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A few years ago, I was teaching a law enforcement class in Pennsylvania and I was amazed at how these SWAT cops were struggling to make split second decisions during scenarios. On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen a lot of competitive shooters struggle when they don’t get to see the layout of a stage before shooting it. Decision making seems to be a skill we aren’t teaching well, but I do have a suggestion.Shooting
Competition brings out the ego in us all. Naturally, we all want to do better than our competitors. We want to shoot faster, more accurately and be the best. But, what if we used competitive shooting as a decision making tool?

How many of you have shown up to an IDPA match with a holster you only use for IDPA matches and a gun that is your “competition gun”? How many of us, whether it’s USPSA or IDPA do a walk through of each stage? We listen to the course of fire instructions and then we look at how to approach the stage with the fastest time? What if we only listened to the course of fire?

For law enforcement officers, we never know what situations we are going to find ourselves in when we begin each shift. We could be searching for a fleeing subject in a wooded area or looking for a burglar in a warehouse. We may be looking for a domestic violence suspect in the attic of their house or attempting to subdue a subject in a crowded area like a bar. So why would we WANT to know where the targets are located in a stage? Why would we want to know where cover is? Why would we want to know how fast the swinger is?

Let’s use competition as a training tool for marksmanship, use of cover, gun handling, and decision making. Listen to the course of fire but don’t do a walk through. Put your ego aside and let someone else win so you can learn from this. Approach this stage as a building you’ve never been in before where you’re searching for armed assailants. See your safest paths, look for cover and engage targets quickly and efficiently and learn to make those quick decisions.

The same can be said for CCW holders and homeowners. Just because you’re familiar with your home, doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised when you hear something go bump in the night. Exercise your mind and approach a stage blindly. If you’re clearing your own home at night because you think you hear an intruder, you may have to make a split second decision whether to shoot or not shoot. That noise could be a burglar or it could be one of your kids.

Don’t plan out all of your competitive shoots. The next time you’re at a match, allow yourself to take your time and work the problem. Examine what you see and learn to process the information quicker. The faster you can process the information and make a decision in a match, the faster you’ll be able to do that when you truly need it.