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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Training class members on target in some firsthand firearm training


This is the seventh in a series of articles by Blade staff writer Erika Ray about the Oregon Citizen Police Academy while she participates in it.

Rat-tat-tat ... bang, bang, bang ... boom!

The sounds of gunfire echo off the dirt mounds built up behind the paper targets that were taking the bullets at the Oregon Police Division's firing range.

The targets were set up last week for the 21 students enrolled in the department's police academy for citizens.

Most students showed up ready to give their trigger finger a workout with a handgun, shotgun, machine gun, and rifle.

"Your only responsibility is to be safe and have fun," Patrolman Tim Stecker told them.

But of course, safety came first. Before the weapons were handed to students, Officer Stecker told them to treat every gun like it's loaded, point the guns only at what they plan to shoot, and pull the trigger only when they're ready.

Then, four officers introduced students to the weapons they'd be helping them try out on the targets.

Officer Tim Heinze was up first to show students a Remington 11-87 - a gas-operated, semi-automatic, magazine-fed shotgun.

It has room for six 12-gauge rounds in the tube and one in the chamber. Police carry around the guns, most of which also come with flashlights, inside their cruisers.

Police said that out of the four guns students would handle, the shotgun would have the most recoil. "Don't be afraid of it, because that's when you get hurt," Officer Heinze said.

Next up was Officer Ted Moore showcasing the department's Colt AR-15 patrol rifle, also known as an assault rifle.

The loud, gas-operated weapon fires one shot at a time out of its 30-round magazine. Its recoil would be noticeable, but milder than the shotgun, Officer Moore said.

The gun with virtually no recoil is the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun that comes complete with 9-millimeter bullets, Officer Jeff Martin said.

To aim the weapon, he said students should look for an orange triangle in the scope. When its trigger is pulled, the virtually silent gun can be set to fire one round, three rounds, or "party-time full auto," he said.

Lastly, Officer Jerry Gomoll held up a P220 45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol that has a surprisingly hard recoil, forcing its muzzle upward after each shot.

He said the pistol, which has bullets on the larger end for law-enforcement officers, is fed with a magazine large enough to hold eight bullets along with the one in the chamber.

After donning both eye and ear protection, students were ready to rotate among the four officers who each manned one gun station to help guide them while shooting the weapons toward the targets.

Their targets were either a life-sized paper image of a person with a gun or just an outline of a person. Both were depicted from the waist up and mounted on cardboard backing.

After shooting both the pistol and the machine gun, Alice Horn, 73, of Toledo called it quits. "I only shot two and that's enough," she said. "I just don't feel comfortable with a gun in my hand. It didn't scare me. I was just uncomfortable shooting."

Though she was a bit afraid of the recoil on the shotgun, Sally Fouty, 47, of Oregon tried it out anyway. "It wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be," she said after firing several rounds. "I was afraid of the kick in the shoulder."

After nearly two hours of shooting practice, bullet shells littered the ground, and more were added after Officer Martin concluded the class by demonstrating how the machine gun works when switched to full auto.

Citizens going through this year's academy have attended six other classes, which last for two hours one day a week for eight weeks.

Students have already learned about the laws of arrest, self defense, patrol operations, the use of force, Internet safety, juvenile operations, and the department's Special Response Team.

They'll next witness a Taser demonstration before they graduate from the academy on Wednesday.

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