Competition vs. Real Life
March 24, 2014 at 1:23 pm #63689
Article by Jason Bean
Bio (cut and paste from his website): “Jason Bean is the lead firearms instructor and owner of Vanquish Tactics, LLC. Jason developed all Vanquish Tactics, LLC lesson plans based upon 20 years practical experience, law enforcement experience, tactical operator experience, master firearms instructor experience, military special operations experience, and competition experience.”
There have been previous articles written in reference to discussing the advantages and disadvantages of competition firearms disciplines and the implications of competing in these sports in real world deadly force encounters. Having experience in both instances, I have come to the conclusion that those that scoff at one vs. the other rarely know what they are talking about.
When pondering this topic, I analyze as to whether the universal skills that are applied in competition are similar or the same universal skills that are applied in deadly force encounters and the only answer I have found is a resounding “Yes”. The main and simplest questions I ponder when determining whether practical shooting sports have negative effects on performance in real world applications are:
1.What does it take to win a gunfight? It takes the most lethal hits on target in the shortest amount of time.
2.What does it take to win a competition? It takes the most amount of accurate rounds in the shortest amount of time.
3.What does this mean? In both lethal force encounters and competition, the shooter must shoot accurately and fast. Efficiency of motion, motor nerve programming, visual acuity, the ability to perform on demand are all required for both the gunfighter and competition shooter.
Over the years, in my career field I have heard law enforcement officers spout things such as, “That works fine till the target shoots back” and “That will get you killed”. I have also heard people say things like practical shooting sports do not constitute training. It is true that some of the things required of competitions shooters are not tactically sound; however, my rebut to this fact is that often the tasks required of competition shooters may not be tactically sound but they are instituted to require the shooter to apply cognitive thought response while applying their firearms skills. One of the key components during a deadly force encounter is the ability for the shooter to think clearly, process stimuli, and respond appropriately. Practical shooting sports require the shooter to engage in target discrimination, limited target exposures, moving targets, shooting on the move, weapons manipulations on the move, prop interface while moving or shooting, shooting from concealment, and firing from unorthodox shooting positions. All of these requirements requires a shooter to interface with their weapon systems under stressful conditions in which they can be penalized; albeit the consequences are not as severe as a deadly force encounter. Inoculation to the stress conditions associated with applying complex skills such as shooting a handgun is imperative for increasing a persons odds of survival in a deadly force encounter. This is evident with the advent of marking rounds and scenario based training that police use during training.
Anytime I can encourage an officer to participate in practical shooting sports, I do. Usually it is a eye opening experience for them. I have found that there are two responses from police that participate. They either blow it off due to fact that it is usually an affront to their individual ego or they take it as a challenge and become avid players of the game. A lot of police officers fancy themselves “tacticool gurus” of sorts. I have found that when they are confronted with a 55-60 year old shooter wearing a fishing vest or a spaceship belt that can burn down a course in half the time the officer can perform it can be a very humbling experience. I know from experience that cops don’t like to be humbled and I think this is the reason that more of them don’t participate in practical shooting sports or only try it a couple of times. With that being said, I believe that participating in regular practical shooting competitions increases a shooter’s ability to process information and perform on demand with a handgun, which I think is critical to overall goals of “training”. I don’t refer to firearms competition as training, but it is a valid indicator of the level of someone’s training.
The bottom line is that I have found that the practical shooting sports are advantageous for anyone wanting to increase their overall firearms proficiency. They teach a person to move with efficiency, apply sound fundamentals of marksmanship, and requires the shooter to utilize a decision making process while performing on demand. Practical shooting sports participation has way too many positive attributes to list when it comes to running a firearm efficiently vs. doing nothing at all. With all things being equal, as a 20-year law enforcement veteran, if I knew I was going to be in a gunfight tomorrow and I could pick my partner, generally, I would pick the partner who regularly participates in practical shooting sports vs. the officer that does not. What does that tell you about whether or not I think practical shooting sports will get you killed?
March 24, 2014 at 4:28 pm #63690AndrewParticipant
I can mostly agree with this. I spent 20 years on a square range and frequently qualified with perfect scores.
This actually turned into a handicap when I started shooting IDPA shooting. My hit percentages hover around 95-98%, but my times average almost double that of the fastest shooters.
I’ve also got many hours inside shoot houses and on simulators, so my tactic are usually good.
What I have seen in the IDPA matches is that often there is an emphasis on speed over accuracy. My problem is that I can’t quite get away from the idea that a solid hit is better than a fast miss, or a peripheral hit.
I get somewhat hung up on the idea that speed is fine, but accuracy is final.
I also have a problem with charging 5 or 6 supposedly hostile targets when I’m in a solid position of good cover, to start with, while they are in the open.
It still remains better training than putting a magazine on a static target in the”x” time and then bolstering and calling it a day.
BTW, when I started this the first half of qualification was still a bullseye course. Things have gotten better.
March 24, 2014 at 8:19 pm #63691CorvetteParticipant
I do have a comment here. I am the following
Master Class IPSC
Master Class IDPA
Grand Master NRA Action Pistol
I was paid to shoot for a living
I have shot every major competition there is.
I have come from the competitive direction to tactical and it is a totally different ball game. Maybe if you were trained in tactical first and then moved to competitive it is different but I believe I might have gotten my ass kicked if I were to have applied what I know from competitive to real life tactical. I have taken this away from what I have learned about shooting. Train for what it is you are trying to do. I now train totally different than I did when I was shooting competitively. I listen to what guys like Max and others say and that is how I train, without trying to apply what I know about competitive shooting and just taking my skill set and applying it to tactical. I hope that makes sense?
Just an observation but all shooting is good. I believe competitive shooting is good for general shooting skills but I see tactical and competitive as two separate animals. One is fun the other you must give your full respect and attention.
Just to clarify I am not in any way trying to be inflammatory. I am a beginner in this realm and I have the utmost respect for everyone here. I just wanted to weigh in from a competitive shooters standpoint.
March 24, 2014 at 10:48 pm #63692ThomasParticipant
I must concur with the idea that speed is fine but accuracy is final. And, with the idea that all shooting is good. Familiarity with your platforms is mandatory to survival.
However, the author writes from the perspective of a 20 year police veteran. While he indicates that he has “special ops” experience, I have no way to know what that is or even what he means by special ops. I am not questioning his statement, simply pointing out that it lacks context and substance.
What he does not address at all is the role of the rifle in tactical engagement. In the environment discussed here in this forum, the rifle is the primary weapon. Side arms are often an afterthought.
My concern about competitive shooting is that inexperienced shooters will learn bad habits that will get them killed when the fight comes to us. Limited use of prone shooting, too much time up and visible to enemy shooters between movements, and limited use of real cover instill deadly bad habits. Competition is mostly about speed to engage and clear a stage. That is almost counter intuitive to good small unit tactics.
Bottom line: good article that is relevant as a teaching tool because of what does not say.
March 24, 2014 at 11:51 pm #63693
Andrew, Jack, and Thomas – thanks for each of your comments on where you see both the value and shortcomings of competition shooting.
You all make some good and valid arguments. As you all know, this is a very contentious issue and hotly debated in forums, units, and organizations with much intensity. Almost every big tactical group has guys that compete and swear by it, and others who do not.
I will add some information from a few more sources and then give my opinion after some further discussion is generated.
This was an article about and interview with Brian Search (Sgt. Major SFOD-D Ret.) At the time of the article he worked for a training company called “Tigerswan”. The section was called “Combat vs. Competition. Here it is:
COMBAT VS. COMPETITION
All the TigerSwan instructors have
experience in competitive shooting, and
this strongly influences their training
program. It may seem incongruous that
veterans of the most elite hostage rescue
unit in the world would draw from civilian
competitive shooters. In actuality, it
dovetails neatly with their philosophy of
acquiring the best available information
and adapting it to their mission requirements.
Searcy argues that the closest thing to
combat is shooting in competition. As for
those who dispute that by saying, “Competition
isn’t combat,” Searcy agrees.
He believes that you use competition to
practice shooting and you practice tactics
when doing tactical training such
as force-on-force or flowing through a
shoot house. He states that most people
who dismiss competition shooting “use
tactics as an excuse for poor marksmanship.”
As for whether competition develops
bad habits that will show up if a
shooter is involved in a gunfight, both
Searcy and Copper just smile and say
they’ve never had a problem distinguishing
between the two.
Searcy recalls that even within their
unit, there was resistance when the first
group of operators started training with
civilian competition shooters, as many
operators already believed themselves to
be the best shooters in the world. Searcy’s
assault team was the first to train with
Rob Leatham, and Copper notes that the
“high grip” was one of the things they adopted
once it was proven to help operators
shoot better. As for those techniques
that were discarded, Copper replies, “I
don’t remember since we never used it.”
As Operations Sergeant Major for their
unit, Searcy relates that he was largely
responsible for the annexation, refurbishment
and reopening of additional ranges
on Fort Bragg, which allowed civilian
shooters and soldiers to shoot against
each other in monthly competitions.
Searcy grins and says, “It’s one thing to
get beat by a fellow unit operator, but
quite another to get beat by some 50-yearold,
Having shot almost every type of competitive
sport from skeet to bull’s-eye to
Service Rifle and IPSC, Searcy believes it
is impossible to improve without shooting
in competition, as you will inevitably
plateau if shooting only on a square range
by yourself. The stress of being against
the clock, against other shooters and having
an audience watch you forces you to
develop the mental management necessary
to execute the correct subconscious
weapons handling skills under pressure.
Having trained with the best civilian
competitive shooters, and filtering
what works in the ultimate competition
of real world combat around the world,
TigerSwan now offers that information
to military, law enforcement and civilian
students. “Not to pass on that experience
and knowledge would almost be criminal.”
March 25, 2014 at 12:06 am #63694
These next comments are by Paul Howe (MSG SFOD-D Ret.) and relate to competition shooting:
COMPETITION VS. REALITY
“Let’s face it, competition is fun and if applied correctly, can help you in your marksmanship, weapon handling skills and confidence. With these attributes, also comes bad habits of moving too fast for the tactical situation. Who dictates the speed of the fight? The bad guy and how fast he falls, does. It might be a fast or slow process (the bad guy dying), but one should get in the habit of solving one problem at a time before moving to multiple threats. You can shoot two rounds on paper or ping a piece of steel and move to the next target, but in
reality, two rounds or the sound of steel being struck may not solve your problem. I remember servicing a bad guy one night at about 7 yards with night optics. I was trained to do double-taps throughout my military career. I punched him twice with two 5.56 rounds and stopped for a split second in my mind and on the trigger, looking for a response from the bad guy. The problem was that he was still standing
with an AK-47. I hit him with two more rounds before he began to fall the ground. To my amazement, he stood back up before collapsing a second time.
Lessons learned, shoot until they go down. Not one, not two, or three. I now teach a four in the chest, one in the head failure drill with the rifle. Why four? It may take the human body that long to react to the amount of trauma you are inducing (5.56).
At the time of this incident, we were using military green tip ammo and the energy transfer was minimal. Realizing we had a stopping power problem, we developed a drill that would work on any determined individual and made it part of our training package.
As a final point, I would be cautious on using competition shooters to drive the equipment and training in a department. While generally faster shooters, I have watched them err on the side of equipment that was great for competition, but took away from simplicity and the common goal. I remember arguing in 1993 for a more effective round for our primary weapon (rifle) as the 5.56 Green Tip was not doing
well. Others soldiers I worked with, competed in weekend matches, were more interested in “square” triggers on the .45 for a uniform pull instead of the stopping power of their main battle rifle. We are still fighting rifle caliber problems today and sadly enough, service personnel have lost their lives because of it.”
More comments by Paul Howe from a different article:
“If I want to learn combat techniques, I would go to an instructor that had a police or combat background who had shot people.
If I want to learn how to shoot fast and compete, I would go to competitive shooters who win matches.
Both trainers will get you to a certain level of proficiency. One will take you on a course that will save your life. The other will take you on a course that will help you win a match. One has combat mindset, one had match mindset. They are two different animals. Matches will help you control stress, channelize anxiety and nervous energy, so will combat
operations. I have shot in both, both are different stresses. Combat will help you control your fear. This fear cannot be replicated in a match.”
March 25, 2014 at 8:41 am #63695CorvetteParticipant
This is a good subject..
My 2 cents are that competiton can sharpen reflexes and build weapons handling skills.
It may also create some bad habits.
Depending on your personality you may or may not be able to switch them off when needed…
March 26, 2014 at 12:12 am #63696ThomasParticipant
MSG Howe’s point about servicing the target was learned in Mogadishu but did not get broad application until the Army deployed to Iraq. Soldiers who were pretty well versed in SUT encountered a situation where their range training proved faulty. Qualification ranges were 40 rounds for 40 target exposures. What they found was that bad guys did not fall down dead like E silouhettes. Instruction went out to “shoot until they change shape” which meant keep shooting until they begin to go down.
CSM Searcy and crew were already Delta with loads of training behind them. Their ability to adapt would be much greater than that of the average soldier or civilian shooter. They are not wrong but what they say or don’t say must be analyzed so that lesser trained shooters can apply it without detriment.
March 26, 2014 at 9:19 am #63697DiznNCParticipant
Well, this is the whole point of why Max is here in the woods, teaching SUT instead on the square range teaching speed shooting.
This guy is talking about self-defense, from violent crime, either as a cop, or civilian, in a largely urban context, where everyone is usually standing in the open, and getting rounds on target, quickly is the mission. This what we’ve all been doing for the last twenty years or so.
What we’re talking about here is armed citizens, in self-defense, in a WROL type situation. Which is largely rural in context, and maneuver is just as important as fire. This is what we are seeing as a necessity to prepare for uncertain times. Guys like Max, JC, Mosby, are taking us beyond this square range, stand-up, speed-shooting mindset into the realm of small unit tactics, which emphasizes TEAMWORK over individual shooting skills.
So let’s compare apples to apples. In the context of violent street crime, what this guy is saying has validity. Within the context of SUT in a WROL situation, it is largely irrelevant. This is the problem within the mainstream tac community. Some guys, well most guys, are talking about self-defense training in the context of urban street crime. While others are talking about self-defense in terms of defending your home or retreat from criminals. Who are probably the same guys only hungrier and more pissed off.
I’m not talking about a speed draw of a pistol from a holster to engage targets as quickly as possible. I’m talking about reacting to contact with a rifle and moving to cover to engage, and as part of a team, no less.
So in answer to his question, no, I don’t think these competitions are going to give me the right skills to fight.
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