Shooting To Get Better At Shooting

John Van Swearingen posted an interesting article over at American Gunfighters. He talks about honing the fundamentals of shooting.

Turn back the clock to 2008 when Firearms Training became “sexy”, as Swearingen puts it. After Magpul Dynamics posted their videos and made them available for purchase, loads of instructors came out of the woodwork to teach you all sorts of tactical manipulation.

The problem, that Swearingen points out, is that those classes might have some valuable lessons but do they make you a better shooter?

This is where the tactical shooting community as a whole could use a kick in the pants. Putting on your kit (and showing off your new plate carrier) and diving into “supine-urban-modular-dynamic-ninja-prone” can give you quality trigger-time and help introduce you to useful techniques, but the purpose of this article is to offer a different viewpoint about training and training classes: if you are not training like (or with) a high-level competitive shooter, you’re doing it wrong.

I am all for competitive shooting to help elevate fundamentals. However I have noticed a split in the shooting community. Some people “train to fight”, ok that is all good and fine but can you rock a USPSA or IDPA match?

Swearingen mentions Jerry Miculek and Bob Vogel. The difference is in how competitive shooters practice. They don’t just drill shooting positions or situations.They focus on the fundamentals of shooting. Dry-firing, reloads, and drawing to a sight picture. Oh you tactical shooters do that too? Then why not try a competition to see how well your shooting really is.

I have seen guys like Jerry Miculek and Jesse Tischauer shoot in person and boy are they not only fast but they are consistently accurate

It is not unreasonable to claim that the best competitive shooters can shoot weak-handed while moving with a higher degree of proficiency than the average patrol officer can shoot two-handed.

We are not talking tactics and how competitive shooting has zero lack of tactics. Swearingen is trying to get people to realize you can draw the best from both worlds. This isn’t a choose only one school of thought. If people train as diligently as competitive shooters do, it can only help with their skill set. Challenge yourself. It cannot hurt you to try a competition and leave all the gear behind. Drive yourself and that gun as fast as you can. Then review your performance and analyze where your shooting could use improvement. You can always add the tactics on top of it all.

Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at


  • USMC03Vet

    No way, Mane. That tactical vest easily give you – 1 moa out of the barrel and that carbon fiber mil spec gun fighter charging handle drops 30 minutes off reload times. Clipazines with added buttplates? Increased time on target guaranteed!

  • claymore

    About time somebody said this.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Said what? The same things that all gamers like to say? There are two sides to this, nothing in this article is new nor does it cover the impractical side of being a gamer.

      • claymore

        How did you get from shooting fundamentals to gamers?

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Geez, I don’t know. Maybe because I read the article and it mentions competition 16 times?

          • claymore

            Bit of a stretch. And double taps work in combat not just for people that just attend courses.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            My exact experiences.

          • claymore

            So you personally have shot double taps at someone is that what you are saying?

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Maybe you should re-read that.

            Allow me to go over it with you… See how before “double tap” I’m talking about gamers, you see how I used the words “prioritizes speed over accuracy”… At what point do you take that to read I’m talking about a defensive shooting? OR that I think double taps are a good idea?

          • claymore

            Well now that you edited your post it used to read

            “My exact experiences.” AFTER I said “And double taps work in combat not just for people that just attend courses.”

            That to me says you HAVE done it.

            Try the FBI swat teams you want to avoid them?

  • Paul O.

    Shooting IDPA has upped my game. It’s not the only shooting that I feel I should do, but it’s both fun and a good comparative measure of my shooting skills.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Lol, Gamers Against Training.

    The opposite of this article is in stressful situations your dry fire practice goes out the window, those double taps you practice over because that’s what scores the best and over will both miss, that 9mm Major 38Stupid or barely 9mm Minor round you spent months working out feels NOTHING like an actual defensive round from a carry handgun, shit happens at night and you don’t practice low light because lights are against the rules in most gamer matches…

    Etc etc etc.

    Yea, most tacticiool idiots loaded out with vest and drop leg holsters cannot shoot! I know this. I go to classes where I should not be (but am) top of the class. BUT… I go to gaming events where despite the amount of dry fire, I see people who can not clear a malfunction to save their lives, I see people who can not move saftety with a firearm if someone else were in the range with them (Sul, highport/temple index omg!), I see people who have only the idea that a target will be cardboard or white steel and nothing else.

    Big suprise! You can’t be one way or the other be right. This article and the tons of people who think defensive training is for losers (including most of the commenters here who only rip on formal training because they are too cheap or too intimidated to actually go do it) are only seeing 1/2 the picture.

    Already the anti-training commandos are here.

    • DonDrapersAcidTrip

      It’s almost as if you came in with a rant ready cause you love to hear yourself talk and didn’t bother actually reading the article but that… that couldn’t be..!!

      • JumpIf NotZero

        More to the commentors here, who have consistently been anti-training. But yea, ok.

        • claymore

          Nobody I have seen posting are anti-training they are anti-not relevant training that is being pushed to sell spots in their course for the latest greatest courses for people that train and never put that training to actual use just one course after another.

          Like being dressed up in the latest suit with no dance to go to.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Ok, this the people here aren’t anti-traning… Yea, good one 🙂 Training costs money, 90% of the commenters here hate anything that costs money. Popular: Soda Can Launcher, Keltec Vaporware, Range Toys, Parlor Tricks. Unpopular: Premium ARs, Training, Go bags, Unconventional Techniques

            There is a cost and intimidation barrier to taking good formal training. Both of those factors lead people to the internet where they can pretend to be better shooters than they are – or crap all over people who do attempt to get actually get better. “Some” commentors have time and again shown to crap all things that have merit because “arbitrary relevance” / “reasons”. “Some” were in that temple index thread mocking it – because “they” didn’t learn it in the corps in the 70s – and that’s not OK. I have yet to see more than a couple commentors here with opinions that express they know anything about modern techniques enough to be able to decide what is relevant.

            The last defensive class I took I ran in a button down polo, another guy had dress pants and a sweater. Your generalization shows your age and that you’re looking at too many arfcom threads, it shows me you’re not actually out there.

          • claymore

            How dare you who only trains and has never been shot at or fired shots at someone shooting back at you at criticize or doubt my credentials. Mine have been posted here for all to see where are yours?

            I gave you ample evidence so that if you wanted to learn the truth as to why pointing up instead of down has been debunked and even the FBI no longer uses it but you couldn’t be bothered to search for it or don’t have the necessary qualifications to have access to the material and continue to defend the indefensible just because it’s “cool and new” training.

            Do yourself a favor and do some research on REAL police and military personnel being shot, in real situations, and training by other team members behind them tripping.

            This is one area the Feebs are good at, analyzing situations like this and they put major effort into it and they decided down is better and safer for all concerned but you think you know more than them because of all your training LOL.

            If you actually think ANY REAL operational unit would ever use the absurd “temple index” you are proving to everybody that you have never put all your alleged training to use and know nothing about real world methods and training and all your “training” is just that play acting even if it was in street clothes you still have not faced the elephant.

          • I can assure everyone that the temple index is never used in police work.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            I can assure everyone that the temple index is never used in police work.

            How strange I learned it from a guy that went through and learned it in FLETC then!

          • claymore

            High port is not temple indexing they are two different methods. So which is it police are the worst shooters ever or they are great when they agree with me?

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Dude, give it up. I’m not interested in helping with reading comprehension or arguing with you on the Internet. Go have a beer.

          • claymore

            Dude you are acting like a kid that I took away his favorite toy now stop it. To imply that I use alcohol on a regular basis is childish at best when you know nothing about my life.

            Feel free to disagree with my OPINIONS all you want. But for you to try and disparage my qualifications is ludicrous on your part.

            I have posted my qualifications but we are STILL waiting for you to post yours so everyone can know why YOU think you are qualified to speak on the subject as your postings show no real word experiences in using all the alleged training you talk about.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            How dare you

            Aannnnddd… We’re done here.

        • Say what!!! Where in the world did you get the idea I was against training! Just the opposite you can never train to much. Knowing our writing staff there are none who consider training a waste of time. I can tell you I train in different ways at least twice a week.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Who the hell is talking about you Phil!? Not me.

    • What was your performance at the last “gaming” event you went to?

      • JumpIf NotZero

        USPSA and Shitty. Typically I’m middle of the pack for speed but 1/3rd top for hits. I’ve only done practice events for the last year. No reason to go in and pay a match fee if I’m going to use my carry handgun with factory or equivalent powered rounds.

        I’ve been trying to get more into precision rifle this and next as I’ve found it to get a nicer atmosphere for people that want to focus on skills vs winning a game. I’ll be a steel cup challenge this year. 24hr Sniper if I can get fit in time for not this year but the next.

        • Care to share specifics? Your classification maybe? Your actual finish in your division and percentage of the match winner? I’m looking for something that validates your opinion about how USPSA is shot. In fact, it’s completely wrong.

          There is a great reason to pay your match fee and shoot factory ammo- neither of those are the reason you don’t finish strongly.

          Instead go shoot that carry gun and factory ammo and learn to shoot better and not make excuses.

    • “Oh look, already the anti-training commandos are here.”

      Foul! Don’t set traps like that.

  • gunhead

    What’s with this black-and-white mentality? Incorporate what works best for you from all sources.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Agreed on overall and crawl, walk, run.

    The mind boggling confusing thing to me is just how many people here are anti-training. I used to think the barrier to entry for women in classes was the intimidation and that was a gender thing – but the more I’ve been thinking about it, I’m starting to think that it might be men who have a higher level of intimidation when it comes to seeking formal training. Women I still feel have more barriers like cost and oppertunity, but I’d guess at best 1-2% of firearm owners seek training.

    Which would make sense because reaction to things like temple-index / high port, movement or unconventional drills, manipulation techniques is so immediately the knee-jerk and without thought – it would make sense if it’s coming from people who are intimidated by such things.

    So to imply one cannot do these things safely or accurately and instead those factors are something you’ll get from gaming which I consider to be less intimidating, actually makes a lot of sense.

    • raz-0

      Dude, the number of people who won’t show up to compete, or leave if they find out they can’t show up and kick everyone’s ass is astounding.

      A LOT of guys conflate a lot of things with manliness. Guns, like cars, is guaranteed to attract more than its fair share of that segment. ANYTHING that challenges their self-perceived competence is scary and intimidating. Competition may be even more intimidating than training. I know plenty of folks who shell out on training who won’t come out and compete.

      IF you are remotely accurate that 1-2% of gun owners seek out training, that’d be 800,000 if the 80- million number thrown around all the time is accurate. After several decades, USPSA is finally issuing member numbers in high 80,000 range. It’s not like even local matches are dominated by non-members. Even if IDPA were twice as popular as USPSA and steel twice as popular as that, and 3 gun twice as popular as THAT, you would only be at 1.65% of the estimated 80 million gun owners. Unless you are throwing trap and skeet and bullseye and highpower into the mix too. Even then I suspect you don’t fill out the numbers too much.

      If you include something like hunter’s education to get your permit into training, I’ll bet you make it well past 2%, but I suspect that’s not what you meant.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        I was trying to be positive 😀 I know most gun owners here on this site reading this now are full on Dunning–Kruger effect case studies waiting to happen.

      • Bingo! Just about everyone who shows up for their first match, finds out very quickly that they’re not nearly as good as they thought they were.

        There will always be value in measuring your skills against others in some quantifiable way. That requires scoring targets and a timer. “Eyeballing it” can be deceptive. As boring as IDPA “standards” can be, they are a good way to measure skill level and progress.

      • raz-0

        replying to myself cause I thought an edit would look dishonest.

        My 1.65% numbers are based on USPSA = 1x and IDPA = 2x and steel = 4x and 3gun = 8x where X = the highest USPSA member number I have encountered, which is 88000-ish. The reality is that if you go by USPSA’s required disclosure of magazine distribution, you are looking at about 20k -ish active members. So 1.65% is being incredibly optimistic on how common competitive shooting is amongst gun owners, even for an absurd blown up relative popularity scale like I used.

  • raz-0

    Most of the good USPSA shooters do indeed have to pay for their own ammo. They might get a discount, but very few get free.

  • Nicks87

    What a nonsense article. I didn’t even know that there was a disconnect between tactical shooting and competitive shooting and it sounds like if you are picking sides in this pointless debate you are just cheating yourself out of quality shooting time. It’s all about repeating the fundamentals over and over and developing muscle memory. All the extra stuff, tactical, competition or otherwise is just more motivation to go out and shoot.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      There is a HUGE disconnect. I’ve found a large part of it to be age based I’m putting together from my own experiences.

      The older guys who used to shoot steel plate racks and bowling pins (which in the relative scheme of things, those constants get dangerously close to parlor tricks imo) now see IDPA and USPSA as something they are familiar with. It’s an evolution of something well known. It’s relatively low intensity except for short bursts. It can range from a boys club to community event.

      Younger people want less to do with rules like how your feet have to be positioned during a reload, have a disposable income to travel and drop larger amounts of ammo and time, are using this knowledge as a lifestyle modification. Ex: I don’t train to get into a fight or to win a game, I train so that while I’m riding my motorcycle alone somewhere I can handle myself type of thing. It’s rapidly evolving. A lot of groups are out there making their mark, and there it makes an outlet for guys that probably should have join the mil with an infantry MOS.

      That’s just a generalization of what I’ve seen. I’d say the median age at my local USPSA practice or events is 50, at training groups I’d saying it’s 35.

      Of course you can’t just preach one OR the other. And to imply that gaming focuses on fundamentals is a joke. I’m harder on gamers than I am on tacticool commandos, I suppose that’s because the time I’ve spent doing USPSA has shown me worse shooters with less reliable gear – to date. I’d be willing to update that if I ever saw differently.

  • Dan

    I took the article differently, I took like it. So you’re an olympic swimmer but can you survive capsizing in the ocean, while yes knowing to swim is a huge benefit so is knowing how to just keep your head above water and remain calm. So learn everything you can for the situations you expect could happen.

    • Manny Fal

      Fighting like a competitive game shooter will get you shot and/or killed, that’s the truth. But even more importantly, the effort required both monetary and time wise is completely unrealistic, given the stats.

      • Dan

        It’s not saying fight like a competitive shooter it’s saying don’t limit yourself to one school of thought. Some people without training have prevailed in gun fights and some people with training have fallen victim.. It would still serve a person well to participate in both forms, and use what you learn.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    There is no better than anyone. There is a complete lack of logic on this site and that’s annoying as hell.

    I’m all for competition if it’s done in a way that isn’t gaming. I’m all for defensive training if it’s not full blown “warrior”. That unfortunately isn’t the issue I’m seeing here.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    I’m with you in theory. But my experience with competition has been 100% opposite. Loading up 9mm minor rounds in a 17L and just double taps without thought.

    Agreed, tactical is typical 3-5 center mass, but you get reamed if you miss. Every group I’ve trained with has focused hits first, speed second.

    • Odd, my experience is 100% opposite of that. In fact, I don’t think any USPSA or IDPA shooter just pops “double” taps.

      Every shooter with a clue knows they have to score 90% of the points as a goal to be competitive and misses destroy your performance.

      However, the tactical instructor did win D class Production with 5 misses on one stage alone. Maybe he’s the example your referencing?

      But, he will when a gunfight against me because he’s tactical (derp, derp)

      • JumpIf NotZero

        But, he will when a gunfight against me because he’s tactical (derp, derp)

        Way to invalidate your opinion right at the end there.

        • How many USPSA/IDA matches have you ever shot? How did you perform? Validate your opinion about how competition is shot.

    • Haven’t been to many matches have you. Misses are devastating to a person’s score. In USPSA/IPSC not only do you not get the 5 points you would’ve gotten but they subtract an additional 10 points off your score.

      So anyone that says you can miss with reckless abandon, has no idea what they are talking about. Winners almost never miss, and on top of that they get an overwhelming majority of their shots in the highest score zone.

  • dannye

    I would like to hear some feedback from people who fought like Chris Costa taught them.

    Oh wait there isn’t any because they’d be dead.

  • In an effort to protect persons from the “experts” sharing their opinions on competition shooting lacking real and intimate knowledge, allow me to share:

    Competitive shooters (IDPA/USPSA) seek to deliver the most accurate shot in the least amount of time. For the IDPA shooter that’s the “-0” 8 inch circle. For the USPSA shooter it’s a 10 cm x 28 cm A zone rectangle on the Metric target (and smaller on the Classic target).

    That’s all.

    Before you listen to claims discounting the benefit of this type of competitive shooting, ask yourself how in the world being really good at this critical skill be a detriment. It can’t. No matter the complaints about equipment, power factors, or walk-throughs, remember that everyone shoots the same course of fire, under the same rules, and in Production with the a factory gun and no gains in ammunition available.

    All you have to do is out-shoot the competition. Simply, the winner shoots better.

    I submit this is the real reason behind the attacks on the the competition shooters. Because when you strip away the whining, crying, and excuses… the whiner, crier, and excuse maker simply got his ass handed to him. The better shooter wins.

  • Manny Fal

    Military training has always been behind the civilian sector but they make up for it with the hundreds of thousands of bullets they shoot. Impossible not to become accurate if you shoot that many rounds.

  • Would you kindly define combat accurate? What size group at what distance in what time? Thanks.

  • In an effort to protect persons from the “experts” sharing their opinions on competition shooting lacking real and intimate knowledge, allow me to share:

    I just created a new load for competition. It took like 5 minutes, maybe a dozen powder dumps to find the proper charge per Hogdon. Tomorrow during a regularly scheduled visit to the range I will chrono the load.

    That’s a far cry from “months.”