PRACTICAL PISTOL COMPETITION STILL PRACTICAL?
Pistolcraft has grown forcefully and dramatically since its birth
in Southern California three decades ago. And, not surprisingly,
there are a number of issues that have significantly influenced
its success. Declining economies and social chaos, resulting in
rising crime and terrorism, have spawned renewed interest in personal
protection. Thus, particularly in the civilian sector, with little
or no access to hard data concerning these issues, there is great
interest in the concept of using competition to enhance personal
in the beginning, this goal was pretty much achieved: most competitively
developed techniques did further the state-of-the-art. We now know
more about carrying, presenting, shooting, reloading and modifying
the handgun than ever before. Many courses of fire and practice
drills are beneficial as well and increasing numbers of practical
shooting clubs are springing up all over the country.
toward the end of the 1970s, an alarming trend began to emerge.
As used in its original context, the term "practical,"
was defined as a socio-politically acceptable synonym for "combat."
The original purpose of the International Practical Shooting Confederation,
for example, was to promote advancement of the handgun as a self-defense
weapon. After all, the mission of the handgun is, in fact, defensive,
right? We came this far by keeping this in mind, thus preventing
a loss of purpose and resultant deviation from the intended theme
many participants in what came to be called "practical"
shooting either forgot this critical fact or were never cognizant
of it in the first place. Predictably, therefore, the organization's
goal was altered towards competition being an end unto itself, rather
than a means to a higher goal -- i.e. as a research tool by which
better ways were found to utilize the handgun in a self-defense
example of this deviation is the "track meet," where physical
movement assumes disproportionate competitive value. Stimulation
of the metabolism via physical exertion is a legitimate simulation
of the effects of stress. Used correctly, it provides an accurate
picture of how various techniques can be expected to perform in
real-world situations. However, when emphasis upon physical prowess
begins to rival weapon skills in importance, things go astray. To
see the fallacy in this, we need only to recall that the handgun
is a defensive arm -- i.e. we carry it so we don't have to run!
method commonly used to determine competitor performance is the
"Comstock Count," which divides the shooter's point score
by his elapsed time, for a points-per-second evaluation of his performance.
In and of itself, the Comstock Method is not invalid. The problem
is that it was intended for short-duration time frames, not complex
"assault courses" in which the shooter moves considerable
distances from location to location, solving multiple shooting problems
along the way. When utilized improperly, "Comstocking"
allows the speed at which the contestant moves from place to place
to overshadow his shooting skills, making it a less than optimum
way to judge what is supposedly a shooting match.
problem is that those who do not carry a handgun on a daily basis
often lack an understanding of it as a weapon. This results in the
creation of competitive courses that are not valid simulations of
the situations in which a handgun is typically used. True, diversity
prevents stagnation, but when diversity for its own sake becomes
the issue, rather than being used as one element of consideration
in trying to reach a higher goal, it becomes obfuscatory and therefore
is an even more serious, if subtle, danger here, too. The use of
unrealistic courses of fire can -- and often does -- promote the
development of tactics and techniques that, while competitively
efficient, are from a tactical standpoint suicidal. As well, such
courses favor the Condition One (cocked & locked) auto-pistol
that many law enforcement and military personnel, because they must
use issued DA autos or revolvers, cannot carry.
competition is to be a means by which handgun state-of-the-art is
to be advanced, we must maintain interest and competitive spirit,
while at the same time remembering our original goal. Still, requiring
competitors to do things that are virtually guaranteed to get them
killed in a real fight is abominable and should not be allowed to
is admittedly easier said than done, and has, in fact, fallen by
the wayside, causing a rift between those who regard the handgun
as a weapon (the "Warriors") and those who view it as
a recreational tool (the "Gamesmen") seriously enough
to rip IPSC apart.
while admittedly one of the "Warriors" myself, I am not
so quick as some of my associates to condemn the "Gamesmen."
They have contributed a number of useful techniques even if their
motives and tactics weren't survival-oriented. Most of the original
Combat Masters weren't interested in the handgun as a defensive
tool and only a few of them carried a gun for a living. Yet, their
contributions -- the Weaver Stance, the Speed Load, et al -- have
been incalculably valuable and, in fact, positively influenced the
evolution of practical pistolcraft.
short, we need "Gamesmen" to prevent stagnation, but at
the same time, in order to benefit from their efforts, we must view
their attitudes, motivations and accomplishments with a critical
eye. Conversely, we need "Warriors," too, because while
their philosophy isn't especially innovative, it is truly practical
and keeps us on the track to finding better ways to stay alive in
a pistol fight.
issues of conflict between the "Warriors" and "Gamesmen"
include the use of:
Irrelevant targets. The use of silhouette targets typical to IPSC
competitionconnotes an anti-personnel situation. Therefore, scoring
methods should be based upon an accurate representation of the human
anatomy.If the development of anti-personnel methodology is not
the goal, then humanoid targets should not be utilized.
Unrealistically specialized guns, holsters and other ancillary equipment
and squib-loaded ammunition.These further obfuscate the original
goal of practical competition and makes evaluation of the techniques
developed with such equipment more difficult. The use of "street
legal" service guns, full-powered ammunition and realistic
holsters and spare ammunition carrying devices should be mandatory
if a real-world view is to be maintained.
is Practical Pistol Competition still practical? No, obviously not.
As is typical with most types of competition, as viewed from its
original perspective, it has become a highly specialized and irrelevant
game -- an end unto itself rather than a means to a higher goal
-- of little or no tactical value.
with a little tolerance on both sides and a few basic rules to prevent
loss of purpose, we can produce a champion without compromising
our integrity. The concept of learning is the basis upon which man
has elevated himself above the level of both his cohabitants on
this planet and his own ancestors. In order to continue this process,
we cannot afford to lose sight of our goals along the way. If we
can unite the "Gamesman" and "Warrior" factions
within the practical shooting fraternity into a cohesive body truly
dedicated to advancement, we all -- "Gamesmen" and "Warriors"
alike -- win.
wouldn't it be more satisfying to be the Champion at something relevant