While I aim to offer valid information any officer or trainer can use, I have often directed this column toward the small-agency instructor or officer who doesn't have access to a multimillion-dollar training facility. I come from a department that had a reasonably well equipped firearms range that we made available to any agency that wished to use it. At the same time, I've conducted training courses on ranges that were nothing more than an earthen berm with a dirt floor. Once I was taken to a range to conduct a training course that was merely an open field at the bottom of an elevated train track. The tracks ran along the top of a hill that was obviously built to support them. The course host told me, Just stop shooting when a train travels overhead. OK. . . .
Bottom line: It's not the range, it's what occurs on the range that counts. A skilled instructor can conduct meaningful training just about anywhere.
It's nice to have equipment that can bolster the lesson plan, however. For those who don't have a facility of their own and must use rudimentary facilities like what I ve described above (a large percentage of the American law enforcement community), range equipment must be portable, easy to set up and use, and solidly built to stand up to repeated abuse. I've shown such equipment in this column in the past, and I will do so again this month.
The plate rack has been around a long time and has remained popular in competitive shooting for decades. The rack reinforces a number of necessary shooting fundamentals, and it s fun to shoot at. One problem: Because the average plate rack is quite large and heavy, once set up, it's usually left in place. The standard plate rack is just not something you can normally throw in the bed of a pickup truck and take to the range.
The operative word here is normally, because a new modular version of the traditional plate rack is now available, and you can set it up in a matter of minutes. This new rack, the Bianchi Plate Rack (model SP29H) from Law Enforcement Targets, breaks down into 14 pieces, six of which are the plates. The longest piece measures just over four feet long. One person can assemble the rack, but two makes the job a whole lot easier.
The Bianchi s strike plates and deflector shield are made from 500 Brinell steel, which will stand up to pistol, shotgun and rifle rounds provided the velocity of the round does not exceed 3,000 feet per second. If you re going to use the rack with rifle rounds, I suggest a minimum shooting distance of 50 yards to ensure you don t nit-dimple and ruin the plates. The plates measure 20 inches from center to center and can be adjusted for power factor. You can reset them with the pull of a rope supplied with the rack.
I took the Bianchi to the range in the bed of my small S-10 pickup truck and easily unloaded it with the help of another shooter. The heaviest part of the rack is the 500 Brinell-shielded main beam sections that weigh about 125 lbs. each. Yes, one shooter can work with this, but two proves safer.
Once we unloaded the rack and placed it on the ground, I timed how long it took to assemble it: 13 minutes. It disassembled in eight. The next time I put it together, I'm sure it will go even faster. The only tools you need are a pair of vice grips, a ratchet with a 5/8-bit and some type of lubricant to place on the moving parts.
Training with the Plate Rack
Once assembled, the Bianchi Plate Rack proved to be a well-built piece of equipment that will stand up to a lot of training. I don t recommend shooting the rack any closer than 7 yards due to the hazards of bullet splatter. This is a rather long distance when you take into account the average distance of most police shootings, but shooting at longer distances remains a good thing to practice, and I strongly recommend training on the plate rack at 7-, 8- and 10-yard distances with handguns.
Matter of fact, I have a defensive standard related to handgun use. Taking into account that shooting a plate rack requires a solid comprehension of the fundamentals of pistol craft including body position/stance, grip, weapon/sight alignment, trigger control and accurate presentation to the target the plate rack can be a very telling drill. Missing an 8" plate at 7 10 yards is very easy to do if you haven t mastered the fundamentals. I believe that anyone who carries a gun for personal defense should be able to clear a plate rack at 7 yards, from ready, in six seconds or less. A really good shooter should be able to do it in four seconds or less. Add 1.5 seconds for a speed/concealment holster and two seconds for a duty holster, regardless of security level. Unfair! you say? Threat level 3 and 4 holsters are hard to draw from? Hey, you picked it if you can t draw quickly from your security holster, then practice until you can, or get a lesser level of security.
Plate Rack Drills
Using the plate rack in training can take many forms beyond just seeing how fast you can shoot down the plates. I use the following drills in my training courses with great effect.
Clear the Plates from the Ready Position
This requires the shooter to present the gun to a small target, control the trigger, minimize reset and move from target to target.
Clear traditionally from left-to-right and right- to-left;
Shoot select plates as called out by the instructor; and
Shoot plates by color requiring the shooter to look/search.
Clear the Plates from the Holster
This requires presenting the gun accurately to the target from the holster, quickly manipulating any retention straps and snaps.
Undertake the same drills as listed above for the same reasons;
Start with hands in varied positions, such as in front of the belt, down at the side, or in a heaven forbid surrender position. Take a look at common body language/positions and add positions accordingly;
Add lateral movement to the draw; and
Shoot from concealment.
Shoot three plates, reload and shoot three additional plates;
Shoot select plates as called out by the instructor, reload and shoot additional plates; and
Do the same as above, but shoot by color.
Shoot Plates from Cover
Use the plates to build slice-the-pie skills. Shoot each plate as it becomes visible as the shooter moves around the edge of the cover;
Shoot from both left and right sides with both strong and weak hands; and
Shoot by colors.
Shoot While Moving
Shoot while moving in varied directions.
The plates are hard to hit but respond to solid hits, making them an excellent training aid. And because the rack's plates are adjustable for power factor, you can adjust them to require multiple hits something often needed to bring about incapacitation in a real fight before they go over. You can shoot these same drills with carbines or shotguns, with obvious modifications for the weapon system.
Plate-rack training can prove both effective and fun. With the LE Targets portable plate rack, you can now conduct this type of training almost anywhere.
Law Enforcement Targets
2316 Territorial Road
St. Paul, MN 55114