How competitive shooting develops your gun handling, speed and accuracy

Competitive shooting can increase your survivability in a gunfight

By Quinn Cunningham, Police1 Contributor 

Competitive shooting will not develop you tactically. However, it can increase your survivability by keeping your safety procedures in check, refining your balance of speed and accuracy as well as your self-discipline and repetition. All of these are good things.

There are many different organizations officers can choose from to get involved in competitive shooting. In the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation, the targets are fairly straightforward. They are either tombstone cardboard targets or reactive steel targets. Shooting organizations such as the United States Practical Shooting Association and International Defensive Pistol Association have more spice. The stages presented to the shooter may include static targets, moving targets, reduced targets and reactive targets. You may also be required to shoot on the move or from different positions. The stages are limited to the creativity of the match directors. 

Competitive shooting is a great way to sharpen a number of skills.
Competitive shooting is a great way to sharpen a number of skills. (Photo/Pixabay)

Regardless of which organization you choose, competitive shooting is a great way to sharpen a number of skills. Below is an overview of the areas that this training will help you develop.


The shooter applies the fundamentals of marksmanship in several different scenarios that are usually beyond the scope of the typical in-service range days. The stages are easy to moderate with difficult stages at a club level match. The stages should not be intimidating. The application of time and stage planning changes the level of difficulty - it is usually not the target arrays themselves. This way the shooter can shoot to his or her skill level.

Most targets have scoring rings that can add time or give you a point value. Officers will quickly learn to apply self-discipline and not out drive your sights. In a game that is a balance of speed and accuracy, the shooter who is more accurate and moves slower is just as competitive as a gamer running through the stage point shooting.  

Gun handling

The next facet of the Combat Triad is gun handling, which is the manipulation of your firearm. Officers will be required to draw, reload or clear any malfunctions during the stages and may also be required to load their guns, start in a surrender position or even face up range. These are all good skill sets to develop and practice. If competitive shooting drives you to train more methodically and more frequently, you will likely see a decrease in your excess wasted movement. These are all good tactics that can increase your survivability in a gunfight. 

Firearms Pyramid

The Firearms Pyramid includes safety, marksmanship, speed and tactics. Trigger finger discipline and muzzle integrity are the most common violations. If you get called on a safety violation, it may be something that you didn’t even realize you were doing. This is a good correction, so you should own it and thank the RO. The RO may have identified something that can be fixed before your gunfight. 


Competitive shooting will assist with your speed. This style of shooting is a balance of speed and accuracy. Your speed will develop through repetition. This increases your economy of motion and your survivability in a gunfight.    


In competitive shooting, officers should know this is not a tactical game. Even in IDPA, where shooting from cover is required and reloads are mandated in the attempt to be more tactical, you are still shooting under time. I have yet to see a stop watch in a gunfight. Be mature about it and establish an internal disconnect between the competition and real life.   

Not only is competition shooting fun, you get to shoot someone else’s stage props and targets that aren’t required to be in law enforcement in-service. The cost to participate is minimal. The stages may stimulate some creativity for a mature firearms instructor to generate some challenging and fun courses of fire for the troops.      

About the author
Quinn Cunningham is a Deputy with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado. He has been in law enforcement for 21 years and a member of the SWAT Team since 2000. He is currently assigned as the Assistant Academy Director.  Quinn is a member of the Colorado P.O.S.T. Firearms Subject Matter Expert Committee and the owner of Fortitude Training Concepts LLC, a firearms training company geared towards Law Enforcement, Military and responsible American citizens.  

Request product info from top Police Firearms companies

Thank You!

By submitting your information, you agree to be contacted by the selected vendor(s) and that the data you submit is exempt from Do Not Sell My Personal Information requests. View our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Copyright © 2023 Police1. All rights reserved.