future shock.” That is not to say that law enforcement firearms training has not incurred change. After all, the FBI2 adopted the 38 special revolver in the 1930s and federal agencies3 began transitioning to the semiautomatic pistol in the 1990s, with most of the larger agencies completing the transition between 1995 and 2000. That is only 80 plus years after the U.S. Army’s adoption of the infamous John Browning Colt 1911 semi-auto pistol. Another example of entrenched law enforcement firearms training is apparent when one compares an early qualification course of fire to one used in 2009.
The July 1945 issue of American Rifleman4 describes the FBI firearms training course as:
The practical pistol course consists of fifty shots, and is designed to cover as many situations as possible under which the agent may have to shoot. For this course, a Colt silhouette target and the Colt .38 Official Police Revolver are used. The first ten shots are fired from hip level at a distance of seven yards from the target. Upon command, the gun is loaded with five cartridges and is holstered immediately. When the men on the firing line have all loaded and holstered their guns, the second command is given at which time the guns are drawn and fired from hip level without aiming. As soon as the first five shots have been discharged, the empty cartridges are taken out and five live cartridges are inserted and fired into the target.
The 2009 Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s (FLETC) Practical Pistol Course (PPC) describes the course as:
The FLETC PPC is designed to simulate a variety of shooting positions and situations a shooter could be expected to encounter in the field. The course is fired from the 7, 3, 1.5, 15 and 25 yard lines. The shooter will fire 60 rounds on the Transtar II target for score. Shooters begin with a loaded weapon with 6 rounds with 2 additional 6 round magazines in their magazine pouch. The Course of Fire begins “Shooters, from the Close Quarters Bent Elbow Position, strong-hand only, when the threat appears, draw and fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds. When the target edges, scan and holster. You will do this for the next 3 facings. When the slide locks to the rear, perform an emergency reload, scan, de-cock, (if appropriate) and thumb check back to the holster.”
Thomas Aveni5, in a 2008 article on police firearms training, points out that the law enforcement community has adopted many new technological advances like dashboard cameras, MDTs (computer displays), and ECWs (Tasers). Even the traditional multi cell incandescent bulb has given way to smaller and brighter LED flashlights. When it comes to firearms training, we’ve held onto the traditional methods. Change is coming whether we initiate it or it is forced upon us.
Recent US Congressional testimony by senior officials demonstrated the push federal law enforcement is getting due to budget pressures. The exchange between congressman Mica6, at an Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, and a Department of Homeland Security official focused on the viability of simulation and the potential cost savings. Congressman Mica was asking why law enforcement wasn’t using more simulation and why we shoot more rounds per student than the military who are training people for actual combat operations.
Aveni went on to say that challenging convention is a tricky uphill battle. It is not simply a matter of coming up with a better solution, it must be proven to be better, then adopted by the majority before it can become the new convention.
The future is where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) is becoming a source of digital best practice using technology to enhance student learning. For example, using driving and marine simulators to teach accident avoidance and marine navigation skills and an Avatar Based Interview Simulator (ABIS) as a training tool to reinforce the five-step interview process they are taught in class. Even the Firearms Division (FAD) uses laser handguns and branching videos to teach uses of force decisions during the Judgment Pistol Shooting Course. The FLETC is taking on the task of identifying how to take advantage of available technology by challenging industry to develop simulation systems that replicate real world training activities.
For example, in 2010, the FLETC conducted a study to determine if a Laser Handgun could be used to conduct Basic Marksmanship Instruction (BMI). BMI includes basic weapons handling skills; including stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. The study investigated whether the final qualifying Semiautomatic Pistol Course (SPC) score of those using a laser handgun in BMI was significantly different from the final qualifying SPC score of those using a live-fire handgun during BMI. The results of the study were published in the spring 2011 issue of the FLETC Journal, and the November 2011 issue of Law Officer Magazine.
The FLETC research team began the study using volunteers from the College of Coastal Georgia (CCGA) majoring in Criminal Justice. The volunteers were divided into two stratified groups based on age, gender, and prior experience with a handgun. One group completed the BMI training using a non-recoil Glock 17R handgun and the other group completed BMI using a Glock Model 17 9mm handgun. After both groups completed BMI they attended 14 hours of the FLETC Semiautomatic Pistol Course (SPC) which concluded with a final qualification round. The research team felt that even though the difference between the two groups was only 2.6 points, there were not enough volunteers to establish whether or not the difference was statistically significant. However, the FLETC Firearms Division (FAD) and the research team felt the results warranted further study using FLETC students.
The United States Marshals Service (USMS) had several back to back classes consisting of 140 students attending the Criminal Investigator Training Program, (CITP), that were allowed to participate in the study. The USMS students were randomly divided into two groups using the same stratification method used for the college students. The two groups matched the number of trigger pulls versus rounds fired to ensure neither group had an unfair advantage. At the completion of the SPC qualification session, the difference in the two group’s scores, using an independent t-test, were found to be statistically insignificant. In fact, the laser group, when compared to the USMS Control Group, both groups scored 275.8 out of a possible 300 points.
Using the results from the FLETC7 and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) studies8, the FLETC concluded that the use of simulation for the BMI is as equally effective as live-fire. Coupled with the success of the simulation studies, FLETC had a live-fire range that had been offline since 2010 due to safety issues which provided an ideal location for installing virtual firing ranges. Converting the live-fire range to virtual ranges would provide substantial life cycle cost savings, while providing increased throughput of 72 lanes versus 24 lanes on the live-fire range, and students getting two to three times more trigger pulls than a similar live-fire course without increasing course length. Additionally, the simulated ranges will create less environmental impact because no live ammunition is fired.
The virtual firing range has several advantages for instructors and new law enforcement officers and agents. At the top of the list is safety. With more and more students attending the various law enforcement training programs, several have little to no firearms experience and even less with a handgun. Andria Heese9, summer intern from William Jewell College, expressed the advantage of using the virtual range during a conversation following her first firearms experience. According to Andria:
I found the virtual firing range very helpful. I have never fired or even touched a handgun in my life and this experience helped me learn to shoot in an atmosphere that was less intimidating than going straight to a firing range with real bullets.
The virtual range allows instructors to introduce pistol craft training without the hazards of an unintentional/negligent discharge. The virtual range allows instructors to closely observe student performance and through the use of the system’s After Action Review (AAR) capabilities, the instructor can provide students immediate visual and informative feedback/corrective actions. The system automatically tracks student performance for trending and recordkeeping. Because the simulator does not require the use of hearing protection, instructors are able to communicate with their students in normal conversational tone instead of trying to talk over the noise associated with a live-fire range with double hearing protection. Instructors can easily create new courses of fire or use courses in the database to provide students with drills to enhance their firearms skills. The virtual range simulator can be used to introduce students to tactical engagement skills such as reduced light, moving while shooting, shooting moving targets while moving, and threat identification to mention a few.
It was interesting watching her confidence build, during the 1.5 hour training session, as she went from not knowing how to aim to drawing the weapon from the holster and consistently hitting the target during 2 second facings. Andria was not an exception as three other new handgun shooters made the same transition during the 1.5 hour training session.
The virtual range allows instructors to introduce pistol craft training without the hazards of an unintentional/negligent discharge. The virtual range allows instructors to closely observe student performance and through the use of the system’s After Action Review (AAR) capabilities, the instructor can provide students immediate visual and informative feedback/corrective actions. The system automatically tracks student performance for trending and recordkeeping. Because the simulator does not require the use of hearing protection, instructors are able to communicate with their students in normal conversational tone instead of trying to talk over the noise associated with a live-fire range with double hearing protection.
Instructors can easily create new courses of fire or use courses in the database to provide students with drills to enhance their firearms skills. The virtual range simulator can be used to introduce students to tactical engagement skills such as reduced light, moving while shooting, shooting moving targets while moving, and threat identification to mention a few. Virtual environments also allow the practice of scenarios that aren’t practical in the real world and allow for the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures that you may not want your adversary to observe. For example, in a real life pursuit situation, the officer may encounter a pedestrian crossing the roadway. Obviously we cannot risk this type of scenario on the real driving range, but in the simulated world it is simple to introduce these types of events with no risk to life or property. The virtual range simulator, like the driving simulator, opens a whole new level of firearms skill development in a safe, comfortable environment and is limited only by the imagination of the firearms instructors.
The virtual firing range has benefits for administrators and taxpayers, as well. Using the virtual range simulator instead of a live-fire range has a cost savings of $379 thousand per year for a net savings of $1.893 million over the next five years? Most of these savings are due to ammunition cost avoidance. This savings projection is based on FLETC’s BMI training only and will increase as the virtual firing range is incorporated into other training programs. In today’s environment of increasing ammunition costs and limited availability, these savings can make the difference in the availability and quality of firearms training.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the FLETC is bucking the trend in the firearms training arena by introducing new technology to enhance its firearms training curriculum. That doesn’t mean that some instructors aren’t skeptics when it comes to shooting laser beams instead of bullets and we are not suggesting that we abandon live-fire training. However, we are convinced that as more and more instructors start using the virtual range simulator, the skepticism will disappear and the instructors will come up with even more innovative ways to use the virtual range to keep FLETC firearms training the best there is and the FLETC as the world leader in law enforcement training. The next trends you will be learning about are the ways to combine different types of virtual skills trainers into combined exercises to improve proficiency of our officers and agents.
1Tofller, A. (1970). Future shock, New York: Random House.
2Hoover, J. (1945). “The shooting FBI.” The American Rifleman 93(7): 10-13.
3Nester, C. (2013).
4Hoover, J. (1945). “The shooting FBI.” The American Rifleman 93(7): 10-13.
5Aveni, T. (2008). “Obsolescence: The police firearms training dilemma.” Answering the Call: 1-7.
6Mica, J. (2013). “Simulation: An incredible opportunity for savings and better training.” Retrieved April 25, 2013, from www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcmmHUtaZsY.
7STEVE HAWTHORNE, TERRY WOLLERT, et al. (November 2011). “FLETC’s Basic Marksmanship Simulator Study.” Law Officer 7(11).
8Krätzig, G. P., M. Hyde, et al. (2011). “Pistols Skills Transfer from a Synthetic Environment to Real World Setting.” The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC) 2011(1).
9Heese, A. (2013). Virtual Range. D. T. N. Wollert. Glynco.
By Dolly Rairigh Glass
Jason Kuykendall serves as a Training Specialist/Program Manager from the Glynco Training Directorate’s Training Research Office assigned to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Orlando Technology Integration and Simulation Team. FLETC established their Orlando office in March 2005, with the partnership between FLETC and NAVAIR (Orlando) going back to 2004. Kuykendall joined the office in June 2012.
Although he started his permanent staff position for FLETC in 2008 at its headquarters in Glynco, Ga., Kuykendall also served as an instructor while working at the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) Academy, a partner organization of FLETC. Kuykendall spent six years as an AFOSI Special Agent, and during his tenure he worked in criminal investigations, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism investigations within the continental U.S., Europe and Iraq.
“The main reason for our presence here is being co-located with Team Orlando and the DoD entities who are focusing on modeling and simulation to improve human performance,” said Kuykendall. “The technology developed here can translate to a law enforcement environment,” said Kuykendall.
Given his responsibilities, having someone like Kuykendall with a law enforcement background, is particularly important to understand and evaluate potential training solutions to determine if it pertains to a law enforcement environment.
The move to FLETC’s Orlando office is a good fit for Kuykendall with his background. “I have a good understanding of the DoD – rank structure and how things operate in the DoD environment,” said Kuykendall. “I also have a civilian government service perspective. That combination is advantageous to me and the organization.”
Kuykendall left Air Force active duty to join FLETC, however he is a member of the Georgia Air National Guard, 165th Security Forces Squadron (AF military police). As the operations superintendent, Kuykendall is responsible for all law enforcement and force protection issues that affect Air Force resources; oversees operational issues that affect the security of a military base; and any deployment actions or operations for the guard, whether stateside or overseas for his unit.
With his FLETC responsibilities and his commitment to the Georgia Air National Guard, Kuykendall spends any free time with his wife and three daughters, ages 10, 8 and 2. “I love being involved with the kids and making them my big focus,” said Kuykendall. “If I could stay at home with the kids all day, I would do that.”
Kuykendall grew up in Artesia, N.M., a small town, where one learned right from wrong and taking care of the family was the focal point. “Family is number one and outside of that, everything else kind of falls into place,” said Kuykendall. Artesia is also the location of one of the four domestic FLETC training sites.
“I look at things from a different perspective than the standard military representative because I have different training goals in mind,” said Kuykendall. “I can assess quickly whether this would fit, or not fit. If I find something with a potential tie-in, then I can get a subject matter expert involved to make a full determination if it has a fit at FLETC, and if so, what would have to change to make it work?”
The DoD partnership has been good to FLETC, who has spent $4 million in order to leverage $174 million in DoD programs to their benefit. “Our relationship with Team Orlando has been valuable, especially in modeling and simulation, since we don’t have a large budget,” said Kuykendall.
With DoD partnerships thriving, one of the challenges is helping industry recognize that law enforcement is also looking at modeling and simulation as a way to provide training. “If we can help educate industry about what FLETC does, then more products could be geared with us in mind,” said Kuykendall.
Currently, FLETC is working on areas like mass casualty response, which is one of the most pressing domestic issues facing law enforcement, said Kuykendall, and they have identified technology that may be able to support applicable training. “FLETC is definitely leading the way in how we prepare officers for response to mass casualty situations,” said Kuykendall.
Medical simulation is another area of interest, and although it’s in the early stages for FLETC, they recognize the need for not only FLETC, but also components within the Department of Homeland Security. Their focus is on training for first responders, like law enforcement officers or firefighters, who may need to provide self-aid or buddy care.
“We are providing state-of-the-art training that could be supported by technology in modeling and simulation, and we’re looking at those to see how they could better support us in these areas,” said Kuykendall.
Moving forward, FLETC is looking at increasing and strengthening their collaboration with not only Team Orlando itself, but also members of the military and industry communities. “Partnerships are going to be key for us, especially with the budgetary issues we’re all going to face,” said Kuykendall. “FLETC will continue to look for the most efficient and effective way to accomplish the mission.”
“The FLETC could maintain some type of relationship even if we didn’t have an office here, because everybody on the Team Orlando Board of Directors understands FLETC’s mission,” said Kuykendall. “But being here in Orlando helps us keep a pulse on what’s going on and gives us face-to-face time with the other leads, which makes FLETC a first thought and not a second thought,” said Kuykendall.
By Terri Bernhardt
Team Orlando held their June Board of Directors meeting at FLETC in Glynco, Georgia. The two day trip to FLETC’s remarkable facility allowed Team Orlando a first-hand experience of the latest training methods under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security.
The FLETC not only serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for 90 Federal agencies, but also provides training to state, local and international law enforcement agencies. Although the organization has three domestic sites – Glynco, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; Artesia, N.M. and Cheltenham, Md., more than 50 percent of their basic training takes place at their headquarters site in Glynco. The 1,600-acre facility has features to include classrooms, dormitories, administrative and logistical support structures and a dining hall that can serve more than 5,000 meals per day. Last fiscal year the FLETC trained almost 70,000 students.
Additionally, FLETC has both indoor and outdoor firearms ranges, driver training ranges, a physical techniques facility, explosives range, fully-functional mock port of entry, international transportation complex, cyber security and forensics lab and various other supporting the entire training effort.
During the tour, FLETC senior leadership acknowledged the value of their partnership with Team Orlando stating that their investment of $4.5 million has allowed them to leverage Team Orlando’s overall investment of $174 million dollars through.
“The FLETC has had a productive and positive relationship with TEAM Orlando for the past five years,” stated Connie Patrick, Director, FLETC. “We look forward to the fruition of this mutually beneficial partnership for not only our respective organizations, but also future students.”
Several examples of Team Orlando shared technology offered to FLETC over the years range from Avatar-based training, driving simulators, NAVAIR’s laser beam technology and RDECOM’s holograms. “We recognize the value of this partnership,” said Bill Hopkinson CTO for Team Orlando. “We (Team Orlando) hope to continue merging technologies in a more seamless environment in way that makes sense for more effective training for FLETC.”
Picture: Senior Instructor Mark Royer explains how the realism of the training facilities, like this subway train at the FLETC’s Intermodal Training Site benefits law enforcement students.
Courtesy of FLETC Journal
How does a training branch find time to research, build and test a solution while maintaining their primary function of instruction? To answer that question look no further than the Training Innovation Division (TID). When the Behavioral Science Division (BSD) wanted to pursue using technology to allow students more time to practice their interviewing skills, they asked the TID about potential options. The TID in turn involved the FLETC Orlando Office, and less than a year later the potential solution in the form of a prototype was already at FLETC Glynco. Resources, such as instructor time, can be very limited in the training division.
Finding the proper solution for many of the challenges presented in the training community is important and the TID is available to assist all FLERC training directorates in this process. The TID has resources located at the Glynco training facility as well as embedded with our Department of Defense (DoD) and academic partners in the Central Florida Research Park, Orlando. Having resources available in both locations gives the TID the ability to assist the training community from the time an idea or requirement surfaces.
The TID will assist with exploring solutions, determining which option best meets the FLETC’s needs and carrying the recommended solution into the implementation and testing phases. Using the resources in the TID to help solve training issues reduces the workload on the training divisions, thus allowing instructors the opportunity to concentrate more on their primary responsibilities. The acquisition of the prototype ABIS is an outstanding example of how the process works. The BSD approached the TID early in 2009 about using an interview simulator.
After initial discussions, management and instructors of the BSD were invited to meet with the FLETC Orlando team. Leveraging the partnership with various DoD divisions, the TID scheduled demonstrations of interviewing technology for the BSD to evaluate. When the evaluation ended, and the BSD had chosen a technology that would best suit their needs, the TID began the process needed to bring the technology to the FLETC. These processes included coordination with the FLETC Chief Information Officer (CIO) Directorate and the U. S. Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). Working with the branches within the FLETC CIO Directorate ensured the proper information technology (IT) requirements were gathered for the statement of work and to meet the requirements for bringing the technology to the FLETC.
The completed statement of work and funding were then provided to the PEO STRI office allowing the FLETC to use an Army contract already in place. A prototype interview simulator, with one witness scenario, was delivered in less than a year from the initial idea discussion phase between the BSD and the TID. Technical support for the simulator during the resting phase is being provided by the TID in conjunction with PEO STRI contractors. The BSD continues to test the system with volunteers and provides the feedback to the TID and the simulator development team in Orlando. The information gathered during the testing phase will be used to enhance and prepare the system for implementation.
Providing support throughout the entire development of a project is a TID priority. Our goal is to assist the training community in bringing ideas into existence and to assist with all of the requirements to make this happen. The TID has the resources to air the training community. The people and technology of FLETC TID, together, can turn ideas into reality.
For Inquiries about the ABIS please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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