Shooting the LAPD Combat Qualification

I recently read Claude Werner’s excellent book “Real Shootouts of the LAPD, Volume 1”, which is a collection and analysis of shooting incident reports released to the public by the Los Angeles Police Department. One section discusses OIS (Officer Involved Shootings) In and Around the Home, another section discusses animal shootings (in and around the home), and a section on Unintentional discharges is also included. For the Armed Citizen, these reports and the analyses provide valuable information about what really happens before, during, and after the gunfire. Claude also includes his own material on The Decision Process and Proxemics and Personal Protection, which are excellent explanations of critical concepts every armed citizen should understand.

It also includes the LAPD Use of Force policy, including warning shots, LAPD policy on when firearms can be drawn or exhibited, their public safety statement, and their firearm qualification courses.

You can learn more about the book (and purchase it) here:

The section on weapons qualification starts out with these requirements:

LAPD Officers are required to quality 3 times per year with their handgun using practice ammunition, and 1 more time each year using duty ammunition. For the annual duty ammo qualification, the officer shoots up the ammo that has been carried that year and replaces it with new duty ammunition.

That guideline is equally appropriate for the armed citizen. John Daub and I have written extensively on the idea of minimum competency, with discussion of several different standards for reality-based performance not linked to state carry permit requirements. Armed citizens tend to separate into these categories:

  • Competition shooters
  • Self defense training hobbyists
  • Recreational shooters
  • Gun owners

Competition shooters and self-defense training hobbyists shoot more than 3-4 times a year, and they will find this course of fire relatively easy. Recreational shooters are those that may go to the range frequently, but rarely measure their skill against any specific standard. The rest (“gun owners”) really aren’t “shooters” as much as they are people that carry guns around, more often unsecured in their car than on body, that aren’t motivated enough to hold themselves to any specific training schedule or standard beyond the one-and-done state carry permit process.

For those in the last two categories, this course of fire would be a decent place to start as a range drill to shoot for fun but also as a useful standard of performance.

Two Targets, Odd Loading

One thing that makes this course of fire unusual is that it uses two targets, instead of one. This allows for target transitions on both head and body areas to be incorporated into the qualification. Some indoor ranges may not allow this using full size targets, but half scale targets could be used at half the distance if needed. In his book Claude references the BT-55 target, available from Alco Targets, as the standard target used for the test.

I didn’t have any of those on hand, so I substituted the SQT-A1 target, which is similar in shape (particularly the shoulders) and scoring area sizes.

The course of fire also mandates oddly loaded magazines to force reloads. From the course description: For autoloaders, the loading sequence is 7, 5, and 7 rounds in the magazines. The 7 round magazine is in the weapon, the weapon is made ready for live fire then holstered. The 5 round magazine is in the primary pouch. The second 7 round magazine is in the secondary pouch.

I reloaded with a full (more than 10) magazine to finish out the course of fire, after the 19 rounds in the first 3 magazines were used.

Course of Fire

PHASE ONE: 7 yard line, 12 rounds in 25 seconds, 2 right, 2 left, left head, right head, reload and repeat
the sequence. Start with the pistol holstered.
PHASE TWO: 10 yard line, 2 rounds in 2 seconds, 3 times. 2 left, 2 right, 2 left. Start in a Low Ready position.
PHASE THREE: 12 yard line, 6 rounds in 8 seconds. 2 right, 2 left, 2 right. Start in a Low Ready position.
PHASE FOUR: 15 yard line, 1 round in 3 seconds, 3 times. 3 rounds left hand barricade on the left target,
3 rounds right hand barricade on the right target. Start with the sights aligned on target, trigger finger on
the trigger.

Video notes: the camera on my phone flipped the image. I’m not actually left handed. I’m shooting the drill using my Glock 48 w/ Holosun 507C sight, from a JM Custom Kydex holster carried on my right strong side hip.

So, as it turns out, I didn’t follow the instructions properly. According to Claude’s detailed course description, on that first string the reload was supposed to be a speed reload in between the two target sequences, and I ran the gun dry, did a slide lock reload and continued on, which is actually harder than the programmed “speed reload”.

I shot the course of fire as a cold drill and after realizing I had done it wrong, I decided to publish the video anyway, because the time difference between speed and slide lock reload didn’t matter relative to my performance on that string.


From Claude’s book:

The course consists of 30 rounds fired on two silhouette targets, 15 rounds fired on each target. Combat
scoring is used, i.e., 10 points for each round in the body and head, 5 points for each round in the arm(s).
Only two head shots are allowed on each target, additional head shots are 5 points each. The maximum
score on each target is 150 points or 300 total points. The minimum score required to qualify is 70% or
105 points on both targets. Ricochets and rounds entering the back of the target after it has turned will
not be scored.

In the video I claim 300/300 points, but in looking at the other target Claude referenced in his book, I think that the low head shot would have scored a 5, not a 10, and there are probably 3-4 hits in the torso that would have scored 9’s or maybe even an 8, so a fairer estimate of my score would likely be 290/300. Having the bullseye type visual reference scoring rings on Claude’s target would have likely made a difference in my shooting, as I had plenty of time for all the strings and could have used more of it to get better hits.

Buy Claude’s Book

If you want the full detailed course description, buy a copy of Claude’s book, order some of the correct targets, and give this course a fire a try in your next range session. Or just use the simple description and try it with USPSA or IDPA or FAST targets.