Friday, April 02, 2010

"Is it Training, or is it A Game?"

Comment on a recent article (Tactical Action Shooting: Rules and Regulations) from "Rivrdog":

Since conflicts are not settled on open ground with dueling pistols and THEIR rules of use any more, learning to "run and gun" is very important for personal survival in any gunfight we might become involved in.

These rule-makers are trying, for LEGAL reasons, to introduce safety as the first objective of competition. Unfortunately, under the stress of a gunfight, you will perform as you have trained, and if you have trained under rules which are designed to keep the lawsuit wolf away from the gun club's door, your training will NOT serve you well.

If you want to use "run and gun" skills STRICTLY to compete, fine, take the time and effort to become completely at home with the rules.

However, if you wish to acquire/sharpen "run and gun" skills for your own survival, you'd be much better off practicing those skills in an un-regulated environment. The BEST way to do that is with a partner or partners who can critique your moves and how you handle your weapon. These partners will introduce safety as a survival issue, and NOT as an end in itself, as the gun clubs must do to stay in business.

I disagree with the position taken by the organized "tactical" shooting sports which says that THEIR way is the ONLY way to learn these skills. If the truth be known, THEIR way is the very WORST way to learn these valuable survival skills.

In the background of USPSA/IPSC competition, there has always been the question about "what it is".

Is it training for "Practical Pistol" purposes (ie: firearms proficiency for the purpose of personal protection) or is it "A Game"?

Further background: there have been references to an article in a popular American firearms-related magazine to an article with a title something like: "Practical Pistol: It Will Get You Killed!"

As I have explored the boundaries of Practical Pistol (IPSC/USPSA) competition for over five years on this blog, and via copious (and often redundant) dialogue on The Unofficial IPSC List, I've seen this question raised, and addressed, many times.

The Unofficial IPSC List is essentially abandoned by now, and we who were its adherents have found other ways to communicate the essentials of our sport. I hope that this blog is one of the viable alternatives.

Thus I feel obliged to address the question raised by Rivrdog: will IPSC training, indeed get you killed?

Actually, in my mind this is a tripartite question:
  1. What is the purpose of IPSC competition ... Training for self defense, or mere competition?
  2. Will the skills (and mind-set) learned in IPSC training get you killed in a self-defense situation?
  3. What, then, is the value of IPSC competition, and why should we encourage people to participate?
Lets look at each question individual:

What is the purpose of IPSC competition?

It's a GAME, Folks!

We're not trying to train you to defend yourself with a handgun (or, in the case of a 3-gun match, with a shotgun or a rifle.)

The only purpose of IPSC ... and by extension, USPSA competition ... is to learn to shoot competitively, safely, and to measure your skills against others who are similarly equipped and with a similar skill level. Practical competition is only that. We don't want to shoot people, we only want to shoot cardboard and steel targets.

When we shoot a match, we are not fulfilling some anachronistic fantasy about "Killing Bad Guys". All we are trying to do is to shoot better, faster, and with greater discrimination in a complex field of targets which we should shoot, targets which we should not shoot ... and do so safely. And have a whale of a lot of fun in the process.

I mentioned the complexity of the sport. This not only tests your shooting skills, but also tests your judgment. Can you shoot fast and win, or should you shoot slower and get a higher score to win?

Remember, any violation of the safety rules (which include maintaining control of your firearm at all times without potentially endangering other people) will result in the match administrators forbidding any further competition in the match.

No, we're not willing to allow 'questionable' tactics during a match. If you can't handle a gun safely, you're out of there!

Will IPSC (USPSA) get you killed?
The reason for this question is basically that IPSC competition teaches you to shoot without requiring you to perform 'cover' and other movements which would protect you from an opponent that shoots back at you.

In this context, the charge is probably true. Defensive tactics are best exemplified by IDPA, which requires the competitor to seek cover before engaging targets. If you want to learn to shoot defensibly, you should take up IDPA rather than IPSC style competition.

But we don't much care about that. We're a care-free bunch of folks who only want to shoot at cardboard and steel targets. It's true, we do NOT teach defensive shooting. Rather, we would prefer to stand out in the open (typically) and assume that if we were engaging hostile combatants, we would still persevere by dint of our superior speed and accuracy.

Unrealistic? Sure it is. We don't care. We're out for a day of run & gun in the sun, havingt fun.

You got a problem with that? Then go shoot IDPA. We're in America -- its a Free Country. Do whatever turns you on.

And if want to roll on the ground while shooting, and make tactical magazine changes, that's fine with us. We'll beat your score every day, because all of this rolling on the ground and making tactical magazine changes takes time, and we are all about speed, power and accuracy.

So what is the value of IPSC competition?

Perhaps the greatest value is that we get to go to the range frequently, shoot at passive targets in a safe environment, and at the end of the day we can see how we stack up against our peer.

Another benefit is that it absolutely ingrains safe gun-handling habits.

Yes, we do emphasize safety first, last and always. But in accomplishing these rote skills, we are learning to ALWAYS be safe with firearms, no matter what the circumstances. The ability to safely handle a firearm provides confidence and confirms a minimal standard of SAFETY in a range situation.

No, this does not satisfy RIVRDOG's demand for a Tactical/Defensive posture at tall times and under all circumstances.

But then ... that's not the mission of any competitive shooting sport, is it?

As well require that any bulls-eye type shooting sport, such as NRA Small-Bore Indoor Rifle ("Gallery Rifle") serve a defensive purpose.

It will not happen for Gallery Rifles, and it will not happen for IPSC/USPSA shooting.

Ultimately: to chide IPSC/USPSA for not being a training venue for Defensive shooting is as flawed as chiding Gallery Rifle competition for not being a training venue for Defensive shooting.

It is not the purpose of the sport. While it may once have been, it is not now and will never be.

So I have to tell you, Dog, as much as I respect your LEO experience ... if you choose to denigrate IPSC/USPSA because it doesn't teach and reinforce the proper techniques for close-quarters combat, you're spitting against the wind.

That's not what it's all about, and it hasn't been about that for the past decade.

CQB for civilians is so ... 20th Century!

(PS: Yes, I know if you follow the above link you will be outraged by the accompanying statement. My son is a Navy Master At Arms, and I a entirely satisfied with his training and his mission. It has nothing at ALL to do with pistol competition.)

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