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Police handgun qualification: practical measure or aimless activity?

Gregory B. Morrison (Western Oregon University, Monmouth, Oregon, USA, and)
Bryan J. Vila (University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 September 1998


American police trace their initial brush with handgun training to efforts taken by New York City in 1895. Developing proficiency did not become a widely held priority until beginning in the mid‐1920s when the reform era’s focus upon training understandably led them to desire being not just trained, but “qualified” with their handguns. Qualification is a military‐derived status introduced in large part by the National Rifle Association’s police firearms training programme between the two World Wars. Today, as then, formal qualification expectations imply that officers exceeding various minimum performance levels are competent to employ handguns during armed confrontations. An examination of police field marksmanship in armed confrontations ‐ within the context of firearms training developments, the nature of and role played by “qualification”, and the basis for threshold scores ‐ suggests otherwise.



Morrison, G.B. and Vila, B.J. (1998), "Police handgun qualification: practical measure or aimless activity?", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 510-533.




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