Back to Basics Training

An expert is someone who does the basics right all of the time.

Back to Basics Training

By: Nicholas Salovay


Within the world of handgun training, there are many topics of learning to become competent. These include range drills, case studies, judgment pistol simulators, and survival tactics. Yet, due to limited budget or staffing, the basics – the fundamentals – are overlooked or short-changed. This fact holds true in many facets of training and preparation. The thought process seems to be “officers should already have good fundamentals.” That is no excuse to ignore the basics.

This happens even in professional sports where the need to focus on the “game plan” takes time away from the basics. In this post-bowl season, take a closer look at professional football and basketball. These athletes train all year and dedicate their lives to perfecting their skill sets. Yet, after a close loss, time and again that coach will say, “We failed to perform the basics.”

Taking time to reaffirm the basics often leads to significant positive results. After a big win, you hear the players say, “It was because the lineman blocked hard.” or “The center made determined rebounds.” You do not hear, “The head coach was amazing in identifying the opposing team’s discretion in formations and formulated a plan using…”

The fundamentals of marksmanship and handling are often overlooked in the interest of completing different tasks such as a qualification course, a new “tactical” training exercise, or some other administrative requirement. While each of these tasks do hold certain importance, we must remember that if you have to use your duty gun in a deadly force encounter, the overall basic operation and handling remains the same.

Of course, each situation involving the deployment of deadly force will be dynamic in which your personal training and experience will dictate your response. But one thing remains the same; you have to operate your handgun to the best of your ability under an extreme circumstance. Operating your handgun effectively will give you the best chance at stopping the threat, not performing “tactical barrel rolls while reloading one handed on your boot during training.”

During a deadly force encounter, an officer is not thinking of the fundamentals of marksmanship. The truth being what it is, now would be the time to execute the basics as seamlessly, flawlessly, and effectively as you can to facilitate survival. An expert is someone who does the basics right all the time, every time.

Repetition and proper training within the fundamentals of duty gun is the key to obtaining a synaptic response. It is not, train until you get it right. Instead, it is train until you cannot get it wrong. You must ingrain the fundamentals to the point that it becomes the norm, not the exception.

An example of this is driving to the department. As you drive the vehicle to work, do you think about each and every turn and movement? Or do you just drive to work? Why can people do multiple things when driving such as, text, eat, make phone calls, e-mail, put on makeup, but our officers cannot re-holster without looking at the holster? Or cannot re-holster unless they use two hands?

Bluntly put, not reaffirming the basics is tantamount to not caring about the possible outcome, an outcome that may cause the loss of life or serious bodily injury to the officer, the officer’s partner, or innocent bystanders.

Our measurement of success as instructors is not based upon standard measurements such as positive feedback, a great review, or obtaining a rank. Instead, our accomplishments are measured when an officer we trained has the tools, knowledge, and skills to persevere – to outright win – in any use-of-force encounter.


Nicholas J. Salovay is a certified law-enforcement firearms instructor with a wide array of local, state and national instructor ratings. He is an active member of IALEFI and ILEETA and may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2013

Rating : 9.6



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