His quick draw inspires awe

Published April 26, 2007

CLEARWATER - A tenth of a second can be the difference between winning and losing when Clearwater police Sgt. Kevin Insco is picking off targets with his 9mm handgun.

This month, the 38-year-old Insco won the U.S. Practical Shooting Association's Florida state championship in Frostproof.

It's an impressive feat for anyone, especially someone like Insco, who had never fired a gun until he was 21.

You may have seen "practical" shooting on ESPN or at a local gun range. Unlike regular target shooting, the contestants maneuver their way through elaborate courses, firing at cardboard targets, china plates or other objects. Whoever earns the most points in the least amount of time wins.

Insco competes in the "production" category, which is open to people with guns that are not customized for competition.

People assume the competitions are dominated by cops, Insco said, but only about 3 percent of the contestants come from law enforcement. The rest are accountants, plumbers, car salesmen - in short, Insco said, "regular people."

Five days a week, 30 to 45 minutes a day, he stands in his garage drawing, reloading, and aiming his gun - all of it without bullets.

It's called dry-firing and it builds muscle memory so that when he has to use his gun, he can do it as fast as possible.

Insco spends another four or five hours a week at the gun range actually shooting. In one year, the father of three goes through 25,000 rounds of ammunition - all on his own time and with his own money. He makes his own rounds to save money.

"I don't play golf. I don't play basketball. I don't play softball," he said. Shooting has become hobby enough.

At the Clearwater Police Department, Insco is a sergeant for the SWAT team, specializing in chemical munitions. Next month, he will become an administrative sergeant for the patrol division.

In 16 years as a police officer, all of them in Clearwater, he has pulled his gun many times but never had to shoot anyone.

"There's no doubt in my mind," he said. "I'm much better prepared for handling something on the street because of shooting competitively."

The national championship, which he qualified to enter, will be held in Tulsa, Okla., in mid September.

Insco doesn't come from a law enforcement family. He moved from Indiana to Pinellas County to attend junior college and then go on to the University of Florida. At first, he thought he would become an architect because drawing had always come easily to him. But taking architecture classes in junior college, he realized he couldn't sit behind a drafting table all day.

He went for a ride-along with a friend who was a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy and was smitten with the job.

Insco decided right then to become a police officer. He submitted his application at City Hall. One of the questions they asked him in his interview: Have you ever fired a gun?

Back then, he said no.

Now he would have a different answer.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 727 445-4157.