CompetitionThe argument / conversation about the value of competition is old, even hackneyed at this point, but it continues.  You might as well be butting heads.  Having just read a piece authored by a well respected  and accepted “expert” that was clueless it will never die.  If you make a living teaching people to “fight with a gun” and refuse to compete or never have competed you are passing gas, at least to me.  Giving competition some minimal  value to appease your paying student base is kind of disingenuous and counterproductive in the long run.

pointing fingers

At this point, anyone decrying the other is wasting theirs and your time, or selling a dogma (or DVD’s).  Pointing fingers at either is counterproductive. Firearms sports have great value and have contributed significantly outside the playing field.  They always have and always will. Dismissing them entirely because “its not real” is nothing more than an indication of complete ignorance, or compensation for an unwillingness to risk embarrassment by getting your ass handed to you by a “gamer”.    Giving it passing value having never competed is pandering.  Conversely, gamers thinking much of what they do is anything but a game are just as ignorant and risk getting dead when that fight happens.  Recognizing the limitations and value of both is the key and a statement by a student last week in a Gunsite 250 class illustrated this perfectly.

building clearing

Running students through the indoor simulator (shoot house) provides a great example of the differences.  It had been awhile since doing this and it reminded me how valuable this kind of training is. This particular student shot very well, moved well, and like most new to clearing rooms ended up dead.  Once done he stated ” now I get it when people tell me shooting a local match is just that, a match, this SUCKS!” 

Shooting Sports are not the same, they are still a game, and the courses are designed around rules, regulations, and safety.  In many cases those designing the courses have zero experience, nor should they necessarily, its a game.   Truth is, practical stages are boring and not much fun.   If its not fun you won’t come back, or at least I wouldn’t.  You need them to be challenging, often for incredibly skilled shooters making practicality secondary at best.    Conversely, if there are rules in a fight only the good guys follow them, they are never safe or regulated and are not fun.    Most people who get in fights with a gun are NOT world class competitors.  They are two completely different worlds.  Lastly, any consequences from a bad match can be corrected or forgotten.  Assuming you survived,  decisions in a gunfight follow you the rest of your life, .

The last scenario in the simulator in a Gunsite 250 is ugly, but real in concept.  Solvable with experience it is an eye opener for people new to clearing buildings.  Part of the design is to illustrate the fantasy of the one man army saving the day. It’s no different than the martial artist prevailing while surrounded by dozens of trained fighters, great on film, at demonstrations, impressive to look at but pure fantasy.  Simulators and force on force training clearly illustrate the point, competition is a place to learn and hone skills, not neceissarily tactics.

Adventure RaceHaving never been to a real war (not a football game), I defer to actual  warriors for any comparison on the field of battle.  But,  I have deployed a rifle, pistol, shotgun, precision rifle and a few other things as an officer.  I have also competed in most every kind of match out there, still do when I can. The lack of reality has proven true in IDPA, IPSC, 3-gun, 2-gun, 14-gun, and the PRS circuit. I never engaged multiple “tangos” in a line requiring .009 second split times.  Never needed to  navigate 30 miles carrying tires, poles and concrete filled water buckets with a need to pick locks and cut fences.   Dressing like a tree gets you killed (or laughed at) in my jurisdiction, and my low crawl was into the back of the Suburban most of the time.  The street is neither hell week or an adventure race with a  rifle.  Little of what is done at a match is practical, not sure it should be.  But, it can teach you how to run and use your gear.  It can also teach you how to think outside the box and develop a mindset to win, and contrary to modern thought, winning is good, especially if losing means you are dead.  While the  tactics   may not be all that valuable learning how to think tactically is priceless and its not something you learn on anyones square range standing in a line no matter how many videos they sell or classes they teach.

Competitions are fantastic places to get better at using and applying equipment and the thought process.   They are even better at testing your gear.  Its why they have divisions designed around simple deployment style guns.  I have seen rifles that were “combat proven” take a dump on the second stage of a 3-gun match. Its almost laughable to see the latest firearm touted as “duty ready” by some tactical guru go down on the first stage.  On the other hand having an RO tell me my combat shotgun will never survive the match was just as rewarding as it out lasted five or six high dollar match guns.  Still, most competition firearms see harder use in a year than duty weapons see in their serviceable life. Many competition guns need to be rebuilt at the end of a season so they are worked hard.  If your carry gun runs in a match it will run on the street.

The tactics on the other hand are marginal at best.  Is that bad, of course not, it just “is what it is”, whats bad is making it more than that.  Don’t go to a match to “learn” tactics, no matter how “practical” the RO  or match director tells you it is.  Its a game, play the game, have fun, and learn how to process information under stress and time constraints.  Seek out competent training provided by skilled professionals with experience that involves decision making and application with more relevance to real life.  Something with a shoot house or force on force training at some point.  You will find out pretty quickly what works and does not work when the bad guys shoot back, even if it is just a marking round.

We have become such a polarized world it is easy to forget that real life is not always an either / or proposition.  Firearms training is no different, there is value in both the competition and practical training world.  Attend both, learn what works and does not work, and train with an open mind.  It will be a ton more fun, infinitely more valuable, and it just may save yours or someone else’s life some day.