R. Ann Parris on Training Alternative: Shooting Sports


Training Alternative: Shooting Sports by R. Ann Parris

In a perfect world, we would all have access to reactionary and changing-terrain ranges, shoot houses, and professional live-fire training.

Realistically, not only are the former fairly rare and somewhat expensive, the latter also tend to be pretty expensive. Adding to the limitations, decent and good training typically runs for multiple days consecutively or sometimes consecutive weekends, and not everyone can allot that much time for them.

It’s not the same, by far, but there are some alternatives we can tap instead of attending a course designed for self-defense and various types of tactical live-fire. There’s some cost associated still, but it’s generally lower and incremental.

Those alternatives are sports shooting, such as:
➢ International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC)/ United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA)
➢ 3-Gun
➢ International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA)
➢ Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA)
➢ Rimfire Action Shooting

Some of the gear we need is stuff we need to pick up anyway, like magazines or speed loaders (we’re going to want 3+ reloads minimum for almost any sport), and holsters.

In some cases we will see specialized equipment on the range, in any kind of competitive shooting environment. As we start getting into steel plate challenge, 3-gun, and IPSC/USPSA, we’ll see more and more people with firearms and gear optimized for speedy sports shooting but that aren’t particularly practical. That ranges from the type of holster and placement of holsters and mag pouches/clips, to the sights and function of the firearms.

We may be slower using our everyday or tactical loadout carry (or a civvie-friendly version of the same), but it’s the ability to actually engage targets on the move, switching back and forth between firearms for last-shot and first-shot training, holstering and drawing, and mag changes under differing pressures and in numerous positions.

If we’re comfortable and confident, being slower isn’t going to bother us, because our scores and good, solid practice are more important than comparing numbers to others.

Depending on the local range, steel challenge and rimfire action can be excellent because the guns are common and inexpensive, there are numerous categories of guns we can shoot so we may already have what we need, and the ammo is inexpensive.

*Rimfire semiauto pistols tend to be picky about what we feed them, so test all ammo before competitions.

IDPA is another one that is entirely limited to gear we (should) already own.

You may need to prove some safety proficiency and sometimes general shooting proficiency even at local-range meets, but sports like IDPA and IPSC are both focused on run-and-gun and practical use of firearms. IDPA in particular just requires your typical CCW and holster, and usually 20-30 rounds per stage that you can carry. There’s usually no problem keeping extra spares in a back or shirt pocket so long as they’re not going to fall out.

The feedback from IDPA and from 3-gun and multi-gun IPSC is invaluable.

We’re sometimes using our own judgement about what targets we engage with which firearm and which order we want to engage targets. That lets us both stretch our capabilities, check the use of something we want for range and CQB or self-defense, and start looking at the differences between threat priorities as well as learning to swing through shots and how to do a temp freeze for shots.

Two, if we watch our attitudes and weigh what we hear, periodically we’ll have some actual operator lean in and quietly make a point.

Obviously, it would be nice if we could pay for a multi-day class where an operator with experience in our settings is there just to teach us, but practically, may don’t have the disposable income or time for that tutor and a really good square range, variable range, or kill house.

Shooting sports that allow us to engage using our “real” gear, on the move, and engage multiple targets is as close as some can get to that training.

They can also help us practice and maintain the training we’ve accumulated as we go along.

Develop the square-range safety and paper-plate accuracy at 7-50 yards for a pistol, 15-300 yards for a rifle, and use snap caps and lasers to develop the safety you’ll need for transitions. Then, see what’s available in your area for monthly developmental and maintenance training.

Not only is the training — and doing your shooting with an RSO breathing down your neck and an audience — a valuable tool, you might just find yourself a like-minded shooting buddy who ends up a like-minded prepping partner.