Officers qualify for AR weapons usage

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Several area police officers recently spent a day qualifying on handguns, shotguns and assault rifles (ARs) at the Punxsutawney Borough Police firing range in Young Township.

Sheriff and range master Carl Gotwald Sr. said his job as range master individually gives instructions to the shooters.

“We try to limit it to five to six individuals shooting at one time per instructor during daylight hours,” he said. For night shoots at the firing range, they try to have one instructor for every three shooters for more control.

Gotwald said there were five shooters on the firing line, and the officers were attempting to qualify on the three weapons.

To become a firearms instructor, Gotwald attended the State Police Academy in Meadville.

“It was a one-week course, both classroom and shooting combined, and I had to shoot 90 percent in order to qualify to be an instructor,” he said. “For the AR, I traveled to the firing range in Elk County, and the National Tactical Officers Association came in and qualified the 18 members in the class.

“You knew it was going to be a great day when they unloaded 20,000 rounds of ammunition at the beginning of the day,” he said, adding that they shot 1,000 rounds per individual over the one-week course.

The Glock pistol, sometimes referred to by the manufacturer as Glock “Safe Action” Pistol, is a series of semi-automatic pistols designed and produced by Glock Ges.m.b.H, located in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria.

The company’s founder, engineer Gaston Glock, had no experience with firearm design or manufacture at the time his first pistol, the Glock 17, was being prototyped.

Police Chief Tom Fedigan said his officers have always carried Glocks, and the state requires them to qualify at least once a year.

“New part-time officers William Clement (the former chief) and Matt Conrad are required to qualify on the Glock .40 caliber because it’s the weapon of choice as far as our department is concerned,” Fedigan said.
They also must qualify on shotguns.

Fedigan said that the department is qualifying on the new patrol car AR 15 rifle.

“Most of my officers have qualified on the ARs, but only the new hires need to qualify,” he said. “It’s another piece of equipment to add to our arsenal of firearms to better combat crime in town.”

The Punxsutawney firing range is often rented to other area police departments so officers can also qualify.