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Firearms Competition: A Driving Force to Officer Survival


Serious participation in competitive shooting enhances your chances of survival while on duty. In fact, each competition you participate in is a step in the right direction, driving you toward improvement, and making you more prepared for the hazards of law enforcement.

The skills, knowledge and attitude which are required to handle firearms safely, confidently and accurately during competition are the same skills, knowledge and attitude that are essential to all armed law enforcement officers while on the job. The fundamental proficiency and wisdom that you gain during firearm competitions are invaluable to your livelihood.

Opinions vary as to which type of firearm competition is the most practical and job-specific. In my opinion, this argument only bogs us down. In reality, each and every one of the firearms competitive events and styles are capable of providing reinforcement and training in law enforcement firearms proficiency. That’s what is important, the fact that you practice with your firearms. At the particular moment that a lesson (learned in training) is applied while on-duty and under pressure, we come to realize that no other area of law enforcement instruction is as critical as the skills learned in firearms training. Your own life, the life of a brother officer or fellow citizen may be affected by the manner in which you use your firearm.

Some of the best training law enforcement officers receive is the training that comes long after their academy experience. Fortunately, continuing education can result from other activities, such as organized competitive firearms programs. Conducted in a shooting match setting, these competitions require all of the participants to demonstrate vital skills to handle their firearms safely, accurately and confidently. Accuracy is obviously important, and is a necessary element of firearms competition. However, there are many additional benefits of competition which will help you to be a more confident and capable officer, while performing your regular duties.

An extra dose of confidence is needed for those officers who normally work as a single patrol unit. We all know the realities of backup officers being delayed, especially in the more rural areas. It is unrealistic to depend upon a backup officer to arrive in time to prevent your injury or death, should a situation turn deadly. Instead, you must prepare in advance by training, and there’s nothing quite like firearms competition to set you straight on where you really stand.

At the risk of dating myself, an experience early in my career shows an example of one of the ways in which competition drives training. After making a pretty good showing at some local matches, I borrowed a 6” revolver with adjustable sights and entered the NRA National Police Revolvers Championships. I shot the first six rounds, unloaded and I dug into my right front pants pocket to grab six loose bullets. I thought I was pretty fast when I finished my first six, and started to reload the next six loose rounds.

To my surprise, a New York City police officer, on the next target to my right, had already started shooting his second six shots before I was able to reload the first two cartridges in my empty cylinder. I almost panicked. I thought that I had lost all sense of time! Finally, when that stage was over, I asked him: “How did you reload so quickly?”

His reply: “Don’t you have speedloaders?” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but you can bet your boots that before I left that competition, I had speedloaders too. This is just one example of how we learn from others while at competitive events. New equipment, new techniques; new methods of shooting the various stages and positions are always cropping up, and these improvements always show up first at firearms competitions. I saw this personally, and as a result of my competitive experiences, my own department discarded our traditional dump pouches from our duty belts, and replaced them with speed loaders for all troopers.

Those old revolvers and speedlloaders have long ago been replaced by semiautomatic pistols with 16-round magazines, and dedicated lights and new holsters. However, today, just as in the past, new weapons and accessories are constantly being tested in the ultimate proving ground–firearms competitions which require competitors to use equipment that is carried while on duty. Officers who enter these matches get to see how the equipment works in actual operation, another benefit of competition. And, more importantly, they get to see this happen while they are under the real-time stress of competition. If you want to learn how to do something the right way, ask an expert.

Firearms competitions have their own brand of experts — they are the ones with the best scores. Shooting champions are normally more than happy to answer a few questions. All you have to do is be friendly and be a good listener. They will normally share their secrets with you, if you approach them properly with respect to their concentration and preparation time for the match itself.

Overall, there are no downsides to participating in firearms competitions. Not only do they provide additional training and weapon-handling experience, they also tend to personally motivate you to perform at a higher level. The combination of practice and competition will undoubtedly make you a better shooter, giving you an edge in the confidence department.

More Information

United States Practical Shooting
PO Box 811
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284
Phone (360) 855-2245

National Rifle Association Competitions Division
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone (800) 612-3888

International Defensive Pistol
2232 CR 719
Berryville, AR 72616
(870) 545-3886

MGM Ironman Match
17891 Karcher Rd.
Caldwell, ID 83607
(888) 767-7371 or ( 208) 454-0555

Tri-Gun Challenge
3312 12th Street SE
Saint Cloud, MN 56304
(320) 258-4448

Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun
Mesa, AZ

D & L Sports
International Tactical Rifleman’s
P.O. Box 651
Gillette, WY 82717
(307) 686-4008

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