Firearms training: Integrating no-shoot targets

While we need to enhance the realism for our street officers and push that envelope, we need to run a safe range and learning environment


Solid firearms training programs have “depth.” Integrating “no shoots” into your weapons qualification courses is one way you can provide this depth. During the regular or advanced courses you go through imagine how you might react if there were designated “no shoot” targets downrange. What does that do to your focus? Do you think of it as not shooting the ‘no shoots” or just hitting the suspect targets? Perspective is an interesting thing.

Now, you can spray paint a big “X” on them or turn a standard target backwards, but why not have the same type of targets as the ones you’re shooting on?  Drape some old clothes on your range “population” and use coat hangers to allow arms to hang realistically. Don’t just put weapons in their “hands.” Put cell phones, keys, flashlights, wallets, and whatnot in those “bystander’s” hands. Not to say that some of these items cannot be weapons, but you need to put them in context.

The next time you’re out and about, look around and note the potential weapons carried by everyday people. Of particular note, do you notice an increase in the number of people carrying knives?

Not All Conditioning is Bad
By staging environments like this, you are honing the officer’s and/or deputy’s awareness and visualization. By forcing them to make quick decisions and observances, you are conditioning them. Not all conditioning is bad. A conditioned draw or conditioned transition is quick and efficient but there are aspects of weapons usage that need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. As an added benefit, getting rid of scoring rings adds to the realism but care must be used to provide some type of hit feedback.

Placing a “no shoot” target in front of a suspect target may force the student to sidestep or otherwise move to make that important shot. Closing or, in some cases, increasing distance might be other options. Including rifles and shotguns will also prompt certain actions or adjustments. Sight holdover on an AR-type rifle and the use of buckshot or slugs in the shotgun can further challenge the LEO. The positioning of these no-shoots might even prompt the student to yell a warning for everyone to “get down!”

I’ve seen Deputies push a no-shoot out of harm’s way and engage the suspect target. For this reason, formulating a range safety plan to anticipate any such action is paramount. Additional range staff may also be needed. And while we need to enhance the realism for our street officers and push that envelope, we need to run a safe range and learning environment.

Big Dividends in Confidence Levels
Involving discretion and the individual officers’ skill set allows for more interesting training. By experiencing training that is tailored to them, they get more out of it. Kind of like a puzzle that has to be solved. It exercises the brain. While each course has set parameters and requirements, it’s easy to provide this level of training and the use of these no-shoot targets is just one small part that can pay big dividends. With just a little work, running courses like this will reveal areas that need to be addressed and will instill confidence in those that participate. By the middle of one quarter, I have already formulated a draft of what the next course of fire should be. This is what makes a progressive and current training program.

Ultimately, how do such courses play out in court (because they always end up there…right)? Would you rather be defending a static course of fire or one that involved real-world realism? Include as part of your drills aspects of your Department shooting policy. These policies do not only specify when not to shoot but when to shoot. Knowing these policies and regulations allows for affirmative and confident action on the part of the Deputy. It’s important to craft scenarios that reinforce these policies and strengthen their understanding of them.

A quick check of the internet shows a lot of officer involved shooting videos and it’s important to note that in many of them civilians are present. Whether they’re pulling out their cell phones to record the event or just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chance of having “friendlies” within your incident field is more than likely.

Doesn’t it make sense to include this in your training? 

About the author

Brian Dickey is a second generation Deputy Sheriff with a large California Sheriff’s Office. Brian started working in 1986 and has worked a wide variety of assignments including Custody Operations, Criminal Investigations, Patrol, D.A.R.E. and his current position of Rangemaster/Armorer, a position he’s held since 1999. Since receiving his first Firearms Instructor certification from the National Rifle Association in 1993, Brian has sought to improve and challenge those entering the arena of Law Enforcement training. Brian prides himself in integrating current trends, events, Department policies and case law into the courses he designs. Brian is a certified instructor for the Basic POST Academy as well as STC certified for Custody courses. He also holds instructor-level certifications for the extensive skill sets required of the modern Peace Officer as well as Armorer certifications in the various firearms and less lethal devices used by his and area agencies.

Brian has received commendations for his positive impact on Law Enforcement training by the California State Legislature, United States House of Representatives, State and local organizations. Nominated for the California Governor’s Award for Excellence in Peace Officer Training in 2006, Brian has also been honored to have one of his classes profiled by California POST in their “Best Practices” online resource. Brian has also authored several published articles profiling progressive weapons qualification courses for his Department.

Contact Brian Dickey

Recommended Police Trainers

Join the discussion