Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Lukaszuk, Judith M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions


Objective: To investigate changes in physiological stress response and shooting performance of law enforcement officers under varying levels of stress. More specifically, the purpose of this study was to determine how increasing levels of stress from operating a firearm on static targets changes when law enforcement officers are subjected to a simulated life-threatening or dangerous situation.

Background: Performance changes associated with high levels of stress have been well documented in disciplines such as sports psychology, medicine, and military/law enforcement fields. However, little work has been done to draw comparisons between firearm training methods and qualification procedures which closely mimic armed conflict.

Method: A sample of 13 experienced law enforcement officers completed three trials of handgun shooting. Trial one included a modified course of fire adopted from the Illinois State Firearms Qualification Course of Fire, and two simulated conflicts using a TI Simulator (TI Training, Golden, Colorado). Heart rate, blood pressure, salivary alpha-amylase, and salivary cortisol as well as shooting performance data were collected before, during, and after courses of fire.

Results: Compared with the qualification course of fire, results showed a statistically significant reduction in percentage of shots hit during both simulated conflicts. No significant correlation was found between any physiological variable measured in this study and marksmanship performance in either simulated conflict.

Discussion: Simulated dangerous encounters can be used to expose law enforcement officers to complex situations where marksmanship skills can be trained and evaluated. Further research may be necessary to determine if such training protocols can create enough stress response to cause any adaptation to stress during a real-life deadly encounter.

Keywords: Law Enforcement, Marksmanship, Stress, Cortisol, Blood Pressure, Heart Rate


78 pages




Northern Illinois University

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