It’s ok not to be tactical.

Published April 10, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Competition, Mindset, Self Defense, Training

Shooting Shirts and stuffCraig “Sawman” Sawyer (who I met this week) has some thought-provoking words on the differences between combat and competitive shooting

Because there is no sudden, inter-human violent confrontation, civilian competition shooting simply is unlikely to present such stress on the shooter. If the shooter experiences this level of stress shooting in a civilian sporting competition, I’d have serious concerns about his ability to perform to any degree, whatsoever, in a real life and death confrontation. Conversely, just because someone has performed well in combat, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily do well against experienced competition shooters in their environment. Someone who trains extensively for perfect conditions will absolutely become very good in those conditions. We all adapt to the stimulus we’re challenged with most often. 

I agree with what he’s saying for the most part. I compete in USPSA Production, IDPA SSP and 3 Gun Tac Limited, which means the guns and equipment I use in competition are pretty much like the guns I use to protect my family. In the case of IDPA, they are, in fact, the exact same equipment as what I carry. Unlike a lot of competitors in that sport, I use an IWB holster and draw from an untucked t-shirt, rather than use a “shoot me first” vest and speed rig to gain a competitive advantage. I want the training and the practice I get ON the range to match up as closely as I can to what I’m likely to face OFF the range.  

I also agree with Craig in the futility of emphasizing “gun solutions” in practical shooting competitions. Competition, and most firearms training classes as well, tend to teach that gun solutions above all else, rather than a tiered response to different threats (or lack thereof. Gun guys teach that every personal defensive problem has a gun solution. The dojo teaches that every problem has a punch, kick or throw solution. Very few people are teaching people not in uniform how to integrate the two . 

The one thing I’d say about Craig’s article is the need for more understanding on the “tactical” side of the aisle about what we “civilians” need to know. We probably won’t experience combat, and we’re perfectly ok with that.

I don’t want to know what it’s like to lay down cover fire or call in an airstrike; that’s the military’s job, nor do I want to form a CQB stack and clear a room like a SWAT team. All I want to do is keep my family safe in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world. Nothing else is like combat: I accept that fact 100%. I didn’t serve in the military, and I know my limitations. I’m fully aware that competitive shooting doesn’t equal actual combat in terms of danger, stress level or having to dealing with chaotic situations. 

But I still want to keep my family safe. 

I wasn’t a smokejumper and I don’t know how to run a 3 inch line from the hydrant to the fire, but I still have a fire extinguisher and a fire escape plan. I’m not an EMT or a trauma surgeon, but I still have a first aid kit and field bandages nearby at all times. And I didn’t serve on the front lines as Craig and millions of other brave men and women did and are doing, but I still keep my eyes open and have the will and the means to deal with a violent threat near me at all times.

I know enough (I hope) to keep my family safe in case something unexpected happens. You do what you can, not what you should.

I fully understand that what I’m learning in the dojo or on the sparring mat isn’t actually a bar fight or a mugging. But it helps. I know that an IDPA stage isn’t really a violent robbery attempt. But it helps. I know a Figure Eight drill isn’t dealing with an active shooter. But it helps. 

Along with millions of other people, I’ve realized I am my own first responder. How I’ll respond in a crisis remains to be seen, and quite frankly, I hope I never find that out. But if it happens, I’ll do what I can to keep myself and my family as safe as possible. 

Todd Green, who has a history with Law Enforcement and is one of the top pistol trainers out there, says it a lot better than I can

Possibly the biggest benefit of competition is that it is often the most stressful shooting many people will ever be exposed to. While obviously not the same as being in an actual gunfight, shooting in a competitive event in front of peers and strangers will do a great job of showing you just how easy it is to make mental mistakes under stress. Learning to stay focused on the task at hand and building experience fixing mistakes under pressure both have legitimate real world payoffs. 

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to competition shooting for the ‘defense-minded’ shooter. But, the pros are pretty universal and the cons are really only cons if you let them be. Because whether you stay true to your original purpose or give in to the dark side and become an absolute gamer, you’re still getting more time on the range and more experience shooting complex problems under stress. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that winning at a game makes you an honorary gunfighter, competition is a fun and effective way to become a better shooter. 

Oh, and one more reason to shoot IDPA or USPSA: They’re outrageously fun sports to participate in and the people you shoot with are some of the best people on earth. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you find a range nearby and give them a try. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself and your equipment. 

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