Reality-based practice under pressure improves handgun shooting performance of police officers

Ergonomics. 2008 Mar;51(3):261-73. doi: 10.1080/00140130701577435. Epub 2007 Sep 24.


The current study examined whether reality-based practice under pressure may help in preventing degradation of handgun shooting performance under pressure for police officers. Using a pre-post-test design, one group of nine police officers practised handgun shooting under pressure evoked by an opponent who also fired back using marking (coloured soap) cartridges. The control group (n = 8) practised handgun shooting on standard cardboard targets instead of real opponents. Within a fortnight after the pre-test, both groups received three training sessions of 1 h, in which each person fired a total of 72 rounds. During the pre- and post test each participant took 30 shots without pressure (cardboard targets) and 30 shots under additional pressure (with an opponent firing back). While during the pre-test both groups performed worse in front of an opponent firing back compared to the cardboard targets, after the training sessions shooting performance of the experimental group no longer deteriorated with an opponent while performance of the control group was equally harmed as during the pre-test. These results indicate that training exercises involving increased pressure can acclimatize shooting performance of ordinary police officers to those situations with elevated pressure that they may encounter during their police work.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Police / standards*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Stress, Psychological*