Competition as Training, From Someone Who Should Know

Competition is good. It helps you practice your gun handling skills, and it exposes you to a stressful environment which at least simulates a real world encounter. In the world of pistol competition, there always seems to be a lot of discussion about which pistol sport is more “defensive based” and more “real world” – USPSA or IDPA.

USPSA is the United States Practical Shooting Association, which is the US member of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, or IPSC. It was founded in 1986 as a way to codify the pistol matches that were springing up across the USA.

IDPA is the International Defensive Pistol Association, and it was founded in 1996, as a response by some who felt that IPSC competitions were getting too far from the intended purpose. Namely, the founders didn’t like the IPSC trend toward “race guns,” or guns purpose built for competition, and felt that there should be a sport that required the use of normal carry guns, with stages based on more real world scenarios.

The debate continues today.

Serendipitously, I came across this interesting passage the other day:

The object of practical pistol skill is not to win trophies, but rather to stop fights. Muzzle brakes and reduced loads are backward steps and not to be regarded as progress. When we see the terms “race gun” and “carry gun” as representing two different instruments, we learn that some people at least have lost sight of the object of the exercise.

This comes from none other than the founder of IPSC and its first president, Jeff Cooper.

Interestingly, he goes on.

It is important not to become dogmatic about this.

Whoa. Dogmatic doesn’t even touch some of the “discussion” I hear.

He concludes:

If there is a better way or a better weapon, let’s have it. But I have not seen this developing in pistolcraft, at least not recently. Those of us who have studied the matter deeply understood this a good many years ago. We will change when we are shown why we should, but not until then.

In this light, the recent trend in USPSA toward the Production division is certainly welcome.

So, if you’re serious about shooting, you should be competing, both to build defensive skills, and to do so in a stressful environment. It seems clear that it doesn’t matter which sport you choose, as long as you keep your goals in mind. The rules may be different, but the goal should be the same.

If we get away from the original intent, however, we risk making it into something it isn’t suited to be, and something it wasn’t meant to be.

Evolution of My Holster Rig

My competitive holsters, from 1993 to present.

About a week ago, I was asked by Walt in PA about the magazine holders I use for USPSA competition. I told him that I have been using the standard Glock Magazine Holder ever since I got into competition, for a number of reasons.

First, it’s what I use for every day carry, if I use a mag holder. Second, it’s lightweight and cheap. So cheap, I’ve never found anything else that meets my needs, for the price.

While my choice of mag holder hasn’t changed, I can’t say the same about my holsters.

The picture above shows my competitive holster collection, as it has evolved from 1993 to today.

When I bought my first Glock 17 in 1992, I went that same weekend and bought a very inexpensive nylon, one-size-fits-all holster, and I used that holster for club competition for about 3 or 4 years. It’s made by Gould & Goodrich, and I don’t know the model number because that part of the tag is missing now. The inside is a nice suede.

When I took up IDPA in 1995, I bought an Uncle Mike’s Kydex paddle holster. Because I carried my gun at about 4 o’clock at that time, I adjusted it to the maximum forward cant that I could. I still use it for IDPA.

At that time, I used a stiff leather belt, laced through my belt loops, as a gun belt.

Then, in 2002, when I took up USPSA, I changed from a 4 o’clock position to a 3 o’clock position, right on my hip, and I bought an Uncle Mike’s belt slide holster. About that time, I found a Bianchi competition belt on sale, and I started using that. I like the competition belt because it’s a little more rigid than the leather belt, and I can take the belt off and on a lot easier.

In 2005 or so, I started experimenting some with my draw stroke, and I changed my technique a little. Before, I moved my hand below the gun and swept it clear with the fingers, then grabbed the grip as I brought the gun to bear.

However, I found that this technique didn’t yield a consistent grip, so I changed, so that my first movement was to grip the gun with my strong hand, high, with a good shooting grip. Then I would draw the gun, while bringing my support hand in.

I found that the belt holster made the gun ride just a little too high, and someone suggested I try an offset holster, that mounted the gun lower.

Uncle Mike’s belt slide holster, left, versus BladeTech DOH holster, on the right. Note that both belts are at the same level. The gun rides almost 3 inches higher with the belt slide holster.

I ended up buying a BladeTech “DOH” double offset belt holster, that’s adjustable for cant at two points. After some experimenting, I have it set at a neutral position, not canted in any direction. I wear it right behind by the point of my hip bone, per the Production Division rules.

I find that the 3 inch difference between the belt slide holster and the DOH is enough to make my grip a lot more consistent.

Yes, I still have all these holsters, and many more. But that collection is for another day.