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Citizens Police Academy: The shooting range

Just pulled the trigger on the Sig Sauer

As part of my Citizens Police Academy class, I spent a warm July morning at the shooting range learning how to hit a target with a Sig Sauer P229 and a shotgun. Thanks to the Seven Fundamentals of Marksmanship, I did pretty well.

We started with an overview of weapons used in the department, and their various purposes. The instructors discussed firearms safety and the rules of marksmanship, and we took a look at the a firearms training video game where officers can practice different shooting scenarios in a tactical environment. And the program can shoot back!

If only writing were this easy...

Last time I used a handgun—a Beretta 9mm in Officer Training—I qualified, but the instructor made me shoot with my left hand to match my dominant eye. This time I got to shoot right handed, and boy what a difference.

Have I ever mentioned that I’m a perfectionist by nature? 😉 So, if you give me rules, like the fundamentals of marksmanship, I’ll follow them. I still tried to be quick, but I generally didn’t pull the trigger until my sight picture and sight alignment were as close to perfect as I could make them.

Pull the trigger, keep the target in sight, reacquire the sight picture and alignment, breathe, pull the trigger.

The photo of my target shows the results (from seven yards). I got a few cracks about joining up for the next academy class. I may be able to drive and shoot halfway decently, but I’m way too non-confrontational to be a police officer.

This one had kick!

Not everyone tried out the shotgun after the instructors warned us of the “kick”, but I wanted the full experience, so I gave it my two shots. First time up I kept the stock grounded in in the pocket below my collarbone and the kickback was more like a strong push.

Had to shoot this one left-handed, but got a perfect shot, center mass on my first try. Probably an eight-inch hole in the target from seven yards.

The second shot I lost focus while lining up the target and forgot to keep the shotgun tightly seated. That time it was more like a punch. Ouch! I had a bruise for a few days, but it was worth it.

I love some of the terminology the instructors used.

  • “Let it eat”: fire the weapon
  • “Embrace the explosion”: don’t jump when the gun fires, be ready for the noise and kickback


  • After the Hollywood bank robbery, officers who qualified started carrying the Colt patrol rifle, a .223 round assault rifle so they wouldn’t have to wait for the SWAT team when the suspects are heavily armed.
  • Caliber = chamber size and is a U.S. term. A .38 caliber is .38 of an inch in diameter. Europeans use millimeters. A .38 caliber=9 mm.
  • NATO uses standardized weapons and sometimes stamps the ammunition conversion directly on the weapon.
  • The Sig Sauer has four passive safety features and it won’t fire if dropped, even if dropped on the hammer. The trigger deactivates the safeties.
  • Officers train in both static and tactical environments, and must requalify every year.

Rules of the Range

  1. Treat all weapons as loaded.
  2. Keep finger off trigger until ready to fire.
  3. Never point weapon at anyone unless ready and willing to kill them.
  4. Be sure of target and beyond to avoid “friendly fire” and civilian casualties.

Shooting at targets was a lot of fun, but I have no desire to ever end the life of any human or animal outside of a self- or family-defense scenario, so I think I’ll stick to the range.

For more of my CPA posts, click here.

Photo credit (shooting range): Mort Berger.