"In real life there is no timer"
"On the street you don't get a walk through"
"On the street you may have to shoot more than twice"
What's worse is the disdain for those that treat those more interested in the sporting aspect, that works both ways as the sporting enthusiasts like to poke fun at the Tactical Timmys.
As I am more interested in the practical application of competition skills in a concealed carry environment I'm squarely in the middle and can poke fun at both sides, but I'm going to make the focus of this article on those that pretty much adamantly refuse to go to a pistol competition despite the many benefits they have to offer.
The first point that I'd like to make is that with a few exceptions, you can play the game however you want. You can tactical the shit out of a stage if that's what you want to do. If you want to go all slow is smooth, smooth is fast on a field course, YOU CAN!
If you want to rock a stock gun at a match, YOU CAN!
If you want to do a Tactical Reload or Reload w/ Retention at a USPSA match...yeah, you guessed it, YOU CAN!
Gabriel White is killing it in USPSA using a rig that closely mirrors his concealed carry set up and has the distinction of being one of the only shooters to crush the Rogers Shooting School Courses from a concealed holster.
But what are some of the benefits of competition that we don't get in a typical training environment?
For starters we get pushed out of our comfort zone, in a training class, there is a rhythm, you know what's going on, people are telling you what to do and how to do it. At least up until you get into more advanced training the drills are pretty basic and not very....pardon the use of the word, dynamic.
Pistol matches provide a variety of different drills / stages with a lot of possible ways to have to navigate such and bring a higher level of thinking with a gun in your hand and can also provide a means for you to better practice the things you have learned in training.
It saddens me how many ranges do not allow working from the holster, shooting in a competition environment will give you that ability in spades. As well as a lot of other methods of accessing your gun. Table starts, box starts, shooting in vehicles and awkward positions are all good things that come from shooting in matches.
I know a lot of guys that when they go to a class they wear their Tactical Costume however they never wear that stuff outside of training. When you go shoot a match you can opt (within the rules) to use your gear how you carry it. This does mean that you need a belt holster of some sort, but it doesn't matter if you carry AIWB, IWB, or OWB, there is a spot some place for you to be able to shoot within the pistol sports. Oddly enough, it is USPSA that you need to attend if you want to shoot your carry gun from an appendix holster but you can do it.
Another good thing about competition is that is that it can provide a metric of your skill. I know this intimidates some as you don't want to go out and show your ass but if there's one thing that can drive you to want to improve it's coming in at the bottom of the pack when the scores come out.
Now not everything in competition is is roses. There are some very non-tactical things that are allowed, but here's the great thing, you don't have to do it that way. Sure some gamer with a race gun is going to shoot from the middle of a doorway or stick his gun out through a porthole simulating a window, YOU in all your tactical glory DO NOT HAVE TO SHOOT THE SAME WAY. Use cover and shoot it in a tactical manner it that's how you want to do it.
Even IDPA has some poor practices when it comes to tactical know-how, the IDPA standard of using cover allows for 50% of your body and your entire head to be visible to a threat target, but both your feet are out of view so it's all good. I'm sure your loved ones will be happy to know that after having your brain pan removed, your feet were pristine.
Again, you can use cover how you want to use it. I try to stick with as little leading my muzzle around cover as I can, but if you want to start competing for the sake of competition, you may find yourself changing your approach to shooting a match.
Another added benefit is location and cost. A good two day class is going to run you a minimum of around $300+ ammo and any other associated costs. On average I want to go to two classes a year. It adds up. I can shoot a match and have an all new shooting experience for a $20 entry fee and 100-200 rounds of ammo. I can do this within an hour of my house pretty much every weekend of the month if I really wanted to.
I took my first defensive pistol class in 2007, I started competing in late 2009. All of the things I've learned in that class and every class after I have been able to apply and practice in a match environment to better ingrain and internalize the skills learned in training.
Sure, when I shoot IDPA I can't use my preferred method of carry, but the benefits I get from attending matches outweighs that. I can work a concealed draw-stroke from my appendix holster at home during my dry-fire work.
If you're getting into a rut with your regular practice at the range and want to change it up a bit, check out competitions in your area.
If you want an experts opinion on it, Paul Sharp of Sharp Defense has this to say.
In closing, better shooting is better shooting and competition provides not only a venue to improve your shooting but to improve your thinking and shooting which rarely gets worked at your average range practice.
Get to it!