Greg McLaughlin 1395 County Rd. 6310 West Plains, Mo. 65775 417-255-1612
Qualification vs Training
The following article is one that I wrote for our sister company Zion Security Training. This company is dedicated to training church security teams. I thought it would be good to include this article on this web page as well. I trust you will see the difference between qualifying and training. I also hope that you will keep adding to your training and continue to build on your shooting foundation adding new and challenging tactics and techniques each year.
Most people do not realize that qualifying and training are as different as night and day. The two are not even remotely connected. I will make several statements, and then explain.
1. Qualifying is not Training.
2. Qualifying is a test of your Training.
3. Qualifying is demonstrating what is required or what is necessary. Qualifying is demonstrating that which you should have learned in practice or in training.
4. Training always precedes qualifying.
5. Practicing is training.
6. Training is a process. It is ongoing, it is continuous.
Now let me explain what I mean by each of the above statements.
1. Qualifying is not Training.
Training is being instructed or taught the why, when, where and how to of a particular job or skill. Let’s take Firearms Training for example. A person needs to be taught the following to become proficient with his or her pistol:
(A) The fundamentals of shooting which include stance/position, the proper grip, the proper draw stroke, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control and follow through.
(B) A person also needs to learn how to perform administrative reloads, speed reloads, and tactical reloads. He also needs to know how to clear the firearm of any stoppages, such as failure to fire, stove pipes and double feeds.
(C) The shooter also needs to learn how to shoot while moving forward, backward and horizontal. He needs to be able to do this two handed, strong handed and weak handed. He also needs to be taught how to shoot from a high kneel, low kneel, double kneel and prone positions.
(D) He needs to learn the difference between cover and concealment; the proper use of cover, but more importantly, common mistakes to avoid when using cover.
(E) He needs to be taught target identification, single target engagements, multiple target engagements, single shots and multiple shot engagements.
(F) The shooter also needs to learn how to properly fight in close quarter battle. The shooter needs to learn how to clear stoppages strong hand only and weak hand only.
(G) The shooter also needs to know how to shoot in low light or dark conditions with a flashlight. He will need to know how to speed reload, tactical reload, and clear stoppages in total darkness. He will need to know how to properly utilize a flashlight and a pistol simultaneously. The shooter will need to know how to shoot from cover in low light conditions, keep from being silhouetted, and learn how to paint and move with his light.
What I have just described to you is about 40 hours of training. Most police officers will never get one third of what was just mentioned. This is not qualifying; this is training. Are you starting to get the idea?
2. Qualifying is a test of your Training.
When it comes to qualifying and training, one is a test and the other is the homework. If all I do is take a test, but I do no homework, I will do poorly on my test. This is what is happening all across America in Law Enforcement. How can a person test for what he has not trained? The vast majority of officers never fire their weapons in between “qualifications.” All they are doing is taking the test and not doing the homework. This is why so many of them do so poorly on their qualifications. The qualification is the test, and training is the homework. In order to become proficient, you must do your homework. You must train! Qualifying is not training. Qualifying is simply a test of your training.
3. Qualifying is demonstrating what is required or what is necessary. It is demonstrating that which you should have learned in practice or in training.
What do the words “qualification” and “qualify” mean? Let’s look at the definitions. First the definition of “qualification” in the Merriam Webster Dictionary Home and Office Edition copyright 1995, the third definition for the word “qualification” on page 424 states “requirement.” The word “qualify” on the same page, the sixth definition, states “to demonstrate the necessary ability.” So, qualifying is demonstrating what is required or what is necessary. It is demonstrating that which you should have learned in practice or in training.
4. Training always precedes qualifying.
If qualification is the test and training is the homework, then the homework must come before the test. No teacher gives a test and then assigns the homework for the test you have just taken.
When you hear Law Enforcement officers talk about “qualifying” with their handgun, many of them are under the false impression that they are training. Qualifying is not training. Again, qualifying is demonstrating what you should have learned in practice or in training. Training always precedes qualifying. You cannot demonstrate what you have not learned in practice or in training. And this is what nearly every Law Enforcement agency is doing. They are trying to “qualify” every quarter or six months whatever the case may be-without any Firearms Training in between qualifications. Just about any instructor will tell you that at every qualification it is like starting all over again because the officers are not receiving any training in between each qualification. It is very frustrating for those of us who are instructors. The very basic skills have to be taught all over again at nearly every qualification. This means that the average street cop will never be ready for any kind of advanced training. This is partly to be blamed on the officers themselves. They should practice some on their own to help maintain some skill level, but most of them do not. The others that I blame are the department heads! City, County or State officials should see to it that officers get and maintain proper training.
The most Firearms Training that many Law Enforcement officers will ever receive is in the academy and even that is very minimum and basic. Once they are out of the academy, the only shooting many of them ever do is when they have to “qualify.” This is why many of them have trouble passing their qualification. I daresay that most Law Enforcement officers have never been to a Firearms Training school once they have left the academy. Usually the only ones who go to such schools are those on S.W.A.T. teams or those who want to be instructors. Once out of the academy, the average street cop will never attend a formal shooting school, where all the school does is teach them how to shoot. This is unbelievable, but true.
The Law Enforcement officer need only to demonstrate what is “ required” or “necessary” to carry a firearm. The sad thing is that the “requirement” or “necessary ability” he/she needs to demonstrate to carry a firearm is so minimum it is pathetic. The average Law Enforcement officer is so incompetent with their handgun it is amazing. I say this from teaching and watching Law Enforcement officers on the range for over twenty years. I have no axes to grind or bones to pick with Law Enforcement officers. I love these folks dearly. I myself have personally sponsored many of them with catered meals and free training at our school; I have given free T-shirts, free 8x10 group photos and continuing education units. The fault is not totally with them, but also with the State who needs to raise the standard of training and has not done so.
I believe that any person, Law Enforcement or civilian who carries a firearm should be extremely well trained. I have personally witnessed two Law Enforcement firearms instructors fail their own “qualification” course. In 2008 I was talking with another firearms instructor at a large well-known shooting school. He told me that as of August, eight people accidentally shot themselves while training on the range at their school. Six out of the eight who shot themselves were Law Enforcement officers! This is unbelievable! Several years ago a study was done on police shootings in the State of New York. In a single year there were 287 shots fired by the officers with only 42 hits! Not forty two kills! Forty two hits! That is only 15% accuracy. The distances ranged from zero to twenty-five yards. This is equivalent to firing 100 shots at someone and only hitting them 15 times! This means that 85 shots out of 100 are missing their target. These shots have to go some where! Where are they going? An officer is accountable for every round he fires. By the way, so is any civilian. I am simply saying that part of the reason is that most Law Enforcement officers only shoot enough to “qualify” or “get by” as I call it. We will never know exactly why these officers missed so much of the time, but I believe it is due to two things: (1) they were watching the threat instead of their front sight. I believe this would be a natural tendency for anyone involved in a shoot. (2) They were more than likely jerking the trigger trying to hurry up and shoot the bad guy before they themselves got shot. Again, I think this would be understandable as well. This is why training is so important. I think it is also obvious that stress is the underlying reason for both of these problems. Stress will cause you to look at the threat instead of your front sight. And stress will cause you to jerk the trigger when someone is trying to kill you.
Most Law Enforcement Departments “qualify” only two to four times a year (four times a year is considered a lot). When they “qualify” most departments require their officers to fire only fifty rounds out of their handgun. That is only one hundred to two hundred rounds per year for the average street cop. Shooting is a perishable skill, meaning that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Two hundred rounds per year are woefully inadequate for the average cop to maintain a high degree of shooting proficiency. At our Firearms Training School, the students will shoot approximately 400 rounds in the Tactical 1 Pistol Course and about 600 rounds in the Tactical 2 Pistol Course. It will take the average street cop 5-10 years to shoot in qualifications, what it takes our students to shoot in two days of training.
I have said all that to say this: No Church Security team should only just “qualify.” This is a great injustice and a false pretense to believe that qualifying one or two times a year is sufficient for your training. If this is all you plan to do, then disband your team immediately. You are more of a liability than an asset. Your team must train!!! They must practice over and over and over. They must learn tactics! They must have a high level of proficiency with their firearm and maintain it.
You cannot maintain what you have not learned. If the truth be known, most officers have never reached a comfortable level of proficiency with their handgun. Simply because they do not train, they only “qualify.”
Any Church Security Team in America should do far more than just “qualifying.” This should be looked at as a ministry. God’s people should always strive to go far and above what is required, far above the average or normal. With very little effort any Church Security Team can surpass in firearms training almost every Local, State or Federal Department in this nation! At the time of this writing, the guys on our Church Security Team have logged, on average, 45 hours of firearms training and fired approximately 2000 rounds during training and this is only mid September (we also got off to a late start this year). I challenge anyone to find any average Local, State or Federal Officer anywhere in the entire United States that has logged that many firearms hours in a single year. I am not talking about S.W.A.T. Team members etc. I am talking about the everyday street cop, Local, State or Federal Officer. It will take years for the everyday street cop to accumulate that many hours in firearms training from a trained professional.
We see that qualification is only doing that which is required or necessary. Now let’s look at training.
What Is Training?
5. Practicing is Training.
In the Merriam Webster Dictionary Home and Office Edition copyright 1995, the second word train on page 546, the second definition, states: “to form by instruction, discipline, or drill.” The word “drill” here implies repeated action, doing something over and over, again and again. That is training. The third definition states: “to make or become prepared (as by exercise) for a test of skill.” The “test of skill” in this instance would be the qualification. The word “exercise” implies practice or training. So we see again that training always precedes qualifying. In the Merriam Webster Dictionary Home and Office Edition copyright 1995, the first word “practice,” the second definition on page 407, states: “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient.” Proficiency never comes without practice. Training and practice are synonymous; they both go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. This leads us to our next statement.
6. Training is a process. It is ongoing, it is continuous.
The word “training” on pages 546 and 547 means: “the act, process, or method of one who trains.” Look at the word “process”; this is what training is: a process. It is ongoing, it is continuous. The only way to form good habits is by good practice. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect, but you do have to practice. It takes several thousand repetitions to establish a good habit. Shooting one or two hundred rounds a year in qualification does not even come close to creating good fundamentals for any shooter, let alone maintaining a high level of proficiency. It is ludicrous to believe that shooting two hundred rounds per year is sufficient for training officers. My daughters will shoot more than that on any given weekend playing! And they will outshoot most any Law Enforcement officer.
It is “training” that will raise a shooter’s proficiency level- not “qualifying.” Many Departments around the country have substituted “qualifying” for “training.” They have traded competence for incompetence, ability for inability and liability! They are satisfied with the basic. They are content with complacency. The sad thing is that until each State mandates a higher standard of training, the average street cop will never be ready for any kind of advanced weapons training. Because most of them never train between qualifications, they have to keep reviewing the basics.
Let me summarize the subject at hand.
Qualifying is not Training. Qualifying should be a test of your Training. Qualifying is demonstrating that which you should have learned in practice or in training. Training always precedes qualifying. Training is the homework before the test. Training is a process. It is ongoing, it is continuous. It is “training” that will raise a shooter’s proficiency level- not “qualifying.” Training and practice are synonymous. They are the same thing. They both go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. You cannot separate the two. Qualifying is simply a test to show or demonstrate what you have learned in training. You cannot demonstrate that which you have not learned in practice or in training. I know that this article will not be very popular with the Law Enforcement community because I am so brutally honest, but I speak from a true and concerned heart. Our officers throughout this nation need to have access to more training. Church Security Teams do not need to be fooled into thinking that qualifying is training. I hope you can see the difference now.
Train Hard. Train Safe.
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