Competition Shooting History: The Longbow


Scottish kings didn’t look upon the game much more favourably. In 1424 James I decreed that “na man play at the Fute-ball”.

Competitive marksmanship with archery turned the bow into the successful tactical weapon it would ultimately become by increasing the skill of bowmen. Combat success with the bow encouraged more practice and competitions as kings and military planners realized its potential if skilled marksmanship was developed. Through force of law, the heads of state demanded a populace trained in its use.

Killed in the Streets again…

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Good discussion and video of a skilled competitor demonstrating with actual concealed carry gear. Only a fool fails to recognize the obvious skill carry over.


The Myth of Competition Training Scars runs strong, as evidenced by some of the comments to this post.

Novices claim competition is bad because of match gear. Upon witnessing top tier results with actual carry gear, they instead focus on how preparation for the next string is gonna getcha killed. Had the shooter performed a currently-popular tactically-appropriate post shooting scan after each string, they’d instead complain about how the stage didn’t have the shooter moving, or the targets didn’t move, or there was no target identification, or the shooter only fired one shot on each, or… Novices gonna novice.

Note these complaints only apply to skilled competitive shooters. Ever hear someone complain how Marine, Army, or police training is gonna getcha killed in the streets, even when those courses and qualifications suffer from the same “problems” (and the shooting is at a ridiculously lower level of skill.)

Here is an example how this myth propagates:

Precision Response Training

“This is likely to be my last post. This morning I was told in no uncertain terms that using the sights is slow and I should point shoot ‘cause the fight will be less than three yards and I won’t have time to use the sights and shooting competition will likely get me killed on the streets and fine motor control…”

…such was the post from a friend of mine the other day on Facebook.

(Jump to the end for the TL;DR version, but first make sure to watch the video in the middle.)

Leaving aside the research on actual engagement distances for citizen self-defense situations, the research on sight usage (and the resulting effect on the various police departments that have updated their training methodology on sighted fire and have statistics on hit ratios that far exceed the national norms), our beyond-grade-school-level understanding of what the terms “gross motor…

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From the World of Competition to Self-Defense


Heath Clevenger is a police officer and competitive shooter. Here’s a bit of his background:
I have a pretty extensive background in law enforcement and firearms instruction for law enforcement. I have been on the SWAT Team for 14 years now and have made more entries than I could attempt to count. I am also the lead training officer for the SWAT Team.

So, what does this SWAT Team member and trainer think of competitive shooting?

The Value of Competition

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Ernest Langdon discusses the value of competition.

Where this opinion comes from:

Ernest Langdon has 12 years active duty as a U.S. Marine and 17 years in the firearms industry. His duties in the Marine Corps include participation in military operations all over the world to include Panama, Cuba, Philippines, and the Persian Gulf. He served as the Chief Instructor of the Second Marine Division Scout Sniper School and the High Risk Personnel Course as well as the Platoon Sergeant of a Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and Designated Marksman (DM) teams and a Scout Sniper Platoon.

Ernest is a graduate of 30 formal shooting schools and 4 anti-terrorism schools with instructor certifications from the FBI, NRA, US Army and US Marine Corps. He is also a graduate of US Army Ranger School, Navy SCUBA School, US Army Airborne School, US Army HALO School and both USMC Scout Sniper School and Scout Sniper Instructor School.

After leaving the Marine Corps and entering the private sector, he has been shooting competitively for over 20 years and has acquired a Grand Master Class rating from the United States Practical Shooting Association. He is one of the few Distinguished Masters in the International Defensive Pistol Association with 10 National Championship Shooting titles and 2 World Speed Shooting titles.

He has trained over 3000 students in advanced marksmanship skills to include personnel from the FBI, DEA, CIA, DIA, Federal Air Marshals, State Department, Secret Service, state and local law enforcement, as well as every branch of the US and some foreign military services. He is a published author with several articles in print in major industry magazines on firearms techniques and tactics.

He is on staff with The Police Policy Studies Council and has been an adjunct instructor for Beretta USA, Sigarms Academy, Smith & Wesson Academy and the Surefire Institute.

Training and Competition: The Dark Side


I’m compiling 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.

Please submit specific examples (names, incidents, etc.) of known skilled competitive shooters that have been injured or killed in fights due to mistakes caused by their competitive experience and I’ll post them. It will be a good exercise in learning how things can go wrong so we can all benefit.

I’ve asked for this in the past and have had zero responses so far. I make it a point to ask for specific examples from authors claiming competition causes problems and they continue to fail to cite any proof illustrating their claim. If something was causing actual problems there would be examples. I’m still looking for a single incident.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and for anything you send in!

Sun Tzu on Competition and Winning

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Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Fighting and hunting are forms of competition as the application of skills will determine success or failure. Getting into any competition without previously having tested skills and trying to win puts you at a severe disadvantage.

Developing a winning mindset requires attempting to win. Go find something challenging to participate in and do your best to win.

Training and Competition

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There is a myth among some that preparing for competition somehow isn’t training. Not only does this defy logic, it ignores an actual, accepted definition of the word.

Here are dictionary definitions of “training.”

Merriam-Webster: The process by which an athlete prepares for competition by exercising, practicing, etc.

Oxford: The action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event.

Competition Shooting Exceeds Special Forces Training

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Master Sgt. Satterlee says he has learned a lot about firearms in the world of competitive shooting. It’s influenced how he shoots—and why he came to recognize flaws in how the military prepares soldiers for war.

He’s the operations sergeant at JBLM’s Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course. After years of combat deployments around the world, training soldiers and shooting at civilian weapon ranges around the United States, he thinks it’s time we radically revamp the way we think about firearms training.

He says new approaches could save a lot of lives—soldiers and civilians alike.

Satterlee’s first assignment was the 2nd Ranger Battalion at what was then Fort Lewis. While there, he befriended Lance Dement, a competitive shooter from Texas who later joined the U.S. shooting team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The two regularly spent time at civilian shooting ranges.

Then Satterlee joined the 1st Special Forces Group. While many units focus on making soldiers proficient in whatever weapons they’re assigned, Satterlee’s team pushed expertise for all the weapons in the operators’ arsenal. The range became a central part of life.

He spent several years stationed in Okinawa. There, his training emphasized counter-terrorism and direct action—fast, violent, surgical raiding operations. He practiced under some of the military’s most experienced special operations warriors—including legendary Delta Force operator Kyle Lamb.

“They had a huge impact on my style of shooting,” Satterlee says.

In short order, Satterlee became involved in the world of competitive shooting. Luckily, he found a large network of gun enthusiasts along the East Coast.

Many of the civilian hobbyists were much better shots than he expected. In fact, they were more than good—some of them gave the special ops warrior a run for his money.

“There were guys in their eighties—barely held together at the seams—who were out-shooting me,” he recalls.
It was a humbling experience—and an awakening for Satterlee.

He explains that competitive shooting used to be modeled around military and law enforcement practices. But over time, philosophies—and methods—evolved. Competitive shooters began introducing new variables.

These variables include different targets. The shooter would have to determine which ones constitute threats, and which ones do not. There’s shooting on the move, while trying to hit a target that’s also moving. All done under time constraints and considerable pressure.

“There’s no other sport or training that focuses on the draw, reloading, target acquisition, instantly being able to place accurate fire on a target while moving—and all this is done faster than any other sport with live ammunition,” former U.S. Practical Shooting Association president Mike Voight said in an interview with American Handgunner.

Satterlee said that while civilian hobbyists and enthusiasts pioneered new training techniques, the military remained “stagnant.”
The Army’s marksmanship training hasn’t changed very much, while the wars we send soldiers to fight have.

“It can’t be ignored anymore,” he says. “At some point, we need to decide how good we want to be.”

“You can’t expect a soldier to adapt to chaos unless he’s already been exposed to it,” Satterlee says.
He says they need to train in an environment that simulates the uncertainty of a modern war zone, without its lethality. They need training that allows them to fail safely, and to reflect and learn from mistakes.

He’s taken his lessons from the world of competitive shooting and brought them to how he trains soldiers at JBLM. He’s a seasoned special operations veteran with years of experience—and one of the top shooters in the nation—so his commanders give him exceptional leeway to experiment in his training.

As a member of 1st Group, he’s in an environment that welcomes innovation and creative problem solving. His commanders trust his judgment. It’s an elite unit—everyone who comes through his doors for the urban combat course is handpicked.

But Satterlee says he doesn’t think this sort of training should be reserved for only the most elite troops.
He asserts that soldiers—especially new recruits—need to learn about the complexities of modern conflict much earlier. He says they need to learn how to assess threats and to know the consequences of both indecision and rashness.

He admits that it’s significantly harder to give large, conventional units that sort of training, compared to smaller and adaptable elite units. However, he proposes that the Army can impart these lessons with audiovisual aids and gaming-style training.

But the challenge of introducing new training techniques and philosophies isn’t just logistical—it’s cultural.

Master Sgt. Satterlee’s revelation may be surprising to lower skilled firearm users, such as military and police-trained personnel and the majority of gun owners, but this is long-established common knowledge within the competitive shooting community. In fact, it is a primary reason organized competitive shooting was created.

For example, the Excellence In Competition program has been recognized by all branches of service in the United States since the 1880s with the awards recognized in official regulations. Google “In Distinguished Company by Dick Culver” for a great history and a link to the roster maintained by the Civilian Marksmanship Program dating back to 1884.

All military, police, tactical, concealed carry, hunter safety, and similar instruction serves as introductory training for novices only. Almost none of these programs, certainly not those in public sector military and police circles, demand progression beyond the initial qualification skill level presented. Competition shooting is one of the very few venues were skill is encouraged and measured beyond this, and it is the reason why Master Sgt. Satterlee and every other active participant finds value and skill improvement.

For Drill Sergeant Michael Farnum and others commenting on this article, you have “trained” rifle marksmanship, CQB and the like in that you received an initial, novice-level introduction to concepts. Consider what your Marine, Army, and/or police qualification standards consider as “expert” or “perfect” results, then realize decent (not great) competition shooters can exceed that by at least 300%, possibly more. Note I said decent. The true greats and champions are better still.

There is at least a full order of magnitude of marksmanship skill development capable beyond that offered in military and police training. Master Sgt. Satterlee found out about it by attending organized competitive shooting. You will too if you bother to attend and participate seriously.

Ken Hackathorn’s Selective Memory


I’m not sure if Ken Hackathorn is choosing selective memory or just waxing nostalgic. In his interview with Recoil magazine he lambasts organized competitive shooting. There are no concrete examples, just the usual suspects of empty, unsubstantiated claims. Details here:

Myth of Competition Training Scars again


Ken Hackathorn spent a bit of his interview with Recoil magazine looking down on competition shooting for giving bad habits. Yes, the same Ken Hackathorn that is a founding member of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and helped usher in 3 Gun competitions.

Here are the relevant quotes lifted from Recoil magazine.

KH: [Jeff] Cooper started IPSC and I was one of the founding members. When IPSC started, in the mid ’70s, it was combat shooting. We were drawing from holsters, shooting multiple targets, reloading under stress, using varying courses and it was “radical.”

Recoil: What difference do you see between shooters who train for competition and those who train for self-defense?
KH: Certain things are just different in the real world versus the competition or “game boy” world. A lot of guys talk about their splits and times. When I hear somebody talking about splits, I pus the delete button on them because they’re a game boy, they’re not a realist. That’s something that is very important in the world, but they’ve lost any semblance of reality in what they’re doing. You end up programming yourself with reflexive responses, and those responses can get you killed in the real world. They think that if it was a “real scenario” they wouldn’t do those responses, but in reality, they would.

There was a period post-Sept. 11 where all the special-ops teams in the military started bringing in champion shooters to teach them techniques. Once they went off to war and got a chance to apply the techniques, they found that most of it was bullshit and borderline suicidal in a real-world application. On the flipside, we’ve also learned that you can have a ton of military experience or a great record, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great teacher.

Recoil: What do you see as a central obstacle for competition shooters looking to take more self-defense styled classes?
KH: The emphasis on speed and certain muscle memory drills can be really harmful in a real-world application. Under stress, the conscious analytical mind doesn’t work; only the subconscious mind can function from what it’s been fed. When bullets are flying, you’ve got the IQ of a lizard. FIghting with a firearm means having to work with what you’ve programmed into your mind – and that can only happen from practice. Everything we do is critical in that respect. A target in real life might not be “one and done.” He may keep coming at you, but you stop firing because you already hit them once – like you would a posed target on a speed competition. It’s not how fast you hit somebody. It’s where you hit them that can neutralize the situation. That’s where my Wizard Drill comes into play. You’ve got to learn to focus on an aggressor rather than a clock.

Let’s see if we’re following.

    • Competition is bad because “guys talk about their splits and times” making them non-realists but speed is something that is very important in the real world. It’s important in the real world but competitors who pay attention to it have “lost any semblance of reality in what they’re doing.”
    • “When bullets are flying, you’ve got the IQ of a lizard. Fighting with a firearm means having to work with what you’ve programmed into your mind – and that can only happen from practice” but developing this sort of programmed, reflexive skill for winning competition can get you killed in the real world.
    • Champion shooters teach “bullshit and borderline suicidal” things to special operations personnel, which is why special operations personnel such as Kyle Lamb, Frank Proctor, Pat MacNamara, Brian McKibben, Jeff Gurwitch, Kyle X (, Jon Canipe and every special operations troop I’ve ever shot with either competes or finds some value in it. It’s why Fort Bragg has open competitions at Range 14 and 37, and why JSOC and other special operations commands host competitive shooting. It’s also why people like Ken Hackathorn and Larry Vickers bothered to co-found competition shooting organizations. For further examples of more Special Operations saying the exact opposite of Hackathorn’s false claim:
    • Competition is bad because a “target in real life might not be ‘one and done.’ He may keep coming at you…” and you shouldn’t “stop firing because you already hit them once – like you would a posed target on a speed competition.” This is why you should use Ken Hackathorn’s Wizard Drill “to learn to focus on an aggressor rather than a clock.”The Wizard Drill consists of a single posed IDPA/USPSA competition target shot in a one-and-done fashion, usually with a single shot, while shooting on the clock. The timing is consistent with recommended practice guidelines for practical shooting competition.

      I offer the following ‘Wizard Drill’. It is very simple, requires only five rounds of ammo, and can be shot on any range that allows work from the holster.

      IDPA or IPSC (USPSA) targets are ideal. Place a 4″ circle centered in the head of the target. The handgun you use should be the one you carry, in the manner you routinely pack it. Ammo should be the self defense or duty ammo you carry as well.
      The time for each string of fire is 2.5 seconds.
      – Start at 3 yards. On signal, draw and fire one head shot strong hand only at the head.
      – Repeat at 5 yards, but you may use both hands.
      – Repeat at 7 yards, again both hands are permitted.
      – At 10 yards draw and fire two (2) body shots in the allowed 2.5 seconds.

      When you are done, you should have three head shots and two body hits. A miss is a fail. You can drop 2 points and past the test, any more is a fail. Set your timer at 2.5 seconds. I allow 2.7 as that is about the length of the buzzer on most timers. If you are using a pocket carry mode, you may start with your hand on the gun in the pocket. Otherwise, hands normal at sides, no touching of the gun until the buzzer. Hits in the 4″ head circle or cutting the line are considered down zero, outside the circle but inside the head perforation is down one point.
      Competent and practiced shooters may consider this drill simple, but let’s be honest these folks make up less than one tenth of one precent of the people that carry firearms for self defense.

“Competent and practiced shooters” is a nice way of saying “competition shooters.”

As with others that propagate this myth, we’re still waiting on concrete examples of this “problem” causing actual problems. There’s this nebulous notion that competition is bad because some people keep making the claim but still no named examples.

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