Why competitive shooting should be a part of every LEO's routine

Competitive shooting will humble you – and that’s a good thing. It reveals weaknesses you weren’t aware of

By Quinn Cunningham, PoliceOne Contributor 

I decided to try competition shooting to see how I would perform against a wide range of shooters. I felt it necessary to fairly assess my skills and abilities as a law enforcement officer, SWAT Operator and Lead Firearms Instructor for a large agency. Competition shooting changed me and the lesson plan development for my agency, both for the better. 

My experience and knowledge in competition shooting was minimal. So after an internet search, I found the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation. The GSSF was a great start for me since I shoot Glocks. It features three courses of fire that are fairly straightforward. There is no holster work, reloads or movement and every course of fire starts in the ready position with magazines loaded to 10 rounds.

Competitive shooting has made me a better shooter by preparation and constructively learning from my failures.
Competitive shooting has made me a better shooter by preparation and constructively learning from my failures.

When I arrived for my training, the staff and other shooters were nice and accommodating, which was suspicious to me as a jaded law enforcement officer. After signing in, it was off to the ranges. The first plate rack stage was called “Glock the plates.”

The RO told me to load and make ready. When I was loaded, he asked if I was ready and I nodded. The time between that nod and the timer buzzing seemed like an eternity and was a defining moment.

In that space of time, the weirdest things happened. First, my left leg and arms started to quiver, my breathing increased and a caveman seemed to take over.  I raised my Glock and found my sights, which quivered with the same frequency as the rest of my body.

The resounding cadence of fire sounded like a few hits and a whole lot of misses. The three strings of fire after that sounded similar. When finished the RO to me to unload and show clear. This task was fairly simple since my slide was locked back on an empty mag as if my handgun was judging me. 

The other stages resulted in the same, almost deplorable, performance. The ride home was very sullen. My brain could not understand why a big, bad SWAT guy would have such a negative response to a timer and a very simple course of fire. I had been on hundreds of tactical operations and spent over a decade in patrol. 

Mind over matter

I found that my failure was all between my ears – an inflated ego and under-preparation. I started to research the mindset and mental toughness aspects of this profession and all sports. I read Grossman and Siddle, among others. Looking back on my career, I never received any training that would have prepared me for such a situation other than at the academy back in 1995.

After the GSSF, I started to dry fire and was deliberate in my live fire training sessions. I developed a specific training plan that developed my skills in a professional law enforcement capacity and in competition stages. Competitive shooting has made me a better shooter by preparation and constructively learning from my failures. It’s training all police officers should consider.  

Author the author
Quinn Cunningham is a Deputy with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado. He has been in law enforcement for 21 years and a member of the SWAT Team since 2000. He is currently assigned as the Assistant Academy Director.  Quinn is a member of the Colorado P.O.S.T. Firearms Subject Matter Expert Committee and the owner of Fortitude Training Concepts LLC, a firearms training company geared towards Law Enforcement, Military and responsible American citizens.  

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