From training to station and whatever lies next… what to expect

Once you’ve been accepted as a probationary constable, the next step is training.

You’ll learn what it takes to be an Authorised Firearms Officer and you’ll also learn a lot about yourself and where your future could lie in the MDP.

Highly experienced police trainers will demonstrate how to use your wits, and not just physical force, to handle situations as a police officer. Those could range from dealing with a struggling peace protestor to a potential terrorist threat.

Initial training

Firearms training outside a building

Initial training for officers stationed in England, will be held at Southwick Park, Hampshire and usually lasts for 20 weeks. For officers stationed in Scotland, your training will be delivered at Coulport, Helensburgh and usually lasts for 18 weeks (moving to 20 weeks from January 2023).

The course for new entrants from other police forces (NEOF) is 9 weeks for those who need the full 8 weeks Initial Firearms Course. Where an officer is already a fully qualified AFO, the training period will be much shorter. Officers who are employed in a role that does not require them to be firearms trained from the outset, will undertake a 5 day course.

For new recruits their initial training will form one part of the Initial Police Training Programme, which consists of knowledge-based training, operational development and work-based assessment. Upon successful completion of all, you will gain a Diploma in Ministry of Defence Policing for officers in England and Wales and the Certificate in Policing (MOD Police) for officers in Scotland.

Accommodation and food will be provided for all candidates whilst undertaking their initial training.

Upon completion of initial training, I knew that I wanted to become a National Firearms Instructor (NFI). During my probation I expressed my interest and was selected for NFI training early on in my career. Since then I have flourished as an NFI and have also become an Operational Firearms Commander.


Firearms training

MDP Authorised Firearms Officer with firearm aimed at suspect in training scenario

As part of your initial training, you’ll have to successfully qualify as an Authorised Firearms Officer (AFO). Officers are trained to National Police Standards and are required to maintain this competency annually.

During week 10 of training for new recruits and week 2 of training for NEOFs, you will begin your 8-week firearms training course, with sessions split between the classroom, tactical training area and firearms ranges. For NEOFs already trained as AFOs, the length of training required is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Firearms training is delivered by regional delivery teams based at Clyde, York, Hereford, Aldermaston/Burghfield, Portsmouth and Devonport, as well as by our Mobile Support Team. Information on where your firearms training will take place and accommodation and meal arrangements, will be provided as part of your course joining instructions.

What to expect during firearms training

During your firearms module you’ll receive training in weapon handling, shooting skills, less lethal options and tactics. In scenario-based training (in buildings, vehicles and open areas), this will allow you to demonstrate critical decision-making in a pressured timeframe.

The training includes first aid, from basic to post incident management. You’ll also be trained on how to use your negotiating skills and how to deal with vulnerable people.

We invest lots of time in to training our AFOs. This allows us to devote our attention to students during their initial training period and it means that only a very small number of students are unable to successfully pass the course.

Students are assessed against performance criteria contained within the National Police Firearms Training Curriculum; they must successfully complete all elements in order to pass the course. Students experiencing difficulties will be given a specific development plan in order to meet their individual learner needs.

An ongoing training requirement

MDP new recruits’ Personal Safety Training

You will need to complete refresher and development training each year. This will comprise of tactical training, development and qualification shooting and first aid training.

Officers are monitored by a continuous assessment process and they must continue to display competence in their existing skills in order to remain authorised.

A pre-requisite for firearms training is that officers must maintain annual medical and fitness standards and be competent in Personal Safety Training.

Upon completion of your probation, you will have opportunities to gain further firearms skills, if you want to develop your career in one of our specialist units or roles.