This article was originally posted on policeone.com.
Over the past 30 years I have watched the ebb and flow of competition shooting and other competitive events in police training environments. From Police Pistol Competition, to IPSC and IDPA, and now 3-gun competitions, competitive shooting has begun to become an item of interest for law enforcement. Even the NRA has jumped on the bandwagon, coming up with their version of 3-gun competition.
For years, law enforcement in general has avoided competition, repeating the mantra of “competition will get you killed.” We are now starting to see a resurgence of interest among our younger generation of police officers who view competition as a way to put their skills to the test. I believe it is time to bring this controversial issue up and look at it objectively.
How many of you competed as you were growing up or are currently engaged in competitive sports? This can range from friendly informal contests or organized activities. Why did/do you compete? What’s in it for you? What value do you perceive in engaging in it?
For most, competition instills confidence and strengthens the ability to perform under pressure. Deep down, I think all of us are curious to see how good we really are or how good we can get if we really go for it. I think almost everyone who trains on a serious level would like to be able to prove their skills in the arena.
While competition is a basic component of sports and most physical activities, it does not have as much acceptance in the world of shooting. The most often cited reasons are as follows:
Lack of Tactics
Most of the organized matches in IPSC and 3 Gun are tactically illiterate. IPSC is particularly guilty of this one. Once a martial sport, it has degenerated into a “game” environment where “shoot em where you see em” is the order of the day. The use of cover or realistic fighting strategies is basically given up in order to maximize speed of engagement and get a faster time and a higher score.
The above reason is the most often cited reason why many believe that competition will get you killed. If you get used to standing out in the open, standing in doorways, or only shooting targets twice, then you are not truly ready for a gunfight and what it may require.
With IDPA, the gear has been limited to what would be “reasonable” to carry in a defensive situation. But now we have match imposed limits on how the gun can be carried, how you will reload the firearm, and other artificial restraints that limit the creative imagination of the shooter to “solve” the problems presented. The scoring of the targets imposes a dramatic time penalty for anything falling outside an arbitrary 8” circle and the shooting slows down to an unrealistic speed that is not reflected in the speed of actual engagements.
Taking a look at modern competitive equipment, we see guns and gear costing thousands of dollars. With the exception of production or stock gun classes, most of the other classes require guns that will cost beyond the $1,500 price point. If you are shooting a modern 3-gun carbine, that can set you back more than $2,500 with the optic often costing more than the carbine itself.
Bring into play goofy holsters, weapons that need constant attention to work reliably, and extremely light trigger pulls and we see that over specialization has become the order of the day.
Will competition get you killed? Maybe. Will sitting on your ass doing nothing between qualifications get you killed? Maybe. Will competitive shooters outperform those who don’t compete in a tactical environment? When it comes to shooting, you betcha!
No one will argue that a race car driver driving a specialized vehicle at speeds in excess of 160 mph will probably still outperform you in a street car. A skilled MMA fighter with some tactical street sense will outperform the average Joe in a hands-on street fight as well.
Yet, because it challenges our egos, we tend to put blinders on when a competitive shooter absolutely dominates a tactical situation. He gets hits on target before his peers can even mount a weapon. He moves from position to position better, has better weapons handling and safety, and can process information and make decisions at a higher rate of speed than just about anybody else around him.
The reason for this elevated performance is that the competitive shooter has trained under far greater stress and pressure than you can put on yourself in training by yourself. He has mastered his emotions, his equipment, and has a driving will to prevail that will come into play when he enters a fight. This is why I use competition as a part of our training model.
I am not blind to the faults of competition shooting. I realize that there is a chance of being infected with a “gamer” mentality and seeing it all as a video game with you in it. However, believing you are the best, or even proficient, without having to go out and prove it once in awhile represents a dangerous level of complacency.
As many shooters have already found out, it is a humbling experience when you compete in your first match and do not do nearly as well as you believed you would. This is a powerful learning experience that will help you to recognize your weaknesses and be completely honest with yourself.
Going into a competition with the attitude that you are going to learn about yourself and how to better perform under pressure is incredibly valuable. I have learned a great deal about myself through competing and I know for a fact that competitive shooting has helped me to stay calm and confident in tactical situations.
Ron Avery, co-founder
Tactical Performance Center