This month, a law enforcement officer unintentionally shot fellow officer Lina Mino in the face during an organized, active shooter scenario training event. Officer Mino didn't die, but she will never be the same. Other officers and civilians shot during firearm or scenario training haven't been as fortunate.
Deaths and Injury During Law Enforcement Scenario Training—
Whether it be law enforcement, military or civilian firearm training, there comes a point where using live rounds is necessary. Safety rules and procedures only reduce the inherent risk of live fire training, but can never bring it down to zero. Dry fire training, or dry practice, is a way to conduct firearms training without the same risks that come with using live rounds.
Training With Empty Guns—
It would seem that firearm training with empty guns poses zero chance for anyone to get shot accidentally. While they happen less often than in live fire, deaths and injuries during dry practice still happen in law enforcement, military and civilian training exercises.
Here is a link to the first of several articles I put together from people who shared their experience of unintended discharges during dry fire practice.
I've also included several incidents of injury and deaths that happened during law enforcement training exercises, where the participants were not using live ammunition. Well, at least they weren't supposed to use live ammunition.
- North Texas officer who was shot in the face during a training exercise is identified, still in ICU
- CBP instructor dies after accidental shooting at west Miami-Dade gun range
- Punta Gorda Police Couldn't Tell Blanks From Wadcutters When He Shot Librarian
- Officials: Corrections officer shoots Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office instructor with blank gun at training
- Easton, PA Officer Fatally Shot During Training Exercise
When you look at the incidents above, they basically fall into two categories. The first is training using supposedly empty guns. The other group of incidents occurred when the training involved guns loaded with ‘blank' ammunition.
Training With Blanks—
In this article titled, Using Blanks in Scenario Training, Greg Ellifritz addresses the problems of using ‘blanks' in scenario training, and offers some better options.
Using blanks in training can provide a benefit. However, as Greg points out in his article, the reward almost never outweighs the risk associated with using them. There are low-cost and sophisticated alternatives to create the sound of gunfire in training so officers can learn to locate and confront a shooter.
Training With Unloaded Guns—
The other group of incidents listed above involve training with firearms, where there was not supposed to be any ammunition of any type involved. These types of incidents happen more often, probably just because more people train with ‘unloaded' guns compared to the ones who use blanks. I think a simple, low-cost product can reduce the number of incidents that fall into this group.
Good scenario training is as realistic as possible, while still being safe. Especially for cops, this involves them using their actual duty gear, including firearm, whenever it is possible. Officers need to understand how their gear functions, its limitations and how to set up their duty belt. However, using actual firearms instead of dummy guns means added precautions.
Clearly, whenever we use real guns in training, they need to be unloaded. But I want to suggest that an unloaded gun is good, but an inert gun is better for training. The difference may seem like semantics, but I don't think it is. Let me explain by describing how the BarrelBlok device works.
The BarrelBlok is a caliber specific device that renders the gun inert. With the BarrelBlok installed, it is impossible to chamber or fire a round, even if you tried. Also, the device protrudes out of the barrel, providing a visual indicator that the gun is clear and incapable of firing. And while anyone can easily install or remove the device, it won't fall out or lose its effectiveness.
So my point is that an unloaded gun won't fire a round. But someone can intentionally or unintentionally load it. And if it's loaded, it can fire, regardless of the intent of the person.
Now, a gun with a BarrelBlok inserted is unloaded AND inert. The gun won't fire because it is unloaded, but if someone intentionally or unintentionally loads it, they can't fire. And this is the biggest difference. It adds a layer of security if one of the other layers of safety protocols fails.
It's not enough to say, if everyone followed the rules, no one would get injured. Of course that is true, but it does not allow for any mistakes. And I have met no one who hasn't made a mistake.
Safe Training is Better Training—
I really prefer cops use their patrol gear during training, but I can't stand reading about officers, or anyone, being shot in a training event. This is one reason that when Jason Speller introduced me to the BarrelBlok at the 2019 USCCA Expo, I was such a fan.
Sometimes it takes a while for law enforcement and military to adopt gear or products from the ‘civilian' market, but I am encouraged that law enforcement agencies in 23 states are using BarrelBlok. I really feel this is a tool that makes training safer, is low-cost, easy to maintain and incredibly effective. I'm hopeful that the more law enforcement trainers become aware of BarrelBlok, the more will adopt its use.