Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Killer Contests?

In her always-entertaining blog, View From The Porch, my esteemed friend Tamara wrote a piece on 10NOV (Happy Birthday, USMC!) which she titled, Ninja combat powers, activate! The premise is that a recent publication, Guns & Ammo Book of Personal Defense, included
" . . . a piece by Chuck Taylor on how competition shooting will get you killed. Heck, even thinking about attending an IPSC event could get you grazed, and shooting an NRA Bullseye match is guaranteed to cause a mugging.. . . . the article was long on telling you that Chuck was a former world-class IPSC shooter, IPSC sucks, and... well, that was pretty much the long and the short of it, . . . ."

Tam’s article is well worth the reading, and I understand just what she’s saying, perhaps somewhat better than most of her readers. In 1980, I spent a week at Jeff Cooper's original Gunsite, largely under Chuck Taylor’s instruction. It is interesting that at that time, he was already a veteran IPSC shooter, but had nothing bad to say about that particular discipline. In fact, after my class, I stayed over an extra day to participlate in a large, local IPSC match, run by - - Guess who? Chuck put on an excellent and challenging match, during which I used to good advantage much of what HE had taught during the previous week. No, I didn't win, nor even place really high, but I was happy. At the end, I told Chuck that my decent performance was largely due to what I'd just learned from him and Jeff. He seemed quite gratified by my comments.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation was set up to provide a framework within which the PRACTICAL usage of firearms by individuals, and the Modern Technique of the Pistol
embodying the principals Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (Accuracy, Power, Speed) could be fostered and advanced. Founded in 1976, IPSC at first worked on the premise that, in a match setting, a shooting scenario would be posed, and it was up to the individual shooter to “solve the problem” within broad rules, mostly concerned with safety. In this manner would the state of the art progress.

Now, (why even bother to state it?) no match stage, no matter how well thought-out, can hope to exactly simulate all the stresses and variables of a true armed confrontation. But you should compare the IDEA of a match or stage so structured with a regular bullseye shooting match, or even the well conceived but totally obsolete
Practical Pistol Course (PPC,) originated by the FBI. About all those two types of shooting have in common with IPSC, or the later IDPA, shooting are that they involve the use of handguns. When the shooter is required to exercise judgment in choice of targets, using strategy, tactics, and cover, while being scored for speed, noticible levels of stress are experienced. In matches which require the use of “street worthy” arms and holsters, frequently hidden by cover garments, a certain level of realism is truly present. A smooth, rapid draw, initiated by an external signal, combined with accurate hits, often on multiple targets, oft times needing to reload “on the clock,” is necessary to make a good showing in such a match. Who’s to say that these would NOT be good talents to possess if confronted by a deadly situation on a parking lot or in a dark hallway?

Whatever pressures are or are not present in this type of “game playing,” how could it fail to be more valuable practice and training than what we see on the range day after day? The shooter strolls up to the firing line (choosing a distance at which he feels comfortable) and loads up his pistol, often without even using a holster. Shooter takes his time, aims carefully, and fires off a magazine at a target. Shooter congratulates himself if he fires as many as TWO SHOTS A SECOND! We watch as the shooter repeats this same thing, over and over, until -- usually-- a box of ammo is expended. And you can see the same thing when the shooter is a police officer. The difference may be that the practicing cop USUALLY wears his duty rig on the firing line. Knowing that he is not being timed, the office seldom makes any attempt at a rapid draw. Periodic qualifications are about the only time that most officers make any attempt toward speed, and standards are seldom very high.

Speaking of periodic qualifications on the police range - - - I’ve been chided by more than one rangemaster, “You’re allowed 20 seconds on this string, JP. Why don’t you take your time and shoot a tighter group?” Well, there’s no good purpose to backtalk the guy in charge, especially in front of rookies. But I’ve been tempted to observe that while HE might give me a full third-of-a-minute, sumdood coming out of the Seven-11 with fifty-six stolen bucks and a Jennings .22 might not be so generous.

As I say, Tam’s article is good reading. Re-checking it while preparing this little effort, I note that some of her commentators also have some interesting and relevant observations. There is pretty wide agreement that, with proper mind set, participation in shooting matches is NOT necessarily an invitation to disaster on the street. Chuck Taylor has an impressive background in shooting, but I fear he may currently be sending a misleading message, just for the sake of controversy.


Matt G said...

"Knowing that he is not being timed, the officer seldom makes any attempt at a rapid draw. Periodic qualifications are about the only time that most officers make any attempt toward speed, and standards are seldom very high."

That's a fact. Hell, our state qualifications only require one timed shoot with reload and shoot. (Most rangemasters far exceed the state mandate in their quals, thank goodness.) It was you who taught me to make every draw a quick draw. Shoot, we can always take our time after we've got our front sight on the target, but we can make every single draw a practice at speed. And if a target's worth pointing a gun at, it's worth pointing a gun at quickly. If your draw is a 0.5 second draw instead of a 2.5 second draw, then you've got 2 whole more seconds to breath, press, breath, realign, press... etc.

Matt G said...

Er, that's "breathe."
Twice. ;)

Old NFO said...

Well said JPG! ANY training that raises the level and gets the adrenal gland working is better than standing still and punching a target at 3, 5, 7 yards...

You are dead on that most LEOs don't practice, however I'm lucky to shoot with 5-6 that DO compete (well, actually they pretty much spank me every time), and I get a chance to learn every time I go to a match. I truly hope I never have to pull a weapon, but I am convinced the competion has helped me with the muscle responses I will need to survive.