Does competitive shooting teach gun owners inappropriate self-defense gunfighting skills and instill dangerous habits? Entering the fray: Jeff Gurwitch [above]. The Army Special Forces vet is a kick-ass competitor at USPA matches. You can’t really expect a man who’s devoted some 11 years of his life to competitive shooting to say “Nope. Don’t do it” to self-defense shooters. And yet . . . reading between the lines of his article Military Marksmanship Training Versus Competitive Shooting Training: The Matchup at defensereview.com yields a conclusion that’s not a million miles way from that one. To wit . . .
Now, I know there are some shooters out there, both military and civilian, who believe competing in any shooting sport, USPSA 3-Gun, even IDPA, is not only unnecessary, but can even hurt your shooting skills. I believe this view is totally wrong. As long as you keep your training in the proper context and know that shooting in matches is not the same as the “real thing”, the benefits of competition cannot be overlooked.
Aye there’s the rub. Call it muscle memory or subconscious stimulus – response patterns, but the old adage “train as you mean to fight” doesn’t allow for instantaneous contextualization. In other words, what will you do when the going gets tough?
Gurwitch has mad fighting and competitive skills, and a little switch inside his noggin’ that allows him to toggle between the two. Me? You? The average shooter? MIA. In a high stress situation, we will revert to our most deeply ingrained training. We’re likely to use the techniques we’ve practiced the most and/or the skills we’ve previously deployed instintively under stress.
While a run-and-gun stage in USPSA teaches nothing in the way of tactics and how to stay alive in a gun fight, it does support two things that are required in any shooting situation: shooting fast and shooting accurately.
Nothing? Seriously. Nothing? That’s a scary statement; I’ve never heard it before from anyone who competes in these run ‘n gun type deals. If that’s true—and I have no reason to doubt this gun guru (or the rabbi who says these competitions teach you techniques that would get you killed on the street—shouldn’t self-defense shooters prone to automatic reactions under stress (i.e. all of them) avoid competiton like the plague? Apparently not.
Where better to learn how to shoot 4 to 5 shots per second strings accurately at targets than in competition? In addition to having to shoot at maximum speed with good hits, basic gun handling skills are reinforced during most courses of fire, including weapon presentations, reloading, clearing malfunctions/jams if they happen, and, most importantly, moving safely with a firearm that is ready to fire.
I think that’s more of a condemnation of most self-defense training and ranges than a recommendation for competitive shooting. And when Gurwitch says “safely” here, he means shooting without shooting yourself or a bystander. Elsewhere in the article, Gurwitch makes it clear that competition doesn’t teach the most important element of military (and by extension self-defense) gunfighting safety (in terms of not getting shot): shooting accurately whilst on the move.
I will add that I, myself, have never heard of someone in combat being required to do a 1-second reload with a pistol (something you need to be able to do in a match if you want to win). That said, acquiring that skill from competition definitely can’t hurt.
How great is that?