Of Skills Drills and Negligent Discharges

20130105-204706.jpgDon’t worry, the negligent discharge wasn’t mine…but it brought home a lesson I had underscored at the range today.

As those who follow my page on Facebook know, I shot the IDPA Classifier today for the first time. (Side note: If you aren’t following me on Facebook, I invite you to join the discussion there; I share lots of stuff that isn’t large enough to warrant its own blog post.) For those who don’t do IDPA, the Classifier is a standardized 90-round course of fire that tests many of the common skills needed to compete in IDPA: drawing and re-holstering, shooting on the move, shooting from behind cover, and reloading your firearm quickly. Whether IDPA skills translate to real-world lethal force defensive encounters is a subject of perennial debate, but in my view of things, anything that makes you more accurate and confident in your gun handling skills is a good thing.

In any event, I had a great time, and came home from the range with a bunch of lessons, both good and bad, bouncing around in my head.

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Knowing the Limits of Your Training

When you take a training class, or go out and practice shooting skills on a USPSA or IDPA stage, do you know the limits of those experiences? Do you know where the “real world, applicable to a deadly force situation” skills you’re drilling end?

I’ve commented before on the issue of “IDPA as training” vs. “IDPA as a game”. But I wanted to riff on this in another direction, because of a post Kathy at Cornered Cat made a couple of days ago. She titled the post “Wait for backup“, and talked about two situations where armed citizens entered their homes looking for bad guys. One ended well, thank god, but the other much less so. Kathy pointed out that:

If you are concerned enough to pull your gun out of its holster, you should be concerned enough to pull your phone out of your pocket and call for backup. Except in cases of extreme and immediate need, law enforcement officers won’t try to clear a house by themselves, without backup. Why should you?

I wanted to underline her point because one of the perennial debates in our community seems to be about whether competition shooting sports like IDPA “will get you killed”. I think this is one area where, if you don’t know your limits, they just might.

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Practice Not Shooting

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Robert over at The Truth About Guns has a good reminder today: One thing we should include in our training is practice not shooting.

Robert discusses the tragic case of Jeffrey Giuliano, a Connecticut man who recently shot and killed a masked intruder in his home, only to discover the hooded figure was his own fifteen year old son. And he points out something interesting and, I think, important.

Robert writes:

One thing is for sure, if you shoot every time you clear leather or aim a gun at a gun range—which people do tens of thousands of times over decades— you’re most likely to shoot when you clear leather in a defensive gun use (DGU). Regardless of whether or not you should.

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Shooting While Disoriented

Imagine this scenario: You go out to dinner and a movie with friends. You have a glass of wine or two with dinner. After the movie, you stop off for a nightcap on the way home. You get home from the movie at 11:00pm or so and, exhausted, stumble into bed.

Three hours later, the sound of breaking glass wakes you. You’re tired, maybe still a little tipsy, moving in the dark. Maybe you have time to grab your flashlight, but even so, you’re more than a bit disoriented. And then the bad guy kicks in your bedroom door.

Let’s suppose that your gun is on the nightstand. Could you deploy it effectively?

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IDPA: Gaming vs. Training

As I mentioned yesterday, I noticed some definite differences at my first IDPA match between those people who were shooting it as a sport/competition vs. those who were shooting primarily for defensive firearms practice/training. I’ve been thinking about this topic anyway since Bob Mayne‘s excellent Handgun World podcast recently in which he and Ben Branam discussed this issue in the context of the Aurora shooting.

In my view, IDPA can be just a fun game you get to play out on the range, or it can be a supplement (though not a replacement; more on that in a moment) to your defensive firearms training regimen. If you’re going to treat IDPA as training, though, you’re going to make some different decisions than if you’re playing as a game. Here are some of the things I think make IDPA better training:
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Thoughts on My First IDPA Match

Well, I did it – I shot my first IDPA match today! Thanks to Match Director Joe L. and all the Safety Officers who made it possible (and put up with more than a few newbie mistakes from me). A special shout-out and sincere thanks to Julie Golob, whose encouragement got me through that moment of panic when I looked at the stage diagrams and thought to myself “what the &#!* have I gotten myself into?!?”

For the curious and intrepid, here’s some video – we shot six stages, but I only was able to get video for four of them:

Let me say, first of all, that IDPA is an absolute blast! You get to exercise skills – drawing from a holster, shooting while moving, shooting from cover – that rarely get exercised at a regular range. You also get the adrenaline rush that comes from shooting under pressure (in this case, time pressure), which is a good thing to know how to deal with. In a self-defense situation, you can bet the adrenaline will be pumping, so knowing how to shoot through that is an important survival skill. (In fact, after my first stage today, I was so buzzed/shaky from the adrenaline surge that I dropped four cartridges while trying to reload.)

A few thoughts about the experience and lessons learned:
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Book Review: SHOOT, by Julie Golob

Whether you enjoy shooting rifles, pistols, or shotguns, or even other weapons like black-powder muskets, chances are there’s a competitive shooting event for you. And, chances are that you can find it within the pages of SHOOT, the new book by professional shooter and Team Smith & Wesson captain Julie Golob.

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