Point-Counterpoint (bullet points? heh heh heh…) in the endless debate on Competitive vs. Combat shooting featured at Policeone.
How would I weigh in? It is foolish to think there is a plug-and-play relationship between competitive shooting sports and tactically sound combat shooting. Incidentally the same holds for MMA, or jujitsu, or any competitive fighting sport.
It is equally foolish to think that there is NO relationship, and that a skilled competitor will not have advantages in terms of attributes and abilities. But it’s all in the Why, and When, and What, and How…
To me “competitive shooting” is when people are shooting at each other. And the whole point of tactics is to avoid being in a competitive shooting situation.
A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances
May 21, 2015.
By David Windham
I’m not anti-competition shooting, but I do find fault with most of the competitions out there. The reason being they aren’t realistic and cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street. I realize that most gun owners will never be involved in a shooting incident, but it can happen at any moment to any of us, hence my passion to train in a realistic manner so that I am prepared as well as those I regularly train.
I also despise indoor ranges that don’t allow realistic shooting. If one can’t even draw his weapon from the holster, how can he be prepared for a real life shoot out?
Competition shooters are on the whole amazingly fast when it comes to getting off accurate shots. In and of itself, that is a great thing.
However, there are some huge downfalls.
1. All targets are single shot targets for the most part. Training yourself to fire one bullet at a target can mean your death in real life. Regardless of what caliber you shoot, in a real life gun fight you will generally need multiple shots on target to end a threat to your life. Training to fire once and then look for more targets can be a deadly habit to form.
2. Speed reigns supreme in competition. Speed is important, but not at the expense of accuracy and tactical technique. A good example of this is the goofy overhand grip you see many three-gun shooters using. It’s said that this grip helps them steer the gun. Okay, whatever works for them is fine, because no one is shooting back!
The problem is that many people see this technique and adopt it without considering real life situations. The most solid offhand shooting platform is using a vertical or horizontal grip that allows you to pull the gun tight into your shoulder pocket with your arms tucked in tight. This helps reduce muzzle rise, make quicker follow-up shots, and assists in overall control of your weapon.
3. There’s no need to take cover. What’s even better is the use of the kneeling or prone position if possible. By doing so, you reduce your profile and make yourself a smaller target as well as form a more solid shooting platform by having the ability to triangulate your limbs for support.
In a real life shootout, if the rifle or carbine has come out it is pretty damned serious and likely everything is happening at a distance where cover can be chosen, so this isn’t necessarily a hindrance to be prone because you have dug into your position and it’s safe. If you only practice off hand you will remain standing when you should be looking for cover and making yourself as small a target as humanly possible.
Speaking of cover, competition shooters never use cover in a tactical manner. They use the cover in a manner that facilitates speed. There is never any “slicing the pie” technique. What I normally see is peek and shoot at best or the shooter leaning out as far as possible to engage as many targets as possible.
4. You’re limiting your configuration possibilities. There are only so many configurations for a shooting stage in a match. A person can become like a trained pony and expect certain things when shooting rather than reacting to the clear and present danger at hand. No matter how you cut it, this can be a bad habit to form that will get you killed.
Muscle memory is what controls your ability to shoot under extreme stress. If your muscles remember doing the same things over and over then that is what they will do. Shooting two close targets, five medium range target, and four long range targets at varying heights is great for a match, but isn’t very realistic.
What happens when your strong side is injured in a fight and you have to shoot with your weak hand? Or you trip and have to shoot from your back? Did you practice these things while preparing for that three-gun shoot? Of course you didn’t. A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.
5. Competition shooting breeds an environment of gizmos, gadgets, and race guns. Reflex sights are great, but batteries fail. Any electronic gadget can and will fail, especially under harsh conditions. Daily carry is harsh! My gun gets wet, dirty, and beat up daily.
The other big consideration is that the more there is hanging off your gun, the more likely you are to snag your gun upon drawing it from the holster. Competition shooters usually have belts set up for just that competition. Everything on the belt is easily reached and even the holster is built for speed. You aren’t going to carry your gun in the same manner that you shoot it in a competition. You’d walk around looking like Wyatt Earp at best and an idiot at worst.
Again, I’m not against matches or competition shooting. My point is to make you think. If you shoot IDPA or any other discipline, that’s great! Just don’t neglect real world training for real world situation that can occur. Mix things up, find new and different ways to challenge yourself and don’t live life preparing for a competition when your life is on the line!
This article originally appeared on FirearmsU.com. David Windham is a retired law enforcement officer and is currently a firearms instructor and the Director of Sales and Marketing for FirearmsU.com – a website directory designed to match students to the right firearms instructors and find courses that meet their needs.
This article was followed by this from Ron Avery:
Anyone who has competed or watched competitive shooters in USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, 3-Gun Nation, and other action-shooting sports knows just how fast and accurate these shooters can be
Jun 13, 2016
This article is — in part — a rebuttal to David Windham’s article on “5 reasons why competitive shooting falls short of real-world training.” It is a peer-to-peer conversation about the value that competition adds to any training program and why I believe it is an essential element of your training program.
Mr. Windham wrote, “A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.”
Interesting statement — how then does one go about being able to beat the best in the world on your worst day? Does this happen while training safely on your range without any sense of what being the best in the world actually means? Do we make assumptions about our presumed skill level without ever being tested against another human being? Is the street the only place where valid testing occurs?
Accuracy, Power, Speed
Mr. Windham makes the statement that competition is about single shots on target and that speed is largely irrelevant in gunfighting. He talks about how accuracy is not important to competitive shooters. He also takes issue with the way 3-gun shooters hold their carbines when shooting rapidly and apparently has come up with a much better way of holding the carbine when shooting fast and accurately. This leads me to conclude that he has formed his opinion not through participation in competitions but rather from the sidelines.
Competition is about testing your will and your skill against other competitors. It teaches you to manage your emotions, manage your thinking and manage your weapon. It tests your ability to perform under duress. It can be unforgiving, but it will actually show where your real skill lies when it is put to the test as opposed to what you do when there is no consequence and you get to “do it over.”
Competition need not be formal. It can be as simple as two people competing on a drill with the gear they carry. However, when you become the big fish in the small pond, it is time to look for bigger waters.
This is where the arena of more formal competition comes in. On any given day, in any region of the United States or the world, there are skilled shooters who are more than happy to test themselves against the “best in the world”. If you don’t know what kind of skill is out there, how do you know how good you really are?
Delusional thinking about your superiority will get you killed way faster than any form of competition you participate in.
Jeff Cooper — founder of Gunsite and the sport of IPSC — uses the motto “Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas” as the operating principles. They stand for: Accuracy, Power, Speed. There needed to be a blend of accuracy with speed, using a weapon of sufficient power to deliver an incapacitating hit.
NASCAR, MMA, USPSA, and IPSC
Anyone who has competed or watched competitive shooters in USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, and 3-Gun Nation know just how fast and accurate these shooters can be.
Do you think that a skilled MMA fighter doesn’t have an advantage over the average person in a street fight? Do you honestly believe that a NASCAR race car driver can’t outdrive you in a street car? Do you think they are robots who cannot function out of their arena?
Yet, time and time again, many firearms instructors will rail against competitive shooting and expound on how they are superior to competitive shooters when it comes to shooting fast and accurately under pressure. It just isn’t true. They refuse to be tested; refuse to believe they are not what they think they are and continue to believe that somehow they will win a gunfight because they are “more tactical.”
Please explain to me how — at three to five yards in the open, person-to person contact with a subject on the street — you are going to be better than a competitive shooter who trains far more than you do? How will you perform better than a person who can move and shoot faster and more accurately than you can, who has the will to win honed by countless hours of competition and has better basic tactical concepts than you? Do you honestly believe they are going to “cave” when the moment of truth arrives? Do you think they cannot react to subject cues and are going to wait for a start buzzer to get into action?
I can give you numerous examples of competitive shooters having to put their skills to the test in real world challenges. Further, I would trust a USPSA or action pistol competitor behind me in any situation because I know their finger won’t be on the trigger with the muzzle pointing in my direction.
Anyone who has competed or watched competitive shooters in USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, 3-Gun Nation, and other action-shooting sports knows just how fast and accurate these shooters can be — both stationary and on the move. Many attend tactical training courses. A lot of them are cops or military as well with plenty of real world experience.
Mental, Physical, and Emotional Control
Competitive shooting, blended with tactical training and tactical thinking and other skills areas, leads to a superior performer who knows just how good he/she is on any given day with the equipment they are carrying.
I can personally attest to the fact that competitive shooting training and competition — along with other training — aided me greatly by providing me with the mental, physical, and emotional control skill to confront deadly force situations in a calm manner without overreacting.
If you want to know how good you are, you need to compete and find out. If you want to be the best you can be, competition will get you there faster and more surely than any other way I know. Putting yourself to the test needs to happen before you get in a gunfight and there is no better way to learn to deal with pressure then by competing and learning to manage pressure and make it work for you.
What you do in a training class is not what you can do in a competition.
Jeff Cooper designed man versus man competition as well as the sport of IPSC precisely because he realized how competition honed gunfighting skills.
There is no doubt in my mind that a hard core competitive shooter is one of the toughest people to beat in the world when it comes to a straight up gun fight — especially with handguns.