By: Teresa Mull

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ashley, a policewoman from one of the largest cities in America about her life as a cop, common misconceptions people have about her line of work, and, of course, guns. The following are five takeaways from our conversation that gun owners – and all citizens – should know:

‘Everybody needs to defend themselves.’
“I’m very pro-Second Amendment,” Ashley said. “Everyone needs to defend themselves, because a cop can’t be on every corner. Especially in the department I work with, we’re so short-staffed, and it seems they’re short-staffed across the country right now. The average response time for a 911 call is 8 minutes. If someone is breaking into your house or attacking you, it’s 5-8 minutes until a cop responds, so I’m definitely pro-people defending themselves, so long as they’re legally justified in doing so!”

‘We don’t practice as much as we should.’
“Each department’s different. In my department, we’re required to qualify once a year with our duty weapon. If we carry a long gun, those requirements are different. When I first got on [the force], we got 100 rounds a month to go down to the range and practice, but with budget issues, that went away.

“The qualification test is stressful, because we don’t practice as much as we should. We’re required to carry, but we have hardly any training. We’re required to qualify once a year on our sidearms, at least that’s how my department is, but as far as practice ammo, we have to find our own time and money to practice. I know my department and public safety departments across the country have staffing issues. It’s a matter of your department – can you get the time off to go get the training needed? A lot of time, we don’t have the bodies, with people taking time off due to sickness, injury, etc., so no, you can’t go. It’s frustrating. I pay attention to ammo sales and buy my own.”

‘Practice, practice, practice.’
“People need to go through the proper training, be familiarized, know how to operate the gun, assume all guns are always loaded – basic fundamental firearms safety.
“I grew up in a gun family, so I’ve always been comfortable with guns, but I get women coming up to me all the time asking me, ‘What can I do to get comfortable around firearms?’ The local gun ranges where I live offer ‘Women’s Day,’ where you get free gun rentals and free range time. All you have to do is pay for ammo and targets. It gets you into the range to figure out what kind of gun you want, [and] to the point you’re comfortable manipulating it. When it comes down to it, you need to be able to properly use a firearm and properly articulate if you are legally allowed to defend yourself.

“Try different varieties of guns, and once you find the gun you’re comfortable with, then practice, practice, practice. Get that muscle memory down. Be comfortable with how you’re carrying. If you’re carrying a concealed carry purse – I have a concealed carry purse – practice with that. If you’re carrying with an in-the-waistband holster, get comfortable with that.

“In law enforcement, we get questions all the time, ‘Why don’t cops shoot in the arm? Why don’t they shoot in the leg?’ Well, we shoot center-mass, because we’re trained to stop the threat, and center-mass is the most effective means by which to neutralize a threat. When you’re put in a stressful situation, you get that tunnel vision, your pulse and blood pressure start to get elevated, and you shoot center-mass, because that’s how you’ve trained.”

‘I have to account for where every round goes.’
“I don’t think the public understands that we shoot center-mass instead of in the arms and legs, [because] we have to account for where each and every one of those rounds goes. If I shoot five rounds, I have to pay attention to what my backdrop is. Are there any innocents back there? I have to account for where every round goes, even with my shotgun. For the rounds we carry, there are nine BBs in the shell, and I have to account for where every one of those BBs goes. We actually do, at the end of our shotgun quals [qualifications], a spread pattern test at the different yard ranges, up to 50 yards. We measure what the spread is.”

‘Keep your hands in plain view.’
“Two of the most dangerous things an officer responds to are domestic violence calls and traffic stops. We have no idea who is behind that wheel. The best thing citizens can do is, anytime you get pulled over, keep your hands in plain view. If you have [very dark tinted windows], please roll down your windows, just so we can see who’s in the back to make us feel safer. If at nighttime you get pulled over, same concept, keep your hands on the steering wheel, put that dome light on to make us feel more at ease. Just listen to the officer. You have the right to request their supervisor if you disagree with them. If you’re asked for your registration, just let us know where it is [before you reach for it]. We understand you guys are nervous. My heart rate goes up, too, when I get pulled over!”

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at