Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Action Shooting Competitions

Where does competition fit into tactical training regimen?

In the article ‘The Five Finger’s of Tactical Proficiency’, I laid out what I considered as the principles in developing tactical skill sets. The fundamental building blocks discussed in that article are safety, weapon manipulation, accuracy, speed and tactics. I am a proponent of using ‘practical’ shooting competitions for development of skills. However, they are some positives and negatives with participating in the action shooting sports for the armed professional.

IPSC is a sport. Most competitors use sports equipment,
not tactical gear...

IPSC is an action shooting sport whose motto is Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (DVC) in Latin meaning accuracy, power, and speed forms the basis for competition. IPSC shooters must successfully blend accuracy, power, and speed to do well. In IPSC, no course of fire should ever be the same from one competition to another. This keeps the matches from becoming standardized and competitors should have no advanced knowledge of any match. Multiple targets, moving targets, reactive targets, penalty targets, or even partially covered targets, obstacles, movement, competitive strategies, and other techniques are all a part of IPSC matches. Sounds like fun. Remember this is a sport, not tactical simulation. There is an element of gamesmanship. There is no tactical element to IPSC.

IDPA is another practical shooting sport created in response to the gamesmanship of IPSC. It is action shooting using of practical self defence firearms, equipment and full power ammunition to solve simulated “real world” self-defence scenarios. IDPA shooters must use practical carry handguns and holsters worn in a concealed manner to simulate practical self-defence use. The primary goal of IDPA is to test the skill and ability of an individual. The matches are set up attempting to simulate tactical situations. While more tactically oriented than IPSC, it is still the match director’s take on tactics that permeates the stages. Also, as much as they try to avoid it, there still is an element of gamesmanship within the matches. There is no getting away from that.

IDPA requires competitors to use practical handguns, holsters and accessories
carried in a concealed manner. Rob Vogel, one of the top rated IDPA professional shooter.

 Recently, both IPSC and IDPA have been promoting 3 gun matches, using handgun, rifle and shotgun in practical shooting situations. This presents excellent opportunities to become a well rounded shooter.

What are the positive points do these sports promote for the tactical shooter?

‘Practical’ shooting sports, such as IPSC, IDPA and 3 Gun, promotes four out of The Five Finger’s of Tactical Proficiency.   IPSC, IDPA and 3 gun can be used to elevate your weapons manipulation, accuracy and speed while strictly upholding safety. When shooting these matches, you will be pushed outside your comfort zone. Different stage present different problems solved using different portions of your skills. Shooting against time for score increases stress; nobody wants to be in last place. All these sports teach you to problem solving and move safely with a loaded firearm. This is an important aspect of traditional range practices and standard practices that is lacking. Finally, the practical shooting community is a great group of people from all walks of life. As a tactical professional, you will be surprised how many others like yourself are taking part in these matches.

What are the negative points do these sports promote for the tactical shooter?

Many of the courses of fire encourage poor tactics such as standing in doorways and engaging without full consideration of cover. Using of ‘sports’ equipment rather than tactical equipment can negate valuable time spent on dry training in your duty gear or fighting rig. Problem solving based on watching other ‘competitors’ rather than tactical professionals reinforces poor tactical decision making. Mandatory tactical reloads, the use of speed reloads over tactical reloads and emergency reloads, and not allowing competitors to scan and assess or SCORE drill are some of the poor weapon manipulation skills promoted. These are sports competitions with rules to be fair to all the competitors  Gunfights have no rules and it you are fighting fair you are going to lose. These are serious issues to an armed professional. But there are solutions.


When you go to these competitions, you will be grouped with other competitors as a ‘squad’. Try to get ‘squaded’ or plan ahead of time with other tactical shooters to be your own squad. Everybody in your squad shoots the match, obeying all safety rules and course direction, tactically. Enjoy each other’s company and feedback. Compare your score within the ‘tactical’ squad, not with the ‘sport shooters’.

Competition has its place within every shooting regimen. A lot can be learned from sport shooters about the fundamentals of dynamic shooting. I can guarantee that your skill sets will be challenge by the stages and increase your proficiency. Wanting opportunities to up your dynamic shooting skills look into your local chapter of IPSC and IDPA; they have much to offer. However, you must work hard to avoid training scars that could get you killed on the battlefield or on the street. Enjoy the competition but remember what you really are…

Take care out there.

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