Competition vs Tactical

As a continuation from the previous article, I tried to keep this article short, but it was a bit difficult to do without specifically addressing certain areas. The overall point that I’m trying to illustrate are the tactics, techniques, and procedures and how one set of TTPs will impact the other.

In all fairness, you cannot really compare competition TTPs to that of a defensive/tactical TTPs. Those are really two different mindset.

I will admit that I’ve been hesitant in publishing this article. Only because I don’t consider myself an expert in either as a competitive or defensive/tactical shooter. What I do want to address is to the comment that certain people (gamers) had claimed that competition shooting is training for the real world and why I disagree.

Therefore, in this “brief” article (note sarcasm), here are the talking points I’m going to touch on from my (limited experience) point of view.

  • The Gamer’s Mindset
  • Gaming For Points
  • Training Scars
    • Stage Design
    • Speed vs Accuracy
    • The Sight Checks
    • It’s All About the Trigger
    • Unload Show Clear
    • On Reloading
    • Moving And Shooting
    • Cover And Concealment

Please note that this is a very long ass article and will probably seem more like a ranting from a noob. Either way, this will probably and hopefully be the last time I write about this topic. Unless, of course, there are some other interesting points that I may have missed.

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The Gamer’s Mindset

What I enjoy about watching the gamers do their thing is their knack of figuring out a shooting order within a short amount of time. Whether I agree with them or not, I have to give it to them that they are in fact always looking for that solution.

I like the fact that they are always about pushing their gear to the point of failure. Constantly physically modifying and tweaking their firearms, hoping that the light trigger they installed will give them that fast rate of fire while hoping it improves their accuracy. Or edging and rounding that mag well to give them that faster reload. It’s that edge of winning that seem to drive them to thinking uniquely.

For me, what I initially got out of the whole competitive thing was learning how to deal with the pressure of time. For a lot of people, just hearing that buzzer going off, it’s like a magical switch that turns you into a bag of cluster fucks and all that basic training you had just goes to shit. So over time, with enough matches and training, I’ve been able to deal with that.

However, I didn’t care much for trying to solve a stage beforehand. Really in my mind, you never get a chance to do a walkthrough during a defensive scenario.

Gaming For Points

It wouldn’t be called a game if it didn’t have rules. While I understand some of these (if not all of these) rules were created for range safety, some say that the rules were also created to challenge the gamers in doing certain “tasks and conditions”.

The gamers will always call in questions about their scores. If the hit is “on the line”, they will fight tooth and nail just to get that advantage of being counted as a hit. Or if their feet crossed that line, watch out; they will demand an “instant replay” just to prove the RO wrong.

Speaking of which, I find it interesting that the Range Safety Officer is also the referee score keeper. Shouldn’t the Range Safety Officer primary job really be focused on that of safety? I find it pretty distracting that the RO needs to be multitasking in score keeping while being cognizant for safety.

I mean, who’s going to really question the RO Score Keeper if he decides to give his friends a pass on questionable shoots and doctor their time? After all, this is all about good sportsmanship right?

But we should all be reminded, that when you draw your firearms out in the streets, its not for points and the rules of engagement is very much different. No matter what, defensive shooting is for life and death, in which you can never get an instant replay or be able to question your misses or hits. You are responsible for every shot you take and the only line you should worry about is that line between the gray areas of a righteous defensive shoot. There is nothing black and white about it.

Training Scars

Drawing from my experience as a student of defensive shooting first, I made a statement that competition shooting has taught me bad habits that will lead to bad training scars. In fact, I’ve written about it quite a few times in previous post, namely with certain competitive organization like IDPA. The gamers say that they can easily flick a mental switch when to be “tactical” and when to “game” it. So according to them, there is no such thing as a training scar. But I disagreed.

Let start off with the game itself.

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Stage Design

Have you ever looked at a course of fire and wonder why you would shoot a questionable target that has a “no-shoot” target in front of it? What was that four rules of gun safety again in regards to knowing what is in your surrounding foreground and background?

From a gaming perspective, I totally get it. They are challenging to engage as a stage, but I find that some of these courses of fire they setup really present bad scenarios in which I would probably not engage in a defensive situation, unless I am able to move to a ideal spot to my advantage. In the gamer’s world, they’ve eliminated a lot of variables that can affect your real time decision. So you will never have to worry about the consequences or the aftermath of a shooting.

Misses are penalize with added time. Misses in the real world could result in unintentional collateral death, arrests, property damages, civil suit or all.

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Speed vs Accuracy

What’s seems to be clear with these gaming events is that “speed” is rewarded over accuracy. Look at any scoreboard, it’s usually the guy that has the fastest time that wins. Sure there are penalties but really, those penalties don’t really reenforce the aspect that accuracy is more important. Ken Hackathorn has a great article on some of the questionable “habits” he witnessed.

“Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.” – Wyatt Earp

One gamer told me that he wants to be the fastest shooter because he can quickly hit the bad guys. So I threw back a comment, that he took as a personal attack (after he told me that tactical shooting will get me killed) in which I asked him, how is he able to identify threat targets as fast as he’s shooting?

How do you know if that guy holding a gun isn’t an undercover/off-duty cop? Or a fellow conceal carrier?

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The Sight Checks

This is something that I just don’t get. Gamers will want to walk through the stage and figure out the optimal way to run the stage. But if you put it a real world context, you actually don’t have that opportunity. I really don’t go into a building and “air gun” my way around the building in case I end up in an active shooter scenario.

However, what I do try to do often is my OODA loop. You can still walk into a building and have a strong sense of situational awareness if you observe, orient, and have a decision plan to act. If you’re relying on “air gunning” a stage to figure how you’re going to shoot a stage, then you probably don’t have a very good situational awareness. I’ve seen countless gamers walk through stages and they still would miss one or two targets or worst, get a procedural for whatever.

Now I get the whole walkthrough on a stage, but like I said, those stage designs are questionable and the rules they put on shooting a stage itself is overly complicated. But that’s why it’s a game and not real world shit right?

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It’s All About the Trigger

This one gets me laughing all the time, and it doesn’t apply to just the gamers. It really apply to a lot of the new and mediocre shooters in general. I’ve written in another article that I don’t know what a “shitty trigger” is. Unless it’s broken, I don’t have an issue with them.

As my shooting experience grew, I eventually appreciate having light triggers as it really does help in aiding with your shooting performance. The keyword here is “aiding”. In fact, I often question why the manufacturers would install a heavy ass trigger and yet, their customers are quick to swap them out for lighter triggers? Is it because they really don’t have a good solid grasp on trigger control? Can you honestly say that after shooting a 3-4lb trigger that you can perform the exact same way with an 8-10lb double-action trigger?

On a side note, I actually do understand why manufacturers would use a heavy trigger pull, especially if they have a defense contract or government standards to meet. But still, it makes me wonder why the others do it too.

There are quite a few people whom I’ve met and that can really handle any type of firearms effectively and still make that same precise shot over and over again regardless of the shitty trigger. Then there are those who will make any excuse to blame the trigger and not their skills.

I personally am starting to understand the difference and importance of having a 4-5lb trigger in my gun versus that factory 15lb trigger that sits in my everyday pistol. But yet, I am very confident in using it “as is” and still be able to repeat that same performance, if not better, on the light triggers.

So the question I pose is whether or not light triggers are nothing more than a crutch that mask a deficiency in the fundamentals, liking flinching and dipping the gun? One gamer told me that he is “driving” the pistol down on purpose. I don’t understand what he meant by “driving” it, but all I can see was that he flinched a lot and wondered if he’s compensating for it by holding over his targets.

Unload Show Clear

In the gaming world, whenever I got done shooting a stage, I was quick to release my mag and clear my gun. While this is acceptable for the gaming world, this was a detriment to my personal training. In some of the classes that I took, I found myself to “automatically” repeat this same process when in fact the instructor told me to keep it hot and holster it.

I knew better and yet robotically I kept “unloading and show clear”. My past training has always taught me to top off my gun and keep it ready. That’s right Iceman, I’m talking about reloading the gun or doing my tactical reloads or whatever I need to do to get my gun back into the fight. Yet I found myself doing this bad process a couple of times until I finally was able to break that habit and retrain myself to do it correctly. And you know what, I found that to be really disturbing. Am I the only one that was dumb enough to do this? Or was it my lack of experience that I can’t even flick that gamer mode to tactical mode?

Turns out, after I spoke to my instructor and a few other instructors, this is quite a common thing for competition shooters (in general) or someone with no formal defensive/tactical training to be doing. He said that the majority of the gamers that he called out pretty much callously stated that “oh, I’ll remember it next time” and yet they don’t. Or they will have the big balls to say “well this is training and it’s not the real world”.

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On Reloading

Other bad habits, which I’ve been lucky so far to have not done, is dumping partially loaded mags onto the ground. However some of this is mandated by the gaming rules. I have also seen this in another (questionable) “tactical” training class. But the instructor’s argument is this:

“You’re in a gunfight and the last thing you need to worry about is that mag with 2 or 3 bullets laying on the the ground.”

Therefore, his “tactical” reload is really doing an emergency reload and letting that partially used mag hit the deck.

So I had to ask the student why would you be doing a half-ass tactical reload in the middle of a gunfight? If you are reloading your gun in the lull or opportunistic time, then why not put away that partially used mag? (On a side note, he mentioned that tactical reloads are stupid.)

I will say from personal experience that whenever I drop a partially used mag, it’s mostly because I’m dealing with malfunctions. And you know what? I forget to pick that mag up because I’m too busy moving forward once I got my gun back into the fight.

Now here is my biggest pet peeve…

I’ve been told many times, by competition shooters, that I need to keep my arms locked out with the muzzle pointed down range when I reload. Ummm ok sure, I get it. It’s a “safety” factor.

But what I don’t want is that added two cents of bullshit “training advice” that in the real world, doing this same technique will allow me to “keep my eye on the target” and “blah blah blah”. Well, going back to body mechanics, efficiency and my defensive/tactical training, I always bring the gun into my “workspace” to control my reload. Nothing about their way of doing it proves it to be a better method. I also really find it ridiculous trying to keep your arms extended and fight your way into loading your gun. Ironically, these same dudes really don’t follow their own advice.

So I’m going to call bullshit on that.

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Moving And Shooting

One of the biggest thing I love about doing competitive shooting is the ability to move and shoot. That’s something that I can’t do in an indoor range. A few of my tactical classes I’ve taken only had some sort of moving and shooting as well. While they are limited, I’ve tried to make up for it in my dry fire session, but it’s still not quite the same.

Sadly though, there are quite a few gaming matches that do not allow such moving and shooting, which I find it to be a training scar because if someone is shooting at you why would you be standing still? Yeah, I know, it’s a game and paper targets ain’t gonna shoot back.

But in the event you do have to move (like up range), you’re are forced to keep the gun pointed down range, which is really a bad technique. Not only because it is totally inefficient in terms of body mechanics and movement, it’s really awkward (and in my opinion, more dangerous) to be running with your arm fully extended backwards while holding your pistol, as you run up range or where ever you need to go. This will also teach you to do that in a defensive situation and therefore makes its a true training scar. Again, not really efficient cause no one runs like that in the real world. Ever.

At this point, I understand why they set that rule on the flat range, but if I’m competent to run my gun in 360 degree, then I can run it with my gun with either in the SUL or high ready position or however I need to, depending on the current situation. Why? It’s because I have a true grasp of muzzle discipline.

On a side note, I really find that whole debate on whether or not you should be doing “high ready” is really quite dumb. But that’s for another future article.

However here is something I’m underlining, in terms of moving and shooting, which is: why would you deny me that small opportunity to work on a critical skill set? Right, it’s for “safety”.

On another semi-related note for training scar: Weapons transition.

In some, if not all of the multi-gun gaming events I’ve attended, it is required that the rifle must be on safe, magazine out, unloaded, and an empty chamber (which the shooter must check), before going to any of your other firearms. Some 3-Gun matches I’ve been to only require me to use “mechanical safe” before dumping my rifle. Yet, the biggest “cock blocking” move for weapon transition, is that I’m not allowed to holster my pistol once it has been drawn and used to engage a stage. Instead, I have to dump it in a bucket before I can pick up my rifle or shotgun. Really???

WHY…..???? Oh yeah, it’s for “safety” reasons. By the way, the same can be said about not slinging a rifle or shotgun when transitioning to pistol.

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Cover And Concealment

A lot of these matches I’ve been to all use some sort of barricades. Yet, I often wonder why would they bother putting it up if no one really uses them properly? Every gamer that I’ve seen on the stages all seem to plow through doors with guns blazing, or disregard slicing the pie and such. Even funnier is seeing them popping their head up over the blue barrels to take shots instead of shooting around it.

The Mindset

This topic is pretty important to me. I’ve learned in general is that without the proper mindset; achieving your goals will be very difficult. It’s no secret that it’s been a real struggle for me to really cross that line of being a competitive shooter and a defensive shooter.

At my current level, still I find that to be really tough being able to switch from defensive to gamer mode.

Yet I still cannot fully participate in competitive shooting, embracing it for everything that it supposedly offers. I find the game rules ridiculous as they do instill training scars and does not help me to be a better “defensive shooter”. I guess if I didn’t do competition so much, maybe it wouldn’t be a problem.

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Final Thoughts

As I am writing out this article, it’s becoming quite clear that I’ve been laying down points to convince myself further to just stop doing competitive shooting altogether. But as a much as I love to get out there and put in some trigger time, it will always going to be a real struggle for me to fight that urge to “win competitively” while doing what I really want to do, which is to be a competent defensive shooter.

If you noticed, throughout the article, I’ve emphasis that a lot of the competition events is about safety, and that is a good thing. But it is in my opinion, that some of these excessive rules for “safety” is also a training scar in it’s self. All it does is really hampers the shooter’s ability to really be competent in regards to handling the firearms in the correct and proper way.

It’s funny how everyone talks about “Colonel Jeff Cooper’s Four Basic Rules Of Firearm Safety”, yet at most range there are over 20 rules listed on their walls. Take a look at the competition events and some of the rulebooks outline 15 pages on safety. Either Jeff Cooper’s rules are inadequate or people are just too lazy and incompetent to make the effort to understand. If everyone truly understood the importance of the “FOUR” rules, do you think it would be necessary to have all of these other “safety rules”?

Maybe with time and more experience, I can win it without compromising my core foundation and principles as a defensive shooter. A sound advice my instructor once told me was to ask myself these three questions in regards to my firearms training; which could also be applied to life in general as well.

1. What are you doing?
2. Why are you here?
3. What is your purpose?

If I apply those three questions before every stage I plan to shoot, then maybe, maybe I will be in the right mindset to achieve what it is I set out to do. By now, I’m sure if anyone who actually read this entire long ass rambling piece, will probably come to a conclusion that I’m just an idiot that can’t hack it on the competition field. And maybe that is true.

Who knows, maybe in another year or when I’m a little more seasoned, I can look back at this article and either reaffirm my beliefs or completely dismiss this entire article with a different train of thought.