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:

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

Tactically Inconsistent


Tiger McKee believes that practicing a malfunction/stoppage response must be done enough so that “getting the weapon running again, must be immediate.”

For example, when you press the trigger in real life – live fire practice and especially during a confrontation – and you get a click instead of a bang it means you have a malfunction. The response to this, clearing the stoppage and getting the weapon running again, must be immediate. In a fight time is a precious commodity. There is no time to stop, think or assess the problem and then correct it.

– Tiger McKee

In videos discussing his approach on “advanced skills”, Pincus states today’s guns are so reliable that skills required to clear malfunctions are among these and do not need to be emphasized or practiced regularly. He goes on to say that if one’s gun malfunctions, one should simply change the gun.

Malfunctions are not a fundamental defensive shooting skill…. Clearing a malfunction is an ‘advanced skill’.”

– Rob Pincus

Once again, two popular defensive shooting instructors (neither one with actual fight experience) have completely opposite approaches on a defensive shooting issue.

Where facts are few, experts are many.

– Donald R. Gannon

Tactics That Work


In the instructions of a role playing game I enjoyed as a child, it was advised to encourage and reward creative actions outside of the rules… once. “If throwing sand in an opponent’s eyes always worked every time, fighters would be better off carrying a bag of sand instead of a sword.”

A trooper assigned to MACV-SOG once recounted a tale of his reconnaissance team being compromised and pinned down by a much larger force. Unfortunately, the immediate terrain would have forced the preferred tactic of peeling to break contact to go uphill and in the open. Struggling to come up with a solution, the story goes the trooper reached for a grenade and his hand found an air horn carried for signaling and he depress the plunger for a long, extended blast. Afterward, he claims, the proverbial pin drop could be heard as the attacking force was gone. The tale-teller surmised the Viet Cong aggressors must have fled from hearing the firing signature of a yet-unidentified Lính Mỹ superweapon.

Sounds great! Air horns are much lighter than rifles and machine guns, especially with ammunition. However, even if it worked (once) would you bet it would work again? And consistently?

Misplaced Tactical Training


Why do some competition-focused shooters make fun of tactical training, force-on-force or shoot-house exercises?

Tactical Training Value


“Our recent combat experience is not necessarily analogous to what we are going to have to do in the future.”

– Maj. Gen. John Nicholson
Commander, 82nd Airborne

Battle Plan (n) – a list of things that aren’t going to happen if you are attacked.

“No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength”

“Strategy is a system of expedients.”

– Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke

Moltke’s notable statement that, “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy” is a classic reflection of Clausewitz’s insistence on the roles of chance, friction, “fog”, uncertainty, and interactivity in war.

“No plan survives first contact intact.”


Tactical Training


It’s been said that tactics are more important than skills like marksmanship.

Which tactics?

Wisdom from Paul Gomez

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Paul Gomez, TotalProtectionInteractive put this out after a frustrating encounter with a gun industry personality known for aggressive self promotion. When asked for specifics and standards about his program, said personality wouldn’t (or couldn’t) provide any concrete answers or any metric on how he measures skill.


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