Summerville Citizens Police Academy

  • Friday, November 15, 2013

A.M. Sheehan/Journal Scene Lt. Thomas Peterson guides Shawn Owen’s grip as he readies to fire a 9mm competition pistol.

Class 8 - Part 1

Saturday morning is bright and sunny with a promise of high temperatures after a week of autumn coolness. I leave the house with a worm of excitement arguing with trepidation in my stomach. I look strange in a combination of socks pulled up over long pants, a short-sleeve shirt and high rubber Wellingtons. I don’t care.

There had been an animated discussion during the last class about chiggers, what they do and where they can end up. They were not going to get me. Had I owned a haz-mat suit I would have worn that. The other concern was mosquitos. We are going to the outdoor range owned by MeadWestvaco, which generously allows law enforcement its use. I have been there before and the mosquitos are the size of my cat.

We meet at the police station and form a caravan following Lt. Thomas Peterson out to the range.

The first order of safety is to pull our cars completely out of the drive giving Peterson a straight shot out in case he has to make a hospital run. Not reassuring. He backs his car in.

Peterson gathers us and he goes through a checklist: Safety goggles, ear plugs, Kevlar vests, where we can stand, treat all weapons as if loaded, never point at anything you don’t intend to shoot, know the foreground as well as what is behind the target, has anyone consumed alcohol or drugs?

He talks about the right side eject of the spent casing, that it is very hot and that although we are shooting alone here, if we were shooting with someone else, we would need to wear a hat with a bill, a high necked shirt, etc, to keep the casing from hitting us or going down our shirt.

Three at a time he takes us across the field toward the targets. Everyone else has to stay by the cars and tables.

He stops about 10 feet from the targets. I think, to myself, if I can’t hit the target from here….

Two of us have never shot a handgun before. The third has, once, on New Year’s Eve, into the air.

Peterson carefully shows us the ammunition - for us newbies it is .22 caliber. This will give us the least recoil or kick of the three ammunition sizes he has. The other two are .40 caliber and a 9mm competition pistol.

The .40 has the most recoil and the 9mm falls somewhere in between.

He switches out the barrel of the Glock to take the .22 caliber ammunition.

The younger of the two neophytes goes first.

Peterson has her stand, legs apart, holding the gun with both hands straight in front of her. Ahead is a target with the outline of a man. There is what they call a bottle shape outlined inside that defines the vital organ area. A hit there will stop the threat.

Law enforcement shoots to stop the threat. They do not aim to wound or incapacitate. They are not movie stars who shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. They are human beings, whose mandate is to protect the rest of us and, when under threat, if deadly force is necessary, they shoot to stop the threat.

Peterson stands to the left of the first shooter. He makes sure the rest of us are well behind the casing ejection path. He holds her arms steady with a hand gently around her wrists. I imagine this is so the shot doesn’t go wild.

He tells her to place her finger on the trigger and to steadily and smoothly pull back. There is a trigger pull weight of 5.5 lbs., standard for SPD.

Competition pistols might have a pull weight of 2 lbs. However, most safety literature emphasizes to never have a carry gun with less than 4 lbs. of trigger pull. The lighter the pull the easier it is to shoot…accidentally.

She pulls the trigger and there is a moderate bang and a hole appears in the target almost simultaneously as a poof of dust rises from the berm behind the target.

She shoots a few more times, without Peterson’s hand on her wrist.

The second of our group takes her turn and then it is my turn....

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