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“Why are we going to go all the way out there? We’ve got guys right here that are just as good.”

This may point to how the myth that competitive shooting causes bad habits started to be invented. I’ve pointed out how this myth continues to propagate as people continue to make up reasons/excuses but how did it start? Among contemporary instructors, I believe Jeff Cooper and Gunsite may be among some of the first to blame.

The question was raised about why a person would travel across the country and pay for a class when as-good or better learning could be had locally. Yes, the school has a cadre and curriculum, but the knowledge there is developed in the same manner as anyone learning a subject and practicing skills. When your local shooting club has regular participants as skilled and knowledgable as the cadre in that school, people that have the same variety of training background, real-world experience, and demonstratable skill, there isn’t a compelling reason to spend money and time going. Failing to have a good answer to this response led to some people to manufacturing a reason.

Jeff Cooper first developed his school and curriculum by hosting organized competitive events and testing what consistently worked best. Local groups affiliated with a national body involved in something similar will likely have equally-good and motivated participants.

This video was the first instruction tape (on VHS!) I ever owned. As Cooper mentions, it was filmed just after Jimmy Von Sorgenfrei won the 1979 IPSC World Championship. Notice how his points are based on who wins major competition, as the Weaver stance was the preferred approach by winning SWPL and then IPSC shooters (USPSA and IDPA didn’t exist yet) up to that point.

Within a few years after this, the preferred approach by winning competitors started to change. Interestingly enough, the switch from Weaver to modern isosceles in practical competition in the early 1980s took about as long as the switch from point shooting to Weaver did in the late 1950s and for the same reasons.

In the 1950s, everyone “knew” point shooting was “better” until Jack Weaver consistently won events using a different approach. It took some years but shooters adopted to this new approach as it consistently proved better by actual test.

In the late 1970s, everyone “knew” Weaver was “better” until Rob Leatham and Brian Enos consistently won events using a different approach. It took some years but shooters adopted the new approach as it consistently proved better by actual test. This is the same way Jack Weaver started.

Cooper did another series of instructional videos some years later, right about the same time he declared IPSC/USPSA as guilty of using “rooney guns.” Never mind that 1950s era practical/combat shooters were using competition-specific rooney guns and gear. Of course, those damn gamers were also using an “incorrect” isosceles stance. “Everyone knows” that the Weaver stance is not a “range technique” it is a “street technique” for when you don’t know what type of situation you’re getting into…

Never mind that Jack Weaver says his entire motivation for creating the approach that bears his name was to win the Leatherslap and other competitions organized by Jeff Cooper at Big Bear and the Southwest Combat Pistol League. And success in competition was considered a great point for proven effectiveness, up until competitors started using something different. To continue charging students money to learn The Way, even if a different way might be better, there needs to be a reason why your The Way is best.

Kark Rehn has more info here:

Lest anyone think I’m hating on Cooper and Gunsite/API, my thoughts on this are best summed up in my review of The Modern Technique of the Pistol. It did, and still will, work just fine for anyone willing to put in a little bit of on-going work to learn it. If the bullets go where they’re supposed to when they’re supposed to, the technique used is good. Developing actual, measurable skill with your chosen technique is the most important part. Jeff Cooper adds to this here.

The best approach to evolving your own training is to commit to on-going work, even if it’s just one or two minutes-long sessions each week, and get involved with a group of skilled practitioners hosting regular, on-going events. Attend those events as often as you can, practicing what you learn and training your skills between events.

Start at 19:40
This sort of community exists at every place hosting organized shooting events. Go find those events. Your attendance will improve your ability, put you in contact with the most skilled locals, and support the future of such events and places being held in the future.

Competition is critical. Take a class if you like but you’ll be better served in the long run by going to matches where you’ve got guys right there that are just as good. Even if you do take a class, you’ll still need to go practice somewhere once in awhile.

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