Heath Clevenger is a police officer and competitive shooter. Here’s a bit of his background:
I have a pretty extensive background in law enforcement and firearms instruction for law enforcement. I have been on the SWAT Team for 14 years now and have made more entries than I could attempt to count. I am also the lead training officer for the SWAT Team.
So, what does this SWAT Team member and trainer think of competitive shooting?
I began shooting competitively about nine years ago. A great firearms instructor once told me that if you want to be a good instructor, you have to compete. He said it didn’t really matter what you competed in, as long as you competed. I started in IDPA. I think that is a pretty good starter competition. It does not require a lot of special equipment and it is not gear heavy to begin. Then I moved on to 3-Gun as it became more popular and I was looking for a way to test my rifle skills. I was looking for some more overlap training from my work to a hobby. And I believe competition has made me a much better shooter and instructor.
So why not spend time only working on self-defense skills? Because, shooting competitions gives you a place to test your skills under stress. For most people, shooting under any kind of stress is hard to create. Most law enforcement officers do not get the amount of training under stress that they need. Shooting competitions offer that every weekend around my area. The stress of performing on the clock, performing in front of other people, and performing to your own expectations is difficult. Where else can you get tested like this?
When you get pretty good at shooting competitions, you then are not thinking about gun operation. That just happens. You think about where you need to be, where to put your foot to set up a good position, how to best transition from one gun to another, what is your holdover for each long range target. Being a good competition shooter does not make you a master gun fighter. But, taking “tactical” classes and watching the best Special Forces operator’s videos does not either. There is nothing wrong with learning from tactical guys. I love teaching tactics. But if you are thinking about how to shoot your gun when you should be thinking about tactical advantage or you are thinking about tactics and can’t hit the target without the conscious thought of how to shoot, you will probably not do well in a gunfight.
Competitions push you to operate your firearms’ systems at a subconscious level. That is the level you want to be able to shoot when you are faced with a deadly threat. I want my mind free to think about the closest point of cover, whats behind my target in case of over penetration, and where to go to draw them away from my family or friends. If you are reacting to violence occurring to you or around you, then you should act to stop that violence as quickly as you possibly can. You will operate at the lowest level MASTERED. That is correct, MASTERED. Not “I did it a couple of times in training” or I practiced this one day. You will be able to do the things that you never make a mistake with.
So the short version is, competition shooting makes you a better all-around shooter. It adds depth to your abilities. I highly encourage you to go compete. You will learn to operate your firearms at a subconscious level and be better prepared for trouble when it comes.