Sport Shooting for Preppers, by C.K.

I’m going to talk about an aspect of survival that may or may not have been covered already. I haven’t seen it so far in SurvivalBlog, and it only gets a passing nod in many books.

An important aspect of just about everyone’s preps involves guns of some sort. You can see a lot of that in shows like “Doomsday Preppers.” I’d guess (because I haven’t seen every episode and I’m too lazy to do an exact count) that about 90% of the preppers featured on the show have or talk about having guns. Handguns, rifles, shotguns of a wide variety of shapes, sizes and calibers. Some of the episodes give a passing nod to gaining some level of proficiency with them, some episodes showcase the number the prepper has (probably to emphasize the degree of obsession the featured guest has with TEOTWAWKI). JWR’s novel “Patriots” talks about some of the characters taking classes at Front Sight. (Although I’d have picked a better school than that, like Gunsite or the Magpul guys).

Few people, blogs, books, or television shows talk about maintaining a level of proficiency. We all kind of talk around it, but it can be a grind, just training, training, training. It gets old quickly, it burns money for ammo (or components–if you’re not reloading, shame on you; but that’s another show) you’d probably spend on another prep, and it burns that most precious commodity, time.

So, what’s a prepper to do? How do you get past the monotony of just training? How do you introduce variety and keep the training dynamic?

I’d recommend getting involved in one or two sports. Yes, sports. Think about getting into either US Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) or International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) matches at your local club.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Neither is a substitute for real training. You still need to learn and practice the truly tactical stuff–room clearing, setting sectors of fire, dismounted patrolling, etc. Those are all things neither USPSA or IDPA will teach you.

Both games may also teach you a few bad habits, if you let them. USPSA lets you dump partially loaded magazines wherever you want, stand in doorways, eschew the use of cover or concealment. IDPA mandates slide lock reloads (unless you want the time penalty of a retention reload), considers concealment to be the same thing as cover, and mandates “tactical priority (if you have three targets arrayed near, far, and mid-range from left to right, you have to shoot near, mid, then far, even if it’s smarter to shoot left to right to because you can get effective hits faster).”

Both games also have some scoring methods which play to the game aspects (Virginia for USPSA and Limited Vickers for IDPA) and the courses of fire sometimes mandate stupidity (strong hand only shooting when you’d normally use two, etc.).

Finally, both games have ridiculous magazine restrictions to negate competitive advantage for people from states where they don’t limit you to a 10-round magazine. I shoot Custom Defensive Pistol in IDPA, where a .45 caliber is mandated, but I do it with a Springfield XD45 (my carry gun). Because I shoot CDP, I’m limited to an 8-round magazine, to negate my advantage over 1911 shooters. I sometimes shoot Production in USPSA with a Springfield XD(m), and am limited to 10 rounds, even though the gun holds 19 rounds of 9mm.

The other thing you’re probably thinking is that it’s too expensive to get into. USPSA, in particular, has a bad reputation for needing multi-thousand dollar guns and a lot of specialized equipment. IDPA is marginally better, but there is a division where folks shoot guns on the upper end of the cost scale. I can assure you that’s not the case. You can get into either game by buying a decent (Lorcins need not apply) gun and making sure you have at least five magazines, a holster, and magazine pouches/holders. You can use a decent concealed carry belt (web or leather, it’s your option) and you’re good to go.

The last criticism is that both sports are handgun-centric. While that’s true, both sports have long gun rules. The constraint is most the fact that few clubs have ranges large enough to accommodate long gun matches. But they are out there. If you can find one, you can get the same benefits with a rifle and shotgun, too.

So, what’s the true value?

There are four primary benefits.

First, you get trigger time in a dynamic environment to reduce the monotony of training. I burned about 300 rounds just this past weekend over the course of about six hours and was never bored. I shot two USPSA matches. In most areas of the country, there’s a USPSA or IDPA club within driving distance. You can probably find at least two matches a month to shoot for a minimum of expense (most match fees for club matches are less than $20). I live outside of St Louis, and within a three hour drive, I could shoot eight matches in a month, expending right around 2000 rounds each month. That would be a lot of shooting. It would be a lot of quality time with your gun. Learning its strengths and limitations, what kinds of ammo it likes, whether your handloads are worth a damn or not. And you get to do it in a fairly dynamic, and dare I say, fun environment.

Second, you learn to manipulate your chosen gun at speed. Regardless of how seriously you take the competitive aspects of either game, when the timer beeps, Type A people are going to move quickly. I’d wager most preppers are Type A’s. Why would you bother to prep and take all of the precautions to protect your preps if you weren’t? The clock-induced stress helps you learn how to draw, to do reloads, shoot, and deal with malfunctions when you’re not expecting them and when you’re distracted by other things. That translates into being much more confident with your gun and having practiced multiple repetitions of doing fundamental things under stress. You learn to manipulate the gun around walls, through ports, off-balance. Do you expect to always have the opportunity to get set in a perfect stance with a perfect grip when things go badly? Neither do I. One of the benefits of IDPA for concealed-carry guys (which I assume most of us are) is you learn to use your self-defense gun from concealment in this environment.

Along with that is the third benefit–handling your gun safely. Above all things, the rules for both sports emphasize safety. In one of the episodes of “American Preppers,” there’s a prepper dad who took his kids out to the desert to shoot. At some point, this jackwagon blows off his thumb, because he wasn’t handling his gun safely. While neither USPSA nor IDPA are, pardon the pun, silver bullets for keeping you from blowing off parts of your body, you learn to be very aware of what condition your gun is in and where the dangerous end is. At the very least, you forfeit the match if you’re unsafe. It’s also extremely embarrassing. Most important, it’s a self-critiquing event–you become a much safer shooter as a result.

Finally, you learn what acceptable combat accuracy really is. Many folks practice shooting groups and shrinking that group size to be as small as possible. But they don’t practice getting lead on a target as quickly as possible while still making effective hits. In USPSA, this translates into getting A-zone hits. In IDPA, this translates into being down nothing at the end of the stage. When you’re under the clock, you don’t have the luxury of absolutely perfect and clear sight alignment. You’re getting the front sight post into the notch, knowing there’s a cone of vulnerability at the end of your gun for the target, not a laser beam.

Like I said earlier, neither sport is a panacea for all of the training you need to fit with your guns. But neither are they totally useless. IDPA guys like to make fun of USPSA guys by saying IDPA is training for a gunfight. That’s nonsense. You can train, train, train to learn how to employ your gun, but you can only learn how to gunfight by doing just that (and I am, in no way, advocating going to look for opportunities to use your guns in a real world situation).

Like martial artist Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful.” Shoot a few matches, find out what you’re really capable of doing with your guns. I’m a middle-of-the-pack USPSA shooter, so I’m not awesome at anything. But, I can draw my Model 1911 and shoot two aimed, combat-effective shots in less than two seconds, reacting to an external stimulus. I can execute a reload and fire an aimed, combat-effective shot in less than one and a quarter seconds. I instinctively react to malfunctions and go into remedial actions now.

Can you?

I have my sport shooting to thank for that.