1920’s Police Revolver Qualification

During the Rangemaster Master Instructor Course, Tom Givens shared a police qualification course of fire with the class. The course was published in J. Henry Fitzgerald’s book “Shooting”, in 1930, but was in use in New York in the 1920’s. That book is available in print and e-book edition here. It’s one of the earliest, best collections of information about practical and defensive pistol shooting, and should be a “must read” for any pistol instructor or serious student of this topic.

A sample of the book, including this course of fire, is here.

The following course in practical police shooting has been used for many years by the New York State Troopers and is taught by the author at the New York State Police School. This organization was the first to use the Colt’s Silhouette target. When Captain Albert B. Moore and I visited all the barracks in the state and taught the officers this new course in the shooting, the valuable suggestions of Captain Moore were of great assistance in compiling the course, which has the sanction of former superintendent, Colonel George Chandler, and the present superintendent, Major John A. Warner. The Colt Silhouette target is used because it is the shape and size of target which must be hit in an emergency.

FitzGerald, J. Henry. Shooting (Kindle Locations 3745-3750). Sportsman’s Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.

The B-21 target shows a 6 foot tall man drawing a pistol from his pocket with his right hand and arm. It has both K (kill) and D (disable) zones, with different K and D points associated with each zone. Note the zero zones associated with the edges of the target’s clothing. Also notice that the left arm, assumed not to be drawing a gun, has lower K and D points than the right (gun) arm. The center torso K5 zone goes all the way down into the lower chest cavity. Modern targets such as the current FBI-Q, USPSA and IDPA targets, no longer consider abdominal hits to be of equal value as high chest hits. The target is wider than the 18″ and 24″ targets commonly used today, because of the inclusion of both arms and the bent elbow of the right arm.

The original target did not include the center X ring, which was added later as more bullseye elements were incorporated into police training and qualification. The B21 was the first realistic pistol target mass produced and widely used for handgun training.

After returning home from the Master Instructor class, I shot the course of fire, using a S&W .38 revolver from a basic leather holster, using techniques common to that era, on the B-21X target, which is a variant of the Colt Silhouette target with an additional “X” ring in the center. I used Tom’s version of the drill, which only uses a single target. Fitz’s original version (shared here) uses 2 targets for some parts.

Course I: 6 shots single action, 10 yards distance, 2 Colt Silhouette targets used. 3 shots with right hand, 3 shots with left hand. Not timed, K zone to count. (Tom’s version has the distance at 25 feet fired on a single target.)

From the book: “The object of this slow-fire course is to familiarize each officer with sights, position, recoil, and general shooting instructions, also to teach him the use of right and left hand, a very important accomplishment for any officer. Two targets are used to determine proficiency with each hand.”

Course II: 6 shots double action, 15 feet distance. 2 Colt Silhouette targets (Tom’s version uses one target.) Position: Hands at side, revolver in holster. At command FIRE, draw and fire 3 shots with right hand at right hand target; change revolver to left hand and fire 3 shots with left hand at left hand target. K zone to count. Timed from command FIRE to last shot.

From the book “This course teaches quick draw, double action with right and left hand and shooting with speed and accuracy.”

Here’s video of me shooting courses 1 and 2.

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Part one of the 1920s cop qualification.

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Course III: 6 shots double action, 1 Colt Silhouette target 15 feet distance Stand, hands at side, revolver in holster. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot; return revolver to holster, arms at side. Without command, draw and fire second shot; return revolver to holster, hands at side. Repeat until 6 shots are fired. Timed from command FIRE to last shot. K zone to count.

From the book: “This course teaches quick draw with favorite gun hand and placing the first shot accurately.” In the video I am shooting one handed and shooting with pure target focus, not really trying to get a traditional sight picture, as was advocated during that era.

Video of course 3:

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Part two 1920s cop qual

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Course IV: 6 shots single and double action, 25 yards distance. 2 Colt Silhouette targets (Tom’s version uses one target.) Stand on 25-yard line, revolver in holster, hands at side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot, single action, at each silhouette target. Run to 12 yards (carrying revolver safely while running, finger out of the trigger guard, arm at side) and, holding revolver in both hands (place gun hand in palm of the other hand, closing fingers around gun hand), fire 1 shot at each target. Drop to mat and holding revolver with both hands fire 1 shot at each target. Timed from command FIRE to last shot. K zone to count.

From the book: “This course teaches twenty-five yard shooting, how to carry a revolver when running, to stop when firing, to steady a revolver with both hands after a run, and to drop to the ground when fired upon (making a target one-sixth the size of a standing man), and to fire accurately from a prone position.”

Video of course 4:

Course V: 6 shots double action, 10 feet distance. 2 Colt Silhouette targets (Tom’s version uses one target). Position: Revolver in holster, hands at side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot at the center zone of each target; return revolver to holster, hand to side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot at each head; return revolver to holster, hand to side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot at each right arm (bent arm). Each 2 shots are timed.

No hits to count except those in part of silhouette target stated in command. Body hit from bottom of center zone to separating line in neck. Head hit from separating line in neck to top of head. Arm hit from white line at shoulder to body at side. Sleeve zone marked 0 does not count. All hits count 5.

From the book: “This course teaches the quick, accurate placing of shots at short range and they are considered the six most important shots that any officer can perfect himself in. Two targets are used in the above courses to teach the officer the accurate placing of shots in two targets without loss of time or accuracy.”

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Part 3 1920s cop qual

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When I posted the instagram videos I was working from Tom’s version of the course so the part numbers are ordered differently from Fitz’ original version. And if you watch carefully in the video where I run from 25 to 12 yards, I’m not running with my gun in the exact position they require, which probably would have been slower.

While Fitz’ book does not include the scoring system used, Tom’s research uncovered it. For this course of fire, it’s 30 rounds, 150 points possible. (Not truly possible since two shots are mandated to hit the right arm, where no 5 point K-zones are available.) Record all times and add them up. Subtract 1/3 of the total time from the point total for a score. Final score 70 or higher passes. My times for the video runs:

  • 3 rounds dom hand only: 2.97
  • 3 rounds non dom hand only: 3.62
  • 6 one-shot draw/holster reps: 11.61 (buzzer to 6th shot)
  • 25 yard, run to 12, standing/prone: 14.11
  • 10 feet, draw and shoot 2 (body): 1.91
  • 10 feet, draw and shoot 2 (head): 2.35
  • 10 feet, draw and shoot 2 (arm): 2.10

Total time: 38.67. My total points for the video runs were 140/150. I pulled shot #2 from single action at 25 yards high/right over the shoulder and dropped a few points by hitting the right arm. By my assessment the actual highest possible point total is 146.

The scoring system is a rudimentary pre-Comstock approach that uses individual times, instead of fixed par times. One-third of my total time, rounded to nearest integer, was 13. 140-13 gives me a score of 127, far above the 70 required to pass. If I had shot 146 points in 30 seconds, that would have scored me 146-(30/3) = 136, which could probably be treated as the “high hit factor” (in USPSA language) for the course of fire.

Had I only scored 100 of the 150 points possible, and done so in 90 seconds (nearly triple my actual time), that would have been a passing score of 70. That means the standards were not particularly high, but keep in mind they were shooting 1920’s guns with rudimentary sights (not the target sights on my 1953 K-38), and shooting without hearing protection.

If you don’t have vintage gear or the B-21X target available, just try shooting the course of fire using modern gear and a USPSA or IDPA or FBI-Q target. You can use one handed ‘vintage’ techniques or modern techniques.

For safety reasons I suggest changing the six 1-shot draws into six separate timed drills, instead of trying to reholster on the clock, particularly with a modern striker fired gun.

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