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A Book Report On Michael E. Conti's: POLICE PISTOLCRAFT

By: John Veit

Mike Conti has reviewed, edited and approves of this book report.

You are welcome to copy/distribute/publish it as you see fit.

It is hoped that with distribution to the widest possible audience, other Police Agencies will investigate and adopt this "New Paradigm" training program that was developed for and implemented by the Massachusetts State Police.

Mike Conti can be reached at www.sabergroup.com


Police Pistolcraft is a book about a "new" police firearms training program that better meets the needs of today's police officers. It was written by Michael E. Conti and published in 2006.

The program is a reality-based one-day stand-alone affair that prepares an officer to deal with typical lethal threat encounters.

It was developed by Conti for the Massachusetts State Police, and implemented in 2000. It is used for in-service yearly qualifications.

An expanded two-week program also has been formatted to train recruit-level officers in the "New Paradigm" system.

In January 2000, Mike Conti was given the task of setting up and putting into operation a Firearms Training Unit (FTU), for the State Police. He was then a well seasoned Massachusetts State Police Officer with both SWAT and firearms instructor experience.

The FTU would be responsible for conducting yearly qualification courses of fire for department personnel, and for training academy recruits in firearms use.

Here is a picture of 6 of the 7 original members of the FTU. (Copyright 2006 by Saber Group, Inc. Used with permission.)

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The initial goal was to build a program that would meet or exceed all national standards, provide the highest possible liability insulation for the organization and its members, and most of all, make sure that the members got home at the end of the shift.

To that end, and to better understand what would be needed to accomplish that goal, the FTU took a long and fresh look at what was known about law enforcement lethal force encounters.

It was known that the average officer who qualified in sight-oriented marksmanship-based programs, missed with more than 80% of the rounds fired in life threat encounters.

The encounters usually happened in dim light or at night. 85% of them occurred within a distance of 21 feet. And 73% of those occurred within 10 feet. And 53% of those within 5 feet.

They would most likely be spontaneous events, and last only a matter of seconds. And should rounds be fired, they would be few in number, and fired rapidly.

And in the vast majority of cases, the officer would crouch, square to the threat, and fire with one hand.

Here is a picture of what happens in the real world. (Copyright 2006 by Saber Group, Inc. Used with permission.)

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Also, the participants would be operating under the effects of some type of mind-altering chemical substance, usually those produced by the body and dumped into the bloodstream by the action of the sympathetic nervous system in times of great stress.

Now to most, the best way to prepare officers to deal with critical situations, would be to have the officers experience them firsthand, and under controlled conditions, so they could learn how to deal with them both physically and mentally.

That thinking led to the "new" program which prepares an officer to deal with, overcome, and prevail in such situations.

In the Preface of the book, the late Jim Cirillo of NYPD fame said that Police Pistolcraft should be required reading for every firearms instructor in the United States. And that the approved training program should be adopted by every law enforcement agency in the country.

Jim Cirrilo also said that during his law enforcement officer days, he quickly learned that in order to survive in the field, he needed to develop his own techniques as what was taught in traditional police firearms training classes was of little use in actual confrontations.

That same kind of out-of-the-box thinking, along with the known and accepted findings which flowed from the analysis of years and years of police combat data, provided a reality-based platform for the "New Paradigm" program.

Conti's original program was structured to accommodate the duty pistol his officers carry, the SIG P226 in .40 caliber with 12 round capacity. His officers also carry an additional two magazines for a total of 36 rounds. In line with that, total rounds fired in each course are 36 or less.

The basic in-service firearms training program encompasses: 1. safe weapon handling skills and marksmanship skills; 2. techniques that exploit natural body alarm reactions, stances, grips, and gross motor skills; and 3. the use of dynamic and interactive Stress-Inoculation Training (SIT) scenarios that mirror typical threat situations.

It is a one day affair that includes four courses of fire. Each builds, one upon another, to reach the goal of preparing an officer to deal effectively with typical real life threat situations.

By design, the distances involved and the techniques utilized, mirror the reality that the typical officer can expect on a day by day basis, and how police combat studies and data say an officer will respond.

In all the courses of fire, the distances to the targets are the reverse of what is found in traditional pistol training courses because the distances in training have been adjusted to more accurately reflect the distances encountered in actual shootings. And specialized or stylized stances and techniques are absent.

The first course of fire is dedicated to skill building. It includes: a reset drill to assist in precision sight shooting, a point shooting exercise, a stoppage-clearing drill, a close proximity engagement drill, and an integrated use-of-force element.

36 rounds are fired from 7 yards and closer. And, 83% of the firing is done one-handed.

The second level course of fire allows the instructors to evaluate the student's safe handling and marksmanship skills. This includes: sighted fire from the prone and kneeling positions with the use of cover, kneeling and standing point shooting aimed fire, flashlight-assisted point shooting aimed fire, close proximity and reactive movement point shooting aimed fire, and various types of reloading drills. It can be run un-timed and timed for emphasis.

This second course of fire, is the closest to that of a "traditional" course of fire. 36 rounds are fired. However, just 3 rounds are fired from 25 yards and 3 from 17 yards. The rest are fired from 7 yards and closer. And, 67% of the firing is done one-handed.

The third level course of fire, is designed to expose the student to some of the realities that can be experienced during a dynamic, real-world encounter. It involves, emerging from a vehicle, moving to and using cover in an efficient manner, employing verbal commands, recognizing threats based on visual cures, and using good judgement in the application of deadly force.

Here is a picture showing the dynamic nature of the course. (Copyright 2006 by Saber Group, Inc. Used with permission.)

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An alternate to this course of fire includes the use of simunitions against the officer, as the officer uses cover to move to a position where a proper response to a threat is possible.

The level four and ultimate course of fire, is a scenario-based, dynamic interactive diminished light training course conducted in a live shoot-house setting. It is based on, and closely follows, the original "House of Horrors" training vehicle that was used by Applegate during the WWII years.

It incorporates 3-dimensional moving targets, threat stimulus, no-threat stimulus, bad lighting, and judgment and stress inoculation training. Both Operant and Classical conditioning are also designed into the course, in a manner that is clearly explained and easily understood.

Here is a picture of movable threat stimulus dummy for low light training. (Copyright 2006 by Saber Group, Inc. Used with permission.)

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And here is a picture of a very effective movable threat subject in a motor vehicle. (Copyright 2006 by Saber Group, Inc. Used with permission.)

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The student is guided through the exercise, and coached as needed in regard to the use of safe firearm use, decision making, and shooting techniques.

There is an immediately after action critique and discussion, of what the student thought had happened, which in many cases, is found to be different from what did happen.

Here is a picture of an unarmed turning man who was shot by about 20% of the participants. (Copyright 2006 by Saber Group, Inc. Used with permission.)

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There also is an extended step by step narrative which deals with student participation and typical responses. It is an excellent training tool for the trainer.


The focus of the program as described in the book, is on pistol training.

The New Paradigm approach also has been employed to format training programs for other weapon systems.


The author spends considerable time on the long standing differences between sighted shooting and point shooting advocates. He traces the development of both schools of thought and practice. He also details his own personal development and thinking about effective firearms training.

Of interest to this reviewer, is the information on the FBI's alleged involvement in the de facto suppression of Applegate's version of point shooting that took place in the 1950's, and the promulgation of it's version, which was not as easily taught, assimilated, or retained.

The FBI's version, as well as other variations of "point shooting" that were less effective than Applegate's became commonplace, until eventually any reference to "point shooting" was associated with a complicated and inefficient method of handgun deployment.

The result was to sidetrack reality based training and move in the direction of stylized range performance training with marksmanship based qualification standards. They were separate and apart from those which can be used effectively in real life threat situations by the average "constable" on patrol.


This book contains a wealth of information and details on the "New Paradigm" program, including sample courses of fire and their analysis, and how the program fits in with the academy firearms training. It also contains information on safety, gun handling, skill development, shooting techniques, and just a lot of other interesting stuff.

Police Pistolcraft (ISBN 0-9772659-1-9) is available through the Saber Group web site - www.sabergroup.com


Mike Conti has been a proud member of the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) since 1986. During his career he has been fortunate to have worked with some of the finest police officers in the US while performing in functions ranging from uniformed patrol, high-crime area community policing, SWAT, and special security details to undercover narcotics and death investigations.

He has been involved as a professional trainer since 1991 and holds numerous instructor certifications in various use of force disciplines.

In addition to his work for the MSP, Conti has written two other books, In the Line of Fire: A Working Cop's Guide to Pistolcraft (1997), and Beyond Pepper Spray: The Complete Guide to Chemical Agents, Delivery Systems, and Protective Masks (2002). He has also had more than 100 articles published in various local and national publications.

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