The Pensacola Police Department Firearms Training

Officers have been honing their shooting skills for many years. Early reports of Pensacola Police officers at firearms training goes back into the early 1900s. The earliest known shooting range for Pensacola Police officers was located on the bluffs overlooking Escambia Bay off Scenic Highway.

Beginning in the 1930s, police shooting teams from neighboring towns often visited each other for competition events. In 1950, the Pensacola News Journal reported that a shooting range existed “on the second floor of the old fire station behind city hall.” Out of $300 in the budget, $75 was used for the range.

The next year, the police range was reported to be located at Sanders Beach at the foot of “I” Street. In January 1952, police officers from 16 different counties around the state participated in a large pistol match at the Pensacola Police Department Range located on the west side of the Pensacola Municipal Airport. Detective Earnest Madsen, an expert shooter, coordinated the range and the pistol matches.

Also in the early 1950s, the Pensacola Police Department had regular open range days in which the public was invited to partake in. Along with the open range times, monthly pistol competitions were held, some of which the public joined in.

In March 1952, a rifle range was constructed adjacent to the pistol range near the airport. At this time, active ranges existed at Sanders Beach and the Pensacola Airport. Apparently, the range located at Sanders Beach was use more for police training while the one located at the airport was used for competitive shooting.

On December 27, 1953, the Pensacola News Journal announced the Pensacola Police Department would open its range for children who had received new firearms for Christmas to come and learn to shoot them.

In 1955, $2000 was budgeted for a new range to be built in Cantonment, to the east of US Highway 29 on the north side of Muscogee Road. The PPD range training was moved to that location the next year. In 1960, City Councilman Fud Thornton directed City Manager Oliver J. Semmes to investigate the cost of building a police pistol range closer to town. Thornton felt that the distance of the current range – 17 miles – from Pensacola discouraged officers to become better marksmen. At the next meeting, $13,500 was added to the police budget to pay for the new range (the location hadn’t been determined). Thornton said “Every large city is getting its own police range.” However, in 1977, the department gun range was still located at the Cantonment location.

In the early 1980s, the Criminal Justice Training Center located at Pensacola Junior College began renting a clay pit near Chumuckla for new officers to qualify. Officers had to arrive early, dig post holes, install target posts, and attach the targets onto them before measuring off distances for rang qualification.

By the mid-1980s, land was donated near the Perdido Landfill by St. Regis Paper Company to be used as a training range. Once Pensacola Police Officers were fully trained, they maintained their certification by qualifying regularly at the Perdido site.

The range was eventually turned over to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Officer and major renovations and upgrades were conducted. Since moving to the Perdido site, the department has maintained that location for officers to use regularly, the only exceptions being the few times that they used an indoor firing range in Escambia County and the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department range, located in East Milton.

Any officers who have been around longer and can shed more light on the history of the PPD’s gun ranges, please post. Thank you.

Mike Simmons


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