Jul 30, 2008

Competition Shooting is Great Training

Myth – “Competitive shooting isn’t ‘real’ shooting.”

Fact – Weapons only put projectiles where and how their pointed and don’t care what they’re pointed at.


Official Army policy (Army Regulation 350-66, see below) is that competitive shooting is useful, provides great training, and should be encouraged at all levels.

A firearm is a chemically-operated, mechanical projectile launcher. Given proper functioning, projectiles only begin their launch when triggered to do so and follow a path directed by line of bore. It can’t think or feel and only responds to the skill and technique of the operator regardless of the target shot at. If you can’t hit a target on a range you won’t magically gain the ability to hit it anywhere else.

Any range that isn’t “two way” is a simulation. The quality and significance of the simulation is as good as the course designer makes it. Any simulation is inherently abstract and relevance is very subjective so it will never be perfect for all people and situations. This is true of any course and isn’t a problem with competition shooting, per se. Participants can either step up and accept the challenge as presented, or step up and design something else.

The stress of the simulation is as intense as the participants can be pressured with it. Qualification attempts to only filter out the worst performers, ensuring that everyone is “qualified” (at least that’s what the training records claim.) “Qualified” can entail a whole range of skill levels. If the goal is get everyone qualified then the standards have to be adjusted so that everyone can.

Competition, on the other hand, attempts to filter out the best performers. Nobody cares what an adequate performance is because the goal of competition is to find what the best possible performance can be. The stress of qualification is to be good enough. The stress of competition is to be the best possible.

In order to have any meaning we have to measure performance by devising a way to reduce it to numbers such as points earned, elapsed time, etc. Any course can be created or adjusted in order to emphasize and reward a desired performance.

Army Regulation 350-66
Chapter 2 General Competitive Marksmanship Policy 2–1. Small arms marksmanship

Participation in military and civilian-sponsored small arms marksmanship competitions offers soldiers the opportunity to refine their marksmanship skills, compete against other military and civilian marksmen, and earn superior marksmanship awards in addition to the Army basic marksmanship awards available through annual qualification standards.

a. Army personnel should be provided opportunities to prepare for and participate in small arms marksmanship competition. These preparations, which include those for international competitions, are classified as training.

b. Authority for planning, directing, conducting, supervising, and publicizing competitive marksmanship activities within the Army is delegated to the lowest possible command element. Plans for competitive marksmanship activities will include provisions to publicize excellence in marksmanship, both internally and externally.

c. Competitive marksmanship match programs must include Excellence in Competition (EIC) matches. In addition, the program of matches will include a National match course individual rifle and pistol EIC match provided adequate facilities are available. Credit toward the Distinguished Designation Badge may be earned.
d. Match programs should emphasize and encourage the following:

  1. A variety of shooting styles, distances, and timing of firing with as many weapons and weapon systems as possible.
  2. Training of experienced competitive marksmen.
  3. Development of shooter/instructors.
  4. Off-duty competitive marksmanship activities.

e. MACOM participation in international level competitions is authorized and encouraged.

Jul 28, 2008

Orange and Red Dots on Bullseye Targets

What is the deal with orange and red dots on bullseye-type targets sold at sporting goods stores?

To the competitors here: What do the rules say about placing red dots on your official NRA target's bulls eye? Is this OK, or is it an infraction of the rules?

NRA Rule 4.1 "Targets"
"...They may not be modified by the user or the Manufacturer, except with specific written permission from NRA Competitions Division."

Personally, I've always found the color and dot "enhancements" to be annoying and the mark of cluelessness. The design can't be used for official score, and provides no additional benefit.

Using plain black bullseyes, good Service Rifle (iron sight) shooters can consistently shoot sub-2 MOA groups from position at over 1/3 mile. How much more precision can you expect?

The REAL disadvantage of bullseye targets is that they can require unrealistic zeros. A Sporting Rifle shooter using the SR-3 target with a 6 o'clock hold would be zeroed 9.5 inches high at 200 yards (!!!) Substitute the SR target on same Course of Fire and you have to re-zero to 7.5 inches high at 200; use the SR-1 at 100 yards and you re-zero to just over three inches high at 100.

On the other hand, anyone choosing a "Navy" (center) hold would have to zero to dead-on at 200 (not bad) and re-zero to dead-on at 100 to use the SR-1 (not as good).

How does any of this help me establish a working zero while working on basic field shooting positions? Apparently, nobody at the NRA knows how to create a CoF for big game hunters...

A more realistic target would use the same aimpoint for irons and optics AND would encourage a real-world zero. For rifle hunters, a 100 yard target should establish PoI at about 2 inches high for any sight system and be dead on at a useable and appropriate distance for most cartridges.

Jul 23, 2008

Point Shooting vs. Sight Shooting Debates

Point Shooting vs. Sight Shooting Debates
By: Robin Brown with John Veit

Discussions on Sight Shooting Vs Point Shooting surface now and again on the internet. And as soon as they do, they often become loud and noisy affairs that turn into verbal arguments.

Sides are taken quickly, and the proponents and opponents, start to rapidly exchange thoughts and words in a way that would make a machine gun instructor proud. Subsequent exchanges go on and on, and with heated ideological clashes to boot.

Recently, a voice of reason and logic has been heard above the din and smoke of the verbal battles. It is the voice of an unflappable, plain talking, long time trainer and shooter. He is an old marine who is a proponent of Sight Shooting as well as Point Shooting. His name is Robin Brown.

Unlike most of the current gun thread pundits, Brownie, as he is called, has the ability to sense or anticipate the slings and arrows being thrown and meet them with calm no nonsense responses, time after time.

A standard refrain heard from the "Sights only Shooters" is that Sight Shooting may degrade into Point Shooting under stress, but Point Shooting can’t evolve to good sighted shooting. Another is that training in both Sight Shooting and Point Shooting, violates the KISS principal and can result in confusion, muddled thinking, and disaster for the operator in a real life threat situation.

Well, Brownie certainly will agree that those are points well made.

He answers that mindset with the following.

Years ago, men were told to put the front sight into the rear sights notch and with them properly aligned they would hit their intended target. And that anything but that, would result in poorer results where accuracy was concerned. Bullseye shooters still use that method where precision shooting is necessary.

With time, men learned that they could get good hits making use of just the front sight, and that they did not have to take the time to make sure the front sight was aligned in the rear sight. This loosely became known as the Front Sight Press method. Then we were told it was not necessary to align the sights perfectly to make good hits in a combative situation.

The result was two methods of survival shooting. The complete reliance on BOTH sights being aligned properly. And the use of just the front sight, which morphed into the Front Sight Press methodology. It reduced the lag time of full sight verification when time was critical and a precise shot was not required to stop the threat.

If the threat is 20 feet away, standing behind a barricade, giving us only a portion of his head and hand as a target, we would need to make use of perfect sight alignment given the size of the target presented
and the accuracy needed to hit that small target.

If the threat is 20 feet away and out in the open, would we still wait for verification of a perfect bulls eye shooters sight alignment?

I think most would go to the Front Sight Press method with its front sight only requirement when the threat presents a bigger target at the same distance and we do not need a bulls eye shooters precision shot to solve the problem at hand. And most would be able to transition from one to the other quite easily as the situation demanded.

They would probably agree they could determine on the fly and under stress what was necessary to solve these two different situations.

Were people getting their thought processes muddied by learning two different ways to get hits then? Maybe, but men still learned and practiced BOTH methods.

They could use the sights to make a precision bulls eye type shot and they also would be able to utilize just the front sight to make shots that did not need that type of precision or accuracy, thus taking less time for sight alignment and probably solving the problem in a shorter time frame.

That hasn't caused a major issue between the two solutions to my knowledge. It certainly is not in keeping with the KISS principle as suggested by some who would have us believe that only one sighting method should be trained, in their attempts to convince others that Point Shooting will muddy the thought process under stress.

Sighted and Point Shooting methodologies present two survival shooting options for a defender and allows the defender to chose one or the other while in a high stress life or death situation depending on time, accuracy and distance requirements.

With Front Sight Press, less verification of sight alignment is needed before shooting, so one can usually get the shot off sooner with it and less time will be spent getting on target as a rule.

Most defensive tactics instructors also recognize that one can go to perfect sight alignment, or to Front Sight Press based on time, distance, and accuracy considerations.

The thinking behind the achnowledgement and acceptance that the Front Sight Press method is an effective combat tool, though less accurate than bulls eye shooting, is equally applicable when weighing the relative merits of selecting Point Shooting or Front Sight Press.

And there is a bit of irony in that, as some of the most vocal advocates of Front Sight Press, have been very vocal against any of the known Point Shooting methods to solve time, accuracy and distance problems.

Effective Point Shooting, just like Front Sight Press, is dependant on the time available, the distance to the threat, and how much accuracy is actually needed to solve any given situation.

Point Shooting takes survival shooting even further along the road of change because it does not rely on the use of the sights for delivering effective, controlled fire in close quarters defensive situations.

Point Shooting, just like its counterparts, requires both training and practice to achieve a proficiency level that also can be range tested via targets.

Where Point Shooting really shines, is in situations where the full bulls eye sight picture and the front sight press method can not be used as effectively [quickly], such as in close quarters force on force situations. As such, it is fast becoming a beacon that is lighting the way to the future of survival shooting because most defensive handgun shooting occurs at close quarters distances.

Shooting without the use of the sights, is not new by any means. It has lots of aliases like Quick Fire that was developed by the military; Reflexive Fire which also was developed by the military and from previous systems that Were adopted in the 60's; and FAS (Fairbairn/Applegate/Sykes), which was developed specifically for police in China in the early 1900's and for men who went in harms way during WWII.

There also is Quick Kill with a pistol or revolver which was developed by Lucky McDaniels in the 50's and adopted by the US Army for their rifle training programs in the 60's. The Army did not adopt the Quick Kill with a pistol or revolver technique due to the small numbers of soldiers who needed to be trained in pistol craft at that time.

Each has their pluses and minuses, and have a place in the overall picture of self-defense. They are very effective under a variety of conditions and particularly those, in which an operator may not be able to see or use the sight/s.

It has taken time to bring it to the fore. That has come to pass because of the adoption of car cams that capture what really happens on the street in gunfight situations, the perseverance and patience on the part of advocates, and the fairly recent realization by force on force participants using airsoft pistols that what they were taught and practiced in the past, can and will likely fall apart in a threat situation where close quarters and dynamic movement of the participants is the norm.

The thought that only one technique should be trained exclusively is at odds with history and mans ability to use what is known to his best advantage.

Statements are often heard that Point Shooting should not be taught beyond bad breath distances. This normally comes from instructors who are offering words of due caution, but who also obviously lack formal training and knowledge of any of the Point Shooting systems, and the fact that Point Shooting has been proven effective in battle long ago.

Some police are required to shoot "point shoulder" at the three yard line on a static range that makes no use of sights. However, most of those who are asked to qualify thusly are not trained in how to effectively employ it. They are only told to "do it" by trainers who themselves, probably do not have a thorough understanding of what is required and needs to be done for it to be as effective as it can be.

The result is a mindset that Point Shooting was tried, but it just isn't that effective. That is an understandable conclusion and one that flows from a training shortfall, not a method that is inadequate for the task at hand.

More and more people are learning that Point Shooting is a viable and effective survival shooting tool. At a minimum, they need an understanding of what it is and how to use it effectively through training. A working knowledge of Point Shooting is available to the public and Law Enforcement Officers through several sources who actually trained with the masters who are no longer with us.

The authors advocate training in both Sight and Point Shooting, not one over the other.

Jul 16, 2008

Increasing Gunmanship

Increasing Gunmanship

One evening I was relaxing and watching a popular drama about a contemporary but fictional United States President and his staff. In the episode I saw one of the issues of concern were the number of poor people residing inside the USA.

One of the many appointed, self-important, can’t-get-a-real-job “leaders” burdening the tax payer that infests Washington DC in this fictionalized account wanted to change the bean-counter-invented formula that generates the numbers that these faceless bureaucrats use to measure the financial health of people whom they have never met.

The “new and improved” formula created eight million more people below the poverty level. With an upcoming election the staff was concerned about potential image problems caused by suddenly having several million more poor people. The staff realized that the new formula might be more accurate, but pushed to use the old formula until after the election to prevent the current administration from appearing to be losing the “war on poverty.”

The president’s PR man argued that the best move was to push to put the new formula in place, publicly praise themselves for being innovators, and smear their opposition for missing all these poor folks.

It was little more than an abstract number shuffle used to bolster one side’s image and reducing the other side. Nothing was discussed about how to actually improve the situation, but what to do with the numbers.

The abilities, methods and character of gun owners is what Olympic rifle coach extraordinaire Bill Pullum calls “gunmanship.” Obviously, we should work to raise the levels of gunmanship amongst average gun owners and hunters because there is real need for improvement and plenty of room for positive growth. But we need to have a definable way to measure this or we're lost in an abstract number shuffle.

Promoting organized shooting events is the best way to accomplish this. Organized means competition, classes or any shooting activity with more thought than random plinking. Promoting means getting the word out. Neighbors within twenty miles of the range should know that events are happening, even if they aren't shooters.

Jul 9, 2008

Shooting with the Magazine on the Ground

Myth – “Touching the magazine on the ground will induce a stoppage.”

Fact – Touching the magazine of a many firearms, especially AR-15/M16/M4 –series rifles, has no adverse effect on functioning and has been PROVEN to be reliable and stable for decades.

FM 3-22.9, Page 7-3, Figure 7-5
“Once the basic firing skills have been mastered during initial training, the soldier should be encouraged to modify positions, to take advantage of available cover, to use anything that helps to steady the rifle, or to make any change that allows him to hit more combat targets.”


Certain detachable box magazine-fed, self-loading firearms may be susceptible to stoppages if the magazine is touched. The AR-15 series, including M16/M4s, is NOT one of them.

Since the introduction of Commonwealth-style International Combat shooting to the US Army in the early 1990’s, military teams have been adapting the good skills learned in National Match-style shooting to more freestyle events shot with rack-grade gear. Being a combat match, no alibis are granted. Any stoppage has to be cleared on the clock, therefore, equipment and technique must be reliable.

If touching the magazine caused stoppages nobody (at least not any winners) would use it because any risk of malfunctions would cancel the stability benefit. For about two decades the winning technique has been to use the magazine as a base of support when possible. From a tactical perspective, Mag Prone puts the shooter in “Helmet Defilade”, the lowest possible shooting position where the shooter’s helmet and muzzle are the most prominent things an enemy target can see.

Jul 2, 2008

Remember the Basics (USPSA, IDPA, IPSC)

Practical shooting is terrific fun. We get to run around with guns and shoot fast. With all the noise, smoke and flying brass who couldn't enjoy it? Plus, practical shooting is one of the most directly useful formats available. The problem is, as great and useful as this can be, it is a poor way to begin your shooting career.

Consider that many of the IPSC "old hands" are still competitive. Despite the increasing numbers of participants few have risen to challenge the folks who were winning in the Eighties. I am convinced that this is largely due to the fact that many people enter practical shooting with no previous marksmanship background and never learn solid fundamentals.

Brian Enos has discussed this in a number places including a "Hate" rant. "Old school" practical shooters began life participating in other, more accuracy intense disciplines such as PPC and made the switch. New practical shooters are now beginning their competitive experience in practical shooting and not enough ever learn disciplined marksmanship. Standards courses from 25 to 50 yards used to be a staple at every match. Now they are rarely encountered.

I made the switch from civilian practical competition to Commonwealth-style combat matches several years ago, largely because the USAR sponsors a team and pay me to shoot. The pistol courses can be described as a mix of Bianchi Cup and PPC shooting. On several occasions participants with a solid practical background have attended these events and the results were disappointing. They simply didn't have the raw marksmanship chops needed to put together a respectable score. Despite a Master classification from USPSA and IDPA it took me some time to bring my accuracy up to be competitive.

This is NOT a condemnation of IPSC, USPSA, IDPA or any other practical shooting format! The problem is that shooters start there and want to race without ever learning how to shoot with some degree of precision.

Set down the timer, put away the holster, break out the bullseye targets and dummy rounds and work on fundamental marksmanship.

Mix some dummy rounds into your magazines. If you can't shoot a slow fire group without flinching on the click you're wasting ammo until you fix it. Yes, I know that timing or "Post Ignition Push" is needed to shoot really fast, but you should NOT twitch during slow fire! Work on slow fire group shooting out to extended distances, 25 yards at least.