7 Min Free Use of Force Trainer for Police / Civilians


Most firearms professionals rarely get any time on a use of force trainer. This is a shame, and borderline negligent in my opinion. I believe you should be just as good at deciding when to use lethal force, as you are at applying those techniques. Often times use of force simulators are very expensive, even for large law enforcement agencies. This makes it hard to find time for this valuable training method. In this article I’ve provided a very simple use of force trainer that can be used to improve your gun detection skills. Keep reading for more.

Before we get to all the details of this trainer, I want to make it very clear that this is one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to use of force training. I’ve put together a simple, research based training video, to allow police officers and armed civilians to improve their abilities to detect firearms.

I’m not telling you how to use this training, nor am I providing you with use of force guidance. It is your personal responsibility to use force legally, and morally. For law enforcement officers, I highly recommend using this as practice detecting firearms.

This isn’t a shoot no shoot use of force trainer. It is a bad habit to always practice shooting at people holding firearms, as they’re often used legally in self defense. For law enforcement personnel it’s also a terrible idea to only practice one of your use of force options in training.

As I alluded to above this free use of force trainer is a research based training video, that’s designed to reduce your error rate in detecting firearms. As we all know, misidentifying a non firearm as a deadly weapon can have life altering consequences and liability issues as well. Here is a quick overview of the free use of force trainer.

Free Use of Force Trainer: Overview

  • Based off of Research by Texas State University ALERRT
  • Designed to reduce gun identification errors for cops, security guards, and civilians
  • Can increase gun speed identification and efficiency
  • Should not be used as shoot no shoot training use of force training simulator
  • The first step in effective use-of-force training

This online course of training, is also valuable to citizens who want to increase their situational awareness, and survivability. While the laws to carry a firearm vary from place to place, I firmly believe it is your right to do so. It’s also your responsibility to be able to use that tool safely and effectively.

Luckily, quality training programs don’t have to be complicated or expensive. You would not believe how much companies charge for a virtual reality use of force simulator. For large agencies, they license them for hundreds of thousands a year. Understanding the principles of use of force, and using reasonable force doesn’t need to cost this much.

Before we get to the trainer we need to review the research this trainer is based on. This is what we’ll do in the next section below. Before we do that, don’t forget to join the email list.

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Gun Detection Research from ALERRT

I’ve written about research from Texas State University and ALERRT regarding room entries, and a few other topics. I’ve spoken to several of the researchers there, and I’ve found that they conduct high quality research that is of great interest to the military, police, and armed civilian community.

This research paper entitled, “Improving the Accuracy of Firearm Identification in a Dynamic Use of Force Scenario,” is a continuation of the quiet eye research conducted by Dr. Bill Lewinski. If you read my review of that research paper you will recall that the quiet eye is the final resting point your eye focuses on milliseconds before performing a task.

This location is incredibly important, and is one of the main differentiators between experts and novices in human performance. In the research study above they compared shoot no shoot decision making between SWAT officers and trainees. They found that SWAT officers had much different gaze patterns than the novices. These dissimilar gaze patterns also appear in expert sports performance in many other fields.

Using Video to Improve Gaze Patterns

These other research papers prompted the author of this study, Dr. Martaindale, to examine if something as simple as a training video could improve someone’s ability to identify firearms. Long story short, it can, and here’s how it’s done.

For this study they used untrained individuals who were local college students, with no previous training or experience. They split them into two groups. The control group was given an eye training task of identifying different letters, and combinations of letters.

The test group was given gun identification scenarios, starting with still images, and increasing in difficulty to video images. Any time they saw a gun they had to push a key, if they saw no gun, they pushed a different key. This took a total of 20 minutes.

They measured each groups ability to identify firearms, prior to the video training, and then repeated the test after they received the intervention.

Use of Force Trainer: Results

After the trainer program, the control group, who didn’t receive the firearms identification training, made 61 errors. These errors are either saying there’s a gun when there isn’t, or missing a gun that is present. The training group made one third the amount of errors, totaling 22.

Moreover, the experimental group was able to visually fixate on the the firearm 16% faster than the control group. While this only amounted to .07 seconds, that is a valuable sliver of time. This gives you a jump start on your decision making cycling. It may be enough time to use de-escalation strategies, or a lower use of force like OC spray or pepper spray, given the right circumstance.

7 min Free Use of Force Trainer

I may not be the smartest man but I know basic video editing. I put together a similar training video, which you can see below. It’s only 7 minutes in length, and it incorporates a similar progressive training concept.

In the first phase you have relatively easy still images. In phase two, you will see videos with no sound, in various lighting conditions. In the final phase you will see similar videos to phase two, but I’ve added in sound distractions. You also cannot rely on recognizing “bad guys” who previously had a gun.

I’m sneaky, and I’ve made it so you must look at everyone to determine if they’re armed, every time. I’m no expert at the legal aspects of online curriculum design. However, I do know it’s not good practice to rely on heuristics to make use of force decisions. After all, bad guys drop guns all the time.

You’ll benefit the most from this trainer if you keep score. Get a piece of scratch paper and make a mark every time you see a gun image. At the end of each section I’ve given you the total number of gun vs. no gun images that you should have seen.

Remember this is simply to help you identify firearms faster. You’ll find that you can do so, if you start to pay attention to peoples hands, and their waistlines. These are the most common areas where criminals carry guns in the real world. There’s a reason why these methods are reinforced in all law enforcement training, for police agencies of all sizes.

Final Thoughts

I’ve put a few people through the 7 min Free Use of Force Trainer. I’ve found that most people make about 5-8 errors between all three phases. The good thing about having it on video, is that you can rewatch each section however many times you like. This provides natural correction for any errors you’ve made. It also highlights the importance of training protocols that are self correcting.

I highly encourage you to use this trainer to help you be more visually precise. This will improve your ability to make smart use of force decisions. For those of you who are law enforcement professionals, you will need to continue with the next step, and train on what to do once you determine someone is armed, as well as other defensive tactics.

I encourage everyone who carries a gun to participate in some high quality firearms training to include force on force training. The research is clear, it’s the best way to inoculate yourself to the stresses of an actual gunfight due to its intensive training methods. Now get out there and get training! Don’t forget to join the email list below.

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If you like fitness, shooting, and quality gear reviews, then  click here to join the Tier Three Team. It’s totally free, and over seven thousand members get the latest articles sent directly to their inbox.

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