Qualification Needs To Go

Qualification Needs To Go

Firearms qualifications used by most professional organizations are not just unrelated to real world firearms use. They are a significant part of the problem that leads to both inefficiency in training and use-of-force and skill performance issues.

Since the publication of Building Shooters in 2016, we have been engaged in a fair amount of dialogue with both domestic and international law enforcement trainers. Dustin’s (the book’s author) background is in military and security operations, not law enforcement, but that’s not what the book, nor our company is about. Our focus is helping trainers in whatever discipline use what they have available more effectively to produce results—by basing training on how the brain works.

Our emphasis is on how the related (but different) disciplines of training, learning, and real-world tactical performance all collide with and impact each other at a fundamental, neurological level. The specific tactical applications, whether they be military, law enforcement, security, civilian defense, or even competition, are not particularly relevant. What is relevant is understanding the basics of how the brain works and using this to our advantage.

During these discussions with trainers, we always ask about both their objectives and their current training efforts. This includes discussion about where they believe they are succeeding and where they are not. Four consistent themes have emerged.

  1. Lamenting about the inefficiency and uselessness of qualification
  2. Expressing a desire to create more realistic, higher stress training
  3. Discussing success and failure—based almost exclusively on qualification score results
  4. Discussing training design—almost entirely in the context of preparation for qualification

Let us set aside the realistic, high-stress training for the moment. We will address this in future articles.

What is striking to witness—now being on the outside looking in—is how widespread acknowledgment of the problems with qualification is. Yet, at the same time, virtually everything that happens in most professional training environments is still directly based on the content and structure of the qualification test.

Observing the professional side of the industry’s interface with qualification is almost like watching an obsessive compulsive, who is fully cognitively aware of their own illness, walk back and forth to the kitchen repeatedly to make sure the stove is still turned off. We know the qualification is useless. Still, we are literally, physically incapable of doing something else.

Maybe we need to get rid of the stove.

To be clear, we are not advocating for the elimination of measurable, empirical standards for skill performance. We also are not advocating to eliminate measurable standards for armed professionals. Far from it. What we are saying is that the methods of qualification we currently use need to be completely scrapped and replaced—on the order of replacing a gas stove top with a microwave.

In instructor development programs, trainers have loved to talk for decades about how qualification and training are different. This is a fine concept to discuss; however, discussing it doesn’t do anything to address the fundamental logistical issues faced by institutional trainers. Tests must be passed in order to man the workforce, and resources are limited.

When talking about problems with how we train, we cannot simply ignore the fundamental truths on the ground—to include cost, time, range access, ammo limitations etc. When we ignore reality, we mostly relegate our efforts to an academic discussion. They lose all practical value and impact.

If there is a test that people must pass in order to qualify for a job, they need to practice for the test. This is not a hit on trainers, students, or institutions. It is an acknowledgement of reality.

We believe that it is further unhelpful to suggest altogether eliminating tests. We also think that slimming them down to something even more irrelevant than what exists today is the wrong plan, even if it frees up time and resources for training. For example, establishing a “one shot” qualification or similar.

We respect and strongly support the objectives of the trainers out there who suggest this. However, this approach ignores the systemic realities that are inherent with the task of armed workforce management. It is impossible to manage something that cannot be measured, and qualitative evaluation of performance ability, by individual trainers, is not a systemic, legally defensible course of action.

Can one really switched-on, experienced trainer with the right resources and students make this work effectively? Yes, absolutely.

However, this doesn’t make it a systemically viable solution. In order to implement systemic change that works we need something that inherently stands on its own merits. We cannot structure our efforts around a method that depends on highly motivated and exceptionally dedicated and skilled human performance (from the trainers) for its success.

An altogether different way to qualify is required—one where training for the test and training for the real-world are the same thing. We need to forever bridge this gap and align our measurement methods, liability protection, skills training, and operational preparation into a single, cohesive, solution.

This has been a daunting task. However, we are happy to report that Building Shooters has developed a solution that we believe meets all of these requirements. We call it the NUROTM Shooting System (Patent Pending).

The related human performance standards themselves are still in development. As it turns out, most of the peer-reviewed scientific research on human performance is inadequate to inform the way forward here. We have never truly had adequate tools or methodology to conduct operationally relevant research in many of these areas–but we do now.

The basic set of tools, and general methodology, for designing and running both training and qualification, are now completing the final phase of prototyping. Over the next few weeks we are moving into sample-sized production for beta testing by our first movers and early adopters.  Stay tuned in the coming months for more information and updates.

There is a lot going on in the world right now. Much of it is, shall we say, less than pleasant. There are, however, some really exciting things too. From our perspective at least, this is certainly one of them.

It has been a very long time coming, but we are now on the verge of taking a major step forward in firearms and tactical training capability, and we are excited to be a part of it.

Qualification, as it currently exists, needs to go. It is long past time to start doing something that works.

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"Easily one of the more important books of our time when it comes to preparing police, military and armed civilians for armed lethal combat."
-Kenneth Murray
Author, Training at the Speed of Life
Co-Founder of Simunition