Ignorance and the Internet, Part II…

In the continuing saga of “people making things up, assigning them to other people, and then attacking them for the things they’ve made up and assigned to other people” along with the serving of “making comparisons that people don’t make, and then saying those comparisons are wrong” we have yet another person attacking competition shooting as something that will get you killed.    (This article also showed up on war-doll.com, which should also tell you something.)

As before (in Ignorance the Internet Part I), the original article will be in italics, and my words will be in standard font.  As as before:  I don’t know “Shaun A” who is the author of the nonsense I am responding to (though I do know a bit about what he does currently to pay the bills, but I’m going to leave that out of this) so I don’t know his skill level, what he is like as a person, etc.  I’m just responding to what he said in his article.  I note also that I’m quoting his article directly, so any typos, grammatical errors, etc, are what he wrote. Continue reading

Killed in the Streets again…

“This is likely to be my last post. This morning I was told in no uncertain terms that using the sights is slow and I should point shoot ‘cause the fight will be less than three yards and I won’t have time to use the sights and shooting competition will likely get me killed on the streets and fine motor control…”

…such was the post from a friend of mine the other day on Facebook.

(Jump to the end for the TL;DR version, but first make sure to watch the video in the middle.)

Leaving aside the research on actual engagement distances for citizen self-defense situations, the research on sight usage (and the resulting effect on the various police departments that have updated their training methodology on sighted fire and have statistics on hit ratios that far exceed the national norms), our beyond-grade-school-level understanding of what the terms “gross motor skill” and “fine motor skill” actually entail, plus the many easily-found examples of using the sights at great speed….

….leaving ALL that aside because even a CURSORY search by anyone with Internet access could find those and therefore wouldn’t tell my friend anything that stupid…

….I thought I’d address through a simple example the “shooting competition will likely get me killed on the streets” section of that particular pile of nonsense.

On Saturday, August 22nd in Grand Island at the Heartland Shooting Park, the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association (NFOA) had their annual meeting, which among other things included informational presentations by various trainers and content-area experts in the morning plus a number of training sessions and shooting opportunities in the afternoon.

One of those opportunities was an almost-Steel Challenge stage, which I ran for anyone who wanted to give it a try. The stage was roughly Roundabout (for those who know SC stages) and centerfire pistol shooters could either run the stage from a holster or if they didn’t have a sufficient holster, from a table. Given time constraints (plus ammunition constraints on the part of the shooters) we only ran three strings of fire. We threw out the slowest run and added the other two together for score.

I of course shot it with my USPSA Production equipment setup—dropped/offset holster, BOSS hanger, CR Speed belt, Production-legal Glock 34. Other shooters (most of which had never shot a competition stage before) shot whatever handgun they had brought, from whatever holster they had.

After everyone got done, it occurred to me that here we had an opportunity to check how much competition shooting practice would get me killed on the streets. I would think that no matter what stupid ideas someone has about self-defense, we can all at least agree that with respect to CCW and self-defense, the primary handgun skillset is the ability to draw and get accurate shots on target quickly.

…and that’s what a Steel Challenge stage is all about—a good draw, and hitting those steel targets as fast as possible.. So, I grabbed a couple of people, and had them time and record me shooting the exact same stage, but this time with my actual carry gun from concealment. (At the end of the day, I had changed into different clothing to drive home, and was wearing my normal, everyday concealment rig, which meant I was using the gear I would be carrying “on the street” when my competition shooting would get me killed.)

Here’s the video:

…let’s make that really clear. Here were the times for the three runs using my USPSA rig—competition holster, belt, and gun.

1st Run: 3.70 2nd Run: 2.88 3rd Run: 3.40

My three runs with my carry holster/gun:

1st Run: 3.77  2nd Run: 4.32 3rd Run: 3.36

You can see that my first and third runs were effectively the same between my competition rig and my carry rig. The difference was in the second run, in which (with my carry rig) I forgot how to aim and had to take three makeup shots because I’m an idiot. With my competition rig I actually shot the second run correctly.

Out of the 37 entries in the centerfire pistol division of this stage, I won first with my competition gun. I got an unofficial third with my carry gun shooting from concealment, losing 2nd place by only 0.05 seconds to an A-class USPSA shooter using his competition gear. Another way of putting that: the nearest a non-competition shooter got to my CCW score was almost enough time for me to do an additional full string of fire. (The top three official shooters were competition shooters.) 28 of the 36 stage scores more than doubled my CCW score.

2015-PRT-SCscoresI participate in USPSA, IDPA, Steel Challenge, and Multigun shooting competitions. The vast majority of my practice time is with my competition gun from my competition rig. And yet, with my carry gun from concealment, I was faster and more accurate than a random sampling of 34 other shooters who care about firearms ownership, who shot whatever gun they wanted, without concealment. (Some of whom, I’ve heard, say that competition shooting will get you killed on the street.)

I’m curious: What part of competition was going to get me killed there? The part where my shooting practice caused me to be faster and more accurate than almost everyone else except for the other people who shoot competitions and thus work on being better shooters?

 

TL;DR version: I shot a steel challenge stage with my carry gun from concealment almost as fast as with my competition gun from a competition holster, beating almost everyone else. 95% of my practice is with my competition rig. What part of competition shooting is going to get me killed on the street?

Ignorance and the Internet…

Recently, David Windham posted an article titled “5 differences between competitive shooting and combat shooting”  at policeone.com.  The writing deserves such a response that I’m going to go through it bit by bit, for several reasons:

1) So that people don’t think I’m picking and choosing what I’m deciding to respond to, and thus people know the original context that I’m responding to, and
2) So I can respond to all of parts of the truly execrable pile of ignorance-based opinion that were presented.

Before I get started, I should note:  I don’t know Mr. Windham.  I took a look at his website, where he offers training, but it doesn’t really tell me much about him as a shooter/trainer, as his background isn’t really much different than a vast multitude of other people who shoot who have a NRA Pistol Instructor rating and are cops.  He may be a great shooter and a great trainer, he might be–something other than that.  None of my comments to follow are in any way directed to his personal shooting skills or his training skills.  Any comments I make personally about him have to do with his opinions about competition shooting, most of which seem to be based on a complete lack of understanding about competition shooting.

In this response, his words will be quoted in italics, my words will be in standard font.

Here’s his tagline that went with his title:
“A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.”

I’m thinking that if that is what a gunfighter trains for, then 1) he has no sense of priorities, and 2) he either has unlimited time and resources, or no understanding how good the “best in the world” really are.  Because on your worse day, you can’t beat the best in the world except by pure luck–and if you disagree with that, then you have no concept of how truly amazing the “best in the world” really are.

“I’m not anti-competition shooting, but I do find fault with most of the competitions out there. The reason being they aren’t realistic and cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street. I realize that most gun owners will never be involved in a shooting incident, but it can happen at any moment to any of us, hence my passion to train in a realistic manner so that I am prepared as well as those I regularly train.”

You are not anti-competition shooting but you find fault with most competitions?  Okay.

This part doesn’t really have anything for me to comment on, other than to relate my amusement that it took only two sentences for the phrase “get them killed on the street” to appear, which is a good indicator for people who have been in the self-defense culture for awhile to expect a certain lack of knowledge from the author.  You’ll have to make up your own mind as to whether that happened in this case.

For the remainder of this, however, remember that his main two issues with competition shooting are 1) aren’t realistic, and 2) cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street.

And then wait for his comments about competition shooting that have nothing to do with those two things.

“I also despise indoor ranges that don’t allow realistic shooting. If one can’t even draw his weapon from the holster, how can he be prepared for a real life shoot out?

Competition shooters are on the whole amazingly fast when it comes to getting off accurate shots. In and of itself, that is a great thing.

However, there are some huge downfalls.”

I’m not really thrilled about a number of indoor ranges that don’t allow draws from the holster or rapid fire, either.  I get why they do it, from both a liability standpoint and from the standpoint of someone who has watched the VASTLY varying levels of competency demonstrated at commercial indoor ranges.  But, that’s why I am a member of a gun club where I can practice solid gun handling techniques useful for competition and self-defense.  What does that have to do with this topic, though?

We see here that he starts by saying that competition shooters are amazingly fast and accurate.  So….what’s the problem?

“1. All targets are single shot targets for the most part. Training yourself to fire one bullet at a target can mean your death in real life. Regardless of what caliber you shoot, in a real life gun fight you will generally need multiple shots on target to end a threat to your life. Training to fire once and then look for more targets can be a deadly habit to form.”

….in what type of competition is this true?  Let’s see, USPSA, IDPA, Multigun, Bianchi….none of those have “single shot targets for the most part,” except in the cases where the targets are steel which fall if hit correctly (just like a threat to your life, I’ll note).  I suppose Steel Challenge could be considered a “single shot target” type match, if you had to think about it that way.

Seriously, is he lumping all shooting competitions together and saying they are all the same with respect to targets?  That’s so far from the truth that it bears no resemblance to reality.  The fact that his first “huge downfall” is completely wrong about competition shooting is not a good sign.

2. Speed reigns supreme in competition. Speed is important, but not at the expense of accuracy and tactical technique. A good example of this is the goofy overhand grip you see many three-gun shooters using. It’s said that this grip helps them steer the gun. Okay, whatever works for them is fine, because no one is shooting back!

Didn’t he just say above that competition shooters are amazingly fast at getting off accurate shots?  So how does that match with “speed is important but not at the expense of accuracy” if he has already said that competition shooters have that speed while maintaining accuracy?

And his example, the “goofy overhand grip”? That would be the one that is used for those amazingly fast and accurate shots?  The one that he makes this derogatory comment about here, but on his own website, his partner suggests that people take a Chris Costa class…this Chris Costa?

 

Seriously?  (I note that I think that Costa’s grip is bad, and doesn’t work nearly as well for fast and accurate shooting as the grips used in various Multigun matches, the vast majority of which do not lock the arm out, and do not have the hand over the barrel in that fashion.  Costa’s version is significantly more “goofy” and “overhand” than most competition shooter’s grips.)  But apparently, Costa’s version is fine, but competition shooting people aren’t doing it right…?

I’m also curious what “people shooting back” has to do with how you are holding the gun.  If you are holding it in a way that causes you to manage fast, accurate shots, how will holding it a different way (that causes you to be less fast and less accurate) somehow be better if someone is shooting back at you?  Let’s find out:

The problem is that many people see this technique and adopt it without considering real life situations. The most solid offhand shooting platform is using a vertical or horizontal grip that allows you to pull the gun tight into your shoulder pocket with your arms tucked in tight. This helps reduce muzzle rise, make quicker follow-up shots, and assists in overall control of your weapon.

So, contrary to what we see in competition, in which shooters have (according to the author) amazing speed and accuracy in which they don’t normally use vertical grips, the author says that doing something else makes for less muzzle rise and quicker followup shots, even though literally millions of fired shots in multigun competitions have shown that the current “competition” grip tends to work best for “amazingly fast” and accurate shooting, and that other versions are not as fast and accurate.

His description of the “most solid offhand shooting platform” seems odd to me, as parts of it match what is done in competition shooting, and parts of it are either detrimental to shooting quickly and accurately, or make no difference.

Does he think that in competition shooting, more muzzle rise and slower followup shots are okay?  If what he says DID help, wouldn’t we see more people doing it in competition?

3. There’s no need to take cover. What’s even better is the use of the kneeling or prone position if possible. By doing so, you reduce your profile and make yourself a smaller target as well as form a more solid shooting platform by having the ability to triangulate your limbs for support.

I’m not sure about you, but the vast majority of pistol altercations that I’ve seen don’t make use of the kneeling or prone position.  And since he lumps all competition shooting together, well….

In a real life shootout, if the rifle or carbine has come out it is pretty damned serious and likely everything is happening at a distance where cover can be chosen, so this isn’t necessarily a hindrance to be prone because you have dug into your position and it’s safe. If you only practice off hand you will remain standing when you should be looking for cover and making yourself as small a target as humanly possible.”

I’m curious—does he think that if you have practiced to be an outstanding offhand shooter, that suddenly you’ll be much worse using kneeling or prone?

Anyway, I agree that competitions that include rifles don’t normally require any sort of cover.  There is extensive use of kneeling, prone, and irregular positions (that’s actually the signature of a good match, really, requiring the shooters to demonstrate an array of shooting position skills), but cover isn’t required.

Of course, it isn’t supposed to be.  And unless he does all his shooting practice from cover, I’m not sure why it SHOULD be, either.  Meaning, we shoot all the time without use of cover.  Just because we do this doesn’t mean we don’t practice use of cover, or somehow cannot do so.  Why does he assume that competition shooters don’t practice anything outside of their competition-style of shooting?

Speaking of cover, competition shooters never use cover in a tactical manner. They use the cover in a manner that facilitates speed. There is never any “slicing the pie” technique. What I normally see is peek and shoot at best or the shooter leaning out as far as possible to engage as many targets as possible.

Agreed.  That is because in the few sports that require some sort of “cover,” the requirement for a good score is still based on speed, and “slicing the pie” is simply slow.

…again, does the author assume that just because cover isn’t being used correctly (or at all) in a particular competition that the shooters are unable to do so?  Or is he instead thinking that shooting a situation in which cover is not used means that you will instill bad habits and thus not use cover when you should?  Those are two very different things.

He never actually says what the problem really is–and that’s an issue.  After all, when I go to the range to practice with my pistol for self-defense purposes, I shoot a number of different drills—some for pure accuracy at distance (unlikely to be needed in self-defense), some for gun-handling such as the draw (likely to be necessary in self-defense) and reloading (unlikely to be needed in self-defense), some for transitions to multiple targets, some for shooting on the move, some that use cover, and some that are combinations of these.

I don’t practice all of those things at once for most of the practice, because if you try to practice 5 things simultaneously, when several of them are much weaker than the others, you won’t actually improve much.  So…if I can practice specific shooting skills individually without destroying my ability to respond effectively “on the street” (had to use that phrase somewhere), why does the author assume that competition shooters 1) will train themselves to never use cover, or 2) won’t be able to use cover?

I note that I do ALSO practice doing those things simultaneously, because integration is something that also needs to be practiced.  But integration is not the ONLY thing that should be practiced.

4. You’re limiting your configuration possibilities. There are only so many configurations for a shooting stage in a match. A person can become like a trained pony and expect certain things when shooting rather than reacting to the clear and present danger at hand. No matter how you cut it, this can be a bad habit to form that will get you killed.

I wish he had started with this, really, because it demonstrates that he really has no experience with competition shooting at all.  I have only been shooting USPSA and Multigun for 10 years, with an average of 16 local matches per year plus between 3 and 5 major matches each year.   In the over 650 stages I’ve shot in that time, I have yet to shoot even two stages that let me “expect certain things when shooting” because they were so similar (other than when shooting USPSA classifiers, which by definition are supposed to be set up in a specific, repeatable fashion).

So, the first part of what he said makes no sense, as it is completely wrong with respect to competition shooting.  The second part, about “reacting to the clear and present danger at hand” doesn’t really make sense either.  Or does he not do practice drills when training?  How exactly does he create a clear and present danger to react to every time, in his personal practice?

Oh, he doesn’t?  He just does different combinations of targets, with different numbers of shots, at different distances, under different circumstances?  How is that different from a stage setup?  (And yes, there are ways to create new reactive situations in practice.  But the vast majority of the time, in personal practice, people don’t do it that way because you need to be able to hit your target with accuracy at speed first before making it even harder.)

“Muscle memory is what controls your ability to shoot under extreme stress. If your muscles remember doing the same things over and over then that is what they will do. Shooting two close targets, five medium range target, and four long range targets at varying heights is great for a match, but isn’t very realistic.”

This makes no sense.  What USPSA, IDPA, or Multigun match does anything like this?  (And no, that ISN’T great for a match.  Matter of fact, that match would suck.)

He’s making an argument against something that doesn’t happen in competitions, which again shows that he doesn’t really have any understanding of competition shooting.

What happens when your strong side is injured in a fight and you have to shoot with your weak hand? Or you trip and have to shoot from your back? Did you practice these things while preparing for that three-gun shoot? Of course you didn’t. A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.

Last I knew, lots of competition stages had required strong-hand-only and weak-hand-only sections.  Last year I shot in several matches in which I started from the supine position and shot from the ground.  And even better—why is he assuming that people who practice competition shooting ONLY practice competition shooting?

His arguments seem often to be “this isn’t in a competition match, therefore competition shooters can’t do it” which fails a simple logic test.  It is like saying “Indy 500 racecar drivers never make a right turn, therefore they can’t drive regular cars on the road since they’d have to make right turns.”

Ridiculous, right?

If instead he means “practicing this type of shooting will train you to do incorrect things” that might be different, but other than his cover comment above, that isn’t the type of argument he is making.  He is saying because it doesn’t happen in a match, you won’t be able to do it if you are a competition shooter.

(I’ll deal with his “trains for the worst case scenario” comment at the end of this.)

5. Competition shooting breeds an environment of gizmos, gadgets, and race guns. Reflex sights are great, but batteries fail. Any electronic gadget can and will fail, especially under harsh conditions. Daily carry is harsh! My gun gets wet, dirty, and beat up daily.

I actually take care of my carry gun, because I want it to be in good shape.  That’s immaterial to the discussion though, just like his comment.

Competition shooting breeds rapid innovation–which is why our military now uses red dot sights (hint:  those are battery-operated sights that originated in competition shooting, and now are used throughout our military).  And I’m pretty sure that people would agree that Iraq and Afghanistan qualify as “harsh conditions.”

His comment about “daily carry” is interesting, though—because now he seems to be talking about pistol shooting instead of rifle shooting, even though most of his earlier comments ignored the pistol.

It is certainly true that in competition, race guns exist.  Some of the USPSA Open guns are the most space-gun-looking things out there.  Example:

 

However, what he is missing (due to his obvious ignorance of competition shooting) is that there are a number of other divisions in which people shoot their out-of-the-box stock Glock 17, S&W M&P, and Springfield XDm. Or any one of a number of other guns.

Sure, plenty of people do work on their guns, smoothing the trigger, different sights, different grips–but that is true for all folks. Plenty of people do the exact same to their carry gun.

His comments here simply make no sense. Competition drives excellence to extremes, and the gear needed is treated harshly, and tested thoroughly. Again, that’s why our military now uses red dot sights.

The other big consideration is that the more there is hanging off your gun, the more likely you are to snag your gun upon drawing it from the holster. Competition shooters usually have belts set up for just that competition. Everything on the belt is easily reached and even the holster is built for speed. You aren’t going to carry your gun in the same manner that you shoot it in a competition. You’d walk around looking like Wyatt Earp at best and an idiot at worst.”

How that has anything to do with his main contention, I don’t see.  Remember, he started this out with:
“I’m not anti-competition shooting, but I do find fault with most of the competitions out there. The reason being they aren’t realistic and cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street. “

Aren’t realistic:  True.  They aren’t supposed to be simulations of self-defense situations (no matter how IDPA advertises).  They are supposed to be tests of shooting skills, not tests of combat skills or self-defense skills.  As such, saying they are bad for that reason makes no sense.  (Though it is demonstrably true that having good shooting skills will make you more effective in terms of combat and self-defense.)

Where are any sort of arguments supporting his contention of how competitions make you form “extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street,” though?

So a different holster and belt is used.  Does this mean that people don’t practice with their carry gun and their carry holster?  He seems to be making the assumption (which is often made, really) that competition shooters only practice for competition shooting, and therefore have no skills applicable to self-defense or combat.

Other than being really fast and accurate, of course. (Remember, Windham started out by saying that competition shooters are really fast and accurate.)  I would think that would be useful, but maybe not.

“Again, I’m not against matches or competition shooting. My point is to make you think. If you shoot IDPA or any other discipline, that’s great! Just don’t neglect real world training for real world situation that can occur. Mix things up, find new and different ways to challenge yourself and don’t live life preparing for a competition when your life is on the line!”

This interests me, because I completely agree with his last two sentences.  However, since that is NOT what he was talking about for pretty much the entirety of the rest of the article, this makes little sense.

He said up front that competition shooting instills habits that will get you killed on the street.  Then says “If you shoot IDPA or any other discipline, that’s great!”  I’m not sure that instilling habits that get me killed is great.

But I’m not worried, either, because what he said earlier was either incorrect due to a complete lack of understanding of competition shooting on his part, or incorrect due to a lack of logic on his part.  He even says in the end, train ALSO for real life (by which I assume he means self-defense or combat, as competitions occur in real life also, they aren’t online)–which means that if something doesn’t appear in a competition, that doesn’t mean a competition shooter can’t do it.

After all, just because we shoot competitions, doesn’t mean that is ALL we can do.

I would suggest that Mr. Windham do the following:

1) Actually go to a major match for either Multigun, USPSA, and IDPA, whereupon he will most likely get his ass handed to him judging from his shooting resume, whereupon he will see a rating scale for what the best can actually do,

2) Talk with competition shooters about what training they do, to fix his erroneous assumptions about how competition shooters only train in competition skills,

3) Think logically and practically about this comment: “ A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances” to recognize how it is not only logically ridiculous, but also detrimental to good practice as it will screw up training priorities.

There was more I was going to say, but this is already a book—and it is clear that Mr. Windham doesn’t actually know anything about action shooting competitions, can’t tell the difference between “this sport doesn’t contain that skill” and “people who shoot in this sport don’t have that skill,” and even with that can’t come up with logical reasons to support his contention that shooting competitions will get you “killed on the street.”

I was originally hoping this was satire, but it doesn’t seem to be, and again we hear from someone with no knowledge of a subject pontificating about “the street” due to his extensive experience in corrections and law enforcement plus his NRA training and his ability to score Expert and Marksman with pistol and rifle at LEO training levels.

Dude, I suggest you take a look at the Dunning-Kruger effect, and think seriously about why I would suggest that to you with respect to your understanding of shooting.

Why did I call this post “Ignorance and the Internet”?  Because the internet has again demonstrated that no matter how ignorant someone is, they can still find a podium from which to expound their lack of understanding.

9mm vs .45 — which really IS better?

Yes, I’m diving into the “9mm vs .45” war.  No, I don’t care that you have a preference.  (I don’t care in that it doesn’t matter to me, though obviously it should matter to you.)  Yes, I realize that many people will immediately hate me no matter what I’m going to say next.

Before I jump in, though, here’s my question to you:  Do you know what current research says about ballistic effectiveness when comparing modern self-defense rounds between 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP?

If the answer is “No” then your opinion is useless, whether it happens to be right or wrong.  You see, here’s the deal:  Your ignorant opinion (ignorance:  lack of knowledge, which is not the same as stupidity) is simply not as valid as someone else’s knowledgeable opinion.  This doesn’t mean that you might not be right, and the other person can’t be wrong—but it DOES mean that if you start by saying “Well, I don’t know much about it, but I think…” —-then the rest of your sentence really should be— “….that I should shut up and learn about the subject before I express my opinion.”  If you happen to be right in your opinion, it is purely due to luck, since you have already admitted you don’t know what you are talking about.

Do you have a caliber preference in terms of self-defense round?  Probably.  Is that preference based on “feel,” personal expectations, personal experience, opinions heard on the internet, opinions heard from friends, or wide-scale research data?

Because while you are welcome to go with whatever your preference is, the only reason list above that is valid for reliable results is the last one—wide-scale research data.  How it “feels” doesn’t tell you anything.  Personal expectations based on what?   Personal experience—well, once you’ve shot 1000 people with varying rounds for comparison purposes, get back to me.  Opinions heard on the internet or from friends?  Please.  I’ve heard people advocating disassembling a handgun one-handed and putting the parts in a bag on the dashboard while coming to a stop on the highway when pulled over by the state patrol in order to make the LEO more comfortable with the firearm.

(No, I’m not kidding about that.  I wish I was.)

So why should you listen to my opinion?  Because I’m right?  How about because I’m telling you not to take my opinion as gospel, and instead telling you to look at what the research says, and what it means.

10mm-1

 

I realize that is actually considered sacrilege to the “.45acp is God’s Own Round” crowd and the “9mm capacity makes all the difference” crowd and the “.40 is the best of both worlds” crowd.  (Not to mention what the 10mm Manly Man are like on this topic.)  And yet—opinions based on lack of fact mean nothing.

Oh, good lord, I forgot the .357Sig fanatics.  Yeah, them too.

 

I’m bringing this up because I have a friend who carries a Glock 30 in .45acp all the time.   He likes to shoot IDPA matches, but realizes that particular gun is non-optimal for the IDPA game for all that IDPA touts itself as being for “real concealed carry” training.  In SSP or CDP he is at a “compact gun” disadvantage, and in SSP he is at a serious recoil disadvantage.

He asked me about switching to a 9mm for IDPA, and I asked him (since I knew he carried his G30) if he wanted IDPA to be for trigger time with his carry gun, or instead wanted to work on winning matches.  After all, while trigger time is always good, the grip on a full-size 9mm Glock is different from the grip on a G30, and if he wanted to work with both, it was going to take even more practice.  So, did he want to mazimize his SD practice and also play at IDPA, or did he want to practice with two guns, work on SD, and work on IDPA at the same time?  He decided that was really the question, and started thinking about it.

(I realize that at this time, the people who carry 5 different guns and rotate them out weekly or have the “you should be able to handle EVERY gun!” attitude will be wondering why this is a problem.  For you folks, never mind.)

Back to what my friend was thinking about:  When I thought about it, I really wondered if that really was the right question.  What if, instead, the real question is:  are you completely wedded to the idea of a .45acp for self-defense?

You know what current research says about modern self-defense rounds in 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP?  It says that 1) all are marginal in effectiveness, 2) reliable physiological stops only occur due to disruption of the central nervous system (CNS), 3) those calibers work equally well (or rather, equally badly) for shots placed in the CNS, and 4) all calibers (including .22) work equally well for psychological stops.  Oh:  5) Heavier bullets (in pistols) work slightly better to defeat intermediate barriers, if your lifestyle happens to be such that you often have to shoot through doors and windshields.

(How many .45/.40 folks just said, “Well yeah, see, mine is better” I wonder?)

How often DO you want to be able to shoot through intermediate barriers?  (Unless you have a job that potentially requires it, of course.)  Don’t people who think about normal citizen self-defense usually worry about the exact opposite?

So here’s the thing:  unless you have a job that requires you to have slightly better than pretty bad barrier penetration, there is no effective difference between 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP.  For physiological stops, they are all very bad unless you get a precise CNS hit, whereupon they all work equally well.  For psychological stops, they all work as equally well as a .22 LR out of a Beretta Bobcat.

So truthfully, my suggestion to my friend?  Think about carrying a G17 or a G19 instead of that G30, and use a G17 or a G34 in competition.  The grip, trigger, and recoil will all be similar, you’ll have more rounds for self-defense (without giving up much of anything in effectiveness), and you’ll be more competitive in IDPA all at the same time.

That isn’t to say that everyone should carry a 9mm.  You should carry whatever you like!  This merely is my solution to my friend’s problem, and YOU may not have this problem.  You may just like the feel of a 1911 in .45acp better plus you think JMB was the last True Prophet.  Or you may like the .40 because muzzle blast, recoil, AND capacity should all be maximized simultaneously.  Or maybe you like 9mm because…..well, there’s probably a reason out there somewhere to like 9mm.

Pick what you like.  But 1) don’t base your decision on some supposed “advantage” to one caliber in terms of effectiveness—there isn’t one, and 2) don’t let your personal preference get in the way of making the most logical choice for all the reasons you might need a gun.

And quit telling me that your caliber is better than the others for random nonsense reasons that have no basis in reality.

 

(No, I haven’t forgotten about the “How to Learn To Shoot” series—part IIA will be coming relatively soon.)

Timers, Competition, and Self-Defense, part I…

Recently, John Wallace at Midwest Tactical Solutions has written a series of articles titled “Things to Consider Before Chasing the Timer“.  In it, he discusses some aspects of practice that many people ignore, such as the size and composition of training targets, movement, cover, and target discrimination.  It got me to thinking, particularly as he used a quote from me in his discussion of cover, to wit:  “Thomas Howard of Precision Response Training recently told me, “If there is one thing competition shooters suck at, its using cover.” Since he is way better at and more into competitive shooting than me, I’ll trust his judgement on this.”

I completely agree with him in his contention that 1) many people practice on static targets of ridiculous size, 2) without practicing shooting on the move, 3) without use of cover, and 4) without even elementary factors in terms of target discrimination.  (I’d actually frame it more strongly and simply say that most people don’t practice, period.  And many of the ones that do go to the range do not “practice” in any way that resembles the meaning that I would give to the term.  Going out and plinking a bit is not practice.  It may be fun, but it isn’t practice.)

That being said—I’d like to comment a bit on some of the things John said, and give a different perspective.  John is coming from a background/viewpoint that regards shooting as a combat act, particularly with respect to the rifle and carbine classes that he teaches.  When I was at the skillbuilder seminar where I gave John that quote regarding competition, in return John talked about the fact that his focus is on tactics applicable to combat.

And while I believe that combat skills and tactics are applicable to self-defense training, I believe that there are just as many differences between combat skills and SD training as there are between competition skills and SD training.  Which, I’ll note, is why I’m perfectly good with people learning both combat skills and competition skills on their way to becoming competent at self-defense.

This isn’t to say that I think that either combat skills or competition skills (or a combination thereof) actually cover the full range of specific skills most important to citizen self-defense—I don’t.  There is, however, overlap in both cases.  (In a later post I’ll talk about what self-defense skills are lacking in both the combat skillset and the competition skillset.)

In the third part of his series, John talks about use of cover, and how competition shooters are really bad at it.  (Which they are, for the most part.)  He, quite rightly, discusses how cover can make a significant difference in your ability to stay alive in combat, talks about some ways to practice it, and lists some very good things to keep in mind.

Tanish Hanish, Team FNHAt the same time, I think that his commentary regarding competition shooter’s use of cover is a bit overly simplistic. He shows a picture of a competition shooter (Tasha Hanish) firing around a barricade with most of her body visible from downrange and with the muzzle of her rifle past the barrier, and asks “How many bad training habits being built can you spot in the pic below?”

My answer to that is:  It depends.  Do you normally use effective cover when you play baseball?  How about basketball?  Why would you then use or practice it in any other type of sport in which it has no value?  So why would you critically analyze someone’s actions in a sport in light of requirements that don’t exist in that sport?

How about putting it another way:  In slow-pitch softball, do we criticize the pitcher for not having a fast overhand cast?  No?  Why not?  Because that isn’t what the sport is about, and using one set of requirements to criticize someone operating under different ones doesn’t make sense.  Do you think that the pitcher CAN’T perform a fast overhand cast, just because we don’t see her doing it in a slow-pitch game?

In competition shooting (specifically, in USPSA and Multigun), there is no emphasis whatsoever on use of cover.  (In IDPA there is, and whether or not that is useful is an argument for a different day.)  As such, any wall, port, door, window, barricade, etc, is merely treated as a vision block where the competitor attempts to (within the fault lines) get their sights on target and get good hits as soon as possible.  For those sports, practicing using cover in a way applicable to combat or self-defense simply isn’t necessary, and wastes time.  As such, competitors, when practicing their sports, don’t do it.  (Just like slow-pitch softball pitchers don’t practice their curveball.)

And so, my quote was quite true:   “If there is one thing competition shooters suck at, its using cover.”   However, I should have added a followup comment, which is:  “Just like anyone else who hasn’t practiced using cover.

Most people HAVEN’T practiced using cover.  As such, they will suck just as badly as many competition shooters.

I, for example, suck at using cover when operating a carbine in the outdoors.  About the only time I shoot carbine is for local multigun matches, and since cover isn’t an applicable concept for those, I don’t practice using cover at all with a carbine.  As such, I suck just as much as any other person who hasn’t practiced using cover.

That being said, since I’m a lot more comfortable with my carbine than most people, can move it around easily, know how to handle it under a number of circumstances, and have shot it under stress while keeping my stage plan in mind—I’m pretty sure that if I actually took the time to practice use of cover with a carbine, I’d pick it up pretty quickly.

In contrast, I’m really good at using cover when I’m operating with a pistol–even though USPSA pistol competitions don’t use cover at all, nor is it a concept that has any value in that particular sport.  (You’ll never see me do it in a competition, at all.)  And yet—I do it well enough to teach it to others.

Why is that?  Because oddly enough, just because one is a competition shooter, doesn’t mean that one is ONLY a competition shooter.  (I’m not sure why, but many people think that shooters can only pick one training track–either you are a “tactical shooter” or a “competition shooter”—which is ridiculous.)  I have spent significant amounts of time practicing competition skills with a handgun.  I have also spent significant amounts of time practicing self-defense skills with a handgun.

Oddly enough, when I’m on a stage with an RO giving me range commands, waiting for a timer to start the stage, I have no problem focusing on a set of competition skills.  And yet, when in a self-defense situation (in which, oddly enough, I don’t expect to hear a timer go off) I have no problem using skills appropriate to the situation.  Why is that?  Because I practice those, too.

John says:  “I also see competition shooters who think they are using cover, but are actually WAY overexposed, flagging their weapons beyond corners, through windows, hanging out in the fatal funnel, etc, etc.”

…I doubt they were thinking this in matches, because there is no value or merit to “cover” in a Multigun match.  As such, being overexposed means that you have a better view on the target.  Having the weapon extend beyond the barricade is fine when you have to move close to the barricade and not transition from one side to another, especially if you entered the barricade area from that side.  It is true that sticking the barrel through a window is a bad idea, but only because that means you have to pull it back out before you can move—and it is often useful to use the window frame as a support.  There IS no fatal funnel in a match–so that isn’t relevant either.

So if what he is talking about occurred in a match—then those shooters thought nothing of the sort.  They didn’t think they were using cover at all, nor were they attempting to use cover and doing it badly.  They were doing the correct technique for the sport in which they were participating.

Now, if those competition shooters were in a tactical combat class, and thought that they were using cover appropriately—then yes, they were seriously screwed up.  (I’ll note I didn’t have that problem in the carbine class referenced above—my problem was that I often didn’t move out from cover enough, and tended to clip the barricade. I sucked at using cover for the opposite reason.)

So—do I think John has some good things to say here, in his commentary on cover?  Certainly.  Do I think that using a competition shooter in a competition match where cover has no value creates effective support for his arguments?  No, not at all.

Is is true that most competition shooters suck at using cover?  Certainly—just as much as everyone else who hasn’t practiced using cover.

I will bet that competition shooters who HAVE practiced using cover will be just as good (probably better, but I’m biased because most competition shooters are better shooters than non-competition shooters, on average) as the “tactical” folks who have practiced using cover.

Stay tuned for my next post in which I completely agree with him about how “chasing the timer” is a bad idea, and offer some suggestions for pistol shooters in terms of how to maximize their ability curve while using a timer.


Additional note: I won the overall in that carbine skillbuilder class, that had a combat focus, which was run by John who has significant experience in simulating and teaching real-world situations (from his significant experience IN real-world shooting situations).  I didn’t win any of the individual competitions, but my skills were such that I consistently placed high, so that in the end I initially tied the person who had won several of the individual competitions—who happens to be a carbine expert, and who teaches carbine to others.  And then I won the shootoff for the overall title, because I could, under stress, do exactly what I needed to do while the other person instead, under stress, defaulted to how they’d been training instead of what they were told to do.

The guy who ended up second, by the way, is obviously a better carbine shooter than I am.  There is no doubt about that, and if you want to learn how to run a carbine with respect to military combat skills, David Petta of DCPrecision and John Wallace of Midwest Tactical Solutions are excellent people to learn from, because they have spent considerable amounts of time learning and practicing their carbine skills.

But I’m thinking that at the same time, people should think critically about what it means that a mere “competition shooter” should win the combat-oriented carbine skillbuilder seminar, even though I spend hardly any time with a carbine.   Just because someone practices for competition shooting doesn’t mean that is all that they do—and it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn anything else, or have built bad habits that STOP them from learning other things.

It is true, though, that most competition shooters suck at using cover.   Normal shooters suck at using cover because it doesn’t occur to them (if they haven’t trained for it) and they don’t know what they are doing.  Competition shooters suck at using cover because it doesn’t occur to them (if they haven’t trained for it) and they know what to do to get shots on target as fast as possible, which just so happens to be bad for effective use of cover.