TRAINING TIP TUESDAY: The Pros and Cons of Competitive Shooting

Competition is great. It drives improvement and efficiencies (often in the shooter and in the equipment), inspires us to train, and brings us together with others that share our passion for what we do.

Though, as in all things, there are pros and cons. We can balance these if we’re mindful of them and don’t completely “yaw” in one direction or the other. Today’s training tip concentrates on how competition relates to training and perhaps how we can use it to make ourselves more universally capable.

Weapons Handling

I would consider weapons handling as one of the pros of competition. By virtue of what is being done (shooting), you have to handle the gun. The more you do it, the more comfortable you are with it. More specifically, when competing you have to strike a good balance between athletic (fast, precise) movement of the gun with very exacting and enforced safety standards. Outside of directly supervised classes, professional training, or range attendance we get far too little of this kind of skill reinforcement. The first thing I look to in a shooter is weapons handling. It tells the tale.

Problem Solving

One of the drawbacks of competitive shooting for the professional is that it often (not always) conditions us as “shooters” and less as “thinkers.” I like to describe this on a linear path. Think of the gun as being point A and the target as point B. Professionals should spend a great deal of available capacity on point B and as little as possible on point A. The reason is fairly simple; problem solving needs to be done where the problem exists. Often in competition, I see people shooting faster than they can think. Shooting is a simple thing. Problem solving is not.

I don’t mean this as something glib. I mean it as a matter of some importance. Conditioning ourselves to shoot faster than we can process the complexities of the real world is not the best of outcomes.


I don’t think that most competition-based shooting attempts to hoist itself as a good place to learn tactics. That stated, I see a lot of things born in competition seep into the professionals that I teach. The “contact patch” between the two is relatively narrow. I learned this while attending a match with a friend some years ago. I remember being appalled by the competitors jamming their arms through an improvised “window” to engage targets on the other side.

It worked in competition but in the real world… probably not a good idea.


I think equipment straddles the fence between pro and con. A lot of good ideas have come from competitors trying to shave milliseconds off of their time but that advantage isn’t universal. Often the artificialities involved in containing the “game” just won’t hold up in the real world. Formula one cars are very fast but not very practical for going to grab lunch. The same applies to a lot of the “open” style guns I see (sometimes in professional holsters). They are made for fundamentally different things and those lines should seldom be blurred.

On the other hand, I think that competition has re-shaped and vastly improved belts and mag pouches and maybe even holsters (though, let’s not get carried away…).


Shooting is likely the biggest benefit of competition. It keeps us… well, shooting. Time spent doing that generally leads to us improving (check out this article on how to set training goals). When we are having fun doing it, it works even better. We are incentivized to spend time building skill. If we’re thoughtful about what skill we are building… I call that training, smart.

Until next time… train smart and compete!


Author Bio

Duane “Buck” Buckner

After spending 25 years in the USCG, Duane “Buck” Buckner is now the U.S. Director of Training for Aimpoint. The Aimpoint Training Division conducts training courses for military and law enforcement agencies up to the Federal level as well as for the prepared civilian. Buck is widely known for his emphasis on brain psychology as it relates to combat and survival.


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Posted by Duane Buckner, Aimpoint US Director of Training on Feb 28th 2023