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Preview – JJ Racaza Discusses CCW Lessons From Competition

Photos by Shinnosuke Tanaka

How Do CCW Lessons From the Competition Circuit Apply in the Real World?

“Competition shooting will get you killed in the real world.” That’s a phrase that’s commonly heard in the shooting industry, both in “real-world” training, or from defense firearms instructors. I’ve personally heard it more times than I can count. And, on the surface, I agree with them. The majority of the tactics we employ in competitions will get you severely injured or killed “on the street” if applied in a similar manner.
Competition shooters employ techniques to maneuver and navigate around scenarios to achieve the fastest time, while engaging predetermined targets. We have one goal in mind when it comes to competition shooting, and that is to be the fastest while simultaneously being the most accurate.

Throughout my years in the shooting industry, I’ve had the opportunity to see both sides of the spectrum: competition and real-world applications, as both a student and an instructor. I’ve been shooting for more than 22 years, the first eight years of which were solely for competition. When September 11 happened, I found myself working with a contracting company, teaching basic through advanced pistol skills and training personnel for the United States government.

I was hired primarily because of the specialized skillset I acquired with a pistol. Four years later, I joined federal law enforcement, where I worked in the field, as well as an instructor, utilizing my competition skillset and applying it to real-world situations. With that said, I had the luxury of experiencing what it was like to be a candidate going through basic Federal law enforcement training, all the way to being the lead firearms instructor in a major field office, and also having attended several instructor training programs to include advanced firearms and tactics.

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My background as a competition shooter has never once been a crutch through any of the realistic training I’ve attended. Instead, what I realized was that, even though I was mostly a race gun shooter, the skills developed in shooting against some of the best in the world translated seamlessly into working with a stock duty pistol, and even gave me an edge when it came to real-world applications.

Real-World Applications
So how do I agree with naysayers, but yet make that last statement? In a real-life, deadly force situation, running into a building as fast as we do in competitions will get you and innocent bystanders hurt or killed. It’s the difference between the known versus the unknown. In competition, we know exactly where our targets/threats are and every step is like a choreographed dance in order to achieve the most efficient pattern.

On the other hand, in a real-world scenario you’d have to be a lot more careful and deliberate due to the fact that the location and number of threats are unknown. Think you can make that judgment call? Of course you can — you’re a responsible adult. Now let’s look at how competition shooting can better prepare you for a real-world deadly encounter.

As a seasoned competition shooter, there are three specific areas that give me a distinct advantage over my peers in the law enforcement community. These are: weapons handling, marksmanship, and mindset. In these three aspects, it was my match experience and long sessions of repetitive practice that gave me a leg up. I firmly believe the old adage of “no one ever rises to the occasion, but rather everyone falls back to the level of their training.”

For most law enforcement personnel, their handgun is just another piece of equipment like a radio or laptop, and they put in just enough effort to gain the skills necessary to pass their qualification tests. Competition shooters generally put in more time and dedication on their own time and dime, and it shows when it comes to being able to manipulate a weapon under stress. While training with a good instructor can accelerate the learning process, when it comes to ingraining hard skills, there’s no substitute for grinding out perfect repetitions. When I practice my shooting, I don’t run through specialized match stages; instead I focus on specific skillsets that have a direct, positive impact on real-world applications.

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