The unbearable competence of being “tactical”

You’ve seen it before. A guy who only “trains” like he would fight. I used to be that guy after I left the Corps (Honorable, infantry for those interested).  In a way, it’s easier to simply go take a carbine/handgun “tactical” class than it is to decipher UPSA/IDPA rules, match times, and more importantly to find a match local to you and to set aside the hours needed in order to attend a match and shoot for seconds.

There’s a lot of pluses to “tactical” training classes.

  • You start off from zero.  With a competent instructor, so long as you’re safe, you will learn.
  • It’s a much better use of eight hours with regards to learning purposes.  You will be shooting or learning in some form for eight hours a day, roughly.
  • Although gun gamers deride “Tactical Timmys,” there’s something to be said for learning how to draw your weapon from concealment, use a white light for target ID properly (safely), and to how to shoot and move.  Though we live in a fairly safe nation, being ready for home defense is a good thing
  • You get to shake out your gear, see what works, and benefit from having an instructor there to guide you.  Roughly akin to going to college as opposed to trying to self educate.
However (comma) here’s what I’ve seen trending amongst shooters in the “tactical” shooting community.
  • Plateaus.  Folks hit a certain plateau and stay there.  I’ve been to my fair share of “tactical carbine” classes and I’ve learned at least three different versions of where to place my legs when shooting from barricades.  I didn’t really get better at doing this.  The carbine classes where I got better involved being held accountable for times on drills and accuracy.   In other words, if your instructor isn’t sporting something like this, you may be attending a “bro fest” or “entertrainment” (hat tip to Mr Vickers for coining that term) where you won’t progress as a shooter.  If you’re not improving over the years, you might be wasting your time and ammo.
  • Stagnation.  Seems similar to “plateaus” but if you see the same guy only attending “tactical” classes for literally years, it’s a safe bet he can scan and assess like a mofo’ while wearing his carefully chosen multicam but won’t be placing well in an environment where the drills are “stages” designed by someone else, and his peers or competitors are shooting these stages with a wide variety of weapons types, concealment (or not) gear, and sights.  My first USPSA match was bewildering.  There was no set way to do anything.  I had to think, I had to try different things in order to succeed (not that well either, but I’m still learning this whole “competition” thing).  It may be time to try something different when you see the same circle of people doing the same thing for literally years.
“Tactical” classes enjoyed a huge boom in popularity shortly after the invasion of Iraq.  Veterans were coming home with money in their pockets, ready to buy a nice rifle and to enjoy shooting it.  Troops were heading to Iraq and Afghanistan and the more savvy ones realized that the standard weapons training was woefully inadequate (the private sector is nowhere near as stagnant as the military in this regard except for a few certain military units).  The great PMC boom began (private military contractors) and folks knew they needed the best training they could afford.

Nowadays, it’s not quite as popular.  Trainers can be seen scrambling to fill classes (the true pros rose to the top and still don’t have a problem filling classes) .  Truly awful trainers often out themselves on YouTube and the worst part is that they don’t know what they’re doing wrong until General Discussion gets a hold of them and thoroughly chews them up.    That being said, we should endeavor to get more gun owners trained.  Trained gun owners are good gun owners.  The best place to start off at is…..a two day handgun class.  Good pistol shooters can become good rifle shooters very quickly.  The inverse is not true.  So, go take that pistol class.  Then….(after you get your carry permit if possible in your locale), go check out the local competitive shooting match.  Tell them you’re new and want to learn.  Don’t stagnate like I did!  I’d recommend USPSA but whatever catches your fancy be it trap shooting, carbine (3 gun or 2 gun), or IDPA.  Get out there and be pushed to excel as a shooter.

So, inevitably you’ll hear “I won in combat.” OK, what does that mean?  Have you found a reason for a plateau for the rest of your life?  In twenty years when the rest of the world might be say, using phased energy weapons with projected sight pictures in your smart glasses, will you be chanting that “real guns shoot lead” ala the “real guns shoot .45 and 30 cal and are made of wood and steel” set of shooters we see today?  Does it mean you learned something unattainable in combat that no competitive shooter can learn?  Do you plan quantify your combat experience or does everyone hit by enemy fire instinctively know something that no competitive shooter could hope to learn?  What I’m getting it that “seeing the elephant” is indeed something unquantifiable but….I can name many, many combat vets who didn’t go on to plateau and stagnate and weren’t too good for “gun games.”
  • Jeff Cooper honed his pistol skills in competitive matches in California after he saw combat.
  • Combat veteran Ernest Langdon bought a Sig P220 and used it to make history against very expensive 1911s, being the first person to win IDPA Nationals in the Custom Defensive Pistol division with a double/single-action pistol (SIG P220).  He also has a habit of winning 3 gun matches.
  • Personal friend and stellar carbine trainer Jack Leuba knows a thing or two about combat.  That doesn’t keep him from getting out there and competing with a carbine and a pistol.  This year, he did something crazy and competed in a carbine match with a 7.62 AR.  The only person who beat him (in the complete match, using a much easier to shoot AR15 no less) was Jerry Barnhart.   Match results here.  Folks, that is beyond amazing shooting.

So, if you want to progress as a shooter…don’t get hung up on being tactical.  It’s OK to have fun shooting.  It really is.  I know that serious folks like serious training but I’m the self deprecating type so I’ll go out and get my ass kicked at USPSA.  I’ll follow that up with another Pat Rogers class.  Why another tactical class?  Because I go to where the great instructors are.  I’ll happily admit that the tactical and competitive shooting worlds can overlap.  Also….Pat Rogers classes are fun.  Some of the students are serious people doing serious training but the instructor (Pat) somehow makes being professional yet humorous and positive a better way of learning how to be a better tactical shooter.

One real world example is the infamous “Rangetime with Cory and Ericka” debacle.  Cliffnotes:  Cory and his wife Ericka had a nice little business providing “tactical” style training with pistols and carbines.  Cory lied and said he was an 11B (Army infantry rifleman).  He was disproven of this very publicly (never made it through Basic).  Now both of their names are mud and rightly so.  Imagine if Cory had withstood the allure of camouflage, being tactical, and so on; perhaps focused on say…..shooting.  He might be in a very different place today as say, a 3-gun or pistol champion with no pretensions and no lies to his name.

Lastly and what really inspired this long winded, scattershot piece; I saw a conversation on the evil book of faces regarding that Jerry Miculek is a fast shooter but he would “never survive a shoot house with (insert tactical trainer’s names here) that can shoot people’s faces like it’s going out of style.”

Well…..personally, I’d hate to go up against Miculek with slingshots.   I dared to say “ante up and let’s see what happens.”  I was banned off of that person’s Facebook account post haste.   Given the current trends in tactical shooting forums, Miculek will have no credit unless he’s heard and seen enemy gunfire.  OK, that’s hard to make happen.  However, I’ll bet money Miculek will take a “shoot house challenge” against anyone.  Who’s going to ante up, tactical shooters/instructors?  Who’s going to have a third party set up a shoot house and run through it against Jerry Miculek for score?  GunNuts can very likely make this happen if you’re willing to put your cards on the table and everyone would enjoy reading about it.  Good fun could be had.
Ante up.


  1. Now there’s an idea for a killer reality web series/TV show — Simunition “force on force” exercises pitting shooters against shooters (including combat vs tac types vs competitors).

    Something similar to Will Willis’ entertaining “Special Ops” series, only with a little Top Shot. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Daniel Horner try to clear a 3-gun style course when the targets are shooting back?

    It’s a sure-fire winner (as if we needed more evidence of my genius).

  2. I was bored this morning and saw this post. Being bored I decided to read another slam on tactical Timmy’s as the title suggests.

    What I got was a well thought out article about problems that any of us can and probably at one time have fallen into (you don’t have to be a Tactical Timmy to fall into some of these problems.) So far this is one of the best posts I’ve read on your sight. Thanks for writing it.

    The argument of gamers and tactical get old quick. Your thoughts on Jerry Miculek and combat are interesting. Some people just can’t learn from a non-operator. It’s as though some of that combat experience is going to magically rub off on them? Some people try to capitalize on their combat experience when they are not very good trainers. IMHO, the most important idea of combat to most civilians is what really happens under that fight/flight reaction, how it can be explained well by those combat veterans (Not just in war but everyone who has experienced that fight/flight reaction) and how it might change or shape our self defense training. Other than that, thank you for your service.

    If you conduct yourself professionally and can teach me something that will help with my goals, I don’t care if you are a seal, delta force, police officer, swat officer, champion gamer or just ordinary geek. On the reverse if you suck as a trainer I don’t really care who and what you’ve done as it doesn’t help me achieve my goals.

    I grew up in the police environment, from that perspective and the few high end special ops trainers I’ve dealt with, there seems to be what I call the, “Great and Powerful Oz” syndrome.

    1. Much thanks, Bryan! I strongly agree with the remarks on the “Great and Powerful Oz.” The combat thing is hard to quantify but you did well with it; I’d probably add “making decisions under stress” to your excellent definition.

      We can only hope this results in another really cool Miculek YouTube video 🙂

      1. I agree about the stress. While I am no respecter of person, I didn’t mean to sound like these people couldn’t be instructors. If they are good instructors then combining the experience and we’ve got someone to listen to.

    1. I would absolutely describe a Pat Rogers class as fun and I agree that Pat is fun to be around. Positive energy.

  3. I was doing it in the 80’s when a Gang of bank robbers in San Diego? hit a back and police couldn’t stop them all the way to San Bernadino Mtns. In practice we had the “Stop the Running Car” drills. Shoot through the Combat Course with smoke, sirens, and other distractions. If your hammer fell on a empty chamber or lock back on an empty mag. you were considered dead and lost points. In real life you would be Dead, Dead, Dead. Have a mind set; I’m still here, There Not. Tagging the objective in close or down range is the point of real life combat. Its still fun to play, but not with real Life.

  4. Also love the “Great and Powerful Oz Syndrome” remark!

    Being “The Great and Powerful Oz” is great work if you can find it, as long as your students and customer base “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”…

  5. Jerry Miculek can’t cut in a shoot house? Absolutely hilarious! Obviously that tactical guru never learned “you don’t tug on Superman’s cape”.

  6. Let’s not forget that .mil turned to places like Gunsite for instruction after 9/11, and that many of Gunsite’s lessons learned came from competition. They complement each other.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: