In Defense of ‘Square Range, Static Target’ Training

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Great article by Greg Moats. Read it!

I’d add that his spot-on assessments here are not limited to younger folks and are not caused because the Internet has become increasingly available and popular. Plenty of older people, including those that should know better, are just as capable of this silliness and were doing so well before ARPANET existed.

In Defense of ‘Square Range, Static Target’ Training — or ‘How the internet is screwing up Millennials’
by Greg Moats

I’m guessing that many of these instructors don’t know that in the late 70’s and 80’s, a number of the “high-speed, low-drag” organizations went to the square range, stationary target, static position schools of competitive shooting to learn basic shooting skills! I was fortunate enough to have been in the first class that Ray ever ran at the Chapman Academy. Since I lived close, we became friends and I helped him with a few classes. The Navy SEALs came to the Chapman Academy to work with Ray. They also went to Berryville to work with Bill Wilson and to MISS to work with John Shaw, two competitive shooters that never ran a black op nor (I’m guessing) heard a shot fired in anger. Apparently all of the square range, static training didn’t get them all killed as they kept coming back.

Training is a progression, a journey consisting of trips back to the square range to polish skills, as well as learning from simulators.


Circus Trick

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Low skilled people continue to whine about standards drills as not being realistic, tactically relevant, or being a “circus trick.” What they’re really doing is attempting to conceal lack of skill, either their own or others. Rather than blame a lack of fundamental skill for a poor result, it’s easier to blame the evaluation for the poor showing. The fact that such a test is known in advance only serves to make it easier.

Tactical Reload

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Magazines and reliability
by Tim aka TCinVA

Dropping magazines, especially partially loaded ones, on the ground is often very hard on the magazine. Apart from dirt, mud, and other detritus that gets inside the magazine, baseplates and feed lips will sometimes crack, and tubes will sometimes bend or dent. This fact is, believe it or not, where the so called “tactical reload” came from.

I actually discussed this with Tom Givens in his Intensive Pistol Skills class a few weeks ago. In the early days of Gunsite the gun that 99.99% of people showed up with was a 1911. In those days there was no Wilson/Rogers 47D magazine and folks didn’t show up to classes with massive piles of magazines for training. Everyone was using GI or factory Colt magazines in their guns. Dropping these magazines on the crushed granite of the range ended up destroying them to the point of students almost put out of commission because they didn’t have any functional magazines left. If the magazines never hit the granite, then you never have that problem, right? VIOLA!! The “tactical reload” as we know it was born.

Just think: All that arguing about reloads you see on the internet dates back to a practice adopted to get around the fact that 1911 magazines circa 1977 sucked out loud. Stew on that one for a bit without getting depressed. I dare ya.

Guns April 1964
See page 18

Tactical Light Use


“I worry less about it as the need for a light in the CCW fight paradigm is damn near zero. I note that in exactly none of the 62+ CCW shootings that Tom Givens students were involved in was a light used, or needed. When you have an armed robber in your face the need to PID the target is greatly reduced. CCW folks don’t, or shouldn’t, be chasing people into dark holes.”

-Chuck Haggard

“I’ve never encountered a civilian CCW holder with a weapon-mounted light that had a clear idea of when to use it or how to use it. Handheld I strongly recommend as a tool for life. WML… get training before you throw on one, then decide. To get them thinking, I ask them how they will feel pointing the gun at their family to identify them.”

-Ken Nelson

Beyond Expert: Competition creates greater skill

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People outside the competition world often fail to understand the sort of skill levels possible. Routine qualification is the most vestigial level of basic understanding. Police and military qualification is the equivalent of a simple arithmetic quiz considered easy by elementary school children. It’s a perfectly acceptable level for a student actually in elementary school and basic/recruit/Academy training because we’re working with a brand-new novice. It is no longer acceptable years later because the student should have progressed.

Even students taking courses at quality shooting schools sometimes fail to gain this. Taking a class is receiving instruction, it is not training. Real skill development takes more on-going effort.

I discuss this at length in my book Beyond Expert: Tripling Military Shooting Skills using U.S. Army qualification standards as compared to NATO combat competition courses. In it I show that anyone interested in competition shooting needs to at least triple military qualification “expert” (or even “perfect”) standards as a starting point. For handgun events, this can be increased by a factor of five or more. Shooters consistently winning need to be better still. For more details, read Beyond Expert: Story Behind The Book

In case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s Rob Leatham at Gunsite (off camera to the left) shooting against and beating threeother shooters in a video posted on Gunsite’s Instagram page:

Wisdom from Nate Perry

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From Nate Perry

I love the practical sport shooting side of things because there is nothing to debate about. You either win or you are trying to. You can’t weasel out of anything, because your name has a “XX%” next to it.

In the world of defensive training, the goal post moves a lot. “Cops can’t shoot”, “gamer shit will get you killed”, ” Most military people are dangerous with a gun”, “you work in a gun shop?LOLGTFO” “Dry practice and timers just aren’t contextual”, etc.

If you ever need a good hobby/pastime/art where you can never lose, just claim to be a defensive firearms instructor. If anyone questions you, just play mental musical chairs with their legitimate questions about your credibility or skills until they just go away.

You’ll always have customers and the best part is your ego-cushioning curriculum is a great place for the participation trophy generation. In the extremely rare event you have a student who has to get their gun out and is the least terrible of the two parties involved, you can swoop in and take credit for it.

More “games’ll getcha killed”


I am very pragmatic when it comes to realistic training. My training partner is a Combat Pistol Gamer and we are on opposite poles when we discuss training for an armed encounter and Matches. I participated in Matches–and still do sometimes–but always used my duty gear and my duty pistol. I would come in 4th or 5th in the Locals but people thought it was strange.

Anyway you cut it, competition is not training…one can come close by using AirSoft and paintball…rubber knives and Force on Force exercises but paper targets usually do not move and never shoot back. I would equate this with heavy bag training vs training with a sparring partner. “Tactics” used in matches are not remotely realistic and would get one killed in a real encounter. The most important element is extreme stress which can not be duplicated at a Match event. I began my research on this topic when I was in a deadly force encounter on 2 occasions where, after the fact, my entire upper torso and arms froze up in a contraction about 10 minutes later during the de-briefing. (No one was shot but 1mm close) Some people have experienced this DURING the encounter.

When I joined the military, Dad confessed something to me: He said, “It’s no dishonor to “mess yourself” in combat!” He was a WW II combat veteran had several very close encounters with the enemy and with what he described as a Komodo Dragon that nudged him while he was asleep in tall grass in SE Asia. I learned that the body is lightening its load before Flight or Fight. You may publish this letter.
– Ted Sames

>> Anyway you cut it, competition is not training

Preparation for competition is. It is literally a dictionary definition of the word. Scores and results provide useful objectivity as to the effectiveness and progress on one’s training.

>> I would equate this with heavy bag training vs training with a sparring partner.

Good boxers and martial artists are wise to incorporate both. Just because a given training or practice approach doesn’t incorporate everything that might possibly be useful doesn’t invalidate what it is useful for.

>> “Tactics” used in matches are not remotely realistic and would get one killed in a real encounter.

Prove it. You claim this is injurious so the onus is on you to provide proof of documented injuries.

If you can’t cite specific, by-name examples this is empty conjecture.

Topping that off, I can cite numerous successful fighters stating their competition experience was directly beneficial.

Just for starters, every member of the US Army Reserve Marksmanship Program that has deployed and saw combat has stated their experience with the Teams was beneficial to their personal training and the training of their subordinates. Not one member has made any claim this competition experience was detrimental in any way.

Besides, “tactics” are merely an expedient towards a goal. The context matters.

The most important element is extreme stress which can not be duplicated at a Match event.

Or duplicated in any environment where the trainee doesn’t truly believe he will be killed. If nobody is actually being killed (or realistically perceiving they might be) then it is a simulation. Of course, there are those with both competition and combat experience that have said they felt competition stress was greater…

>> I participated in Matches – and still do sometimes – but always used my duty gear and my duty pistol. I would come in 4th or 5th in the Locals…

Fascinating. You mean this experience has not yet gotten you killed? Or forced you to instill “training scars” upon yourself and students?

>> When one believes that matches are realistic they really fooling themselves.

Good training is that which builds better usable skills and capabilities. The only people fooling themselves are those failing to measure if skills and capabilities are actually improving or maintaining. Group shooting and zeroing and other range exercises aren’t “realistic” and they don’t simulate lethal encounters. Shall we abandon this as useless as well? How about fitness. Chin ups, deadlifts, and fitness tests aren’t simulating lethal encounters either.

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