Experienced shooters know that there are many components of skill involved when placing a shot on a target. In fact, the seven basic fundamentals of marksmanship were developed and listed so that we could teach new shooters how to shoot accurately. That said, just because someone masters the seven basic marksmanship skills does not mean they are an accomplished shooter – especially in the worlds of competition and combat shooting. What has to be added to the physical skills mastery is an understanding and mastery of the tactics involved. Since the most commonly perceived end goal of both is put accurate bullets into the target as quickly as possible we often forget that the tactics for competition shooting and the tactics for combat shooting are different.
What’s the difference or why is there one? Because combat shooting also adds on another component to success: Put accurate bullets into the target as quickly as possible without getting shot yourself. Competition shooters don’t have that last goal to worry about. Inanimate targets don’t shoot back. Whether or not you make proper use of your cover isn’t as much of a concern for Competition shooters. Penalties or not, if they fail to use cover they don’t risk getting killed. Competition shooters can reload on the move and move with an empty weapon without risk of death.
The differences that exist between Competition shooting and Combat shooting are not vast, but they are significant. One is about points and trophies; the other about life and death. This was on my mind as I drove home from the National Police Memorial service on Sunday, May 15th. I had heard a few officers discussing shooting skills and one of them observed that his scores had never been better since he had taken some lessons from a well-known competitive shooter. One of his friends observed that while the first officer’s range scores may have gone up, he seemed to take more hits now in force-on-force training.
That’s a bad thing. As I thought about it I realized that much of the training I’ve participated in recently has seemingly revolved around shooting skills using Competition tactics. The preferred stance is obviously very stable and stationary. It was James Yeager who I heard say, “Immobile targets ventilate easily.” That’s why he espouses “get off the X” and why his forum of that name has done so well. Combat shooters recognize the need to not stand still; to not be stationary while engaging targets.
That realization makes me wonder just how important it is to combat shooters that the stance we use be a perfect one of competition quality. Let’s be realistic: when bullets start flying you are NOT going to stand still – and if you do you won’t be standing for long.
Yes, we want to be able to put multiple shots into a space as small as possible on the target. We want that space to equate to lethal / quickly disabling hits on the target. We’d dearly love for our shot placement to be equal of the world’s best competition shooters but we cannot emulate them in their stance and it’s a small miracle if we emulate their breath control. Everyone I’ve ever seen or talked to after a shooting has been near hyper-ventilating. Respiratory control? Not something they were thinking about when they were dodging bullets and launching projectiles back at the bad guy.
So I think the end goal is for us (combatants) to understand that YES it is wonderful to clear a plate rack as fast as possible using as few bullets as possible and YES such exercises are wonderful for enhancing our tempo and speed of shooting and YES it’s good to strive for a 5-shot 1-hole group every time, BUT… and that’s a really BIG BUT… when bullets are flying back, everything we’ve learned about how to put bullets into a target as quickly as possible has to be applied as we make sure we don’t get hit by return bullets.
In the end the ugly truth and important lesson is this: no matter how perfect your stance, grip, site alignment, sight picture, breath control, trigger press and follow through are, if your target is moving and shooting back and your immobile, you’ll likely not emerge victorious – or even unscathed (hopefully not dead).
“Immobile targets ventilate easily. Get off the X! – James Yeager
“Motionless Operators Ventilate Easily.” (MOVE) – Tom Perroni of ccjatraining.com
Remember that when you’re practicing. When you feel you’ve mastered your shooting technique and you can put out those micro-sized groups and you can clear that plate rack and drop those poppers… try doing it on the move. Competition is one thing; combat completely different.
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