By PoliceOne Staff

The vast majority of law enforcement officers go their entire career without firing their service weapon. It goes without saying that no cop ever wants to use deadly force, but all are prepared to do so when it’s the only option left to stop a threat and protect life.

The following five incidents are some of the most difficult shots ever made by police officers. While some of these are in no way a viable option in use-of-force encounters, they nonetheless serve as a reminder of the bravery of LEOs in the face of danger and the importance of keeping your shooting skills sharp. Take a look at the below stories, and be sure to visit our firearms training page for expert tips on how you can best train for the day PoliceOne hopes you’ll never have to face.

1. Disarmed by a sniper’s bullet

Columbus police sniper Mike Plumb was 82 yards away from Doug Conley when he took the shot that ended a two-hour standoff in August 1993. Conley was sitting in the middle of an intersection armed with a handgun, which he’d pointed at officers and passing drivers. No Columbus police sniper had ever fired a shot in the line of duty prior to that day, and Plumb’s shot would go down in the history books for more than just that reason alone. The LEO shot Conley’s revolver out of his hand – shattering the weapon into three pieces.

Even Conley was impressed, remarking that it was a “great shot” as police took him into custody.

2. The ‘1 in a billion’ barrel shot

In January 2016, Deputy Jose Marquez was off-duty in the parking lot of his girlfriend’s condo when two armed, masked men attacked him. Marquez was shot three times – twice in the abdomen and once in the shoulder. Despite his wounds, Marquez’s will to win kept him in the fight and he returned fire. He hit one suspect in the leg and, incredibly, fired one shot that traveled up the barrel of the suspect’s gun, rendering it inoperable and likely saving the LEO’s life.

For expert training on staying in the fight during a critical incident, check out Dave Smith’s tips here.

3. One-handed takedown of a rampage shooter

On Black Friday 2014, gunman Larry McQuilliams opened fire in downtown Austin, unloading over 100 rounds at police headquarters and other government buildings. Gunfire passed right above the heads of a group of mounted police officers, including Sgt. Adam Johnson. While still holding the reigns of his police horse in one hand, Johnson fired a single shot from his service pistol from over 100 yards away and stopped the threat.

“I knew what the threat was, and my decision to shoot at him was to eliminate that threat,” Johnson said at the time. “I knew he was going to kill somebody.”

Police later discovered materials in McQuilliams’ vehicle that suggested he had planned to attack additional targets.

4. Saving a child hostage in Tulsa

A three-hour hostage standoff in October 2016 ended with a single shot from special operations sniper Jason Lawless. Salvador Reyes, 42, took his wife’s 2-year-old daughter hostage at her home just days after she filed for divorce. Reyes, with a firearm in one hand and the girl’s hand in the other, pointed his weapon at officers and the child when Lawless took the shot. The child was unharmed.

5. From the running board of a speeding squad

Way back in the summer of 1935, an attempted prison escape was thwarted by some of the most difficult shots in law enforcement history. Officer Clarence Koblitz, armed with a Remington 30-30 rifle, was standing on the running board of a squad car in pursuit of two inmates in a stolen car. Koblitz managed to fire four shots one-handed while balanced on the running board of the moving vehicle. The inmates, who were firing at Koblitz and the other officers in the squad, were both fatally struck – one in the head.


From cover to trigger control, keeping your firearms tactics and training knowledge sharp is a vital component of ensuring you, your colleagues and the public stay safe.

Our online training partner PoliceOne Academy features firearms and many other law enforcement training courses. Visit PoliceOne Academy to learn more and for an online demo.

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