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Practical pistol competitive shooting a good training tool? Or will it end up getting you “killed in the streets”?

Competitive shooting has grown over the years with different organizations such as IPSC, USPSA and IDPA holding local, state, and international matches. Practical pistol competitions have gained immense relevance in the tactical training world in recent years with police agencies and military branches adopting their own shooting teams. This was not always the case, and even throughout my own competitive shooting career, I noticed animosity or a rift between tactical shooters, who may have had careers in law enforcement or military service, or simply enjoyed that style of training, and that of competitive shooters. The adage “that’ll get you killed in the streets” is more or less what I heard from “tactical shooters” when discussing competitive shooting. What I have found over the years, though, is that the hard skills developed in practical pistol competitions are incredibly beneficial and relevant to police officers, military personnel and the average person carrying a firearm for protection every day.


It’s important to understand that the roots of practical pistol competitions evolved from an experimentation with handguns used and carried for self-defense. The researchers were an international group of private individuals, law enforcement officers, and military people generally operating independently of each other, challenging the then-accepted standards of technique, training practices, and equipment. The work was, for the most part, conducted for their own purposes without official sanction. Even so, what they learned changed the face of police and military training forever (, 2024).

The author continues to work on his skill set.


Through research and evaluation, it was found that high-level competitive shooters shot better than most special military operations personnel. Ultimately, this led to the US government hiring professional competitive shooters to train personnel. These shooting skills would then be used operationally within a tactical environment. Competitive shooting tests your skills, equipment and technique against other competitors and can accurately assess what you need to improve upon in your own individual training. Practical pistol competitions such as USPSA involve a high degree of speed and accuracy to score well. This is called “Hit Factor Scoring”, which is calculated by your hits on target minus any penalties then divided by your total time. By scoring this way, you can accurately calculate where your inefficiencies may be and where you need to improve in relation to marksmanship, transitions, vision and movement. This is incredibly important and has great training value in relation to tactical or defensive firearm training. The only two absolute metrics we can judge our shooting by are accuracy and speed. When it comes to the fundamental skills of shooting, practical pistol competitions can be a fantastic training asset for military personnel, law enforcement officers and anyone carrying a firearm for self-defense.


History of practical shooting - History of Practical Shooting . (n.d.).


~About the Author


Cameron Templin is a USPSA Grand Master and professional pistol shooter for the firearms manufacturer Beretta. He has consistently placed in the top rankings of USPSA, Steel Challenge and IDPA competitions. Most recently he took 3rd place in the 2023 IDPA World Championship. Templin has a passion for teaching others and has taken what he has learned in his shooting career to train other shooters from all backgrounds and experience.


Instagram: @range.cowboy



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