Competition shooters—I believe that the tactical shooting community should always be keeping an eye on this group. Top ranked shooters who participate in events through the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and other competitive shooting outfits have really taken the art and science of shooting to a whole new level over the last several decades and those of us who carry guns for a living (cops, military personnel and armed security officers) or who carry firearms for self defense ought to seek out lessons from these well qualified, goal driven athletes.
Here are just a few things we all do well to pay attention to and adopt when we can:
The end goal of firearms training for all shooters is to become so comfortable with the weapon that the gun becomes like an extension of the shooter’s body. The only way to get to that level is through repetition—the law of learning—which is to say, against a clock or an armed assailant, you can’t shoot well without practicing. A lot.
The physical health benefits of practice aside, succeeding means being able to visualize success and the only way to know what success looks like is to go out and find it by doing it. Competitive shooters know that actually getting out and “doing it” takes serious discipline.
Competitive shooters never let anything stop them from practicing, even not being able to make it to the range. Whether dry-fire practicing (you can use your own gun or an Airsoft gun), drawing quick from the holster with rapid target acquisition or conducting reloads in the bedroom, these guys and gals prove that if you want to get better, you’ve got to move.
By adopting these practice habits, and practicing well, I have no doubt a shooter will develop the skills needed to survive and win gunfights.
Ergonomics and economy of motion
Speaking of practicing well, the reality is that you could shoot 10,000 rounds and still never improve unless you embrace and use the best methods and techniques available. If you want to continue to increase your skills with a firearm, you must be willing to discover what is most efficient for speed and accuracy and that means trying new things—getting out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone.
It’s sometimes human nature to resist this thinking, while other folks are just stuck in the past, but you cannot be closed to new techniques and expect to always be improving.
This is definitely one area that competition shooters have pushed to the limits and 3-gun competitors in particular have raised the bar when it comes to shooting fast and accurately through minor, though significant, updates to proven methods and new approaches to reloading.
In order to be better than competitors who are putting in just as much sweat equity as they are, these shooters have no choice but to refine and perfect the the minutia of shooting techniques to beat others on the playing field. This means finding out exactly what works best for the shooter and focusing on the little things.
Mastering a thumbs forward grip, changing up stance, concentrating on trigger control and adjusting grip when necessary are techniques that should be on all handgun shooters’ minds all the time when practicing (and part of the time when not).
Alongside new methods of shooting and reloading, forward-thinking, purpose-built inventions are what have really allowed shooting sports to develop and reach a wider audience these past few decades. Indeed, new kit is pretty much what drives public interest in all aspects of the shooting industry, but the competitive community has inspired more than it’s share of ingenuity in entertainment and excellence in gear and mods.
Whether its mounting back-up iron sights on a 45-degree tilted angle off an AR or putting an extended magazine tube on a shotgun, you can see practical benefit to those interested in saving their lives by using guns just as much as to those looking to hoist a cup.
In the end, whether it’s just with a pistol alone or in a three-gun style competition, a gunfight or a dove field, it’s all about shooting fast and accurately. Sure, there are a other elements to self defense and tactical gun play, but these two skills are precisely what’s needed for success in all shooting engagements. And in this regard, competition shooters are golden.
Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training. Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.