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Posted:  12/2/2013 9:26 AM #39833
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Joined: 7/14/2009
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Last Post: 8/20/2014
Subject: Editor's Notebook: Part I: The Relevance of Competition to Personal Defense
The FEATURE Editor's Notebook: Part I: The Relevance of Competition to Personal Defense Editor's Note: Today, Part 1 of Tactical Wire editor Rich Grassi's recounting of the 2013 IDPA Back-Up Gun (BUG) Nationals. As a police officer and training officer, Grassi brings an experienced shooter's perspective along with a first-time competitor's eye to competition. We'll conclude his 2-part series on Friday. The "backup gun" is supposed to be a small handgun used for self-defense. In the match, many people used their regular carry gun -- like this S&W Shield -- instead of a true micro-gun that's used when the regular carry gun fails, is broken, out of ammo, lost. Photo by Yamil Sued. Proceeding down the road too-well-traveled, sporting competition is often seen as an "either - or" proposition. Judging from the mail over the past few weeks, several of our number decry the polarity in public policy as it relates to the Natural Rights of man and the gun press seems to move to polarizing issues to drive up circulation/readership figures.

-- "Doing the rituals required in competition will cause you to reflexively "unload, show clear" after shooting an attacker - who may not be stopped, causing your demise."

-- "Just shooting at a range without striving for excellence, as you do in competition, is a waste of time and a sure way to get yourself killed."

Which is right? Well, both. And neither.


In the same way that polarized political discussions generally lead to hardening both extremes and alienating those in the middle, the harder you try to reach consensus on "competition as preparation for battle," the further from that goal you travel. Still, there's something to be said for both positions that lead to a hybrid of the pair, one that's practical and helpful.

One of the big complaints is the proliferation of silly rules. Before one can really engage on that point, you should really try to run a match. The responsibilities and attempts to make a level playing field generate a real need for comprehensive rules. Responsibilities include the safety of all participants - staff, competitors and bystanders - and if you don't think that's necessary, put on your body armor and go to a public range. The level of nonsense you can see is staggering. People tend to run machinery absent conscious thought and even the most careful can acquire brain fade.

Just look at the people on the road as you drive to the range. That speaks volumes.

Operating on the theory that what you get out of any trial is consistent to the effort which is put into the attempt, there's a hell of a lot you can get from organized competition. Early in my career, I shot bull's-eye. As thrilling as watching paint dry, it's a thinker's game. Very difficult, demanding and precise, there are those who shot the National Match at very high levels that are known as hard gunfighters - Bill Allard and Bill Jordan to name two.

The S&W Shield was popular in this match, as used here by S&W Pro Shooter Trevor Baucomb. Photo by Yamil Sued.
Likewise, PPC was a brief distraction in my younger days. Referred to by one or another highly skilled fighter (perhaps Jeff Cooper?) as "stylized dance," the barn-sized targets had the demanding scoring rings from the International Shooting Union targets. You were trying to hit that tiny "X" from fifty yards, twenty-four rounds over four positions under time - among other stages. No one would call that gunfight preparation, but a number of noted gunfighters - Jim Cirillo among them - used PPC to harden personal skills at use of sights and control of trigger.

To conclude that competition is a waste of time is silly. That said, you can't approach the effort without some consideration.

The 2013 IDPA Back-Up Gun Nationals at Smith & Wesson brought this topic to mind as I was selected as a member of media to shoot the stages in the ramp-up to the match. I'd be using a loaner gun, the S&W Shield, one I'd never fired before.

The match consisted of 13 stages, with around 185 rounds fired. Scenarios ranged from dining out, being at home in the kitchen, the living room, in bed, as well as carjacking scenarios and camping in a tent, and a standards stage. The guns were to be small, with no timed reloads and no drawing from the holster. The strings of fire were limited to five rounds with some stages having a number of strings.

The shooter who used this gun really "got" the meaning of the match. Yamil Sued photo.
The Staff shot the day before I arrived. One worthy completed the event with a Colt Model 1903 Pocket "Hammerless" in .32 ACP. Now that's shooting the match as it was intended to be shot.

In the next installment, we'll examine the good of such a match; what purpose it serves and what you can learn from an event like this as it pertains to actual defense with a smaller-than-standard handgun (pistol or revolver).

-- Rich Grassi

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