A synopsis and response to a recent article citing “problems” with competitive shooting. The synopsis is needed because most of the article devolves into typical “competition ain’t two way” pontification that doesn’t address the point the author claims to be making. As usual, no examples of any actual problems caused by competition are offered. The relevant points are below.

I’m all for speed and proficiency with any firearm. Reloads and all Immediate Actions should be done fast and smooth with the end result to get accurate fire down range fast. Competing against other sport shooters does induce stress and is valuable training to build the basic mindset required.

Gunfighting isn’t just about speed, it’s about awareness. He who is most aware of the environment around him the fastest, wins.

The layout of the 3-gun matches and how they are sequenced help competition sport shooters become lighting fast. They sacrifice awareness for speed. We have all seen videos of 3 gun shooters running and gunning with incredible efficiency and speed. What allows them to be so fast and accurate is the fact that it’s a sequenced range. With pre set targets and a set number of rounds to use on each target, they easily transition and move to the next. Little tactical awareness is required as you can train for and memorize the range.

No different than a ski racer training for the Olympics. Your awareness is not being tested, your proficiency and speed are. The one who has the best mental preparation and reaction time that day wins.

A gunfight is a completely different world. The only factors that you can control are that of ammo you currently have and yourself. Everything else in this environment is now as random as rolling a pair of dice in crap shoot. …

Not only in this complex world are you having to find the threat and engage but also identify if it is a shoot or no shoot situation. Add to this the distraction of communicating with your team and finding cover.

I  left in the valid points.

>> Bullets travel 2 ways here

True, but bullets are not coming back during tactical, police, or military training. Force-on-Force “bullets” are also not real. However, range exercises and FoF are still useful tools, provided they help improve skills. Having the means to measure “improved” helps. Reducing that to numbers also helps. All competitions are doing is reducing the tested skill/performance to a number. We don’t have to shoot at each other for training to be valuable.

>> …awareness is not being tested in competition/gunfight environment is random

True enough, known-in-advance layouts do not test awareness or quick decision making. Of course, as he points out in the beginning, the training value is in testing fundamentals at speed and under stress. Simulated, competition-induced stress, but stress nonetheless. Much more stress and a much higher level of fundamental skill than is involved in most tactical, military, or police training, especially qualification.

Where the author loses the plot is that competitive events can (and do) offer surprise/random/unknown targets and layouts. Perhaps not the 3 Gun events he is considering, but such competitions with surprise and unknown layouts do exist. And these events can be (and are) held using as-issue equipment.

For example, Service Conditions matches feature surprise courses where the targets and layouts are hidden and unknown in advance. In The Complete Book of Shooting, published by Outdoor Life Books in 1965, Jeff Cooper describes procedures for holding surprise courses at competitions. In both cases, shooters begin with a mission brief and proceed from there.

The “problems” claimed by this author do not exist anywhere beyond people’s imaginations. Skilled competitors with good scores in square range “one way” competitions also tend to perform well in surprise/random courses and don’t display any claimed “bad habits.” Here are interviews with combat vets with competition experience giving their views on this:


In fact, one place where such random/surprise events are conducted is CAFSAC (Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration) held at the Connaught Ranges every year. The PPCLI (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) fields teams to compete there. Having served with the “Dirty Patricias” I’m curious why Shaun A. was never selected to compete with them. Perhaps if he had he would have experienced these type of events and realize his concerns are being addressed in competitive events.

Full article