Competitive Shooting The Tactical Games- Validation Ivan Loomis February 18, 2019 Join the Conversation This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 41 Photos by HOM Film Co. Test Your Skills and Training In the Crucible of Competition For me, the 2018 Tactical Games in Fayetteville, North Carolina, did a lot to validate my training, as a prior service member, law enforcement, and contractor. But some context would be helpful here — like what are the Tactical Games? Loaded up and headed to the 1st event. A quick recap of the course of fire before we get after it. The Tactical Games, in the most simple terms, merges a CrossFit-style competition and a two-gun competition (rifle and pistol). It’s the brainchild of Tim Burke, a career Special Forces soldier and all-around amazing guy. The games, put on in partnership with Brownells, are comprised of a series of events held over the course of two days, designed to push you physically and mentally — all the while requiring a high degree of accuracy with respect to shooting. Simple on its face, right? Wrong … Competitors are required to wear armor or a plate carrier weighing at least 15 pounds. The two ends of the spectrum are actually quite straightforward in terms of performance when you isolate them. Working out is easy; push yourself physically and grind through the challenge. Shooting is pretty simple too — sights, trigger, squeeze. However, things go sideways when you mix the two. Dragging a weighted sled in full kit enhances the stress on aerobic capacity. With the physical stress of pushing your body comes the mental stress of now having to perform a very delicate task, pulling the trigger while maintaining a good sight picture. On top of that, we have to remember round counts, apply target discrimination, and process other mental tasks. Things break down, and knowing yourself and your capabilities becomes paramount. Not to mention knowing your gear. So where does the validation come into this? While people often work out at the gym or train on the range with firearms, how often do you test those skills in tandem? Appreciate for a moment that the Tactical Games is, in fact, a game. It has rules, winners, and losers — and at the end of the day everyone goes home. While there’s no simple metric or way to truly recreate the challenges of combat, this event went a long way in simulating this through its use of physical, mental, and firearms-related challenges. Dropping to the prone helps stabilize those timed shots while trying to regain breath control. While I work out around three to five days a week at my local gym, CrossFit CDA, I don’t really participate in any competitions. I consider myself a casual athlete. And while I do spend a fair bit of time on the range, both previously through my careers and now as a law-abiding citizen, I rarely take part in any firearms competitions — which brings us to how to gauge our performance. Walking off an event knowing you gave it your all, regardless of the outcome. I’ll openly admit that my ego kept me from competition for years, especially with respect to shooting. It’s really easy to rationalize away three-gun competitions, IDPA, or any other shooting sport as a game, unworthy of consideration for a serious practitioner of the deadly arts. They don’t use sound tactics so I don’t want to muddy the waters of my training… At the end of the day, it’s really easy to convince yourself how good you are in your own mind when your skills are ultimately untested in a quantifiable manner. Consider competitive shooting like three-gun. How could the ability to shoot fast and accurately with a variety of weapons not be advantageous in the real world? Enough said. The paradox of balancing speed and accuracy was especially poignant during pistol stages. So with all of this in mind, I was presented with the opportunity to compete in the 2018 Tactical Games in North Carolina. It was in a word, awesome. I got to meet an incredible group of people, including John “Tig” Tiegan of 13 Hours’ fame, and ultimately test myself. Some of the events were straight-up soul crushing, requiring you to dig deep. But it was worth every drop of sweat. What the Tactical Games did for me was to create a metric. A way to test all of those aforementioned aspects of physical fitness and shooting, all crammed into a nice tight box labeled “Competition.” While the individual components are straightforward, taken as a whole they get exponentially harder. 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Tip #5 Get Familiar with Unconventional: Spend some time in different shooting positions. Everyone stepped onto the field with whatever individual abilities they had, armed with largely the same load out — an AR-15 pattern rifle in 5.56mm with a red dot and iron sights, a pistol with regular sights (no optics), and a plate carrier weighing around 15 pounds. And beyond that, some way of hauling magazines and a whole lot of moxie. There were seven events spread across two days, ranging in complexity and length. Some involved 100-yard sled drags and sprints, with 10 rounds from your pistol at steel targets 25 yards away, five times through. Others involved rope climbs or climbing up and over barriers, with the added element of memorization and target identification. And then there was the run. I haven’t run that far in years! Most of my workouts involve a 400m run, and that’s about it. Consequently, shooting on either end of a 5-mile run, in kit with a rifle, was pretty rough. Fundamentals like proper grip become critical when your body is totally drained before you even reach the firing line. At the end, though, I was very pleased with my performance. I went head to head with 12 other men in the Elite Division and came in second, battling it out against active military and LEOs. It was a validation of my time spent in the gym and on the range. And while I came into the Tactical Games with no expectations, I couldn’t be happier at the results. I don’t work out at CrossFit CDA to be good at exercising. And I don’t spend time on the range to be good at standing in place and shooting holes in paper. I do both of those activities to enhance my life, prepare for unforeseen events, and boost my self-reliance. If you find yourself wanting to see how you stack up, to see where all those hours in the gym and on the range have gotten you, think about coming out to an event like the Tactical Games. 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