Wednesday, December 01, 2010

PSP Citizen's Police Academy: Week 6

Firearms Safety and MILO

by Annette Dashofy

This was the class we were all looking forward to. A chance to experience the firearms simulator and get a small taste of what police officers face. Before we started, I’d given myself the “It’s Only Make-Believe” speech. Nothing to stress over. Yeah. Right.

During the first part of the class, we were given an Introduction to Firearms Power Point presentation. Here are a few tidbits:

A “handgun” was first used in 1388.

There are three parts to a handgun: the frame, the barrel, and the action.

The thing that holds the bullets in a pistol is called a magazine, NOT a clip.

Semiautomatics were invented in 1895.

For those interested in terminology, there are no “accidental” discharges of weapons, only “negligent discharges.”

Actions can be single, double, or semiautomatic.

In case you’ve wondered what the caliber refers to, a 22 caliber rifle has a bore of 22/100 inch in diameter. Forty-five caliber is .450 and a 357 is .357.

A 99mm. is metric.

A 3030 refers to a .30 caliber round and 30 grains of powder.

A 3006 (thirty ot six) is a .30 caliber rifle plus the year the Army adopted it, which is 1906.

Shotguns are measured in “Gauge” which is the number of small lead balls in a pound.

Confused yet?

Let’s talk ammunition. Most cartridges are centerfire. You can look at the base and see the small primer. A rimfire, found in .22 caliber cartridges, has no noticeable primer.

More on terminology: you don’t load a “bullet” into a gun. You load a “cartridge” into it. The bullet is part of the cartridge along with the case, the primer, and the powder.

Okay, that’s enough of the basics. After we took a short break, the fun began. Everyone in the class was given a chance to use the firearms simulator. It’s a really cool piece of technology. After we took our turns, the computer evaluated our performance and showed where we’d hit when we fired.

The first few students were given simple targets. Plates, pop ups, floating pumpkins which exploded on impact. Eeww. Pumpkin guts!

Then we started getting real scenarios. Bad guys holding hostages, beating the bejeezus out of someone and then turning on the officer (us).

We’d come across bloodied victims and be directed to where the shooter was at the moment.

Once we came face-to-face with the shooter, we had to order him to drop his weapon. Sometimes he complied. Sometimes not. Thankfully, none of us knew how good a shot those bad guys were, because the computer didn’t indicate if we’d been hit.

It’s only make-believe, I kept reminding myself.

Finally it was my turn. In my scenario, I was sent to a bus parking lot. My on-film partner and I had to find two bad guys. My partner told me to take the lead. “Gee, thanks, buddy.” The first bad guy had another officer down, wounded, but alive. I ordered him to drop his weapon. For a moment, he didn’t. My finger tightened on the trigger. But then he complied and set the gun down. Yay!

My partner jumped in to cuff him. Told me he’d take care of this one, and I should go find the second bad guy. I’m thinking I don’t much like my partner at this point.

I found the second bad guy, who was on one of the buses, holding another officer in a head lock. He had his gun at the officer’s temple. The officer was screaming, “Shoot him! Shoot him!”

“It’s only make believe,” I reminded myself. But let me tell you, my heart was thumping on the back of my sternum like big old base drum.

I ordered the guy to put down his weapon. Twice. Meanwhile I’m trying to aim for his head. Don’t hit the officer he’s holding. Don’t shoot wild and possibly hit someone I can’t even see outside the bus. I was wishing I was aiming at one of those pumpkins instead. I was also wishing I’d had a chance to practice on something—anything—to see where the gun shot. On a practice range, I generally miss my first couple of shots, then I’m good. But I didn’t have that luxury in this case.

When the guy didn’t put his gun down, I squeezed off one shot. I think I took his ear off. Maybe part of the side of his skull, too. It was enough to definitely stop the threat. My fellow classmates approved.

I found out later that had I let the scenario run a moment longer, the guy was going to comply. But the instructor admitted it took him a really long time, so my shot was justified.

And I didn’t kill the hostage!

Next time: Drug Investigation and K-9 officers


PatRemick said...

At my Citizen Police Academy, we also had the opportunity to try the simulator. It really brought home how many split-second decisions law enforcement officers must make -- and the potential (and deadly) ramifications of those decisions. That must be such tremendous pressure for these men and women. As the mother of a police officer, it provided new insight into this burden they must carry daily.

Karen in Ohio said...

Pat, I found the same thing at the CPA I participated in. And it really brought home to me how little it would matter in certain situations to have a gun in your purse.

My sister wants to carry, and I can just see her holding up a finger to a mugger, asking him to wait one minute while she A) concludes her cell phone call, B) fishes around in her ginormous handbag for her gun, and C) figures out which end to point at the bad guy.


The simulator situations are frightening, and fast. What really surprised me the most was that the men in the class, including three students in the police program at the University of Cincinnati, fired off the wildest shots, and the most shots per situation. The women, most of us older, were much more circumspect in when and at whom to fire, just as Annette's situation showed her to be.

If every person who applied for a concealed carry permit had to participate in several sessions like this they might change their minds about whether or not to carry a weapon.

Annette said...

Absolutely, Pat. And what I also came away with was how there was even more to it than whether or not to shoot. A police officer must also be aware of their bullets that don't hit their intended target. The bad guys might just spray gunfire with no concern for colateral damage. But the police strive for accuracy. You never know where those stray shots might end up.

Annette said...

Karen, so true!

Martha Reed said...

Thanks for reporting in, Annette. Love all the details - everything helps to make the writing accurate. And I bet they love having you there as much as you love going!

C.L. said...


Fantastic report. I had no idea citizens could experience something like this. Wow. Just wow.

Joyce Tremel said...

Nice report, Annette. When I did a CPA back in 1998, I didn't get to do the simulator. I'm envious!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, Annette. At least the simulation does.

I'd want nothing to do with it in real life. It's one of those things that I wish more people had to experience so they understand the stress that policemen are under day in and day out.

Bill Cameron said...

I killed the hostage every time in the simulator. It was a valuable lesson in: "Never give Bill access to firearms."

For me, it was panic, something I wouldn't have thought was so quick to overtake me. Something would happen and I'd click one off, usually in some random direction. The instructor would tell me how important it was to keep my finger off the trigger guard until I was ready to actually fire. No good.

This is why I write and don't do. Dangerous.

Karen in Ohio said...

Wil, you are so right!

Annette said...

Joyce, perhaps it's time you took another CPA class.

Will, I so agree.

Bill, you aren't alone. There was a lot of that in our class, too.

Ramona said...

Annette, I am continuously astonished at these CPA posts. They do not fool around with this thing, do they? You sound like you're having a great time, but it's not a game.

Ditto what Wil and Bill said--not for me in real life, thanks, but lots of admiration for those who do it.

BTW, I just saw your post about the chin strap. (I'm still playing holiday catch-up.) You're right--I was hoping for some crazy answer, too. Thanks for asking, and it's good to know I'm not the only one who wonders.

Donnell said...

I'm late with this, Annette, but it looks so exciting, and I'm so glad you didn't kill the hostage!!!