Why police should participate in competitive shooting sports

Anyone who has competed or watched competitive shooters in USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, 3-Gun Nation, and other action-shooting sports knows just how fast and accurate these shooters can be


This article is — in part — a rebuttal to David Windham’s article on “5 reasons why competitive shooting falls short of real-world training.” It is a peer-to-peer conversation about the value that competition adds to any training program and why I believe it is an essential element of your training program.

Mr. Windham wrote, “A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.”

Interesting statement — how then does one go about being able to beat the best in the world on your worst day? Does this happen while training safely on your range without any sense of what being the best in the world actually means? Do we make assumptions about our presumed skill level without ever being tested against another human being? Is the street the only place where valid testing occurs?

Pictured is competitive shooter Gagan Narang. (AP Image)
Pictured is competitive shooter Gagan Narang. (AP Image)

Accuracy, Power, Speed
Mr. Windham makes the statement that competition is about single shots on target and that speed is largely irrelevant in gunfighting. He talks about how accuracy is not important to competitive shooters. He also takes issue with the way 3-gun shooters hold their carbines when shooting rapidly and apparently has come up with a much better way of holding the carbine when shooting fast and accurately. This leads me to conclude that he has formed his opinion not through participation in competitions but rather from the sidelines.

Competition is about testing your will and your skill against other competitors. It teaches you to manage your emotions, manage your thinking and manage your weapon. It tests your ability to perform under duress. It can be unforgiving, but it will actually show where your real skill lies when it is put to the test as opposed to what you do when there is no consequence and you get to “do it over.”

Competition need not be formal. It can be as simple as two people competing on a drill with the gear they carry. However, when you become the big fish in the small pond, it is time to look for bigger waters.

This is where the arena of more formal competition comes in. On any given day, in any region of the United States or the world, there are skilled shooters who are more than happy to test themselves against the “best in the world”. If you don’t know what kind of skill is out there, how do you know how good you really are?

Delusional thinking about your superiority will get you killed way faster than any form of competition you participate in.

Jeff Cooper — founder of Gunsite and the sport of IPSC — uses the motto “Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas” as the operating principles. They stand for: Accuracy, Power, Speed. There needed to be a blend of accuracy with speed, using a weapon of sufficient power to deliver an incapacitating hit.

NASCAR, MMA, USPSA, and IPSC
Anyone who has competed or watched competitive shooters in USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, and 3-Gun Nation know just how fast and accurate these shooters can be.

Do you think that a skilled MMA fighter doesn’t have an advantage over the average person in a street fight? Do you honestly believe that a NASCAR race car driver can’t outdrive you in a street car? Do you think they are robots who cannot function out of their arena?

Yet, time and time again, many firearms instructors will rail against competitive shooting and expound on how they are superior to competitive shooters when it comes to shooting fast and accurately under pressure. It just isn’t true. They refuse to be tested; refuse to believe they are not what they think they are and continue to believe that somehow they will win a gunfight because they are “more tactical.”

Please explain to me how — at three to five yards in the open, person-to person contact with a subject on the street — you are going to be better than a competitive shooter who trains far more than you do? How will you perform better than a person who can move and shoot faster and more accurately than you can, who has the will to win honed by countless hours of competition and has better basic tactical concepts than you? Do you honestly believe they are going to “cave” when the moment of truth arrives? Do you think they cannot react to subject cues and are going to wait for a start buzzer to get into action?

I can give you numerous examples of competitive shooters having to put their skills to the test in real world challenges. Further, I would trust a USPSA or action pistol competitor behind me in any situation because I know their finger won’t be on the trigger with the muzzle pointing in my direction.

Anyone who has competed or watched competitive shooters in USPSA, IPSC, Steel Challenge, 3-Gun Nation, and other action-shooting sports knows just how fast and accurate these shooters can be — both stationary and on the move. Many attend tactical training courses. A lot of them are cops or military as well with plenty of real world experience.

Mental, Physical, and Emotional Control
Competitive shooting, blended with tactical training and tactical thinking and other skills areas, leads to a superior performer who knows just how good he/she is on any given day with the equipment they are carrying.

I can personally attest to the fact that competitive shooting training and competition — along with other training — aided me greatly by providing me with the mental, physical, and emotional control skill to confront deadly force situations in a calm manner without overreacting.

If you want to know how good you are, you need to compete and find out. If you want to be the best you can be, competition will get you there faster and more surely than any other way I know. Putting yourself to the test needs to happen before you get in a gunfight and there is no better way to learn to deal with pressure then by competing and learning to manage pressure and make it work for you.

What you do in a training class is not what you can do in a competition.

Jeff Cooper designed man versus man competition as well as the sport of IPSC precisely because he realized how competition honed gunfighting skills.

There is no doubt in my mind that a hard core competitive shooter is one of the toughest people to beat in the world when it comes to a straight up gun fight — especially with handguns.  

About the author

Ron Avery is President and Director of Training for The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. and Executive Director of the non-profit, Rocky Mountain Tactical Institute - both training institutions dedicated to professional firearms and tactics courses, higher police standards and training and use of force research.

Contact Ron Avery

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