by Ralph Mroz
Over the years I’ve written a few articles on the difference between training for match competitions and training for the street. I have found that my opinion has changed over the last few years in that I find more value in competitive-orientated shooting that I used to. In no particular order, here’s the things – pro and con – that have influenced my current state of mind on the matter:
- There is a lot more to street self defense than shooting, but shooting is a critical and central component of it.
- Competitive shooters are the best pure shooters, so if you want to learn to shoot, competitive training is how you’ll get good at it.
- Competitive shooting can train some bad habits into you. For example, you can shoot too fast (that is, faster than you can assess the situation), cover is treated as an inconvenience rather than a life-saving opportunity, you shoot without vocalization, penalties for misses are not life-destroying, among others. [Editor’s note: All of these can – and are – mitigated by course design if that is the goal.]
- You can mitigate the disadvantages of competitive training by doing it only as a sideline compared to street training or by shooting competitions with street gear and using street tactics. You can also modify competitive training drills to be more realistic while retaining their shooting improvement quality. [Editor’s note: A significant portion of all effective training, for competition or otherwise, is developing fundamental skills. Concerning firearm use, there is no difference in fundamental skills with street training or competition.]
- Now that so many men have retired out of our top-tier special forces (Delta, whatever 6 is called this week, and so on) and are teaching serious members of the public and LE, we have more insight into their training methods, which, and this is important, have been validated in copious close-quarter combat engagements since 2003. One thing that strikes me is just how much a good deal of their training seems to resemble competitive training, which is no real surprise in that every SF unit has a top competitive shooter that they regularly get instruction from.
- Competitive shooters, in order to get an edge, slick up their guns with a too-light trigger. Yes, Rule Three is the ultimate safety, but on the street you have to expect to get startled, bumped, trip and fall, as well as get into physical struggles. During these events your finger can involuntarily come onto the trigger, and a trigger weight less than 5 pounds — and ideally more — is just too light. [Editor’s note: All military and many civilian venues (notably Production/Stock/Standard divisions) mandate equipment and modifications suitable for issue and/or field/street use.]
- Tom Givens’ record of all of his 60+ (armed) students winning their gunfights is impressive, and Tom trains in traditional, competition-compatible, technique.
- Things like acquiring a sight picture and resetting the trigger — both foundational competitive techniques — do seem to have value under stress. The trigger reset seems to become subconscious programmed, and whether or not you can actually acquire a sight picture under stress (I believe it depends on the amount of stress you are under compared to what you have become accustomed to), you are certainly building kinesthetic memory which seems to hold up sufficiently well.
Some additional points:
Competitive shooting need not encourage bad habits. Things like shooting too fast and cover use can be addressed with course of fire design based on the goals.
A significant portion of all effective training, for competition or otherwise, is developing fundamental skills. Contrary to popular myth, competitive shooters do not conduct training or practice by shooting full competitive courses repeatedly. Instead, they drill fundamental skills, the same base skills that apply to all firearm use. Let’s ask a top competitive shooter about this:
When I shoot a match, I break down a stage into basic shooting functions. I then practice those functions as a drill until I perfect my performance. I only train using drills… Stages are too complicated and don’t allow you to properly improve a specific area.
– Rob Leatham
If a long time, top shooter like Mr. Leatham trains by breaking everything down into a drill to train functions/fundamentals, then so do the rest of us. And training functions is the same for every task we need to train for.
Concerns with equipment, such as slicked up guns with a too-light triggers, can be addressed in equipment divisions forbidding such modifications. Military matches require as-issue gear and ammo, for example.
This “problem” is overstated anyway.