Monday, April 8, 2013

How does competitive shooting benefit the "Tactical" guy...

     All to often on the range, I hear "tactical" guys complaining about how this is all just a game, "this isn't real life," "if bullets were really flying," and you don't use any tactic's. The fact is, competitive shooting drives you to be fast and accurate. What you have to take away from a competitive match is your performance, your manipulations, and how you handle the speed and accuracy. This part of it could in fact, save your life.

     Merriam-Webster defines "tactical" as of or relating to tactics (1): of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose (2) limited or immediate end of view.  So I would say tactical or tactics, is a means of solving a problem, NOT a "way" to shoot. Being a professional firearms and tactics instructor, I get the unique opportunity to work with a wide variety of shooters. People who may have never fired a gun before, to high-end operators who are part of offensive forces to help protect our great nation. The one thing they all have in common is they want to be able to shoot faster with better accuracy. When it comes to shooting, it all boils down to being faster and more accurate then your opponent.

     When it comes to "Operations" for tactical guys, you have to be good at a lot of things, not just shooting. You have to be able to make life or death decisions in a blink of an eye. When it came to the execution of the OP, we were sometimes faced with something that was not discussed in the brief and forced to make a decision on the fly. Add a combative person in the mix or a vicious dog and you have a whole new set of problems.
     What changes in "Tactical" shooting is the mindset, some techniques, and the equipment used.  You must have a survival mindset. I will always remember the phrase "I will survive and keep going no matter what." That has rang out in my head more than once being a State Trooper. In a match, you get to see the course of fire before you shoot it. You have the layout and you know the targets are not shooting back. In a tactical scenario, you can only work on your best intel and educated guess based on the situation at hand. The techniques used have to be as close to flawless as possible. Meaning they can't work some of the times, they have to work all of the time. Even in the most extreme cases like mud, sand, sweat, blood, extreme cold, and during extreme stress. Therefore the use of fine motor skills has to be minimized and gross motor function maximized.  The equipment an operator has to use sometimes can be restrictive. Holsters have retentions, over 3/4 of the magazine are covered by the mag pouch or there will be a flap over the pouch, and the vest can weigh you down. All of these things can add time. That's why it is so important to train how you fight and test your equipment you have decided to use. Don't just go off what a magazines says, VET IT !!
     Competitive guys break shooting down a little bit differently. Only having to focus on one element, shooting. They take each one of the elements of shooting and improve on it one skill at a time. Drawing the gun, reloads, and target transitions can all be done without firing a live round, this is called dry fire. Almost all the competitive shooters I know, do some form of this on one level or another. The more you repeat a skill, the quicker you can make it a habit, and habits can be executed without your conscious mind thinking about it. Therefore, making you faster.  Competitive guys use a different set of equipment as well. It is usually less forgiving, the feet per second for their ammunition maybe different from "factory" loads and the guns may have had enhancements done to them. Shooters are always looking to cut another .10 off their times. 
     So how do the tactical guys benefit from shooting a competitive match?

     If you take my qualification scores from 1999 and compare them to what I qualify with now in 2013, they have not changed. I still shoot 98's and 100's for handgun quals. So, does that mean that I have not improved in my shooting? Well to someone who takes qualifications as a form of creditability, the answer would be no. However, my shooting has improved 100 times better in the last 14 years. In fact, in the last 4 years, I have gone from Expert to Distinguished Master in IDPA and in USPSA from Unclassified to Grand Master. I attribute all of that to competitive shooting. Now take someone who is on that level of shooting, properly train them in "Tactical Operations" and you could have a great operator.

      Finding something that forces you to shoot as fast as you can, as accurate as you can, and under some sort of stress is a positive. If you can improve your skills on the range shooting a match, it will only improve your skills in operations. You have to set your ego aside and work on skills that will improve your handgun skills. Where you place in the match does not matter. Questions you should ask yourself are:

Did I improve my overall speed, with the same accuracy?
Did I get in and out of shooting positions fast enough or faster than before?
What could I improve on?
Am I happy with MY performance? (Not my performance against everyone else in the match)

   I have seen some tactical guys make excuses as to why they shot so slow in a match. I hear "this isn't real life,""the targets aren't shooting back,""my gun isn't a race gun." I want to say to them "everything is going to be okay." This is a game and just like all games, there are tricks to it. Until you are shown the tricks and have an understanding of what its all about, you may struggle. The most important thing about it, win or loose, is what did you learn from this experience. Nothing would please me more than to see guys shooting USPSA matches in their "Battle Rattle." The heck with trying to win the match, throw the standing and ranking out the window and go see what you can do in the gear you fight in. Take away from the match what you experienced and how to better YOUR skills for what YOU do.

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