Practical shooting started as the first attempt to expand skilled shooters beyond the bullseye. It has succeeded in that we now know more about shooting, gun handling and equipment than before. The problem is that much artificiality has crept in and reduced the genre’s ability to teach effective practical shooting skills.
Other groups attempt to fix this by claiming to be more tactical than thou. We don’t follow the black-suited super pirate ninja Nomex-panty crowd. We feel that practical shooting should focus on developing the core skills of real world shooting: Smoothly operate your firearm and ancillary gear while generating sufficient accuracy within quick time frames. Get all your hits faster than the other guy.
You don’t need a course of fire with more props than a Hollywood set to accomplish this. Rather than offering a bland, alleged imitation of a gun fight, we promote learning how to run your gear and yourself really fast while under stress. We make practical shooting sensible!
What’s right about practical shooting
Practical shooting tests skills useful in real world applications. It has its roots in martial/combat shooting. First came conventional (bullseye) shooting, derived from the first formalized marksmanship training programs. This was an important step and the principles founded in conventional shooting serve as the back bone of all forms of marksmanship. But group shooting is the beginning step, albeit an important one. Eventually, if the firearm is to serve any useful purpose, the shooter must learn handling skills and develop consistent smoothness with them. Getting into position, on target, ready for sustained action is as critical as raw precision for real world use. Practical shooting tests all these elements like no other discipline before it.
What’s wrong with practical shooting
A common complaint against practical shooting is unrealistic guns, gear and scenarios. While there is truth in this, it only scratches the surface. Even the most “gamey” practical events have provisions for basic issue/production equipment, which is what the majority of participants use, and the “rooney” match-only gear of today may find real world application tomorrow. For example, “unpractical” optical sights have now become commonly issued sights in the military and on police tactical teams and the trigger blocks first used on skimpy “full race” holsters have found use as retention devices in security holsters.
A bigger issue with courses is that they are ineffective at teaching practical shooting. Shooting a stage won’t help you learn to be a better shooter without a break down analysis. Let’s ask a top pro shooter about this:
When I shoot a match, I break down a stage into basic shooting functions. I then practice those functions as a drill until I perfect my performance. I only train using drills… Stages are too complicated and don’t allow you to properly improve a specific area.
– Rob Leatham
If a long time, top shooter like Mr. Leatham still has to break everything down into a drill, then so do the rest of us. Why not dispense with the circus-carnival stages and focus on running real, skill-building courses at matches instead? Would that not be sensible?
Rarely mentioned is the hassle in setting up and scoring typical events. To host any number of separate courses a range must have separate bays or shooting areas. Only one shooter can shoot the course at a time, creating a bottleneck for an event of any size. A course that a good shooter can complete in under 20 seconds may take a few people several minutes to score, paste and reset, and then several person-hours to set up before the event and later tear down. A practical course should be sensible to set up and run, too.
The SensibleShooter℠ solution:
- A complete event featuring several courses should be fast and simple to set up and run while remaining challenging and useful. One person should be able to set up an entire event with an official classifier in ten minutes or so and tear it down even faster.
- Events with official classifiers should not require special-built multi-bay ranges or a storage shed for targets and props. All the targets, props and supplies for an event should fit in the trunk of a sedan and affordable for an individual shooter.
- Once set up most events should not require anyone to go down range to paste or reset targets.
- Courses should focus on development of relevant skills.
- The participants determine what is “relevant” and structure courses to suit them.