This article applies equally to military, probably more so.
Many Law Enforcement Organizations (LEOs) are inherently anti-gun. They don’t trust their officers, and they fear accidental discharges far more than the consequences of accidently shooting citizens. Rather than spending the time and money necessary to maximize shooting accuracy and effectiveness, they focus on trying to prevent accidental discharges through mechanical means.
Some LEOs do provide professional firearms and competent training, but most don’t. Full-agency qualifications are very expensive, not only in ammunition, but in manpower. Qualifications take many days because officers must be taken off the street, which requires double shifts of officers not being trained. This usually means enormous overtime costs.
Most officers are introduced to their duty handguns at some point during either their basic agency academy or basic state academy. Many states require a common basic academy for all certified officers, and virtually all agencies require their own in-house academy and a field-training program. The public doesn’t realize that officers in most places won’t be patrolling solo for nearly a year from their hire date.
Basic training experiences normally consist of basic handgun safety, marksmanship and rudimentary maintenance. They may be exposed to some sort of shoot/don’t shoot training. Shooting more than 200 rounds in basic training is unusual. Often, recruits fire only lightly-loaded practice ammunition, which has characteristics very different from duty ammo.
Officers qualify—shoot for a recorded score—usually no more than twice a year, and for most, only once. Qualifications normally consist of shooting only standard, stationary silhouette targets at known, never-changing, ranges. Usually, 25 yards is the outer limit. No more than 50 rounds are normally fired, and passing scores are generous, as low as 70%–hitting the target with only 35 out of 50 rounds. Virtually all allow reshooting as many times as necessary to pass. Hiring and training new officers because the old can’t shoot is prohibitively expensive.
Some agencies set up more advanced tactical training with a variety of targets and scenarios officers might encounter, but this is not common, as it requires specialized equipment and weapons of all kinds, to say nothing of manpower expenses.
What about shotgun or rifle training? Most agencies still carry shotguns, but some are transitioning to AR-15 type carbines. Such weapons pose their own problems. In most cases, officers are even less familiar with these weapons than their issued handguns. Training and qualification is commonly done less often than handgun qualification, and most often, fewer rounds are fired.
Shotguns and rifles are normally assigned to a patrol vehicle, not an individual officer. Because all firearms must be sighted for the individual using them, this is an enormous handicap.
Qualification shotguns or rifles are seldom those carried by officers in their cars, but a few spare armory guns. An officer may do no more than fire a few buckshot rounds and a few slug rounds at targets at short ranges. As long as they manage to mostly hit the targets, that’s sufficient. This means that officers will normally have no idea how the shotguns they might actually use will pattern at any reasonable range.
Carbine qualification is equally sparse. It’s usually conducted on ranges of no more than 50 yards, and usually no more than 30 rounds—a standard magazine—are fired. Rifle ammunition is expensive. As with shotguns, most officers will never qualify with the rifle assigned their shared patrol vehicle; they have no idea where that gun is sighted.
Some agencies do require gun cleaning after qualification and provide the means, which is good, as many officers have no idea how to properly clean their guns, nor do they own cleaning equipment.
[O]nly about five people in a 100-person agency were capable of 100% shooting. At least 10 struggled to make a minimally passing score whenever they qualified. About 50 were average and the rest somewhat better or worse. Because virtually no one did anything to improve their abilities on their own, those averages never changed.
Shotgun qualifications were more or less once a year and consisted of shooting a few skeet, a few rounds of buckshot and a few slugs. We had no rifles. Other training occurred infrequently: a bit of low light shooting here, a bit of multiple target shooting there, and every five or six years, a shoot/don’t shoot experience with video and a laser system for recording hits/misses.