The false claim that competition shooting somehow induces bad habits or training scars for defensive or other uses is popular. It is based on imagined problems and continues because too many people prefer to repeat nonsense without ever bothering to research or participate and learn first hand.

Here is an example how this myth propagates.

Trainer and competitor Mike Seeklander posted an article about observations made during a student training session. The observed problem was students were immediately unloading and showing clear instead of performing a scan and holster and remaining loaded after their run, regardless if they won or not.

April 2
Key Observations: Anomalies During Student vs. Student Shoot-offs (and why they happen)
by Mike Seeklander

So, on the first run of the day guess what happens? The shooter on the left finishes the run…..and….unloads their gun (without a scan process)! I tell the student to remain loaded, and holster. The second and third groups move to the shooting line and begin the drill upon my commands, and guess what happens several more times? You guessed it, several of them continue to either unload completely, or go through part of the unloading process. At that point I stop the group, discuss the rules, and once again tell them the procedures of the event. Now remember, they have been drilling and going through a post engagement scan process for about a day and a half now, so they understand the concept. They are also left to shoot through the training drills (prior to the shoot-off) and ONLY after the line looks like everyone is done shooting do I verify that the group is unloaded (they are out of ammo at that point) with the “unload and show clear” command. So they understand the concept. So why aren’t they following instructions?

Again the next several groups go through the drill and you can probably guess by now what happens…multiple students finish the drill, and UNLOAD their gun! How can this be? Are they unruly and disregarding my instructions? No, they are not. They are going through a stress induced anomaly that comes out when the brain is reaching for something to do.

Nowhere in the article does Seeklander claim (or even hint) this has anything to do with competition shooting. In fact, one astute commenter preemptively addressed the myth before it was stated.

I taught a class last week with a similar happening. We finished the class with a scenario and a couple of shooters unloaded at the end. They weren’t even competitive shooters. It’s the idea “I’m done and this is over” that got them, I think.

Claude Werner

Of course, being a popular myth, someone was going to reach that conclusion irrespective of the facts presented.

I believe a lot of what you are referencing here isn’t actual “training scars” but instead “competition scars,” (referring to the unloading after the drill.) Your student market consists of a high degree of competition folks, as this is where you market your classes to. As a counter point, at The Firearms Academy of Seattle, we seldom see a competition shooter in our classes, and the phenomenon you discuss if virtually non-existent from our shooters.

– Marty Hayes

Seeklander immediately replied and addressed this:

No. None of the students in the competition were competitive shooters, or at least the ones that unloaded weren’t. It happens consistently across the board, irregardless if the shooter is a competitive shooter.

Pretty clear. As Seeklander points out in his article and direct response, this is a potential problem for all shooters. Competition doesn’t induce bad habits. In fact, organized shooting events such as competition are an ideal way to identify potential problems. This particular problem did not manifest during the previous range training. Seeklander, again:

At this point in the class I stop the group and point it out, as well as some other observations and mistakes they are making during the drill that NEVER happened during the previous training drills. The teaching point is clear, stress causes things to happen that you might not predict.

These shooters weren’t having the problem in the class previously and it took competitive pressure to reveal it. Perhaps this lack of stress is the reason some trainers claim such mistakes are virtually non-existent from their shooters. Instead of revealing the potential problem in a stress event on the range where it can be safely fixed, they’ll have to wait for a stress event elsewhere.

Doesn’t matter. People enjoy the myth that competition shooting causes problems and like to spread it.

April 14
Editor’s Notebook: No, Not Taxes
– Rich Grassi

Mike Seeklander noted and pointed out ‘training scars’ – a behavior ingrained through repetition on the range that runs against that which is appropriate on the street. His piece had to do with observations he’d made during training events he taught in which he had students participate in a shoot-off. Like most of us, he feels that competition can be helpful in driving up the appropriate type of stress and to harden the retention of lessons learned in the class. He specifically orders all student to holster a loaded sidearm (in my opinion, always a good idea) because the competition goes through several iterations.

He then watches and identify those who regularly compete. At the end of their student-vs.-student exercise, the regular competitor reflexively removes the magazine and empties the chamber to “show clear.”

After seeing it, he reminds them And watches, as shooter after shooter plays “unload, show clear” after each string. A habit, once fire-formed in competition, is agonizingly tough to break.

See what happened there? We went from an article about a defensive class having nothing to do competition, where a commenter ASS-U-MEd it was competition related, had the author and another instructor point out this was not the case, yet it was followed up by at least one separate article claiming problems by competitors were done “reflexively” and were “fire-formed in competition.”

Competition didn’t cause any problems and the author never claimed that. In fact, competition identified existing problems that weren’t revealed in another manner. Had Seeklander eliminated the shootoff competition for his students this problem may not have been identified.

Sadly, too few are interested in such facts. Take a few random, anonymous, Internet posters/commenters passing this along, combine with some old-fashioned barrack/locker room philosopher regurgitation, and stir in a huge vat of people that will take repeated nonsense at face value and never research or participate in what’s claimed. Jump to false conclusions and repeat for years and you’re left with “games’ll getcha killed.”

Yes, sometimes even people claiming a desire to stop the spread of such nonsense end up doing it themselves.

“I’ve seen several myths promulgated in the recent past – it’s the internet again — and it’s time to take a look at them.”

Yes, Mr. Grassi, there are myths promulgated on the Internet, including by people that should know better.