The following guest article was written and submitted by John Veit.
We welcome a variety of points of view on the subjects of shooting and marksmanship. Test them objectively on the range and let the results fall where they may.
Competition Shooting And Combat Shooting
by John Veit
What history, stats, and studies make clear, is that they are similar, but also dissimilar.
[Editor’s Note: Anything written before 1960 referring to “target shooting” is almost always a reference to conventional, bullseye-style competition as formal practical shooting did not yet exist.]
Way back in 1835, Lr. Col. Baron De Berenger said this about target and combat shooting:
“It certainly is amusing, and it proves cleverness, when we see a person snuff a candle with a pistol ball, or cut a wafer in two, but what is the use of it? since highway robbers, housebreakers, &c. will not allow time for taking a deliberate, or rather slow, aim through the sights; in battle it would prove destructive to yourself to so do: nay as even the duelist must not take aim aided by sights, wherefore my humble opinion is, that a pistol having a front sight only answers every useful, that is, self-protecting, purpose, provided you have acquired the habit of dropping you pistol neatly towards, or rather directly on, the object you intend to hit, all the while looking at it, rather than the pistol, and which, with very little practice, is easy enough…”
And Fairbairn and Sykes, in their 1942 book – Shooting To Live With The One Hand Gun, had this to say about target and combat shooting:
“Target shooting has its place and we have no quarrel with it…There probably will be a quarrel, however, when we go on to say that beyond helping to teach care in the handling of fire-arms, target shooting is of no value whatever in learning the use of the pistol as a weapon of combat.
“The two things are as different from each other as chalk from cheese, and what has been learned from target shooting is best unlearned if proficiency is desired in the use of the pistol under actual fighting conditions.”
THE NON CONNECTION BETWEEN COMBAT AND QUALIFICATION SCORES
In the NYPD’s dated, but still relevant, long term SOP 9 study of Police combat, 300 hundred comparisons were made in an attempt to establish a connection between an Officer’s ability to strike a target in a combat situation and his qualification scores. A connection between them was not established.
THE UBIQUITOUS TWO HANDED GRIP
And then there’s the ubiquitous two handed grip as seen in web presentations by top competitors, in how-to-shoot videos, and even in major gun maker catalogues. Well, another finding of the NYPD’s SOP 9 study, which encompassed 6,000+ Police combat cases, was that Officers, with few exceptions, fired with the strong hand.
THE BASIC MARKSMANSHIP GRIP
Basic marksmanship manuals call for placing the thumb along the side of the gun, while at the same time NOT pressing against the gun. And the index finger is to be held aloof from the gun, for squeezing the trigger smoothly and directly back until the shot breaks.
This is what Rex Applegate said about that in his book – Kill Or Be Killed:
“Visualize the first-class target shot in the following combat situation: It is dark, he is in an alley, a poorly lighted street, or a room in a building. He can hardly see his gun at arm’s length, to say nothing of the sights. His muscles are tense, his nerves keyed up to a fighting pitch.
“Suddenly the enemy starts shooting at him from an unexpected quarter.
“Even if he could see the sights, would he take the time to line them up and fire at the enemy’s gun flash? Does he take up the trigger slack and squeeze off the shot as he has been taught to do in target shooting?
“Will he make sure that his feet are properly positioned and that he is breathing correctly? He certainly will not! He will grip his gun convulsively, raise it, point or shove it in the general direction of the enemy, and pull (not squeeze) the trigger.
“…In daylight he will do exactly the same thing….
“…By proper training at combat ranges, man-killing accuracy, without the use of sights and with extreme speed, can be acquired by the average soldier or Police Officer. This can be done in less time, and with less expenditure of ammunition, than is required to become even a fair target shot.”
THE COMBAT CRUSH GRIP
With a crush grip, your thumb will be pushing the gun to the right, and your middle and ring and little fingers will torque it down and around to the left. And you will miss low and left, as is the case with most combat misses.
A NOTE ON MODERN POLICE TRAINING AND COMPETITION
Here’s some info and a quote from Michael Conti’s excellent book: The Officers Guide To Police Pistolcraft, on modern police training and competition.
The “Applegate” system was adopted and taught at the FBI Academy in Quantico in the 1940’s. Then, with a change in management, it was eased out and replaced with a firearms program that “required more initial training time to learn, and a greater amount of practice time to maintain proficiency….Since this version was also referred to as “point shooting” the very name began to be associated with a complicated and inefficient method of handgun deployment.”
The 1950’s also saw the rise of competition shoots and the popularity of the “…’new technique of the combat pistol,’ consisting of the Weaver Stance, quick draw, quick sight picture, and surprise shot break. Another bedrock component of the new technique was the preference for big bore 1911-type single-action, semiautomatic pistols, most notably in 45 ACP caliber.”
With the establishment of popular shooting schools, and the development of practical shooting associations, the term “combat handgun shooting” became synonymous with the competition-based and unrealistic shooting games. The NRA and its Law Enforcement Activities Division, also began to provide programs based on the competition model.
NOW YOU SEE THE SIGHTS, NOW YOU DON’T
The sights are key to effective competition shooting. But in a real CQB situation, you won’t be able to focus on them. That’s because in a real CQB situation, you will lose your near vision focus.
Our Fight or Flight response is triggered instinctively in a real CQB situation, and it dumps adrenaline into the blood stream. The adrenaline in turn, causes the muscle, which controls the shape of the flexible lens of the eye, to relax. The result is a flattening of the lens, which is the shape that enables focusing on far objects like the threat. And with the change in the shape of the lens (from thick to thin), near vision focus on objects like the sights, will be lost.
MOST ALL REAL SHOOTINGS HAPPEN AT LESS THAN 20 FEET
Another stat says that most all real shooting happen within 21 feet. And if you are going to be shot and or killed, there is an 80% chance that it will happen at less than 20 feet.
So, statistically speaking, if you train at distances over 20 feet more than 20% of the time, you will increase your chance of being shot and/or killed in CQB.
SS OR PS – WHICH IS FASTEST?
For me, using AIMED Point Shooting or P&S is way faster than using Sight Shooting, and noticeably faster than using another Point Shooting method at close quarters. And it is effective when standing still, when moving, and even when shooting aerials.
As to being faster than someone else, I may or may not be. I can only do what I can do. And I’m OK with that.
Much of modern Police training flows from competition shooting.
And competition shooting and combat shooting, as was said at the start, are similar but also dissimilar. What they certainly are not, are equivalents.
If they were, Police would be using the latest winningest ways, and all the crooks would be dead, or in hospital, or in jail. But that’s not the case. In the real world, the Police miss rate in CQB situations, is more than 80%.
And who or what’s to blame for that, the competitive shooting ways, or the trainers.
It hasn’t been that long ago when Officer’s were critized for being shot or killed, as that evidenced a lack of training, or practice, or commitment, or whatever. No one called into question the training or the trainers.
Well, given the level of Police casualties over the past several years, and a miss rate of more than 80% in CQB situations, I think it’s high time to question both.
Let the measure of successful combat shooting be a hit rate of 75% or more in CQB encounters. If it comes from emulating competition ways, that would be good. And if it comes from investigations of what works and what doesn’t, that also would be good.
Currently, we are a long long way from it.