Summerville Citizens Police Academy

  • Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A.M. Sheehan/Journal Scene Proper grip

Class 7

Today is the first class of a two-part firearms class. I am ambivalent about this because I have never believed that hand guns and automatic weaponry should be in the hands of the common man, so to speak.

Hunting rifles have a specific use that has evolved from the sustenance hunting of our forefathers. Handguns? Who shoots an animal with a handgun? Automatic weapons? Ditto. Where is the sport in that?

So I have never had any interest in guns. However, since I am so full of opinions based on a complete lack of first-hand knowledge, I wanted to learn.

Lt. Thomas Peterson is our instructor. The foundation of everything he does is based first and foremost on safety.

He has in front of him some guns. He has two Glocks - a 22 and a 27 – the difference being size of the actual gun. He also shows us his competition gun and a revolver.

He is using the Glocks for the class and the first thing he does is replace the barrels with bright yellow plastic solid barrels that cannot shoot. Safety first.

He then takes us step-by-step through the process of field stripping a weapon.

Every time he picks up a gun he checks it three times to ensure it is unloaded - in spite of the fact it can’t be loaded due to the plastic barrel - to reinforce the safety measure.

He tells us if we are responsible gun owners, we need to know the range rules, have knowledge of the design, function and nomenclature of a semi-automatic.

We need to know about different ammunition, how to identify and clear malfunctions.

When shooting we need to know what is behind and beyond the target we are aiming for. We need to know what type of bullet - will it go straight through or will it explode when it hits and stay inside?

He reminds us that almost anything can cause a ricochet depending on the angle the bullet hits…even water.

He points out that whatever goes up must come down so shooting straight up is dangerous.

We learn to keep ammunition far away from where a weapon is stored and that weapons should be locked up or up much higher than any child can reach.

We should ensure we have strict rules for children and alcohol and guns shouldn’t mix.

We are reminded that the gun owner is ultimately responsible for whatever happens with the gun.

Next Peterson introduces us to the various parts of a gun - the frame, magazine, magazine release, safety, hammer, trigger guard, sight, slide, ejector/extractor, ejection port, slide catch, firing pin, recoil spring, recoil spring guide and barrel.

Now we are on to sighting the weapon and the difference in our eyes. Along with a dominant hand or side, we also have a dominant eye. Often it is not the same side eye as hand, which can make it tricky.

We are given a break while he locks up the real weapons and brings out the practice weapons.

These are made of heavy plastic and, depending on the brand, can be the actual weight of a real handgun. All replicate an actual gun with regard to looks, sights, etc.

We learn how to hold a handgun in a combat stance. We learn that if we are not careful to make sure our hand is snug under the “beaver tail” otherwise you could slice your hand open with the slide. It would need stiches.

We learn how to place the other hand, lining up our thumbs and keeping our finger horizontal to the barrel and off the trigger.

Apparently I have a problem with that last one.

“Hold it firm, but not tight,” says Peterson, as he goes person-to-person to check our grip.

We learn about the different loads for magazines - a combat load, administrative load and tactical load. We learn some of the shooting positions. We learn some possible malfunctions and how to avoid them. We learn about cleaning a gun.

In three hours, Peterson has given us the bullet points of the eight-hour class normally taught to police officers. Even so, it is a lot to absorb.

We make plans to meet back at the station on Saturday for our day at the range.

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