There is no way to train for every possible scenario. Instead, look to the most common situations encountered in shootings and use those as a basis for your training. From the very beginning, use techniques that will be applicable in high stress situations (train for those things that have most often occurred in actual shootings), and you will be as prepared as possible.

The FBI collects data on officer involved shootings that occur throughout the United States. The NYPD does the same thing but also includes other shootings that occur in the city, and their data goes much further back than the FBI data (information for NYPD goes back to before 1900, detailed research data on officer involved shootings began being collected in 1971). Other large police agencies (Miami Metro-Dade., LAPD/LASO, etc.) also collect similar data, but haven’t been doing so for as many years.

A shooting situation involving a law enforcement officer often presents different dynamics than those where armed citizens defend themselves. Long time firearms trainer Tom Givens (who has provided firearms instruction to tens of thousands of non-law enforcement CCW students over the past 35 years), has also released recommendations based on the feedback obtained from former students who have been involved in actual shooting situations.

Several common factors continue to show up in most of these compilations of officer and citizen involved shootings. Using these common factors we can develop a series of skills that are most likely to be needed in an actual shooting situation, and as such should be the core of any serious training program: multiple rounds, multiple targets, low lighting, movement, and various distances.

Multiple Rounds

Most shootings require more than just one round. Handguns, and handgun ammunition, is not reliable in stopping someone who is motivated to harm you. In most situations, you will need to hit them with rounds multiple times before they will stop trying to harm you. If you train only shooting one or two rounds, in each target, that may not be adequate in an actual shooting.

Multiple Targets

More and more often, bad guys are traveling in pairs or with multiple accomplices. Bad guys will rarely attack one-one if they can avoid it. Multiple bad guys generally get less resistance, so they often will travel together when committing crimes. To be prepared, you’ll need to be ready to engage more than one bad guy.

Low or Reduced Lighting

Most crimes happen after hours (let night or early morning) or in places where there is low lighting. If you aren’t training to deal with this, you are not fully prepared for something like 75% of criminal activity. Do some training in darkness and low light conditions.


Paper targets stay still – and that’s great if you are attacked by paper targets. Real life bad guys will move – and moving targets are harder to hit. By the same logic, you should train not only to shoot moving targets, but also to move yourself. Shooting while moving, or for beginners: shooting and then moving, is a critical skill that can save your live in actual shooting situations.


Most police shootings occur at distances of less than 7 yards (21 feet). However, looking deeper into the data, this doesn’t mean you should only train at that distance or less. What it means is that you need to have very strong skills at shorter distances (including both speed and accuracy), but you must also not forget to practice and have good accuracy at longer distances as well.

Too often life or death situations involve distance of 10 to 25 yards or more, and those involved have to fire additional rounds, or are unable to have accurate shots at those greater distances because they have not honed their accuracy at those distances. You need to have both – speed up close, and accuracy as the distance gets greater.

Don’t Forget

Whether you are in uniform or an armed citizen, you need to spend time on developing a smooth and consistent draw – be it from concealment or an exposed holster. Bringing the firearm from the holster in a direct line to a two-handed shooting position, the firearm held high enough to see the sights, or at least be able to visually confirm the outline of your firearm is directed at the center of the threat. With the likely need to shoot multiple rounds, you have to keep your gun running and be able to reload quickly, and the need to practice reloading increases inversely with the magazine capacity of the firearm you choose to carry. Smaller capacity firearms will need to be reloaded more often.