Deputies on target with firearms training

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2007

In school, 80 percent is a passing grade. But for the LincolnCounty Sheriff’s Department, making the grade with firearms is awhole different issue.

Every member of the sheriff’s department has made the trip tothe shooting range over the last two days to test their gunproficiency. They practiced from several different distances withboth handguns and rifles, and shot from standing, kneeling andprone positions.

“We just do a pass or fail, we don’t do a percentage score likethe police department does,” said Sheriff Steve Rushing. “We try toget out there at least three or four times a year, just trying tostay current. Of course they do have to shoot 80 percent topass.”

Firearms Instructor Sgt. David Johnson said several of thedeputies shot 100 percent, and the majority of them shot between 90and 100 percent. He said part of the point of the days on the rangeis to check for problems with the guns as well as to make suredeputies’ aim is up to par.

“If there are malfunctions we can find them and fix them,” hesaid. “And we want to make sure that they can qualify. We have tomake sure they can shoot.”

Rushing said in spite of the fact that Lincoln County is usuallysafe and quiet, it’s still important for his deputies to stay inpractice in general.

“It’s always good to stay in training, and firearms are one ofthe skills you have to be proficient in,” he said. “Training iswhat helps keep that proficiency up. Hopefully you won’t have theopportunity to use the weapon in a real-life situation, but in caseyou do, you need to be proficient in using it.”

Deputy Kelly Porter said while making a percentage can benerve-wracking for some, he tries to just enjoy his time on therange.

“To some people it’s a little stressful, especially if theydon’t qualify the first time,” he said. “But I try to have fundoing it, because if you have fun doing it there’s not going to beany pressure.”

Porter said sometimes who’s watching can make a difference inthe level of pressure on the men shooting, similar to having toperform when the coach is watching in a sports situation. He saidthe camaraderie among his co-workers can put those misgivings torest, however.

“Sometimes I’m sure it feels that way,” he said. “But we’re alllow-key and nobody’s putting any serious pressure on you. We mightcompete and have fun with it though.”

But he said even though the deputies are able to have fun withtheir qualifying, the real reason for the training is never farfrom their minds.

“Lincoln County is a calm, peaceful place for the most part, butwe do have crime like everybody else,” he said. “But we do need tobe highly trained because we can’t take lightly the nature of ourjobs.”