Myth – “Competitive shooting isn’t ‘real’ shooting.”
Fact – Weapons only put projectiles where and how they’re pointed and don’t care what they’re pointed at.
Official Army policy (Army Regulation 350-66, see below) is that competitive shooting is useful, provides great training, and should be encouraged at all levels.
A firearm is a chemically-operated, mechanical projectile launcher. Given proper functioning, projectiles only begin their launch when triggered to do so and follow a path directed by line of bore. It can’t think or feel and only responds to the skill and technique of the operator regardless of the target shot at. If you can’t hit a target on a range you won’t magically gain the ability to hit it anywhere else.
Any range that isn’t “two way” is a simulation. The quality and significance of the simulation is as good as the course designer makes it. Any simulation is inherently abstract and relevance is very subjective so it will never be perfect for all people and situations. This is true of any course and isn’t a problem with competition shooting, per se. Participants can either step up and accept the challenge as presented, or step up and design something else.
The stress of the simulation is as intense as the participants can be pressured with it. Qualification attempts to only filter out the worst performers, ensuring that everyone is “qualified” (at least that’s what the training records claim.) “Qualified” can entail a whole range of skill levels. If the goal is get everyone qualified then the standards have to be adjusted so that everyone can.
Competition, on the other hand, attempts to filter out the best performers. Nobody cares what an adequate performance is because the goal of competition is to find what the best possible performance can be. The stress of qualification is to be good enough. The stress of competition is to be the best possible.
In order to have any meaning we have to measure performance by devising a way to reduce it to numbers such as points earned, elapsed time, etc. Any course can be created or adjusted in order to emphasize and reward a desired performance.
Army Regulation 350-66
General Competitive Marksmanship Policy
2–1. Small arms marksmanship
Participation in military and civilian-sponsored small arms marksmanship competitions offers soldiers the opportunity to refine their marksmanship skills, compete against other military and civilian marksmen, and earn superior marksmanship awards in addition to the Army basic marksmanship awards available through annual qualification standards.
a. Army personnel should be provided opportunities to prepare for and participate in small arms marksmanship competition. These preparations, which include those for international competitions, are classified as training.
b. Authority for planning, directing, conducting, supervising, and publicizing competitive marksmanship activities within the Army is delegated to the lowest possible command element. Plans for competitive marksmanship activities will include provisions to publicize excellence in marksmanship, both internally and externally.
c. Competitive marksmanship match programs must include Excellence in Competition (EIC) matches. In addition, the program of matches will include a National match course individual rifle and pistol EIC match provided adequate facilities are available. Credit toward the Distinguished Designation Badge may be earned.
d. Match programs should emphasize and encourage the following:
(1) A variety of shooting styles, distances, and timing of firing with as many weapons and weapon systems as possible.
(2) Training of experienced competitive marksmen.
(3) Development of shooter/instructors.
(4) Off-duty competitive marksmanship activities.
e. MACOM participation in international level competitions is authorized and encouraged.