SUGGESTIONS FOR POLICE OFFICERS - American Pistol Shooting (2015)

American Pistol Shooting (2015)

Chapter XII


THIS chapter is written for the purpose of emphasizing a few points that are of special interest to police officers or persons engaged in similar work requiring the use of pistols in emergencies such as those occasionally confronting members of police forces. Maintaining the fact that police practice is one of the three principal classes of pistol shooting and that its importance is second to none, the author has endeavored to make this entire book of value to the police. The practical pistol shot—and the police officer should certainly be one—can by a study of the principles and the technique herein discussed improve his skill for his personal benefit and also be of greater value to his unit.

Practical pistol practice does not consist of plugging holes in a stationary paper target at twenty or fifty yards at the rate of one shot a minute with a super-accurate single shot target pistol under ideal shooting conditions. Instead, it should be of a kind that may be turned to practical use in the performance of duty or the protection of lives and property. There is no question but that the basic principles of pistol shooting must be taught, and that sufficient slow fire practice be held to accomplish this mission. Once a person has reached the point however, where he understands and uses the approved methods of holding his pistol, squeezing the trigger and aiming, he should then be taken off slow fire or it should be combined with a course of practice that will simulate by the use of appropriate targets and rate of fire, the kind of shooting he may expect to do in professional practice. Very deliberate fire at a small bull’s-eye target is of little value as training for quick shooting at moving targets, many of which may be in the dark.

The police officer has many other details in his training and daily work that require his attention besides pistol marksmanship. Like the army officer he is most likely to concentrate on those duties with which he is more intimately associated and let others go until such time as necessity requires him to pay more attention to those he has neglected. If his duties require him to use his pistol frequently he will be quite receptive to pistol instruction but if on the other hand, he feels that more reliance can be placed on his fists or his stick he may neglect marksmanship. The psychological time to arouse and create interest in pistol shooting in the mind of the recruit officer is when he is undergoing his training course and assembling his equipment. If he can at this time be given a course in pistol marksmanship he will be very likely to absorb the instruction in the proper spirit and to develop an interest in shooting that will be retained, if the means are provided for future participation in practice. It is quite evident from a study of the trend of police thought at this time that greater attention is being paid to the matter of pistol marksmanship for police officers. The appointment of instructors, the increase in the construction of ranges, the growing interest in the National Police Pistol Matches and the satisfactory results obtained by the well instructed departments, all indicate that the encouragement of pistol marksmanship is worth while. The well grounded officer cannot afford to neglect this part of his training regardless of the infrequent use he may have for actual demonstrations of his skill.


The Running Man range. Police School, Camp Perry, Ohio, 1928.

Instructors of police departments in pistol shooting should be men of recognized ability who can not only shoot well but realize the necessity for work along practical lines. The courses of fire prescribed and the methods of teaching should be similar to those used for the military services, with greater attention paid to firing at disappearing silhouette targets under poor illumination. Silhouette practice should also include quick firing at very close range with the time limit per shot such that gun pointing and not aiming will be required to assure getting the shots off within the time allowed. For the purposes of training and to reduce expenses firing can be done with small bore pistols or revolvers provided sufficient firing is done with the gun the marksman expects to use eventually in his work, to assure his familiarity with its feel, balance and sighting. Quickness in drawing a pistol seldom enters into any row into which a police officer is involved, as the officer usually has his gun drawn when expecting trouble. It is well, however, not to neglect practice in this detail, for the unexpected does happen. The police officer should study the chapters on “Shooting Against Time” and “Defensive Shooting and Quick Drawing” in particular, and devote time to rapid firing and to rapid fire and gun pointing exercises.

Police officials will do well to encourage any form of pistol practice but should insist on a regular course for qualification which involves the kind of work described in the foregoing paragraphs. Several large cities have found it a good policy to encourage the development of police pistol teams for competition in sectional and National matches. The National Rifle Association and the U.S.R.A. conduct matches for the police that may be fired on home ranges and at Camp Perry, Ohio. Those cities that have done the most toward promoting pistol marksmanship make it a point to send a team to the National Matches frequently. The expenses of the trip are sometimes supported by popular subscriptions from members of the community represented. Certain municipalities award qualification badges and medals for successful participation in record practice and even in a few cases give additional pay for ratings as sharpshooter or pistol expert.

For the proper support of pistol work suitable ranges for practice are an absolute necessity. These may be installed indoors in conveniently located basements, or other available space or they may be constructed in city parks or any readily accessible public grounds where out-of-door practice may be held with safety. The ranges installed in National Guard Armories, at colleges and universities and at army posts are generally available for practice by police teams when not in use by military organizations assigned thereto, and every encouragement is usually given by military authorities to civilian organizations who desire to use these facilities. Plans for the construction of indoor ranges can be obtained from the N.R.A. and from certain of the large arms and ammunition manufacturers.

In addition to skill in marksmanship the police officer should know and practice certain tactics that go hand in hand with shooting and he may find that the use of a little knowledge and headwork in occasional emergencies are worth more than his ability to hit his man. If his skill in shooting is not what it should be he may find that a knowledge of how to fire from the kneeling, sitting, or prone position may be useful not only in increasing his hits but in giving him protection against the fire of gunmen and rioters. Ability to shoot with either hand may at times be necessary as in firing around corners or when one hand is disabled. When engaged in a shooting fray involving several opponents timely advantage should be taken of the best available cover and protection afforded by position or surroundings. The military principle of guarding one’s rear or flanks holds good in police tactics. The smaller a target one presents to an enemy and the better protection one has the better will be his chances of gaining fire superiority and eventual victory.

While covering a crook with your gun do not permit your attention to be diverted from the task at hand until you have either disarmed or secured your man. Keep just far enough away from him to be sure of hitting, if necessity requires you to shoot, and not close enough for him to kick, knock or otherwise displace the gun from your hand or put you out before you can deliver your fire. If it becomes necessary to fire at a running man do not attempt this while moving yourself. Take a good position and fire carefully.

If at any time you are covered by the gun of a criminal and are considering a disarming attack, the first principle to be observed is that of diverting the muzzle from your direction and then disarming your opponent. The closer you are to the gun the better are the chances of success. Quick thinking and acting officers have frequently disarmed less alert opponents by reason of a knowledge and practice in these tactics. A loaded but uncocked revolver may be prevented from firing by grasping it firmly about the cylinder so as to prevent the latter from revolving and the hammer from rising. A very slight parrying movement will turn the muzzle sufficiently to cause a shot to miss and this should be done before one attempts to take a weapon away from an opponent. Then a firm grasp of the weapon with the hand and a quick twist to the left, (if the gun was held in the right hand) will probably bend or break the opponent’s index finger by the pressure of the trigger guard so that the gun will be released.

Firing with both hands holding the pistol has been done very successfully and is a means of improving the hitting of persons who are not skillful with one hand. This method is not approved by pistol experts for it is believed that all police officers should be well enough trained to use the pistol efficiently with one hand. Using the two hands is a makeshift method. It is slow, clumsy, and impracticable except where time is not a factor, and that is seldom the case where police firing is done. For those who are not expert, and this applies to a large majority of the police of the country, firing with a rest or support will improve poor shooting and for this reason methods of using the pistol in this manner are included here.

Keeping in mind that the purpose of two-handed shooting is to improve the holding and to prevent flinching and the attendant bad effects of pulling or jerking the trigger, the holds used should be those that will insure the greatest steadiness and the best support for the gun. This will not be obtained by grasping the shooting wrist with the other hand as the gun is still allowed to wobble with the wrist joint as a pivot. It is much better to support the firing hand with the other one by grasping it in such a manner as to support it underneath and at the same time steady both the hand and the wrist. There are several methods advocated by men who profess to have done considerable of this kind of work. The best method to use is that most suitably adapted to the gun in use. These are illustrated and explained. The one the author is inclined to favor for general use with any arm is merely to grasp the shooting hand with the other one after the regular normal grip is taken of the gun by the firing hand. If firing with the right hand the left should be placed under the right with the thumb nearly vertical and hooked across the top of the second finger of the right hand. The butt of the left hand supports the firing wrist. This method can also be used when a rest is available as the left hand forms a cushion for the gun to recoil against instead of permitting it to rest on a hard surface which will change the impact of the bullets.


A good two-handed grip that is very satisfactory to use with or without a rest.


A good grip for the .45 Service Automatic.


A satisfactory grip for the .45 Single Action Army Revolver.

Another method of supporting the gun is to grasp it normally and then hook the left index finger, if it is long enough, in front of the trigger guard and the left thumb either over or under the right thumb, as shown in the illustrations. This method can be, and has been used extensively with the old favorite “Peacemaker” single action revolver. It was first demonstrated to me by a brother officer whose father had used it frequently as a sheriff in Frontier Days.


An excellent prone position.

A study of the illustrations will also show the manner of taking advantage of the arms, elbows and knees in supporting the gun in the sitting, kneeling and prone positions.

For officers armed with automatic or double action revolvers there is always a great natural inclination to fire with maximum rapidity as soon as an emergency arises and if a revolver is used to fire it double action. Even experts, who have never been under fire, have a desire to empty their guns as fast as possible when someone is firing at them and even though they have had little or no training in double action work they will, under the strain of excitement, use that method of firing with results corresponding to their lack of training in this kind of fire. For this reason officers must school themselves in double action so that they can hit with certainty when it becomes necessary to fire with great speed.


This position is steady and comfortable. Both elbows are supported by the knees.


A good two-handed standing position.


The proper way to kneel and fire.


The revolver range of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The Author has made it a habit to ask police officers where he has been how they carry their guns and the different methods used have been astonishing. Many older officers still carry their pistols in pocket holsters in the hip pocket but this method seems less popular than formerly. Many officers who carry pocket revolvers do so in small belt holsters. Men who use guns with five to six inch barrels, and it is surprising how many officers are carrying such guns, do so in belt holsters on their right or left hip and let the end of the scabbard rest in the hip pocket. As a result of interviewing makers of holsters it is quite evident that the shoulder holster is rapidly becoming the favorite for both uniformed and plain clothes’ officers. There are several types of these now available and they can be worn with comfort and convenience. The Hardy Shoulder is of excellent design and can be worn either high under the arm pit with plain clothes or lower down for convenient use under a uniform. The secret of its success is in the materials of which it is made and particularly the spring that holds the pistol securely in place and yet permits its rapid drawing. The main defect of many of the spring type of shoulder holster is that the springs are too stiff and the method of fastening them in the holster so unsatisfactory that it soon gives way. The pouch type of shoulder holster is not nearly as suitable for police use as the spring type just described. The police of one West Coast city I visited were using a holster made of pliable four ounce leather worn on the inside of the waist band of the trousers, between the left suspender buttons. The holster was held down by passing the waist belt thru a loop made of the upper part of the front leather and bent forward over the top of the trousers. The inside leather of the holster was extended upward in the shape of a triangle and at the apex there was a ring to which the suspender was fastened instead of the usual button straps. This holster seemed to be very satisfactory for pocket guns with not to exceed four inch barrels.


The Sheriffs’ pistol range, Los Angeles County, California.