Bad Habits or Lousy Instruction?

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I had a nice young man in a class recently that was very skilled. He was an active USPSA competitor and very quick and accurate. Every time his relay would finish their drills, he would quickly unload and holster his pistol (magazine out, slide quickly to the rear and catch the ejected round in his hand). Even though I told each relay to top off their weapons and then holster prior to scoring and pasting targets… He did this every time, and was never ready to shoot when his relay was called to the line the next time.

Later in the day as his relay finished and everyone else was reloading and holstering, he was still clearing and unloading his pistol. I finally walked over and asked him, “Why in the Hell do you keep unloading your sidearm when you are finished with a shooting task?”

– Ken Hackathorn

OMG, bad habits caused in competition! At least that’s the popular implication. It’s also very wrong.

Why wait until “later in the day” before “finally walking over” to confront a problem that had been already been previously identified? Especially if it was noticed this was happening “every time, and was never ready to shoot when his relay was called to the line”?

This is not a failure of competition shooting causing “bad” habits. It is a failure of an instructor failing to help a paying student.

This student paid money to take that class to learn things he didn’t know before. He already had established proper training procedures as that is the only way he could become “very skilled… and very quick and accurate.” Even if he didn’t overcome this one particular habit on the first try, it is a simple matter of building in a new habit while practicing/training in the future. Given that he was already motivated to develop good habits with regular, on-going practice and motivated enough to take a class to learn something, this particular student is most likely to successfully implement such a fix.

Competition Shooting FTW


Ever hear the term “rooney gun”? Ya know, competition-only firearms and gear that could never be useful real world? Here’s why that concept is BS.


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.

Breaking into the Gunzines, Part 1

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I first attempted to publish articles in various gun magazines back in the early 2000’s and quickly found that getting started as an unknown freelance was nearly impossible. Here is how I managed to get in anyway.


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