Debunking the LAPD’s Handgun Qualification Myth (VIDEO)

I would like to begin by acknowledging the fine work of the LAPD, and everyone in the law enforcement community.  This article is not intended to question any law enforcement officer’s training or abilities.   

There is a debate brewing.  Actually, it isn’t new.  But there’s a new chapter.  The basic premise is familiar enough: only police should be allowed to carry guns, as they have specialized training.

The heated conversation started a couple of months ago when a commenter on a blog insinuated that average shooters wouldn’t be able to pass the LAPD’s semiautomatic qualification course

Police officers do have special training.  What about the rest of us, those of us who don’t have access to police training?  How we train and how we practice varies.  But what about our skills?  Could we pass the demanding qualification courses set up by our venerated law enforcement agencies?

Two of the participants, Barron Barnett and Joe Huffman, set up a shoot and put 22 people through their improvised version of the course.  This video summarizes the results. 

Barnett’s assessment of the argument is succinct and to the point.  “The idea that police are somehow superior, merely because of their qualification course, is merely a creation of anti-gunners based on feeling, not fact.” 

Setting this up

Barnett and Huffman’s qualification simulation is different in many ways from what the LAPD has to do.   But I’m hooked.  I want to know if I can do it.

I am an avid gun enthusiast, but only an average shooter (at best).  Can an average shooter pass a test similar to the Los Angeles Police Department’s semi-automatic hand gun qualification course?

We respect our readers here at Guns.com.  With that in mind, I’m asking for some input.  Obviously we don’t have access to the LAPD range.  They use turning targets, for one. 
LAPD Range
I won’t be setting this up in my backyard.  I’ll make use of an official range.  We will be using fixed targets.  In place of the turning mechanism, we’ll be using a shot timer.  These are a limitations we can’t overcome at this point in time. 

We will use a variety of guns, though only two may come from the list below.

This is from the LAPD’s website:

LAPD Officers are authorized to use, as their on duty primary weapon,

  • Beretta: 92F, 92FS, 92FS-Stainless Steel, 8045
  • Smith & Wesson: 459, 5904, 5903, 659, 5906, 645, 4506, 4566, 4567, 5903 TSW, 5906 TSW, 4569 TSW, and 4566 TSW
  • Glock: Model 34, Model 17, Model 19, Model 35, Model 22, Model 23, Model 21

What is the LAPD Semi-Automatic Qualification Course?

This comes from www.handgunlaw.us, which has a nice compendium of documents.  Though this one seems to be very specific and authoritative, it is lacking the appropriate attribution needed for verification.  So I’ll ask another question…does anybody have any information that would suggest this is or isn’t accurate?

Here is the what we have:

Day/Night Combat Qualification Course LAPD Firearms Training Section

The course consists of 30 rounds fired on two silhouette targets 15 rounds fired on each target. Combat scoring is used, e.g. 10 points for each round in the body and head, 5 points for each round in the arm(s). Only two head shots are allowed on each target, additional head shots are 5 points each. The maximum score on each target is 150 points or 300 total points. The minimum score required to qualify is 70% or 105 points on both targets. Ricochets and rounds entering the back of the target after it has turned will not be scored.

The Following Are Grounds For Disqualification:

  1. Any Violation Of The Safety Rules.
  2. Shooting out of sequence. (Failure to follow the correct course of fire or firing more than the designated number of rounds. Head shots must be attempted.  Deliberately firing body shots instead of the required head shots is considered out of sequence.)
  3. Failure to maintain the correct starting position, e.g. drawing before the start signal, aiming at the target when you should be in a Low Ready position, or starting the trigger press before the targets have turned on the barricade position.

The loading sequence is 7, 5, and 7 rounds in the magazines. The 7 round magazine is in the weapon, the weapon is made ready for live fire then holstered. The 5 round magazine is in the primary pouch. The second 7 round magazine is in the secondary pouch.

If You Have A Malfunction, You Must Clear It! After the malfunction has been cleared, you will be given extra time to complete the phase. If you do not clear the malfunction, you will not be given extra time and your targets will be scored in the normal manner.

Self Induced Malfunctions Do Not Receive Extra Time! You are responsible for the condition of your firearms! Self induced malfunctions include:

  1. Improperly loading the magazines.
  2. Failure to load the firearm.
  3. Failure to seat the magazine.
  4. Leaving the decocking lever down.

If You Induce A Malfunction, Clear It And Complete The Course Of Fire. You Will Not Be Given Extra Time!

  • PHASE ONE – 12 rounds in 25 seconds on the 7 yard line. Start with the weapon holstered, snapped, and both hands down by your side. When the targets turn, draw and fire 2 rounds at the right body, 2 rounds at the left body, 1 round at the left head, and 1 round at the right head. Perform an in battery speed reload with the 5 round magazine and repeat the sequence; 2 right, 2 left, left head, right head. When the phase is completed, perform an out of battery speed reload with the second 7 round magazine, decock and holster. Load two magazines, one with 6 rounds and one with 5 rounds, then place them in the magazine pouches.
  • PHASE TWO – 2 rounds in 2 seconds on the 10 yard line. Start in a two hand Low Ready. Each time the targets turn, 2 rounds in 2 seconds are fired. First pair on the left target, second pair on the right target, third pair on the left target. Between each pair of rounds you must return to a Low Ready. After the third pair, perform a tactical reload with the 6 round magazine and holster.
  • PHASE THREE – 6 rounds in 8 seconds on the 12 yard line. Start in a two hand Low Ready. When the targets turn, fire 2 rounds on the right target, 2 rounds on the left target, and 2 rounds on the right target. Perform a tactical reload with the 5 round magazine and holster.
  • PHASE FOUR – (barricade position) – 1 round in 3 seconds on the 15 yard line. Start in a left hand barricade position (sights aligned on target, finger on the trigger). Each time the targets turn, fire 1 round in 3 seconds on the left target. After the third round, decock and assume a right hand barricade position (sights aligned on target, finger on the trigger). Each time the targets turn, fire 1 round in 3 seconds on the right target. After the last round, unload and holster.

Conclusion

So that’s it.  It doesn’t sound too difficult.  Even with my modest assessment of my abilities, I think I could pass this on my first attempt.  But we’ll see.

I’m going to set the course up next week.  I intend to pass.  I’m also going to recruit a couple of other shooters who have varying degrees of competency.  We’ll run it with double action pistols, single action pistols, and a revolver.

I know this isn’t going to make me a cop.  Far from it.  And I know I won’t be able to truly say I’ve qualified.  That isn’t my intention at all.  But this is something that we can test.  And that is valuable.  So many of the arguments against gun ownership are not testable hypotheses.  This one is.

Please make comments below.  I want to do this as definitively as possible.  Is there anything I should build into the course, or consider, before I run it?

Photo Credit: The LAPD Range photo is from Daniel Mayer.

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