COURSE OF FIRE: Reloading, Malfunction Clearing & Sight Reacquisition Drill

Course Of Fire: Reloading, Malfunction Clearing, & Sight Reacquisition Drill

By Officer Ben Peterson, Park Ridge, Ill. PD

Each issue of The Police Marksman will feature a “Course of Fire” that police officers can use for their own department’s training. Training courses can be shared and used “as is” or you may wish to modify them as needed. If you have a firearms course that has worked well with your own department’s range training, send it to us and we’ll pay you $50 if it’s chosen to be shared here. Try to keep the round count at a single box of 50 rounds for pistol courses as we know today’s ammo budgets are challenging. Courses with movement, cover, shields, low light, etc. are beneficial to all police officers, so follow the standard instructional format like this issue’s course and e-mail it to us at
Required Items and Materials

1. Standard targets with 3”x5” index cards (with spray adhesive) or any target with a small-size hit zone.

2. Dummy training rounds.

3. Shooters must have three magazines

4. Total of 50 live rounds.

Instructional Goal:

The Goal of this drill is to improve weapon handling, reloading, malfunction clearing, lateral movement and sight reacquisition. The officer’s stress level should be heightened due to the frequency of reloads and malfunction clearing. All shots should be aimed fire – no rapid fire. Speed is secondary to the fundamentals of proper sight alignment and trigger control. If the shots are missing, slow them down.

Instructional Objectives:

1. This drill will affirm proper weapon malfunction clearing, including movement off the line of fire.

2. This drill will improve smoothness of reloading.

3. Speed and efficiency in sight reacquisition after magazine changes and malfunction clearing will be improved.

4. The officer will keep visual contact within the field of view on targets and threats during reloads.

Lesson Plan:

1. Introduce self

a. State your qualifications

b. Explain course of fire as described in Body.

2. Explain why practice clearing malfunctions is important.

a. Explain that many officer involved shootings occur at close distances.

b. Explain that weapon malfunctions need to be cleared quickly.

c. Explain the OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and how stepping to the side or seeking cover when a malfunction occurs may take the threat out of his/her OODA Loop and makes it more difficult for the officer to remain an easy target.

d. Further explain keeping the pistol in front of the officer’s face during the malfunction drill instead of dropping the officer’s line of vision away from the threat.

e. Explain proper tap, rack, bang malfunction drill.


1. Course of Fire on the range

a. Each officer will clear his/her pistol on the range and then empty his/her magazines.

b. Range officer will load 2 rounds in the first magazine, which the officer will load in his/her pistol and then holster.

c. Range officer will load 1 live round, 1 dummy round, 2 live rounds, 1 dummy round, and 1 live round in the officer’s other two magazines, which will then return to his/her duty belt.

d. At 3 yards, the officer will be instructed to fire all three magazines on command, stepping to the right or left to simulate seeking cover or moving off the line of fire when a malfunction occurs or when a magazine change is necessary. Due to dummy rounds, the tap, rack, bang method will be the common clearing method. However, other jams may also occur.

e. Range officer will reload the magazines in the same manner after the first drill and repeat again at the 3 yard line.

f. Drill repeated again at the 5 yard line.

g. Drill repeated again twice at the 7 yard line.

h. Live and dummy rounds may be randomly loaded in magazines so officers do not anticipate a malfunction.

2. Scoring is Pass/Fail. Maintain a shooting speed where all shots are kept on the taget in the specified target zone (index card or small hit zone). Have the officer speed up only if all rounds are in the center of the specified target zone. Slow down accordingly if shots are misses. Attention is to be place on smoothness of reloads and malfunction clearing. Proper lateral movement should also be stressed with no feet or leg crossing.


1. Questions

2. Thanks

Officer Ben Peterson, Park Ridge, Ill. Police Department.


1. The implementation of dummy rounds increases officers’ stress levels on the range by causing malfunctions.


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