Going to a formal class from a decent instructor is always a good idea. However, there are several reasons why attending local organized shooting events makes more sense. One of those reasons is on-going availability for minimal cost. Nearly nobody can possibly attend enough formal classes often enough and some kind of effort after class is essential. Attending organized shooting events to periodically test where you’re at is a good way to keep that continuing.
The following is from Jon Canipe, who served on Active Duty with the US Army as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant at 5th SFG(A) and was a Senior Instructor at the JFKSWCS, training SFQC students in planning, unconventional warfare, small unit tactics, CQB, and advanced marksmanship. He is a veteran of multiple combat tours, and still serves in the Army National Guard’s 20th SFG(A) in addition to working as an industry consultant and small arms instructor.
There is a potentially dangerous assumption by some people that you get all you need from your formal training. As an instructor I cannot make a person a master of anything we teach. As a student I cannot master a skill in 2-3 days a few times a year. You have to be willing to put the time in. An instructor can show you the way forward for success (or failure in some cases). You buy a bright, shiny set of tools when you train with professionals, but it is up to you to use them. There’s no doubt that it is a significant investment to train for the fight as it takes thousands of dollars to enroll in a top-level trainer’s course, buy ammunition, take vacation days, cover travel costs, lodging, food, and countless other small expenses. This isn’t sustainable for most people on a regular basis, but using those tools regularly on your own pays huge dividends for very little financial output. Dry firing is free. Drawing in front of the mirror costs nothing. Making sure your family knows what to do in various emergencies only costs you a little time and effort. We’ve all heard the saying “You never rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training.” Train constantly.
Just one thing to address: I absolutely don’t discount the guys who are competitive shooters. I have a lot of respect for the skills and dedication top-level competitors show. There’s a reason the Leathams, Voights, Sevignys, etc. of the world spend a ton of time teaching SOF guys to shoot: they know more about pure shooting. I love shooting with competitive shooters and think it remains some of the most valuable training guys who fight with guns for a job can participate in. I mean, who doesn’t want to shoot more gooder?
When you want to learn canopy control: hire pro skydiver
When you want to learn to drive the shit out of a car: hire a race car driver
When you want to learn to shoot: hire a MF-n shooter
Guys who totally poo-poo competition are pretty much fucksticks. Don’t judge us all just by what the loudest/dumbest (usually those go hand in hand) have to say on the Internet…most of us really like guys that burn shit down.