The State of Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Bureau through the Wisconsin Department of Justice is instituting a change in the Police Recruit Academy curriculum. One of the changes is that they are actually going to include 16 hours of basic training in patrol rifles. Previously, many recruits would leave the academies to get hired at agencies without any actual experience with an AR-platform rifle or carbine, and many agencies didn’t always place a high priority on giving that training. Sometimes new recruit officers would be sent to a Carbine Operator type course, but just as often if not more they were given backroom familiarization or maybe a quick crash course during some range time.
I followed the progression of the program through posted minutes of the advisory committees. One issue was how to deal with instructor certification. It was ruled that any WI LE Firearms Instructor with any Instructor course of at least 16 hours under their belt prior to the formal adoption of the final DOJ program would be grandfathered in. After that date would need to go through formal instructor course training conducted by a WI Tech College who then employs an instructor that is identified as a Master Instructor, which basically means they are the only one that can teach an instructor level course. It will be significant in the long term, because there will be a much larger time investment required for Firearms Instructors. It will eventually require a nearly three week process from start to finish that will be an investment that few smaller agencies will want to fork out time and dollars for. As attrition occurs for the next ten to twenty years, it is likely that there will be far fewer LEO Firearms Instructors in the state that will be certified to train in patrol rifles. It will remain to be seen what effect that will then have in training quality.
Long story short, I had a one-time opportunity to help contribute to the patrol rifle program in Wisconsin by offering an Instructor course prior to the adoption date, which will be next week. The Independence Police Department sponsored the course, and it was held at the Arcadia Sportsman’s Club in Western Wisconsin. I had Kris Haines, a two-decade veteran of the Arcadia Police Department help me as the co-instructor. Kris was able to bring a lot to the table, as he is the FI for his agency, has SWAT and Sniper assignments, and is an armorer. Firearms Instructors who attended our two-day course were mostly from the Western Wisconsin region, but we did have one from a larger Sheriff’s Office on the eastern side of the state. Many students were supervisors in addition to instructor assignments, and most represented county Sheriff’s Offices.
Weather on both days was full of sun with temps that topped out in the 80’s. Student guns were mostly Colt 6920 types, with a Lauer Custom Weaponry (made for LCW by LMT), a S&W M&P, a Bushmaster, a DPMS, and a BCM 11.5. There was a mixture of rails and standard handguards, but a common theme amongst the guys with standard handguards was that they had still bolted a rail along the bottom for attaching lights and occasional vertical grips. Only one gun was an A2 setup and open sights. Red dots were all various Aimpoints with a couple EoTechs. Aimpoints being what they are ran for everyone that used them, and there were no issues. One shooter with an EoTech seemed to be possibly experiencing zero shift. He worked with it, and is going to keep an eye on it for possible replacement. He said it was new issue from his SO. I went away from EoTech in 2008 and never looked back, but at that time I remembered that models had an F on the left rear of the optic as well as underneath. I could not see such an imprint on the left side as I’m used to, unless they have gone away from that. The picture of the 552 on Eotech’s website still shows an F on the model, so if someone knows for sure if new production models are supposed to still have an F, let me know. The reason that is significant is if the sight is actually pre-Revision F, it is at least 8 years old and not brand new as his boss told him, but it does not have updated electronics inside that were supposed to correct the zero wander issue. In 2006 I had a number of them that I needed to resend in a couple times to address the issue, and they were upgraded to Revision F. I swore off Eotechs finally when I still had zero shifts and substantial battery loss even with Revision F models.
The curriculum the state wants to introduce starts out pretty basic with fundamentals of grip and stance and ends up like the middle of Pat’s COC course with Push/Pull, malfunctions, and proper lubrication of the rifle. It’s not a perfect effort, but not a bad one either. I tried to fill in what I felt were gaps by providing additional info from the notes I’ve kept over the years from other courses and experiences I’ve had myself. We ended up doing a few hours of classroom work on the morning of T1.
One aspect of my carbine program I need to improve is that too often the time gets compressed, but the information I have available doesn’t get trimmed. There was so much that I wanted to present and pass on, however there comes a point where the information becomes too complex and doesn’t flow and contribute to learning. On my end, I need to be more willing to trim information and save it for a later date in order to make the information I’m able to provide within the time span of a higher quality.
Job experience levels were high, which makes for a fast flowing class. Cops are not always gun guys, however, and there are many agencies that in reality fail to do any training whatsoever with patrol rifles kept in the squads. One Deputy relayed that they do no patrol rifle training other than shooting six rounds to qualify. Some have had to rely on training received in the military twenty to thirty years ago, and as we know tips, tactics and procedures have evolved since then. That’s sometimes the fault of managers at the agency who cannot or will not provide the training and support required maintain a certain level. Using the support hand for the charging handle while keeping the weapon hand on the grip was one such difference that some were realizing they had to make an effort to mentally program, and to try and unlearn the habit of using the weapon hand to hook and pull back the charging handle.
Two LEO’s from different agencies in the same county take the time to train together and attend training from outside instructors as well as other schools like I have done over my career. Their attention to this detail showed, as their proficiency was excellent. Their response to malfunctions was immediate and automatic, and a smoothness showed in all their motions and manipulations. The fact that they get to shoot more often in a tactical team assignment also showed as their groups on their targets were always dead on ripping out the center of center of mass, and they were encouraged to start pushing themselves a bit more. They were allowed to maintain their proficiency from their bosses, and it showed!
Uniformed LEO’s are not always able to carry a spare rifle mag on their gear, and many come up with alterate means to carry them. Many agencies and officers compromise and use some form of magazine coupler to provide a second magazine. The advantage is that LEO’s have that spare mag with them right away upon deployment of the carbine. However, one deputy found out one of the disadvantages, and that is using the reload can interfere with the dust cover and the ejection port. When he reloaded, the empty mag on the right pushed the dust cover back up so that empty brass had a possibility of bouncing back into the ejection port and causing a malfunction.
We had a zero discussion that surprised me. At least half of the class had a 25-yard zero. Most could not articulate reasons for why they used it. One used the 36 yard zero as recommended to him from a USMC Marine, another used a 100 yard zero, and a few used a 50 yard zero. We discussed various trajectories of the different zeros and strong points and weak points of all. Wisconsin LESB is recommending a 50 yard zero because the strong points of it allow LEO’s to engage a threat and not need to think about hold overs out to nearly 200 yards. A shooting incident in Columbia Heights MN in July/2001 as well as the SRO response at Columbine and the Safeway Warehouse Active Shooter incidents were used to illustrate the need to potentially engage threats beyond the normal 25-50 yard window commonly seen by LE. In the Columbia Heights incident, an Officer’s neighbor who was later found to be mentally unstable shot that off-duty Officer as he was walking home from shift. Responding LEO’s had to deal with a suspect that was mobile and hunting to kill others, including the Officer’s daughters. A 25 minute mobile gunfight ensued, with average engagement distances of 150-175 yards. Many had pistol-caliber subguns and shotguns as the long guns, not AR’s or M4’s, and bullets were hitting the ground yards short of the suspect. More on this in a bit. Some of those with 25 yard zeros were willing to try a 50 yard zero, and some chose to stick with the 25. One was because of how imbedded it was at his department, and the others because they understood and were proficient with the holdunders required.
We went through the points of stance and grip and basic marksmanship, and I added some biomechanics that I have learned and been trained on as well as the First Best Sight Picture that I’ve found to be one of the best things I have learned in regards to getting hits under stress and combat shooting. The rest of the day involved a course of fire that addressed the skills the state would be teaching recruits, and it was similar to that found at any number of operator courses by any reputable instructors today.
The day ended with a homework assignment of looking for changes that would need to be made to policy to either parallel with the State’s minimum curriculum or that they would want to do to improve the quality of their program. The second assignment was to identify a deficiency with either their agency’s program or that they see in their officers and come up with a drill and lesson plan to address it.
T2 started with a zero confirmation. This didn’t take long, and I directed everyone back to the rear of the square range. There was a roll to the ground at 200 that prohibited seeing the target in prone, so I directed students to stop the threat from 175 yards, reminding them of the Columbia Heights incident. Every single student used dots or open sights to hit the target, and all were surprised that not only could they do so, but that they maintained tight groups and they didn’t need drastic aiming points like over the targets head or anything. Everyone mentioned they have never gotten a chance to shoot a patrol rifle at that range before, and a new confidence developed. The 11.5 BCM shooter had been chided by a supervisor that such a short barrel would be highly inaccurate. His groups were easily the tightest of the class, with 4/5 shots holding about 4-inches. He took pictures as proof.
I pushed the students further back to an area where we could continue to shoot. They were asked to pick their poison of three possible distances, the closest of 245 yards, to the furthest of 328 yards. Everyone went to the 328 yard position, and while the results were not as impressive, everyone still understood elements of their zero trajectories a bit more, the importance of fundamentals, and that if they needed to they could be effective at that extended range.
We wrapped up the skills course of fire. One of the final things we went through was malfunctions. Now, this class was designed as an instructor class and was not specifically intended to be a operator shooting class with a round count that stresses guns. However, it was ironically this section where we had some guns fail. One was experiencing repeated issues that was attributed to an older magazine. The lone DPMS locked up twice and needed to be mortared hard both times. A second Colt needed to be mortared the very last string of fire. From the previous maintenance discussion we had, it is believed that the lack of lubrication, heat of the day, and warming up of the guns demonstrated exactly my points of why proper lube is needed.
We closed the day with some classroom discussions and demonstrations of various gear options, weaponlights, and discussions on qualifying dogma versus areas we as instructors should be conducting training in because of case law, but also for the betterment of our officers we’re responsible for. Overall it was a good course, and gave everyone present numerous lessons for improvement.