Do Competition Skills Translate to Self-Defense Shooting Skills? Part Two.
It’s an age-old question that has adamant advocates on both sides. As a competitor in the action shooting sports for over 10 years, I tend to fall on the side that is inclined to think the skills do translate. However, I consider myself a student of both crafts, and in my last post, I discussed how competition skills can and do translate. In this post, let’s consider the counterpoint: Where does action shooting miss the mark of honing self-defense skills?
It’s a question of stress
The primary shortcoming is that the stress and dynamics are not the same. For the most part, in competition, the targets and scenario are known, and a choreographed plan can be formed. While adrenaline induced match-stress is higher than most anything else that can be experienced with live ammunition, it is completely different than the stress experienced in something like force-on-force training. In force-on-force, one faces a live opponent who can shoot back and even inflict a marginal amount of pain.
Another point of contention is the gear. For the most part, the action shooting sports have moved away from their martial roots and embraced what is essentially marksmanship racing. (For a first person view of what that looks like, take a look at this video from Vortex shooter Jerry Miculek.) In any kind of racing, some equipment will have inherent advantages, and competitors will adapt equipment to be as aggressively compliant as possible. This leads to equipment that perfectly conforms to be competitively advantageous but may not be the same equipment one would choose for self-defense.
The saying goes, “Beware the man with one gun. He probably knows how to use it.” A lot of competitors are like this. They spend A LOT of time honing their skills with their match gear, many neglect practicing with their self-defense gear. Often many wear completely different guns in completely different holsters and sometimes in completely different positions on their body for self-defense. (Check out the gear 3 Gun shooters carry in this video.) Such shooters will benefit from solid fundamentals, but often suffer from a neglect of cross training their other systems.
Not all accuracy is created equal
One final key skill that doesn’t necessarily transfer is the accuracy standard in competition shooting. For example, let’s say the standard is to be within a 6x8 inch box. In a quest for speed, if there is no competitive advantage to groups smaller than 6 inches, the objective then becomes how fast can one shoot 6-inch groups.
The trap some folks can fall into is the pursuit of speed is never ending. They may never force themselves to refine the accuracy to 5- or 4-inch groups. Self-defense shooting isn’t always a precision affair … but it can be. The classic hostage-taker head shot is an example, if one’s comfort zone is a 6-inch box … how confident are they in taking the high-risk head shot?
Fundamentals matter, but so does disciplined practice
While action shooting competition is rooted in a lot of the fundamentals that ultimately build a solid defensive shooter, to live exclusively in that space does not a defensive shooter make. Defensive shooting is very much the martial art of gunfighting, of which refined shooting and marksmanship skill are only but a part. One would do well to hone this craft in the pursuit of defensive use of a firearm, but a broad study of a diverse topic is required for its mastery.
If you missed last week’s blog on how competition shooting skills DO translate to self-defense, make sure and take a look. Want to see more 3 Gun action to get a feel for the differences between action shooting and self-defense? Here’s a video on the Top 5 3 Gun tips for beginners.
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