I’ve always taught my students three fundamental concepts that they must understand and apply in order to be a successful gunfighter: gun handling, marksmanship, and mindset. Some may argue that one of these is more important than the other two. I have found that all three are equally important.
The mindset portion of this can be refined in many different ways: books, seminars, hands-on training, etc. The gun handling and marksmanship portions can best be refined by actually doing them. The most effective way to hone the skills in these two portions is to become involved in competitive shooting.
Here are the five most important things competitive shooting will teach you about gunfighting:
Accuracy matters most. Never compromise your speed for accuracy. If you are not able to hit what you shoot at, you will always lose a gunfight.
There are two things that should be done fast in a gunfight: the “draw stroke” and reloading.
3. Shooting while moving
Gunfights are not ten paces and turn. Moving and shooting should be almost always used in a gunfight.
4. Shooting from cover
There are wrong ways and right ways to shoot from cover in a gunfight. Shooting from cover is a skill often times given little thought. In some competitions you are penalized for leaving cover with an empty weapon.
Competition shooting promotes safety more than anything. In fact, if you violate any of the four core safety rules, you will be disqualified.
There are many types of competitive shooting arenas out there nowadays. There is the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), Precision Police Competition or Practical Police Competition (PPC), International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and Multi-Gun (3 Gun) to name a few. Take the time to research each of these and find out which one is best suited for you. Each one of these sports has distinct benefits for working on gun handling and marksmanship.
USPSA and IPSC are both known as “Practical Shooting” sports. IPSC is the oldest and largest practical shooting sport in the world, while USPSA is the regional version of that. Both sports often include the shooter moving and shooting at multiple targets. IDPA is also known as a practical shooting sport but it has an emphasis on concealed shooting. IDPA does not have as much “gaming” as USPSA or IPSC.
When the USPSA/IPSC “game” hit the LE world years ago, many of us believed the running-n-gunning was a waste of time and carried no practical benefit in modern day gunfighting. In retrospect, it is clear that the naysayers (including me) just did not do the research on the sport. However, there are some elements of the sport that are not tactically sound.
The sport is great for the benefits in gun handling and marksmanship, but not as a user guide on how to gunfight. The beautiful part about USPSA, IPSC, and IDPA is they have different divisions. You can carry a stock pistol and wear your duty belt or off-duty gear for the competition. Remember, train as you play.
3 Gun has some of the same benefits as USPSA or IPSC. 3 Gun gives you the opportunity to compete with your pistol, your carbine, and your shotgun — all weapons that a normal patrol officer would work with every day. Again, different divisions allow you to shoot with stock guns if you would like to.
PPC is a shooting sport geared toward marksmanship. Unlike USPSA or 3 Gun, PPC matches do not have strict time requirements. All matches are known by the shooter ahead of time so there are no surprise courses of fire like other shooting sports. I have found PPC to be the best competitive shooting sport to hone your handgun marksmanship skills.
If you are a first-time competitive shooter you may want to watch a match before you get your feet wet. Sometimes the match structures and rules can be confusing and overwhelming to new shooters. Watching other shooters can also be beneficial to picking up a few new techniques for your tool bag. Shoot well, gunfighters!