Competitive Shooting: Not Just a Game

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Field Notes Ep. 13, Competitive Shooting with Robert Vogel, Not Just a Game.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Vogel won his first national championship using the same firearm he carried on duty as a law enforcement officer.

More from Robert Vogel:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/tag/robert-vogel/

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Rooney Guns FTW!

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I am old enough to remember when USPSA started creating different equipment divisions. In fact, my first serious attempt at competition shooting was in their Limited division soon after it was first adopted.

The open/unlimited “race gun” had become the runaway favorite for serious competitors and they deviate from a “normal” carry/service pistol. This led to detractors deriding the development as “rooney guns” as something simply unsuitable for street and service use.
https://firearmusernetwork.com/tag/rooney-gun/

Now, don’t tell anyone, but equipment divisions are far less important than most people realize, especially those complaining about them:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/race-guns-vs-regular-guns/
https://firearmusernetwork.com/skill-classification-works/

Houston PD: Pistol Red Dot Sights Approved For Duty Use

In what may be the largest adoption of red dot sights on pistols to date, the Houston Police Department has issued a letter to sworn officers approving the optics for duty use. The approval comes along with some common-sense caveats; a Safariland level III Holster must be used, optics-ready pistols from specified manufacturers and the completion of an eight hour training course prior to putting the RDS into service.

The move towards the use of micro red dot sights by military and law enforcement has been gaining steam in the past few years with special teams and units being allowed to field the technology on a more case-by-case process. With more than 5,000 officers on staff Houston PD is set to take the lead on electronic sight use in U.S. law enforcement.

More:
https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2018/07/05/houston-red-dot-sights/

This is not a new development, just a police department formally authorizing their use:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/competition-shooting-ftw/

This part is most important:

The resulting data from required qualifications (scores using a red dot versus irons), fielding (models, mechanical/electronic failures) battery life and other variables will be important to law enforcement and civilian shooters alike. Real-world field testing is invaluable when it comes to picking the best guns, sights, holsters and related gear. Let’s hope that Houston PD is willing to share sanitized data.

Here’s the sad downer. The Department of Army first adopted general-issue optics in the mid-1990s and retained the same qualification procedures and course since 2018. Qualification scores have not changed. As always, it’s the indian, not the arrow.

Competition and Real World Results

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I’ve been asking for examples of how competitive shooting experience went wrong. Coming from a competitive background, my bias tends toward competitive shooting being a good thing. That’s why I’m reaching out to folks that can provide counter examples.

Here’s one such report. Thanks to Phil Wong, the “Tactical Cliff Clavin”:

Competition Real World Results 1

Competition Real World Results 2

Competition Real World Results 3

Original discussion:

Use Timers?

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We happen to work regularly with folks who count days between gunfights. Not if they will fight with gun(s) but how soon again they do it. They work with timers. They also don’t talk on internet forums.

– Ken Nelson

Real face shooters train with people like Robby, Dave and Jerry. They certainly use timers. The fantasy camp face shooters are the ones who hate reliable metrics for tracking performance.
They would rather buy the latest plate carrier than actually practice.

– Scott Thompson

Shooting Match Gear vs Real World

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As a young kid new to shooting, I had wanted to attend a “proper” shooting school, but I gave finances, high school and college, and military duties precedence. Having learned about IPSC through Jeff Cooper’s writings and finding a local USPSA club, I attended local competitions instead.

When first taking up practical shooting I believed the hype of only using street-real equipment as I wanted to avoid developing “bad habits.” Using a real-world pistol and holster that would have been openly welcomed at any defensive shooting school, I taught myself to reliably draw to a centered hit at seven yards in about 1.5 seconds, with the fast runs hovering in the 1.4s.

The competitive bug was biting me harder. I quickly realized that hypothetical criminal assault in my rural farming community where Holsteins outnumbered humans was highly unlikely and decided I’d rather win matches that actually occurred. I saved up for and bought a competition-specific rig and dry practiced a bit to set it up. At my first range session with the brand new go-fast gear I could reliably draw to a centered hit at seven yards in about 1.5 seconds, with the fast runs hovering in the 1.4s.

The gear wasn’t at fault. I was.

Score sheets and classifier results readily identify the better performers, which are the folks with the best training processes and habits. Observing and learning from them at matches and group practice sessions, then doing plenty of work on my own in between, let me cut those times in half, working down to 0.7s.

About this time, gunsmith Richard Heinie had started the 1911 Society and hosted an annual match called the Single Stack Classic. It was the first practical pistol match bigger than a local or state-level match attracting national-level champions being held within a reasonable driving distance and I decided to attend. Of course, my fancy go-fast gear wouldn’t be allowed and I needed to revert to my old “street-legal” Gunsite-approved equipment.

Tactical types often cry doom about match-specific equipment, giving me concerns of hurling my handgun downrange during bobbled draws due to “bad habits” caused by gamer/match race gear.

I ran a few short dry practice sessions over the course of several days and then hit the range. At that first session with practical gear I hadn’t used in a long time, I could reliably draw to a centered hit at seven yards in about 1.0 seconds, with the fast runs hovering in the 0.9s.

I never experienced “bad habit” problems during any practice sessions or matches, just improved performance.

Of course, I cheated. I probably logged more good dry repetitions in the three days prior to that first range session than most law enforcement and military personnel do in three years and then kept that schedule up through the match.

The real difference was I had greatly improved my skills and had developed the proper habits to do so. Even though it was with match-grade equipment, the carryover was direct and immediate. It took very little time and effort to re-acquaint myself to the different equipment. My fundamental skill with shooting and gunhandling was simply better and it helped across the board, even with equipment that I didn’t normally use.

My experience is not unique:
http://melodylauer.com/kilt-in-the-streetz-all-the-things-i-was-supposed-to-forget-under-stress/

TL;DR
Get better with something – anything – and prove this “better” occurred by validating it as being better in a formal, scored competitive environment.

Dismal Truth: Police Use-of-Force Training

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Dr. Bill Lewinski executive director of the Force Science Institute often notes in his public presentations that the average high school football player gets more training in his sport in his brief career than the average peace officer receives in use-of-force instruction across his or her entire working life.

In a first-of-its-kind survey in conjunction with Calibre Press and Crawford Coates has confirmed that dismal truth.

Calibre Press editors invited readers of its popular Street Survival newsletter to complete an anonymous poll regarding their departmental training policies. Nearly 900 officers from small agencies to large participated, with these results:

  • Range time. Nearly two-thirds of officers said they are required by policy to shoot on the range with their sidearm only once (23.66%) or twice (37.66%) a year. Only about 8% have to shoot as often as monthly.
  • Qualification. Monthly official qualification with their sidearm is required for only 1.37%, while roughly 84% need to qualify only annually (46.81%) or semi-annually (37.24%).
  • Scenarios. The monthly requirement shrinks even more (to 0.91%) when it comes to “dynamic ‘shoot/don’t shoot’ scenario-type training.” One-quarter never have to experience such training, and over half (56.26%) do so only once a year or less often.
  • DT training. Close to 15% of officers said they are never required by policy to do “defensive/control tactics-type training.” For two-thirds (63.82%), such training is mandated only once a year (42.32%) or less (21.5%). Fewer than 2% must train hands-on monthly.
  • Less-lethal. Monthly requirement virtually fades off the chart (at 0.57%) when it comes to training with “less-than-lethal weapons” such as TASERS, batons, and OC spray. Annual training predominates at over 55%. One in five officers trains less frequently than that, and over 10% never have to engage in this type of training.

Jim Glennon, Calibre’s director of training and lead instructor for its Street Survival Seminar observes, “The line is being pushed by the media and by critics like the Police Executive Research Forum that departments and academies are overly invested in ‘warrior’-type military training, spending too many hours on the range and teaching defensive tactics at the expense of emphasizing communication.

“In reality, as this survey shows, we’re just scratching the surface of use-of-force training, teaching the very barest fundamentals. When a quarter of departments never do dynamic force training and over half train with scenarios at most once a year, it is very disingenuous to claim that use-of-force training is over-emphasized.

“When officers over-react or under-react on the street, it’s usually because they have not been sufficiently conditioned to respond appropriately through realistic training under stress. What’s needed is not less training in this area but more.”

Dr. Lewinski adds, “The public expectation is that law enforcement officers will perform flawlessly when thrust into life-or-death force encounters. But when these are the standards of practice and training demanded of officers by their departments, how can anything even approaching perfection reasonably be anticipated?

“Yes, conscientious officers will supplement the minimal requirements with training on their own time and dime. But that’s an approach for enhancing individual excellence, not a universal solution.

“Raising the use-of-force training bar by policy for all officers and designing training that truly reflects the challenges of the street should be the top priorities of any demands for police ‘reform.’ ”

Metrics or Mediocrity

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http://www.breachbangclear.com/shot-timers-no-metrics-mediocrity/

These same pundits rail against scored drills, calling them meaningless measures of precision. Actually, scored courses or drills serve many important functions and are critical to development as a defensive shooter. Here are some of the reasons they are important.

1. We need an objective view of the student’s skill, not a subjective view. The target and timer don’t lie.
2. We can compare the student’s performance to a historical standard, set by measuring the performance of a number of students before him. Thus, we know if we need to remediate or move forward.
3. We can precisely quantify and track progress, essential to skill building.
4. We can instill the timing issues necessary for shooting at the right cadence as target size/distance varies.
5. We can get the student accustomed to working under stress.
6. We can help the student build confidence. Not measuring skill leads to false confidence. Students always think they are doing better than they are. Actually scoring, and incorporating both accuracy and speed in the scoring, shows true skill level, and allows real confidence.
7. Training and practice build skill. Skill builds confidence. Confidence leads to coolness. Coolness prevents panic. This is what wins fights.

In the extreme stress of a real life shooting incident, skill degrades. However, the more skill one has, the less skill one tends to lose (see #7 above). The less skill one has, the more skill one tends to lose under duress. This is why “good enough” is not good enough. Also, the Mother of retention of any physical skill under duress is structured repetition. To have a higher skill level, one had to practice more (structured repetition). I have debriefed a number of people after shootings, and not one of them has ever said to me, “When the bullets starting coming my way, I wished I hadn’t trained as hard.”

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