Hunting is May Issue. Practical Shooting is Shall Issue.

Thinking more about last week’s article for Bearing Arms, everything about hunting is about getting past the gatekeepers. You need your safety class, then your tags, then you need to find someplace to hunt or someone to show you where to hunt. There are checkpoints along the way to make sure you’re the “right type of person” to hunt, and even then, you may not get a chance to hunt if you don’t have the right connections.

In other words, “May Issue” concealed carry.

Practical shooting, though, is different. If you have something even close to the right gear for the match and have a basic understanding of gun safety, you shoot. You may have to go through a safety briefing and have a more experienced shooter guide you through the match, but if you show up, you shoot.

“Shall Issue”.

Which path leads to growth? Well, that one’s not hard to figure out.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Match Etiquette

A great run-down on how not to be a jerk at a practical shooting match.

“The core thing to remember is that most matches only happen thanks to the generosity of time from the volunteer staff. They’re there because they love the sport and want to help others. As long as you respect that, help out, and don’t be a jerk, you’ll be more than halfway to being a good competitor.”

Also, as volunteers, the people at a match love to have new people show up, because the more people shoot, the easier the jobs get for everyone.

Man To Man To Some Other Man

Thinking more about my comment from last week,

It’s rather rare to have more than two shooters with the same Classification/Division on any given squad, making man-to-man comparisons pretty much impossible.

Maybe that’s another reason why practical shooting sucks to watch in person. Yes, there are Super Squads stuffed to the gills with people at the top of the game, but even within the Super Squad, you’ll have Production shooters and Open Shooters and Limited Shooters and even a few freaks shooting wheel guns, so when that squad runs through a stage, at best you’ll have three runs that can be directly compared to each other, and those runs will probably be interspersed between the other ten or so people on the squad, killing the tension and suspense.

Watching, say, Max vs. Chris Tilley vs. KC compete in Open is exciting. Watching Max shoot Open, then Jerry shoot Revolver and Rob shoot Single Stack and Chris Tilley shoot Open and Nils shoot Limited and Phil shoot Limited and THEN AND ONLY THEN watch KC shoot in Open is whole lot less so.

We’re All On The Same Team. And That’s A Bad Thing.

Thinking more about the shooting sports as a television sport, why is it that in a sport that is all about about intense competition, there are zero rivalries? Football grew in the 70’s when it was the clean-cut Cowboys vs the bad boys of Oakland or Pittsburgh. Basketball grew with Bird vs. Magic (and then Jordan). Baseball grew with the dominance of the Yankees in the 20’s/30’s. In each of these cases, we had someone to root for and we had someone to root against.

Cubs fans, of course, continue to cheer for their team, and cheerfully deny reality.

I digress.

It’s great that everyone in practical shooting pretty much gets along and helps each other out. That sort of thing makes it a fun sport to shoot every weekend, but it makes for lousy TV because there is nothing to get excited about. We like to cheer for the rebels, the rule-breakers. NASCAR blossomed when there was a face/heel competition between good ol’ boy Dale Earnhardt and slick Yankee Jeff Gordon. Who are the rebels in practical shooting? Where are the rivalries? Why isn’t Glock vs. S&W vs. Sig as big a deal as Ferrari vs. McLaren vs. Mercedes?

Top Shot did this brilliantly. Yes, there was constant whinging from shooters about the drama, but you know what? We also secretly and not-so-secretly cheered for our heroes and booed for villains. We complained, but it worked.

Give us conflict. Give us rivalries. Give us somebody/something to cheer for, and we’ll give you the ratings.

Brand Evangelists

This new graphic from the National Shooting Sports Federation dramatically illustrates the changes in America’s gun culture over the past few years. We’re more urban, we took up shooting later in life, and we’re more likely than ever to gender-indentify as a woman and/or as Caitlyn Jenner.


Two telling stats there:

  1. 56% of new target shooters live in urban/suburban areas. Think they’re shooting on an outdoor range? Me neither. Why, then, do none of the practical shooting sports have a dedicated outreach program to indoor ranges? IDPA has the Indoor Nationals and you can shoot GSSF indoors, but you know how much info I received on both those competitions when we opened up Florida’s first luxury shooting range? Zero. Zip. Square root of zilch. I had to go chase down that info for myself.
    Dear IDPA: Create a tri-fold brochure on why indoor ranges want to add IDPA competitions. Emphasize how competitors buy a lot more stuff than plinkers, and train more as well. Then set up a Google Alert for “New Indoor Shooting Range” and send out your brochure whenever it fires off. Total cost: Maybe a grand. Total number of new yearly IDPA members: Probably a grand as well.
  2. The average age is down eleven years, yet the the percentage of people getting started after 18 is up almost 300%. Do millennials and digital natives like guns? You betcha!

A Man Alone Is A Target.


This. This is why competition is absolutely vital if you’re serious about armed self-defense.

I wasn’t being honest with myself about where I needed to be practicing. My reload speed didn’t need improvement. My grip on the gun did. My trigger press did. I was so desperately trying to be better than I am that I flat out ignored something I know very well as an instructor: too many people try to run before they crawl.  There is only one person who can fix that.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people in a “tactical pistol” class concentrate too hard on the “tactical” elements and not enough on the “pistol”. The fact is, though, the sooper-sekrit ninja moves are fun, trigger press and transitions are not fun. However, competition is fun, and competition will show you were you suck faster than almost anything else out there.

Trigger warning

Tam talks about the joys of taking an Ernest Langdon class, and I’m intrigued by what he’s teaching. I’m realizing more and now that you can take all the tactical classes you want, but if you cannot put rounds on-time and on-target, all the sooper-sekrit ninja moves in the world do you little, if any good. The same is true with practical shooting: You can practice your splits all you want and have a draw time measured in picoseconds, but if you go Delta-Mike on a target, you’re screwed.

“As a portion of the shooting community, advanced competitive shooters can generally run any given firearm (more) proficiently than their peers. No, they may not have a tactically sound or particularly defensive mindset, but they can drive their gun like they freaking stole it.”

John Swearigan

I should also mention that I’ve trained in all the styles and shoot each of the sports in this video, and I recommend each of them whole-heartedly. But keep the main thing the main thing, which is hitting the target.

How much of a difference does gear make?

It’s awhile since I’ve had a pistol bay all to myself, so I haven’t ran a Dot Torture/El Presidenté practice in quite some time. That’s ok, though, as I’m finding that in many ways, 15 minutes of dry-fire five times a day beats an hour and a half on the range.

If nothing else, you spend less time loading mags and more time pulling the trigger if you dry-fire.

I’ve been swapping out my USPSA “gamer” CZ75 with my carry/IDPA CZ P07 when I dry-fire, because I want to get better at BOTH sports. I shoot the CZ75 from a Blade-Tech dropped offset holster, and the P07 from concealment in a Crossbreed Supertuck. This begs the question as to how much of a disadvantage is shooting carry gear versus a competition rig.

Fortunately, I’ve done dozens of runs through the El Presidenté as I was climbing up to C Class, and have some hard numbers to report.

The El Presidenté Drill:


I use USPSA targets and scoring on the drill, so the faster and more accurate I am, the higher my score will be. The best accuracy possible is to get all twelve shots into the A Zone of the target for a total of 60 points, and a great time on this drill is something around five seconds with good hits.

I’m not great, but I am improving. Here’s my average scores for 3 1/2 years running the El Prez.

CZ75 (Improved trigger, Improved sights, no concealment)
Average Time: 9.5 seconds
Average Points: 42.4 points
Average Score: 4.53

CZ P07 (Dead stock, from concealment)
Average Time: 11.4 seconds
Average Points: 37.4 points
Average Score: 3.25

BTW, my best time (so far) on this drill is 7.3 seconds with 50 points of hits, which translates into a score of 6.85. Not bad, I can do better.

Obviously, having gear that is suited to the task at-hand improves your ability to do the task well, but my scores with both guns have dramatically improved since I’ve run those drills. The fact is, the basics of good practical shooting can be picked up and dropped onto almost any gun, and skill will trump gear every single time. Train the skill, and the gear will follow.

Challenge accepted, Mark Passemeneck

The question was asked on Facebook:

If I were to tell you to set up a match for your 100 closest friends, what would it look like?

1. What discipline(s)
2. How many stages
3. How many days
4. Physicality
5. Hoser, precision, mix type of stages
6. Set schedule or carnival style
7. You are not rich, so you do have an entry fee…how much?
8. Match meals or no
9. Other group activities or no
10. Prize table or no.

To answer each question,

  1. What discipline(s)
    IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, 3-Gun, Precision Rifle and Sporting Clays
  2. How many stages?
    A blind tactical pistol stage run under IDPA-esque rules where the shooters don’t get to do a walk thru or even see where the targets are before the buzzer goes off, another “regular” IDPA Stage, Outer Limits, a USPSA stage, two 3 Gun stages, a Precision Rifle Stage and some clays.
  3. How many days?
  4. Physicality
    Moderate. No IronMan-esque stages, but not Bullseye either.
  5. Hoser, precision, mix type of stages
    The blind stage would be accuracy-heavy and the rest a mix of hoser/precision, with cool props a la Mystery Mountain.
  6. Set schedule or carnival style
    Carnival style
  7. You are not rich, so you do have an entry fee…how much?
    Enough to cover expenses and kick in something for the RO’s and the prize table. Let’s say $200, max.
  8. Match meals or no?
    Depending on the venue. Rio Salado has restaurants a half-hour away, but others don’t have that luxury. I kinda like match meals, those, as it helps with socialization.
  9. Other group activities
    Factory demos are always good, and maybe a pay-for-play full auto demo.
  10. Prize Table or no
    Definitely yes, with prizes given out at random and for best scores.

I like the mix of speed, tactical, long-range and shotgun work that a match like would provide. Your ideas?