Ignorance and the Internet…

Recently, David Windham posted an article titled “5 differences between competitive shooting and combat shooting”  at policeone.com.  The writing deserves such a response that I’m going to go through it bit by bit, for several reasons:

1) So that people don’t think I’m picking and choosing what I’m deciding to respond to, and thus people know the original context that I’m responding to, and
2) So I can respond to all of parts of the truly execrable pile of ignorance-based opinion that were presented.

Before I get started, I should note:  I don’t know Mr. Windham.  I took a look at his website, where he offers training, but it doesn’t really tell me much about him as a shooter/trainer, as his background isn’t really much different than a vast multitude of other people who shoot who have a NRA Pistol Instructor rating and are cops.  He may be a great shooter and a great trainer, he might be–something other than that.  None of my comments to follow are in any way directed to his personal shooting skills or his training skills.  Any comments I make personally about him have to do with his opinions about competition shooting, most of which seem to be based on a complete lack of understanding about competition shooting.

In this response, his words will be quoted in italics, my words will be in standard font.

Here’s his tagline that went with his title:
“A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.”

I’m thinking that if that is what a gunfighter trains for, then 1) he has no sense of priorities, and 2) he either has unlimited time and resources, or no understanding how good the “best in the world” really are.  Because on your worse day, you can’t beat the best in the world except by pure luck–and if you disagree with that, then you have no concept of how truly amazing the “best in the world” really are.

“I’m not anti-competition shooting, but I do find fault with most of the competitions out there. The reason being they aren’t realistic and cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street. I realize that most gun owners will never be involved in a shooting incident, but it can happen at any moment to any of us, hence my passion to train in a realistic manner so that I am prepared as well as those I regularly train.”

You are not anti-competition shooting but you find fault with most competitions?  Okay.

This part doesn’t really have anything for me to comment on, other than to relate my amusement that it took only two sentences for the phrase “get them killed on the street” to appear, which is a good indicator for people who have been in the self-defense culture for awhile to expect a certain lack of knowledge from the author.  You’ll have to make up your own mind as to whether that happened in this case.

For the remainder of this, however, remember that his main two issues with competition shooting are 1) aren’t realistic, and 2) cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street.

And then wait for his comments about competition shooting that have nothing to do with those two things.

“I also despise indoor ranges that don’t allow realistic shooting. If one can’t even draw his weapon from the holster, how can he be prepared for a real life shoot out?

Competition shooters are on the whole amazingly fast when it comes to getting off accurate shots. In and of itself, that is a great thing.

However, there are some huge downfalls.”

I’m not really thrilled about a number of indoor ranges that don’t allow draws from the holster or rapid fire, either.  I get why they do it, from both a liability standpoint and from the standpoint of someone who has watched the VASTLY varying levels of competency demonstrated at commercial indoor ranges.  But, that’s why I am a member of a gun club where I can practice solid gun handling techniques useful for competition and self-defense.  What does that have to do with this topic, though?

We see here that he starts by saying that competition shooters are amazingly fast and accurate.  So….what’s the problem?

“1. All targets are single shot targets for the most part. Training yourself to fire one bullet at a target can mean your death in real life. Regardless of what caliber you shoot, in a real life gun fight you will generally need multiple shots on target to end a threat to your life. Training to fire once and then look for more targets can be a deadly habit to form.”

….in what type of competition is this true?  Let’s see, USPSA, IDPA, Multigun, Bianchi….none of those have “single shot targets for the most part,” except in the cases where the targets are steel which fall if hit correctly (just like a threat to your life, I’ll note).  I suppose Steel Challenge could be considered a “single shot target” type match, if you had to think about it that way.

Seriously, is he lumping all shooting competitions together and saying they are all the same with respect to targets?  That’s so far from the truth that it bears no resemblance to reality.  The fact that his first “huge downfall” is completely wrong about competition shooting is not a good sign.

2. Speed reigns supreme in competition. Speed is important, but not at the expense of accuracy and tactical technique. A good example of this is the goofy overhand grip you see many three-gun shooters using. It’s said that this grip helps them steer the gun. Okay, whatever works for them is fine, because no one is shooting back!

Didn’t he just say above that competition shooters are amazingly fast at getting off accurate shots?  So how does that match with “speed is important but not at the expense of accuracy” if he has already said that competition shooters have that speed while maintaining accuracy?

And his example, the “goofy overhand grip”? That would be the one that is used for those amazingly fast and accurate shots?  The one that he makes this derogatory comment about here, but on his own website, his partner suggests that people take a Chris Costa class…this Chris Costa?

 

Seriously?  (I note that I think that Costa’s grip is bad, and doesn’t work nearly as well for fast and accurate shooting as the grips used in various Multigun matches, the vast majority of which do not lock the arm out, and do not have the hand over the barrel in that fashion.  Costa’s version is significantly more “goofy” and “overhand” than most competition shooter’s grips.)  But apparently, Costa’s version is fine, but competition shooting people aren’t doing it right…?

I’m also curious what “people shooting back” has to do with how you are holding the gun.  If you are holding it in a way that causes you to manage fast, accurate shots, how will holding it a different way (that causes you to be less fast and less accurate) somehow be better if someone is shooting back at you?  Let’s find out:

The problem is that many people see this technique and adopt it without considering real life situations. The most solid offhand shooting platform is using a vertical or horizontal grip that allows you to pull the gun tight into your shoulder pocket with your arms tucked in tight. This helps reduce muzzle rise, make quicker follow-up shots, and assists in overall control of your weapon.

So, contrary to what we see in competition, in which shooters have (according to the author) amazing speed and accuracy in which they don’t normally use vertical grips, the author says that doing something else makes for less muzzle rise and quicker followup shots, even though literally millions of fired shots in multigun competitions have shown that the current “competition” grip tends to work best for “amazingly fast” and accurate shooting, and that other versions are not as fast and accurate.

His description of the “most solid offhand shooting platform” seems odd to me, as parts of it match what is done in competition shooting, and parts of it are either detrimental to shooting quickly and accurately, or make no difference.

Does he think that in competition shooting, more muzzle rise and slower followup shots are okay?  If what he says DID help, wouldn’t we see more people doing it in competition?

3. There’s no need to take cover. What’s even better is the use of the kneeling or prone position if possible. By doing so, you reduce your profile and make yourself a smaller target as well as form a more solid shooting platform by having the ability to triangulate your limbs for support.

I’m not sure about you, but the vast majority of pistol altercations that I’ve seen don’t make use of the kneeling or prone position.  And since he lumps all competition shooting together, well….

In a real life shootout, if the rifle or carbine has come out it is pretty damned serious and likely everything is happening at a distance where cover can be chosen, so this isn’t necessarily a hindrance to be prone because you have dug into your position and it’s safe. If you only practice off hand you will remain standing when you should be looking for cover and making yourself as small a target as humanly possible.”

I’m curious—does he think that if you have practiced to be an outstanding offhand shooter, that suddenly you’ll be much worse using kneeling or prone?

Anyway, I agree that competitions that include rifles don’t normally require any sort of cover.  There is extensive use of kneeling, prone, and irregular positions (that’s actually the signature of a good match, really, requiring the shooters to demonstrate an array of shooting position skills), but cover isn’t required.

Of course, it isn’t supposed to be.  And unless he does all his shooting practice from cover, I’m not sure why it SHOULD be, either.  Meaning, we shoot all the time without use of cover.  Just because we do this doesn’t mean we don’t practice use of cover, or somehow cannot do so.  Why does he assume that competition shooters don’t practice anything outside of their competition-style of shooting?

Speaking of cover, competition shooters never use cover in a tactical manner. They use the cover in a manner that facilitates speed. There is never any “slicing the pie” technique. What I normally see is peek and shoot at best or the shooter leaning out as far as possible to engage as many targets as possible.

Agreed.  That is because in the few sports that require some sort of “cover,” the requirement for a good score is still based on speed, and “slicing the pie” is simply slow.

…again, does the author assume that just because cover isn’t being used correctly (or at all) in a particular competition that the shooters are unable to do so?  Or is he instead thinking that shooting a situation in which cover is not used means that you will instill bad habits and thus not use cover when you should?  Those are two very different things.

He never actually says what the problem really is–and that’s an issue.  After all, when I go to the range to practice with my pistol for self-defense purposes, I shoot a number of different drills—some for pure accuracy at distance (unlikely to be needed in self-defense), some for gun-handling such as the draw (likely to be necessary in self-defense) and reloading (unlikely to be needed in self-defense), some for transitions to multiple targets, some for shooting on the move, some that use cover, and some that are combinations of these.

I don’t practice all of those things at once for most of the practice, because if you try to practice 5 things simultaneously, when several of them are much weaker than the others, you won’t actually improve much.  So…if I can practice specific shooting skills individually without destroying my ability to respond effectively “on the street” (had to use that phrase somewhere), why does the author assume that competition shooters 1) will train themselves to never use cover, or 2) won’t be able to use cover?

I note that I do ALSO practice doing those things simultaneously, because integration is something that also needs to be practiced.  But integration is not the ONLY thing that should be practiced.

4. You’re limiting your configuration possibilities. There are only so many configurations for a shooting stage in a match. A person can become like a trained pony and expect certain things when shooting rather than reacting to the clear and present danger at hand. No matter how you cut it, this can be a bad habit to form that will get you killed.

I wish he had started with this, really, because it demonstrates that he really has no experience with competition shooting at all.  I have only been shooting USPSA and Multigun for 10 years, with an average of 16 local matches per year plus between 3 and 5 major matches each year.   In the over 650 stages I’ve shot in that time, I have yet to shoot even two stages that let me “expect certain things when shooting” because they were so similar (other than when shooting USPSA classifiers, which by definition are supposed to be set up in a specific, repeatable fashion).

So, the first part of what he said makes no sense, as it is completely wrong with respect to competition shooting.  The second part, about “reacting to the clear and present danger at hand” doesn’t really make sense either.  Or does he not do practice drills when training?  How exactly does he create a clear and present danger to react to every time, in his personal practice?

Oh, he doesn’t?  He just does different combinations of targets, with different numbers of shots, at different distances, under different circumstances?  How is that different from a stage setup?  (And yes, there are ways to create new reactive situations in practice.  But the vast majority of the time, in personal practice, people don’t do it that way because you need to be able to hit your target with accuracy at speed first before making it even harder.)

“Muscle memory is what controls your ability to shoot under extreme stress. If your muscles remember doing the same things over and over then that is what they will do. Shooting two close targets, five medium range target, and four long range targets at varying heights is great for a match, but isn’t very realistic.”

This makes no sense.  What USPSA, IDPA, or Multigun match does anything like this?  (And no, that ISN’T great for a match.  Matter of fact, that match would suck.)

He’s making an argument against something that doesn’t happen in competitions, which again shows that he doesn’t really have any understanding of competition shooting.

What happens when your strong side is injured in a fight and you have to shoot with your weak hand? Or you trip and have to shoot from your back? Did you practice these things while preparing for that three-gun shoot? Of course you didn’t. A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.

Last I knew, lots of competition stages had required strong-hand-only and weak-hand-only sections.  Last year I shot in several matches in which I started from the supine position and shot from the ground.  And even better—why is he assuming that people who practice competition shooting ONLY practice competition shooting?

His arguments seem often to be “this isn’t in a competition match, therefore competition shooters can’t do it” which fails a simple logic test.  It is like saying “Indy 500 racecar drivers never make a right turn, therefore they can’t drive regular cars on the road since they’d have to make right turns.”

Ridiculous, right?

If instead he means “practicing this type of shooting will train you to do incorrect things” that might be different, but other than his cover comment above, that isn’t the type of argument he is making.  He is saying because it doesn’t happen in a match, you won’t be able to do it if you are a competition shooter.

(I’ll deal with his “trains for the worst case scenario” comment at the end of this.)

5. Competition shooting breeds an environment of gizmos, gadgets, and race guns. Reflex sights are great, but batteries fail. Any electronic gadget can and will fail, especially under harsh conditions. Daily carry is harsh! My gun gets wet, dirty, and beat up daily.

I actually take care of my carry gun, because I want it to be in good shape.  That’s immaterial to the discussion though, just like his comment.

Competition shooting breeds rapid innovation–which is why our military now uses red dot sights (hint:  those are battery-operated sights that originated in competition shooting, and now are used throughout our military).  And I’m pretty sure that people would agree that Iraq and Afghanistan qualify as “harsh conditions.”

His comment about “daily carry” is interesting, though—because now he seems to be talking about pistol shooting instead of rifle shooting, even though most of his earlier comments ignored the pistol.

It is certainly true that in competition, race guns exist.  Some of the USPSA Open guns are the most space-gun-looking things out there.  Example:

 

However, what he is missing (due to his obvious ignorance of competition shooting) is that there are a number of other divisions in which people shoot their out-of-the-box stock Glock 17, S&W M&P, and Springfield XDm. Or any one of a number of other guns.

Sure, plenty of people do work on their guns, smoothing the trigger, different sights, different grips–but that is true for all folks. Plenty of people do the exact same to their carry gun.

His comments here simply make no sense. Competition drives excellence to extremes, and the gear needed is treated harshly, and tested thoroughly. Again, that’s why our military now uses red dot sights.

The other big consideration is that the more there is hanging off your gun, the more likely you are to snag your gun upon drawing it from the holster. Competition shooters usually have belts set up for just that competition. Everything on the belt is easily reached and even the holster is built for speed. You aren’t going to carry your gun in the same manner that you shoot it in a competition. You’d walk around looking like Wyatt Earp at best and an idiot at worst.”

How that has anything to do with his main contention, I don’t see.  Remember, he started this out with:
“I’m not anti-competition shooting, but I do find fault with most of the competitions out there. The reason being they aren’t realistic and cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street. “

Aren’t realistic:  True.  They aren’t supposed to be simulations of self-defense situations (no matter how IDPA advertises).  They are supposed to be tests of shooting skills, not tests of combat skills or self-defense skills.  As such, saying they are bad for that reason makes no sense.  (Though it is demonstrably true that having good shooting skills will make you more effective in terms of combat and self-defense.)

Where are any sort of arguments supporting his contention of how competitions make you form “extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street,” though?

So a different holster and belt is used.  Does this mean that people don’t practice with their carry gun and their carry holster?  He seems to be making the assumption (which is often made, really) that competition shooters only practice for competition shooting, and therefore have no skills applicable to self-defense or combat.

Other than being really fast and accurate, of course. (Remember, Windham started out by saying that competition shooters are really fast and accurate.)  I would think that would be useful, but maybe not.

“Again, I’m not against matches or competition shooting. My point is to make you think. If you shoot IDPA or any other discipline, that’s great! Just don’t neglect real world training for real world situation that can occur. Mix things up, find new and different ways to challenge yourself and don’t live life preparing for a competition when your life is on the line!”

This interests me, because I completely agree with his last two sentences.  However, since that is NOT what he was talking about for pretty much the entirety of the rest of the article, this makes little sense.

He said up front that competition shooting instills habits that will get you killed on the street.  Then says “If you shoot IDPA or any other discipline, that’s great!”  I’m not sure that instilling habits that get me killed is great.

But I’m not worried, either, because what he said earlier was either incorrect due to a complete lack of understanding of competition shooting on his part, or incorrect due to a lack of logic on his part.  He even says in the end, train ALSO for real life (by which I assume he means self-defense or combat, as competitions occur in real life also, they aren’t online)–which means that if something doesn’t appear in a competition, that doesn’t mean a competition shooter can’t do it.

After all, just because we shoot competitions, doesn’t mean that is ALL we can do.

I would suggest that Mr. Windham do the following:

1) Actually go to a major match for either Multigun, USPSA, and IDPA, whereupon he will most likely get his ass handed to him judging from his shooting resume, whereupon he will see a rating scale for what the best can actually do,

2) Talk with competition shooters about what training they do, to fix his erroneous assumptions about how competition shooters only train in competition skills,

3) Think logically and practically about this comment: “ A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances” to recognize how it is not only logically ridiculous, but also detrimental to good practice as it will screw up training priorities.

There was more I was going to say, but this is already a book—and it is clear that Mr. Windham doesn’t actually know anything about action shooting competitions, can’t tell the difference between “this sport doesn’t contain that skill” and “people who shoot in this sport don’t have that skill,” and even with that can’t come up with logical reasons to support his contention that shooting competitions will get you “killed on the street.”

I was originally hoping this was satire, but it doesn’t seem to be, and again we hear from someone with no knowledge of a subject pontificating about “the street” due to his extensive experience in corrections and law enforcement plus his NRA training and his ability to score Expert and Marksman with pistol and rifle at LEO training levels.

Dude, I suggest you take a look at the Dunning-Kruger effect, and think seriously about why I would suggest that to you with respect to your understanding of shooting.

Why did I call this post “Ignorance and the Internet”?  Because the internet has again demonstrated that no matter how ignorant someone is, they can still find a podium from which to expound their lack of understanding.

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Help them out…

It is hard to not get incredibly annoyed when someone asks the same dumb gun question yet AGAIN in an online forum.  (Or Facebook group.)

Even when it isn’t a dumb question, we’ve just seen that question 3000000000 times already.

…and yet, we shouldn’t get annoyed, because we’ve been there ourselves.  We’ve all been that guy who didn’t know something, who really wanted to find out so we asked all the questions we could.  And just because the question has been asked before doesn’t mean that THIS guy has magically heard the answer–after all, we WANT to turn new people onto the fun of shooting, so shouldn’t we actually we SUPPORTIVE of new folks asking questions?

XKCD awhile back had a great comic on this, actually:

(If you go there, make sure to mouse-over the comic to get his extra comment.)

And yet—sometimes, it gets really hard to answer the same question time and time again…

So here’s some suggested guidelines for asking gun questions on internet forums and groups, that will get you better (and less annoyed) answers:

1) If you are asking a question of common fact, start by trying to look it up yourself.  (Examples:  What Glock models are 9mm?  What’s the thing on an AR called that you pull on to jack the round into the chamber? What’s the fee for a State of Nebraska handgun purchase permit?)  Google is your friend, and you should take the 30 seconds it’ll require to simply type that in and get your answer.  Questions of common fact are ones that you can answer for yourself.

2) If you already have made your choice on something and are looking for validation of that choice, don’t ask for other people’s opinions of that choice and then tell them they are all incorrect when they don’t agree with you.  (Example: Person asked the following question:  “Which gun should I get, a j-frame revolver or a hi-point 9mm?”  When people gave answers saying the j-frame or suggested other possibilities, the original poster argued with them about their suggestions mostly by saying he didn’t like their choices, and ended by mentioning that he had already bought the hi-point.)  If you are asking for people’s opinions, expect them to be given to you, whether you like them or not.  If you aren’t someone who takes advice, don’t ask for it.

2A) If you are asking for someone’s opinion on something, make sure to include enough details so that people can actually give relevant suggestions.  (Example:  Person posts asking for a good .40 caliber handgun.  That’s it.  No reason why, no details about how it will be used, its purpose–nothing.  It wasn’t until later that it was found that the person wanted to both CCW it and hunt with it, which rather makes a difference in terms of suggestions.)  If no one knows the reasons that you are asking the question, they probably won’t be giving good answers unless it is a question of fact.

3) Make sure you understand the topic well enough to ask a coherent question.  Seeing a question that is effectively similar to “What smell does blue make when it sings?” doesn’t really make anyone want to help–because the person asking the question would have to learn more just to ask an intelligent question in the first place.  (Example:  Person asked if piston ARs could be turned into direct blowback actions like regular ARs. Wait, what?)  Again, Google is your friend for obtaining a basic understanding of objects and processes.

4) Accept what you get.  If you ask for a comparison between two particular things, and everyone suggests a completely different thing–well, that’s sometimes what you get when you ask a community of people to take some of their time and answer your question even though they don’t know you.  If you don’t like the answer, YOU were the one that asked for free advice.  No one is obligated to help you just because you’ve asked.  Many people WILL attempt to do so, and many online communities are incredibly welcoming and helpful for all types of questions.  But maybe…..the choices you came up with AREN’T the best ones possible, and their suggestion might be a better choice…?

In the same vein, perhaps there should be a couple of things that the people ANSWERING the questions should bear in mind…

1) You aren’t the All-Knowing God of the Gun.  So don’t act like it.  You may have knowledge and experience (perhaps even a LOT of it)–that doesn’t make you better, it just means you have more opportunity to be helpful.

2) You might be wrong.  Especially if it is an opinion-based question.  Offer an answer, add some supporting commentary, research citations, or a list of facts.  But….don’t take it personally if people disagree with you.

3) If you have to start your post with “I’m not expert but…” then you probably shouldn’t post it.  Similarly, if you start with “What I’ve heard is…” probably you should just stop and wait for someone who knows directly or has already done the research.

4) Give ’em a break.  Maybe they asked a stupid question.  Maybe they don’t know it is a stupid question.  No matter what, if you react in a calm, helpful fashion, it’ll be more likely to keep someone turned ON to the gun culture, as opposed to turning them OFF.

I know that for me, #4 is often the hardest thing to remember.  But—-we want people to enjoy shooting just as much as we do.  Sure, maybe in our mind we are thinking “this guy has gone full timmie, and they REALLY need to put away that Tapco-ed AK with the $30 red dot” —so what?  How about we instead give them some useful things to think about, and maybe over time they’ll get better?  If they are having fun, hey, let ’em go for it.

More importantly, we can remember to act as politely as we would if we were having the discussion in person.

And we can try to remember “today’s 10,000.”