Wednesday, April 4, 2012

But is it gunfighting, or is it just gaming?

Here's Caleb at Gun Nuts Media, telling me everything I think I know about shooting is wrong.
So how come there are so many people in the shooting community that still cling to techniques from 50 years ago?
Um - I dunno. 'Cause they work?

I learned to shoot handguns defensively in the late '70's, which is somewhat after one-hand point shooting from the hip and somewhat before anyone had ever heard of a Picatinny rail. Yeah, Jeff Cooper was the king but I never met him, my instructor was a former Marine lifer and (then) current VIP security - um, these days they like to be called "contractors." He went on to get killed in Mozambique, which vindicated his bona fides if not his combat techniques. He claimed to have killed people with everything from hand grenades to helmets, and never gave me a serious reason to doubt it - look up PTSD in your dictionary and you may see his picture, 'cause he was a little out there. With a handgun, he was frickin' awesome. No call signs and macho jargon, no bullshit, just solid, simple stuff and lots and lots of reps. And a certain amount of drinking, but that's a different matter - I did see a guy injured in knife training because they were using actual knives, but nobody ever brought up "trust shooting." There wasn't a balaclava in sight.

I say all that because when I got interested in competition shooting, I found myself compelled to unlearn a bunch of stuff in order to make points. Since I was most interested in shooting as a martial art rather than a sport, it gave me the strong impression I was moving backward. The equipment was all different, and that was just a symptom of the fact that the techniques were, too. I distrusted them. I remember learning the difference between cover and concealment painfully by getting killed on his jungle lanes again and again. And again. Looking at competition shooting lanes, there appears to be no difference. That's just the one example that comes to mind.

I guess what I'm saying is that I was taught techniques that assumed the target would also have a gun. In competition they always stressed speed and accuracy, which are certainly good things. But you can't get "killed," so there's no effort to avoid it.

Now of course in the intervening decades I've never fired a shot in anger, or in fear. So I really don't know whether what Caleb extolls as improvements in techniques are actually improvements, or just improvements in how to score in competition. Which is not the same thing at all.

So I'm not saying Caleb's wrong - maybe my techniques are as obsolete as horse cavalry. I'm quite certain he could outshoot the hell out of me, because I don't practice enough. But if these "improved" techniques were developed in competition, I don't trust them for actual gunfighting more than the ones I already learned. So why change?


Matt said...

I find it amusing that the people disparaging 50 year old techniques as obsolete do so using a 101 year old pistol design, in spite of newer and "better" designs that have come along since then.

I use modified weaver because it provides stability for accuracy, is natural for me, and does not hurt my old, damaged shoulders.

Last time I had to clear a house, I used the wrong pistol, wrong flashlight and non-identifiable technique. I wasn't feeling obsolete that morning, just worried about becoming obsolete.

Vlad said...

Well for one thing, competition is the place were things are experimented with beyond dogma, procedure, and "it worked for grandpa" attitudes. The hardware is stressed to the max and has to work, as well.

I don't think anyone will suggest that charging 12 armed targets with a handgun is a goof tactic, call an air strike, but the technique involved is certainly valid. The techniques designed for the 1911 of 50 years ago are sometimes not applicable to the polymer striker fired guns of today.

Think of competition shooting as the experimental crucible of combat shooting. Look at the competition rifles from 15 years ago and you will see the slick free floated handguards and 1-4x optics favored by the higher tier military units today. Look at the much maligned red dot topped handguns of USPSA open division and note the the increasing acceptance of small red dots on defensive handguns now.

I still see older gentlemen come to their first shooting match raising their muzzle to the sky and "coming down on their target " because thats how they were taught to shoot a 1911 in the military, a technique which as far as I can tell was designed for cavalry men to avoid shooting their own horse with SA revolvers.

We are not using the equipment of 50 years ago (the modern 1911 is much different itself), so why would we use the techniques of 50 years ago?

Vlad said...

And I didn't mean to type "goof" I meant "good". Grr.

Tam said...

The people who shoot people for a living these days don't teach Weaver. Nobody's taught Weaver in over a decade outside of Gunsite and a couple ex-Gunsite instructors.

If it works for you, hey, by all means, keep doing it, but don't be afraid to try new stuff because you think it's all gamer nonsense.

SFOD-Delta and DEVGRU can bring USPSA and IDPA guys in to teach them to shoot pistols without bowing up and getting defensive, which always leaves me wondering why the guy down the block is afraid it'll somehow take the edge off his combat-fu.

A lot of three-gun stuff is filtering into the use of the carbine and shotgun, too.

The irony of the whole situation is that Cooper's Modern Technique was evolved in competition, and declared to be superior to the old one-handed stuff based on the results of competition, but when something came along that proved better than the MT in competition, well, that was because it was just gamer stuff. ;)

Anonymous said...

Like any sport, you get out of it what you put into it.
I've been shooting IDPA for about 4 years and my skills have improved a lot. Until I started competing, I hadn't drawn from a holster (except as a 10 year old playing cowboys and Indians).
However, as a Safety Officer I have seen shooters making choices that would leave them dead or in prison in the real world.
1. Charging the target(s)
2. Treating concealment as cover
3. Deliberately shooting a "no shoot" target in order to improve their score.
Number 3 is a sore point for me. I've argued with match directors that it should be a FTDR (failure to do right) penalty rather than a simple "no shoot" penalty, but to no avail. Apparently, IDPA thinks it's okay to shoot an innocent person COM if you prevent the bad guy from getting away. I think/hope most police departments would disagree.