Training Scars: Will Competition Habits Get You Kilt in Da Streetz?

Training scars: the idea that your practice routine will dictate what you do under stress. Is it real? Yes. Does it need to be? No.

The first objective of basic practice and training is to become proficient at specific tasks, like drawing a pistol or reloading a rifle. Unfortunately, that seems to be where a lot of people stop. In my opinion, the real goal of practice and training is to develop the mental capacity to perform those tasks under stress while still be aware of both the task and the “big picture” situation of what is goin on around you. With no practice, you are unable to do complex things under pressure. With some practice, you are locked into how to perform those tasks so that you don’t have to think about them. But the ultimate goal and purpose of practice is to be able to remain fully conscious of what you are doing under stress, so that you can do the right thing in any given situation.

In my experience, this sort of mental awareness comes from the amount of trigger time one has under stress – whether real stress or artificial competition stress. Competition is a lot more accessible and a heck of a lot safer than real combat, and thus competition is an essential element of any robust training program unless you’re one of those tier 1 special operators who has access to shoot houses full of roleplayers on a daily basis.

The real training scars do not come from shooting too much competition; they come from not shooting enough competition.


  1. This relates to the whole Dunning-Kreuger Principle. D-K bemoans that fact that many people believe that they know it all, when in fact they only understand a fraction of a skill.
    OTOH Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson reminds us that we need almost expert knowledge (e.g. fully understand a skill) before we can accurately evaluate our skill level.

  2. the video i saw it was not a HP, it looked like a street cop. im pretty sure he had a revolver so it was an OLD video.

  3. What’s questionable is whether or not the training is more concerned with survival on the street or winning trophies in competition.

    Fast-draw, the ancestor of Cowboy Action shooting, was all about beating the clock.

    Weaver-style, as taught by the South-West Combat Pistol League, was mainly about the “correct” use of the 1911.

    FBI competition, based on the Bryce method, was mostly about not wrinkling your bespoke suit.

    Probably the best, or least worst, method for defensive shooting was that described in Fairbairn and Sykes’ “magnum opus”, Shooting to Live with the One-Hand Gun. Their main point being that in most cases, the situation will develop in an eyeblink at point-blank range. You should be prepared to execute the response while the opponent is still trying to execute his opening.

    It would be nice if every “good guy” wee the equal of D.A. “Jelly” Bryce. But the fact is that most people who will need to defend themselves are not and never will be.

    Similarly, constant practice of “orthodoxy” tends to instill muscle memory that may or may not get the desired result in the IA.

    That why I taught point shooting along with Weaver. Thereby earning the wrath of the Cooperites. Who apparently forgot that the Colonel called for point shooting within ten yards and Weaver beyond that.

    You don’t need to be “The fastest gun in the West” (or anywhere else) to shoot to live.

    You just need to be faster and more accurate than whoever is trying to kill you.

    And of course, use enough gun. I still tend to regard .357 Magnum as the best all-around choice.

    clear ether


  4. The great move forward in handgun skill came about starting in the 1970’s when people started putting on free-form semi-realistic matches and observed what the winners did. That is the modern technique in a nutshell.

    But it was shooting at mostly static targets and usually against a clock. The next great move forward will be when the day comes when competition turns to simunitions, force on force be it one on one or one on a few. And again, hopefully a keen eyed observer will be there to catalog what does and what does not work: sights, stance, holster, etc.

  5. “The next great move forward will be when the day comes when competition turns to simunitions, force on force be it one on one or one on a few. “

    Some of that has been available in limited for for a while – the life-size video reaction trainers. There aren’t enough of those, in the right places, at affordable prices, to make a large difference.

    I’m waiting for real time holographic versions with “some” AI components to make them interactively responsive, at a dozen places in every town for $15-20 per 5 minute session, or at least well-projected on-screen versions. Add training guns with recoil simulation, sell it for <$2-3K without the LCD projector and screen, and there will be one in every fourth neighborhood rec room.

  6. There is a several year old InRange interview with a former police SWAT leader. In part of the interview, the gentleman said when things went bad, he could tell who participated in competitive sports (shooting, boxing, soccer, and others). His belief was competition taught people to act under pressure and learn to process information faster. Both important skills.
    Because I have no law enforcement or military experience, I will trust the gentleman knows what he is talking about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.