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Is competition shooting a good training tool?

There are pros and cons to shooting competitively for concealed carry practice


This article originally appeared on The Firearm Blog


Over the last decade, a debate has gone on between the keyboard warriors about the effectiveness of competition shooting for concealed carriers. On each side of the argument, people claim shooting competition can force a shooter to think and react under stress. Others say it promotes a ton of bad habits when you’re training for a real life engagement.

There’s both pros and cons to shooting competition for concealed carry practice but let’s break down why both sides have a valid argument.


The Benefits of Shooting Competition For Practice

Shooting under stress in a competition can really diagnose some issues the shooter may have. Usually, these issues aren’t realized until you become stressed and have to make a choice in a split-second. When I first started shooting more seriously about 15 years ago, I started by doing competitions. I thought it would be an easy transition, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience of how wrong I was.

Shooting static at a range is one thing, but once you start incorporating movement and having to shoot quickly, you typically start to fall apart real fast. I still remember how flustered I became after my first match. Thankfully, as time went on it started to become easier.


Picture of the first IDPA competition I competed in with no shooting from cover into four targets.

I started tailoring my training sessions into small isolated training and after about six months, I started feeling more confident in my shooting abilities. Honestly, shooting effectively is only about 30% of the big picture when it comes to self-defense.

The other 70% is the ability to problem-solve under stress to stay alive. Competition shooting will help with making quick shots under stress and drawing from the holster. Being able to do those two things will greatly elevate your chances of survival in a self-defense situation.


The Issues With Competition Shooting For Self Defense

Although competition shooting does help develop quick reflexes and makes you practice drawing from the holster, it does create bad habits. Probably the one thing I noticed over the years was the lack of shooting from cover.

Other TFB writers have agreed competition shooting like IDPA and steel competitions focus on quick shots but no cover-based shooting. Having even the slightest bit of cover or concealment from an attacker can give you the edge along with shield you from potential gunfire. This became even more apparent when I took Will Petty’s VCQB class.

In Will’s class, he shows real-life shootings and breaks them down to talk about what was done well in the videos and what wasn’t. Almost all of the videos show officers using cover and moving purposefully to end the threat while keeping themselves shielded behind cover.


Another issue can be the lack of danger incorporated into the drills. This can be hard to create in any drill, but competition shooting can sometimes make someone forget about the potential dangers. The biggest danger for carriers is the threat of gunfire coming at them

Training with sim rounds can really give the shooter a feeling in danger. Sim rounds do a great job of creating a sense of urgency as well. Threat training using simulation rounds is probably one of the most effective ways to train, but the vast majority of civilians don’t have access to that type of training. There’s plenty of ways to build cover-based shooting into your drills but often times competition shooting will overlook this.


Should People Shoot Competitions For Practice?

The short answer to this question is yes. Shooters should do what they can to push themselves to become a better shooter. Putting it as a competitive aspect with other shooters is a good way to give the motivation to get better.

At the end of the day, it’s all about becoming more effective with what you carry. It’s important to be confident in case you ever need to defend yourself. Taking steps to push yourself and overcome issues when shooting is never easy, but it’s extremely necessary to become better. Shooting static targets have their place but adding stress and movement is the next step in training yourself. There may be a lot of issues associated with competition shooting with the lack of cover, but it does have some validity.

Personally, I think competition shooting is a great tool to incorporate into the bigger picture of training. Competition shooting will never replace the value of training courses. Being forced into situations you may not want to be in before it happens in real life is extremely valuable.

I don’t think competition shooting is the one-stop solution for training. Despite that, competitions along with other training can vastly improve a shooter’s skill level. Some people will just shoot static targets and say the are proficient and that’s ok. Just try to incorporate other activities to train yourself so you’re better off in the long run.


I’m curious about what you guys do to push your boundaries and become proficient with a firearm. Let me know what you do in the comments below. I’m sure you guys will have different ideas on how to train and that’s ok! Just remember to keep it respectful and have a conversation about it. Stay safe out there!

The Firearm Blog is a news site dedicated to all things firearms related. TFB covers top stories in the firearms industry. TFB staff writers share a passion for firearms but come from a diverse background, stretching from the world of law enforcement to being deployed on the streets of Fallujah, Iraq to the woods hunting wild game.

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