Outstanding write up by John Van Swearingen. Compare his comments to my reviews of the Magpul Dynamics DVD series he mentions below.


A Different Approach To Training: Shooting Better For The Sake Of Shooting Better
by John Van Swearingen
(The opinions below are those of the author, John Van Swearingen, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Gunfighters crew. No endorsement is implied by the mention of any brands or products. Further, the author is not that tough. You can probably take him.)

Back in 2008, the weirdest thing happened: firearms training became… sexy. Magpul posted the trailer for “Magpul Dynamics: Art of the Tactical Carbine” to YouTube that fall, and they released the DVD set shortly thereafter. It seemed like you couldn’t enter a barracks, attend a read-off, or go to the range without hearing two trigger-pullers talking about those videos.

Since then, there has been a renaissance of veteran soldiers, officers, and defense contractors starting training-based YouTube channels, releasing DVDs, buying billboards outside military bases, and utilizing social media, all with one objective in mind: selling you a spot in their training course. Production values and editing in these videos are top notch, and they look really cool.

These classes can teach you great lessons, but they may not be making you better as a shooter. Training is not only there to develop a shooter’s mindset, but the American shooter should not forget the most important part of training: getting better at shooting.

This is where the tactical shooting community as a whole could use a kick in the pants. Putting on your kit (and showing off your new plate carrier) and diving into “supine-urban-modular-dynamic-ninja-prone” can give you quality trigger-time and help introduce you to useful techniques, but the purpose of this article is to offer a different viewpoint about training and training classes: if you are not training like (or with) a high-level competitive shooter, you’re doing it wrong.

That’s Ridiculous

No, section title, you’re ridiculous. As a portion of the shooting community, advanced competitive shooters can generally run any given firearm proficiently than their peers. No, they may not have a tactically sound or particularly defensive mindset, but they can drive their gun like they freaking stole it. Everyone that shoots (especially those that count on their firearm to defend themselves and others) can learn something from that.

The biggest difference is the way the best competitors practice. They don’t just drill shooting positions or situations. They drill the very basics of firearms manipulation to an excess. Dry-firing. Reloads. Drawing to a sight picture. It is not unreasonable to claim that the best competitive shooters can shoot weak-handed while moving with a higher degree of proficiency than the average patrol officer can shoot two-handed. It all comes back to the attitudes toward training.

Well, That’s Insulting

It’s not meant to be insulting. Consider one of the archetypal arguments concerning defensive/tactical firearms training: sighted fire vs. point shooting. You can go to any forum or gun range and find this argument still being waged by everyone from combat veterans to casual gun enthusiasts. The best competitive shooters figured it out a long time ago, though. Simply put:

See what you need to see when you need to see it.

Most shooters do this subconsciously in one sense or another, but elite competitive shooters and trainers hone this skill just like the rest of the shooting community practices shooting groups. Do you know the distance at which you need to obtain a focused sight picture in order to ensure an accurate shot? Jerry Miculek does. Do you know to what degree this distance changes when you introduce target and/or shooter movement? Bob Vogel will. Have you figured out the fastest speed you can move to make acceptable hits at different ranges? Ben Stoeger probably does. Do you know how close you have to be for accurate point shooting?

Advanced competition shooters have practiced these skills ad nauseam, and if you count on a gun for work or the defense of your family, you should as well. Sure, every serious shooter has done “shooting and moving” training, but analyzing and drilling these skills like a serious competitive shooter can make the process of determining sufficient sight picture faster and more reflexive. That sounds like a serious tactical advantage.

But Doesn’t Competition Hurt Your Tactical Edge?

Look, this isn’t about just training tactics. This is about getting really damn good at the fundamentals. Taking a class with a competition instructor and shooting a serious IDPA or USPSA match will have great practical benefits. You will be forced to safely run your gun as hard as you can under the stress of a clock, and you will get useful feedback on your performance under stress without having to do an incident report or a full-blown AAR. This can give you valuable insight into your personal limits and help further your development as an armed citizen or professional.

A great competition mentor may not have real-world tactical experience (or they may be a certified badass like Frank Proctor), but they can help you take the fundamentals of shooting and push them. Hard. Good training can take a strong shooter with a sound tactical mindset, push them past a basic perception of “combat effectiveness,” and help them realize that they can shoot consistently, accurately, and quickly to a much higher level under stress.

Okay, Finish It Up

If you are military, LE, security, or a defensively-minded civilian, you owe it to yourself to reassess your training budget and branch out. Take the war-belts-and-plate-carriers, no BS, balls-out tactical course. Learn lessons from those who have already been in foreign combat or LE shootings. See how hard you can drive your favorite carbine or pistol, make sure your gear works in the dirt, and learn valuable lessons that you can bring back to your unit, agency, or household.

Instead of taking ONLY those courses, though, try to hook up with a decent competition instructor, and shoot a match whenever you can. Compete with yourself; play by whatever “rules” they ask you to. Do not treat that class or match like a tactical training session. Treat it as an opportunity for you and your gun to find out just exactly how hard you can go. You can (and will) get better if you take a step back… and work on simply shooting better. Eyes. Hands. Trigger. Repeat.

What was the last class you took, and what is the next training session on your schedule?

Bonus Question: Have you shot a competition or taken any competition training recently, and how do you think it has affected you as a shooter?