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Pistolcraft for the Tactical Operator

Pistolcraft for the Tactical Operator

The course titled “Pistolcraft for the Tactical Operator” is a short four-to-six-hour (depending on the number of people in attendance) firearms training segment presented at the annual SWAT academy hosted by the South Suburban Emergency Response Team (aka S.S.E.R.T.). This curriculum outline of this course has been reviewed and approved by the National Rifle Association’s Law Enforcement Division.  

The SWAT academy is a 90-hour training class divided into three phases that are scheduled on the last weekends of April, May, and June. Our course is always presented in the last phase in June at a range located in Mt. Carroll, Ill., at a location called the Site Firearms Training Facility.  

This is a handgun-only course designed to take experienced police officers outside of their comfort zone. The class of approximately 25 candidates is divided into “A” and “B” groups where both groups are taught the same curriculum even though each group reports separately. This course consists of drills and challenges that take the patrol officer out of his or her comfort zone by participating in about six to seven shooting drills.  

The listed drills are not extreme or physically demanding, but they are pistol-shooting exercises the officers normally do not get to practice or experience at their agencies. The course begins with instructors introducing themselves by sharing backgrounds and experiences. Range safety principles are discussed along with the overview of the course and objectives. 

Drill No. 1: Engaging multiple targets standing; engaging multiple targets sitting; engaging multiple targets prone

Drill No. 2: Head, chest and groin

Drill No. 3: Advancing to and retreating from the threat

Drill No. 4: Emergency mag exchange and standoff

Drill No. 5: Combat accuracy development in a chaotic situation

Drill No. 6: Equilibrium (simulating neurogenic shock)

Drill No. 7: Bounding and overwatch  The activities of this class for the 2021 SWAT Academy has been posted and available to view on YouTube at (Pistolcraft For The Tactical Operator)

The class begins with an introduction from the instructor’s Eric “Iggy” Keyes and Brian C. Smith, along with an overview of what to expect in the class.
Multiple Targets (A) — The first drill is a basic drill of shooting two rounds at the shooter’s primary target and two rounds at the target on either side of the primary target. Repeated three times.
Multiple Targets (B) — The second part of the drill includes the same shooting scenario from a sitting position.
Multiple Targets (C) — The third part of the drill is the same scenario from a prone position.
Head, Chest and Groin — This drill determines if the shooters can follow instructors. The presenter advises he will call out the target of “head, chest or groin” and the shooter will engage the target when called. As a distraction, the instructor yells “fire” to witness who will shoot. Ninety-five percent of the time, if one person fires others will follow suit and fire also.
The consequence for the infraction of not following the instructions properly results in push-ups as a group.
“Neurogenic Shock” (A) — This drill consists of the shooter charging his pistol and placing it on the ground at a designated location directed by the range officer. The shooter is moved approximately 20 feet from the pistol and is spun around until dizzy, simulating the physical effects of Neurogenic Shock.
“Neurogenic Shock” (B) — The shooter is released and allowed to approach the pistol at his own pace and attempt to hit three stationary metal pepper popper targets with five rounds from a kneeling, sitting or prone position.
Combat Accuracy In A Chaotic Situation. A swinging target is positioned in front of two stationary metal targets. The swinger is controlled by an assisting person who pulls the rope to cause the swinger to move, covering the targets on both sides at alternating times. The shooter attempts to hit the metal targets when the opportunity presents itself without hitting the swinger. This drill simulates an operator confronting an active shooter where innocent people are trying to flee from
a violent environment.
Emergency Mag Exchange & Standoff — The handguns used are converted/committed to fire marking rounds only. A safety mask is mandatory. The shooters stand about 10 feet apart with an empty magazine in the gun and slide locked to the rear (simulating their last round was fired and reloading quickly with a spare magazine loaded with one marking round only.) The shooters attempt to reload and shoot their opponent first before getting shot. There is a lot of fumbling witnessed with this exercise.
Bounding Overwatch — Each shooter is armed with a two-round magazine. All are on the line facing their target. The range officer touches the shoulder of the shooter on the end who will fire two which will result in the slide locking to rear, step of the line, and touches the person next to him. The shooter then runs to the opposite end of the line. The process is repeated with every shooter on the line until the last shooter has fired.
Advancing and Retreating From The Threat — The shooter approaches and retreats from the target and fires upon command. Close supervision is provided by the range staff.

Author: Brian C. Smith is a retired Captain from the Chicago Heights Police Department with 30 years of service. While at CHPD, he served as a Commander of Training, Special Operations Unit, and Range Master. He formerly served as Chief of Police for the Village of Glenwood.  Brian currently serves as a patrolman part-time with Steger PD and full-time at Prairie State College PD in Chicago Heights where he serves as Range Master for both agencies.

Brian has acquired approximately 18 firearms instructor-related certifications, an NRA firearms training counselor. He was named “Instructor of the Year’’ by the Midwest Training Institute in 1993, NRA Law Enforcement Division in 2014, and the International Law Enforcement Educators Trainers Association.

In 1981, he founded the Metropolitan Police Self-Defense Institute teaching law enforcement and civilians firearms along with self-defense tactics.  He is the Senior Vice-President of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and President of the American Federation of Police.

He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 184th session and a freelance writer on topics such as firearms training, self-protection, and tactical team operations. For the last 18 years, he has served as an adjunct instructor teaching “Pistol Craft for the Tactical Operator” course for the South Suburban Emergency Response Team’s annual SWAT Academy. Brian can be reached at, on Facebook (Brian C. Smith) or through his website (


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