There are arguments from both ends of the spectrum when it comes to firearms competitions. On one end people will say there is nothing better than competing. One the other you will hear people say that competition shooting will get you killed in the streets. My thought, I recommend competition shooting. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
There are many benefits to be taken away from shooting in competitions. When I say competition, I mean everything from bullseye to hosing down targets with handgun, rifle, and maybe even a little shotgun thrown in there. In my opinion, the biggest takeaway from competing is the added stress. Some people lose their minds when the buzzer goes off at the beginning of a stage. This helps replicate, to some extent, the rush of adrenaline you’ll get in a possible shoot scenario. Unless you have been through a gunfight, it is impossible to replicate so you need to find the best way possible to prepare yourself for one if you carry a gun for self-defense. Being timed and having others’ peer pressure of watching you will usually cause you to subconsciously speed up. This can lead to mistakes that otherwise would have seemed impossible.
Some people have told me, “I’m not going to compete because I will never win against so and so with their decked out $4,000 pistol.” That’s great but I’m not asking you to compete against them. I’m asking you to find ways to better yourself. If you’ve been to an IDPA match lately you’ve seen at least 75% of the competitors wearing ‘shoot me first vests.’ So what. For them that may replicate a jacket or button down they normally wear. Or it may just be a way to better their chances of a faster time. I have shot IDPA for about 15 years and I wear my normal day to day attire with my normal concealed carry holster and my every day carry handgun. Will I potentially be hindered compared to some of these other competitors? Yes, but I’m becoming more proficient at self-defense skills that may one day save my life. With that said, there is nothing wrong with being the guy who has ‘gamer guns.’ Even with these you still have to apply the fundamentals to be successful. And guess what. A lot of add-ons such as red dots and compensators that used to be reserved for competition handguns and low powered variable optics on carbines are now finding their way into many peoples’ daily carry holsters or on the duty handguns of local law enforcement and the weapon systems of elite military units.
That brings me to another benefit that competitions are a very good place to test out gear. Even on Army SFOD-A teams we will have our own little competitions any time we want to try a new piece of gear or weapon system to verify its capabilities. We like to deem these as, ‘gear shakeout competitions.’ A lot of accessories that I have used during my military career have made it onto my home defense/competition carbines. Through low-light competitions I have found better ways to attach my flashlight and more efficient ways to access my pressure pads for lights and lasers. Competing with my bolt action has taught me more efficient ways to carry and load rounds when in a hurry. All these skills translate into real world benefits.
Many people don’t have a local range or backyard where they can shoot while moving or just move in general. This is where a lot of competitions shine. It gets you moving. It also gets you thinking on efficiencies. Anyone that knows me knows that I am all about efficiency in all aspects of my life. Add all that together with having to fire rounds faster than the one per second you’re allowed at the local range and there is no way you can’t take something positive away if you try.
There are many, many benefits to all disciplines of competition shooting. However, you do have to keep in mind the differences between competition and real life. Always try to be moving or finding cover. Don’t drop magazines with bullets still in them. (You never know when you wish you would have held onto those four extra rounds.) Don’t be used to having a speed draw holster or your rifle at the ready. Remember these differences and take away the positives. Even in life, bad situations can bring about positives if looked at correctly.
Those are just my thoughts on competing with firearms. Competitions are not the be all end all. I still recommend attending firearms courses with vetted instructors when possible but competitions are a good way to help maintain your proficiency. They are also a great place to get out and meet people with similar interests. If you have never done one and are nervous to try. Just go. Most competitors will even let you borrow guns and equipment if you don’t have enough or the right stuff. I’ve seen shooters lend out gear just to be beaten by the guy that borrowed it. It is a great community and if you have questions this is the place to be. Identify yourself as a new shooter and everyone will help you out any way they can. If you already compete, keep on doing what you’re doing and maybe even look into different competitions. The only way to increase your abilities is to get outside your comfort zone and push yourself. Now go have fun and learn some potentially lifesaving skills in the process.