Institutional Inbreeding

A few weeks ago I qualified all the officers in our department with their duty weapons, off duty weapons and the shotguns in their squad cars. Unfortunately, they won’t shoot their duty weapons until we qualify with our patrol rifles in two months. Several officers made some mistakes and didn’t perform quite as well as they had hoped.

As I’m watching the quals, I took notes, pictures and even some video of some of our shooters to show them after they were finished. Stance, grip, reloads….etc. We reviewed it all. Without fail, every single shooter told me, “But, that’s how I was trained,” or “But, I’ve always done it that way.” I once heard a trainer refer to institutional inbreeding and the belief that it’s good because, “we’ve always done it this way.”

As an armed citizen, I hope you recognize the danger in this ideology. Good is not good enough. Grow, adapt, learn and become better. Shooting a handgun is both an art and science and our skills degrade without practice, but we have to make sure we are practicing skills that are effective.

One of my shooters is a recent academy grad and was taught to do a reload by holding the handgun in his firing hand, arm held straight out, and load the magazine with his support hand. I pointed this out to him and his response, “It’s how I was trained.” I handed him three full mags and we walked back out to the firing line. My instructions were simple, two shots, reload, two shots, reload, and two shots as fast as possible. Guess what happened? He couldn’t make the reloads quickly and efficiently. I stepped up to the firing line and showed him how I was taught to do it and proceeded through the drill faster than I think I have ever done it. He shuffled his feet and mumbled something about how I practice more. YES!!! I DO! But, I practice a fast and efficient reload under pressure.

One of my other shooters struggled to qualify and it was due to his stance and grip. His shots were literally all over the place. When we talked about his shots, he said he was perplexed and didn’t understand what had happened. When I showed him the video of his first five shots, it was like a light bulb came on. He saw immediately what he was doing. We went back out to the firing line and corrected it.

I am an awful rifle shooter and it’s mainly because I’ve never spent much time with it. I was taught how to shoot a .22 by my dad and I tried to use the same methods and techniques to shoot my patrol rifle. After watching a lot of other guys and trying different techniques, I am getting trained (or tutored) by another trainer and my performance has improved 100%. Not only am I more accurate, but I’m more efficient with manipulating the rifle.

No matter how long you have been shooting, we all have room for improvement. There are a lot of skills associated with defensive shooting which are beyond just hitting the target. Seek out qualified instructors and keep learning. I’ve even learned from bad instructors (and some times that means learning their techniques don’t work). Like James always says, “Be safe, be trained, be alert.”

Rich Portwood