Competition Vs. The Real World

Today's article comes to us from X-Treme Pro Staffer, Bill Corcoran


Not too long ago, a tragic series of events happened in a Houston neighborhood when a lone gunman took to the streets and started shooting people with a rifle. While tragic, it is also not terribly uncommon to see such stories in the news. What was uncommon, and not covered by the mainstream media, was the fact that the shooter was engaged by a citizen armed with his concealed pistol.

Details are sketchy and the media appears hesitant to provide much coverage on the story. What is known is that the shooter and concealed carrier engaged in a gunfight on a residential street after the suspect shot and killed a man sitting in his vehicle. It is likely that the presence of an armed citizen returning fire occupied the shooters full attention for a period of time and allowed potential victims to   escape the kill zone.

The concealed carrier was shot and wounded by the shooter as were two police officers and three other citizens, one citizen was killed. The police were able to take out the shooter.  I will not second guess the concealed carrier’s decision to engage an active shooter, he made a tough call based on the circumstances as he saw them and should be commended for his courage.

The question is; what lessons can be learned from this incident? Given the ongoing discussion about the value, or lack of value, of competition shooting relative to real world shooting scenarios, the question becomes even more timely.

Let me start by stating the obvious; competition shooting is not combat, and combat is not competition shooting. As a former Law Enforcement Officer with over 13 years of service, a US Army Veteran and an active 3 Gun competitor, I recognize the difference. I have been shot at and I have stood in the starting box as I visualize how I am going to take the targets when the buzzer goes off. While they are two very different worlds, the world of competition shooting and the real world shooting scenario do share some similarities.

Anyone who has ever shot in competition knows how quickly you forget a plan the second you hear the buzzer. Things that were well rehearsed minutes ago seem to fall apart. Clearing a malfunction, loading a magazine or racking the slide seem clumsy and difficult. You forget to focus on the front sight as shot after shot fly wide of the plate rack. That quad load you were so good at yesterday in your living room now looks like Johnny Appleseed was tossing shotgun shells all over the ground. What is that all about?

The same kind of thing happens when “it” hits the fan in the real world. The first time somebody pulled a gun on me, everything went into slow motion. I knew I was yelling “GUN!” but I couldn’t hear myself. I assume the other two officers were yelling something too but I couldn’t hear them either. I suddenly found a Glock in my hand with no recollection of drawing it from my holster. My vision narrowed like I was looking through a tunnel, but it was clear and super focused. Everything was moving so slowly. Even though I had visualized scenarios like it a thousand times before, it did not go as I had planned. We all survived and took the bad guy down but it was a cluster.

The common denominator is adrenaline and what it does to your body. Adrenaline is there to provide us exceptional speed, strength and resilience in the event of a life threatening situation. The trade-off is that our movements and thoughts become very crude. Blood is pulled away from the extremities and rushed to the core, making fine movements difficult. The heart rate spikes and breathing becomes fast, flooding oxygen to the muscles. These metabolic changes happen in an instant and are why we can’t think clearly, lose our dexterity, and cannot stick to a plan.

What does this have to do with competition shooting vs. real world situations?

The value in competition shooting is in training oneself to stay clear headed and focused in a high stress situation. The ability to process information quickly and react instantly under stress are critical skills in any gunfight whether it is against paper targets or the ones that shoot back.

Another critical skill gained in competition is marksmanship under stress. The ability to hit a target with a pistol or rifle depends on a few fundamental skills. Without training, the fundamental skills of proper grip, trigger control and sight picture will be the first to go as soon as the adrenaline starts pumping. Delivering accurate fire, sometimes while on the move, onto the target is the single best way to end a gunfight, or win a match.

It is true that you will fight how you train and to that end, competition shooting can build habits that are dangerous in a real gunfight. Knowing the difference between cover and concealment, and how to use them could keep you alive if bullets are coming back at you.

Concealment is not cover, especially when taking rifle fire as the Houston pistol carrier faced. Cover is hard stuff that will stop bullets; cars, brick walls, a dirt mound. I once had to take cover behind an eight-inch-high street curb alongside my K9 partner.  I just kept thinking “skinny thoughts”.

Concealment will hide you from the shooters view but will not necessarily stop his bullets. It can be used to move undetected to allow for a clear shot, or to evacuate from a kill zone without being seen.

There seem to be a lot of people saying that competition shooting is useless in a real gunfight. That is clearly not the case. Others may say that combat experience is useless in competition and that is also clearly not true. Mixed martial artists are effective because of the mix of skillsets they possess. As concealed carriers, police officers, military operators and competitive shooters we can all benefit from a mix of training and experience that encompasses “real world” training as well as competition training.

“Make Ready”

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