A Culture of Good Marksmanship Makes for a Good Police Force

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Another good article from Kevin Creighton. It’s worth nothing that every branch of the armed forces in our Department of Defense has official, regulatory guidance on conducting competitive shooting for service personnel and this formal, written policy is that such activity is a beneficial form of training. Most police departments do as well. In addition, Title 36 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 407 spells out the legal requirements for conduct of marksmanship and shooting competition. Conduct of shooting competition such as the National Matches and Small Arms Firing School are mandated by Federal law.

The problem is illiteracy, specifically, personnel (especially those in positions of authority) not realizing what the regulations actually say and failing to implement published requirements.

A Culture of Good Marksmanship Makes for a Good Police Force
by Kevin Creighton

It’s difficult to imagine that police recruits who have never touched a gun until their first day on the training range can step up and deliver the shot when needed. Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York have turned their backs on America’s rich tradition of civilian marksmanship, and it’s beginning to affect the safety of their citizenry. I just can’t imagine that 30-plus years of trying to remove guns from the hands of potential police recruits can have a positive effect on the quality of the recruits walking onto the range. Good marksmen are made, not born, and a few days of gun safety training and pistol qualification will not make up for coming of age in the culture of safe, responsible (and fun!) gun ownership enjoyed by the rest of America.

There’s a common saying in the firearms training community that in a gun battle, “you won’t rise to the occasion, you will sink to your lowest level of training.” If the police in Los Angeles are trained to a standard that 91 percent of the “civilians” at a practical shooting match can achieve, what does this say for the quality of LAPD officers who have never touched a gun before they joined the force? I’m positive there are officers on the LAPD and other departments who are well-trained marksmen because I’ve shot alongside them at major practical shooting matches. The ones who can shoot, can shoot very well, but they are the exception, not the rule.

This isn’t the first time in our nation’s history that a lack of a trained, experienced civilians has affected the safety of the general public. The National Rifle Association was founded because of poor accuracy of Union riflemen in the Civil War due to an unfamiliarity with firearms. If we want our police to be better shots, they need make up for lost time and start training with firearms before they join the police force. After all, good marksmen are made, not born.

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2016 All Army Small Arms Championship

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Register for the U.S. Army Small Arms “All Army” Championship at

Click on Match Info

The Norco Experiment

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Wally Arida was the publisher of Gun Games, my top two favorite print gun magazine of all time.

The other was Performance Shooter from AG Media, Inc., which still publishes Gun Tests and American Gunsmith.

Both are long out of circulation. As with most things I enjoy, neither achieved significant popularity. A regular magazine focused primarily on shooter skill and competition will never be popular among gun owners.

Here’s the story of how practical shooting, especially USPSA competition, developed its current run-and-gun flavor.

The Norco Experiment Story
by Wally Arida

Southern California invented IPSC with Jeff Copper and his buddies running practical shooting contests in the 1970s that became the SouthWest Pistol League in Piru CA. The Norco experiment in the late 1980s revolutionized the game and changed it forever.

Quite honestly, I was getting bored by the regular offerings of the club matches we were attending in the late 1980s. A typical match in SoCal then was a 25-40 round event. Typically three stages: a 6 rounds or so classifier stage, a standard stage of about 6-12 rounds and an assault stage of about 12 rounds or so. Me and my friends would go to more than one match a day, 2-3 total sometimes on the weekend, just to get our fix of shooting. And we still wanted more. So I started the Norco Running Gun program with the full blessings and partnership of Mike Raahauge who owned the property.

What started initially as a group of 10-12 people shooting IPSC in the cow shit berms of Norco soon took off like a brushfire. It would be normal to see over 100 to 150 shooters on an average Saturday.

And boy did we experiment with things. I offered a lot of shooting. 30-40 rounds stages were unheard of back then. 120-150 rounds per match. 6 stages per match. All field stages. Open-style think-your-way-through shooting stage designs. We had stages that required moving in and out of prescribed shooting boxes. And we had open field, no shooting boxes, shoot them where you can see them stages. I forced the shooters to think their strategies. I forced them to out think my stage design descriptions. And boy did they. :-)

These novel stage designs forced the shooters to adapt in order to max their scores. The Norco shooter learned to shoot on the move. They learned to move in and out of shooting boxes with minimum motion and times. They developed ways to approach, engage, and leave ports and shooting positions efficiently.

I challenged them with then unique shooting positions. I even perplexed them one day when I had them shoot while walking backwards – then a totally unheard of and untried shooting predicament – that is all too common now. They would come every week knowing and expecting another new and crazy shooting challenge awaits them. Shooter walk throughs in the morning were filled with oohs and aahs when the fresh challenges were described. And the way the shooting game of IPSC changed overnight. Running Gun was born.

The Norco experiment quickly became the Norco Legend. Every weekend was like a major IPSC match. Shooters would travel to Norco from San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona, Palm Springs, Bakersfield, even from Norway, Sweden, the Philippines, to play in our play ground.

Our shooters became so proficient, they started attracting the top shooters of the country to stop by and test their mettle against the Norco shooters. It would be normal to see GMs and Master shooters from all over the country – and the world – at Norco every weekend during our club matches.

Guys like Jojo Vidanes, Brad Griffin and Taran Butler and more joined us as newbies in the early days — even had their fair share of match DQs at the time — and moved on to become top shooters they are today. Top shooters like the then very young Jethro Dionisio and Valerie Levanza ,Michael Voigt, and more came to Norco and made it their home. Guys like Rob Leatham, Matt Burkett, and the AZ guys would pop up at Norco. Still do.

Most of the IPSC game as you see it being played today are blooms of the Running Gun seeds we planted back in the day. And I’m happy to have played a role in its evolution.

Fitness is Hygiene

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Hygiene [hy·giene]
conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease

Maintaining minimum physical fitness is a form hygiene and failing to do so is unhygienic.

It is depressing to see things like this:

The police test consists of two running exams. Officers also have to do 52 push-ups in 2 minutes, and 45 sit-ups, also in 2 minutes.

Sad thing is, the tests alluded to in that article are typical Dr. Ken Cooper variety intended to assess general physical wellness. Dr. Cooper, the man who coined the word “aerobics”, established his minimum physical wellness recommendations at a point needed to avoid cardiovascular illness. Even though many military, police, and other PT tests are based on this, the tests are intended to assess sufficient fitness to help prevent disease, not establish occupational readiness.

These officers “won” a lawsuit that allows them to avoid a program of hygiene.

Here’s some relevant quotes from a similar policy.
Department of Defense Instruction Number 1308.3
DoD Physical Fitness and Body Fat Programs Procedures

It is DoD policy that service members shall maintain physical readiness through appropriate nutrition, health, and fitness habits. The Military Services shall design physical fitness training and related physical activities consistent with established scientific principles of physical conditioning that enhance fitness and general health essential to combat readiness. Maintaining desirable body composition is an integral part of physical fitness, general health, and military appearance. Physical fitness is an important component of the general health of the individual. Comprehensive fitness includes many aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Physical Fitness Tests assess Service-wide baseline generalized fitness levels and are not intended to represent mission or occupationally specific fitness demands.

Ensure that gender-appropriate body fat standards shall not be more stringent than 18 percent for men and 26 percent for women, and shall not be more liberal than 26 percent for men and 36 percent for women, as measured using circumference-based methods.

Each branch of the DoD can (and does) establish its own testing procedure. The Air Force remains closest to Cooper’s original recommendations, possibly because Cooper was an Air Force officer when conducting his initial research.

Cooper’s research has been verified by multiple studies:

I’ll be the first to point out flaws in Cooper’s aerobics-centric approach and have personally experienced why a strength-centric approach based on barbell training is superior. Even Dr. Cooper has amended his recommendations to take this into account.  Other doctors have made similar findings. However, from a wellness, disease prevention, and hygiene perspective, it does not matter.

People with a decent amount of overall fitness will find Cooper’s tests (and other proposed wellness assessments of fitness) easy regardless of how they obtain and maintain their fitness. People that fight legal battles to avoid taking such occasional tests may as well sue for the right to avoid using dental floss.

Joe Garcia: In Reflection


I recently had an anniversary day. I spent it training American Soldiers to shoot better. It’s been a long time, and come at a personal cost. I’m here, at 46, in a bunk, while my kids are elsewhere. Because if I don’t, who will? There aren’t many that can do what I do. Most of them are far away. All of us are old. All of us know that this war has not seen its darkest days. We can feel the evil, slithering under our feet, in the shadows, whispered on the wind, we watch lives go on living blissfully unaware of the borrowed time they are spending.

My guys and I trained a lot of people; over 10,000 of them, to shoot really well, some got special attention.
4 of them never returned home.

Among the others, some set records, or did amazing acts of bravery under fire – sometimes in the face of piss poor odds and with a bleak prognosis: they are my greatest satisfaction.

Imagine a handful – less than 10 isolated Americans, beyond the reach of supporting arms, alone in a vast wilderness, outnumbered 5 to 1. They could hear the enemy, excited over the radio, believing that at last they would kill, maybe even capture a cut off group of Americans.

Yet these shooters emerged without a scratch, killing at least 50 attackers. No airplanes came to save them. They shot their way out. I don’t need anyone to tell me I did a good job. Those men are alive today living good lives because they could shoot, remarkably – the impacts were immediate and final.

They didn’t get that way by following unit IWQ training plans. Mediocre roads to half assery. No one ever does.
The thing I Know: the better the shooter the braver the Soldier. When a man knows if he can see the bad guy: it’s light out. Such a man is a fearsome thing, otherwordly, a terror, non human, something to flee. The fanatics will rush him, and die in small piles of two’s and threes.

American bad asses, “shooters,” a sprinkling of them in a larger group changes the character of the entire organization. When a unit has skilled shooters, a unit is like a beast on a leash, whose master strains at the leash, leaning back with all his weight, yet the beast drags him forward.

Let slip the leash and the dogs of war will mercilessly put down every beating heart that fails to hide. That’s the pointy tip of American foreign policy. Great shooting skill is a horrible thing to face. The attainment of that skill is easy. The hard part of attaining great shooting skill is getting the Army out of the way.

The biggest enemy is the original sin: Pride. Pride keeps more units from shooting as well as they could. Pride is why every so often the Army is outshot on the battlefield, embarrassingly so. Pride is why it will happen again to some mothers kid.

Humility is your ally. Humility enables you to see things as they are, and do what you must to overcome your challenges. Pride paralyzes you. pride makes you a spectator. pride never let’s you improve. That and general run of the mill ambivalence.

Some people are in the military for god knows what. They tolerate the Army. For them it’s something to get through or take advantage of.

The proud and the ambivalent wreak as much destruction as any successful enemy attack. If you don’t care about building the most fearsome destructive group of humans on the planet, or you don’t get excited to support that same group of humans – go do something else – otherwise, you’re as harmful as a truck bomb.

The Army exists to kill people and break things. When that day comes – and it will – the better, faster, and more efficient we are at these imperatives; the sooner we can go home and safely be with our loved ones.

Hurricane’s Rain Doesn’t Stop HAVA’s 8th Annual Family Day

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Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) and the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) announced another very successful HAVA/SAPD National Family Day held last week at the SAPD Training Academy. In 8 annual family day events in San Antonio, HAVA has hosted over 1,400 disabled veterans and more than 2,800 including family members since its inception in 2008.

Cowards and Built-in Excuses


Competition for competition’s sake is about the truth. In shooting, too many people show up with built-in excuses why the results don’t mean anything.

Nate Perry

It’s arguable that gym and fitness activity likely has as much myth and misinformation floating around as shooting and gun activity. Competition is the ideal, and sometimes the only, way to sort through the nonsense and find truth. Something proven to consistently work in competition is proven to consistently work.

Here’s an example from champion powerlifter Layne Norton.

“If you only compete in competitions you know you can win, you’re a coward. That says something about your level of integrity. It’s disrespectful to your competition and to yourself to avoid showing up.”

-Layne Norton

I’d also add to Mr. Norton’s wisdom, if you never compete (regardless of the excuses for avoiding doing so) you’re still a coward. Developing a winning a mindset requires going out and trying to win at something challenging. Cowering from such challenges can never develop a winning mindset.

Listen to more.

Here is Layne Norton winning his class at the 2014 USAPL Nationals.

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