As in HSGI Tacos.
I'm thinking I definitely want a set of pistol Tacos to go along with my Rifle Tacos and I want them set up on a Raven Moduloader frame with belt clips. I do think that would be the perfect range / practice / real world rig for everyday grab-and-go use. I've got several types of handguns, and several types of rifle magazines. While they're not very discrete, Tacos work with all of them and they work amazingly well. And... as a plus... if the fit hits the shan and I need to arm up and leave in a hurry, it doesn't matter if I grab an STI or an M&P, PMAG or old USGI - I'll be good to go.
That thought led me to ponder for a moment specialization vs. generalization as an average everyday gun guy. Outside of the competition berms, I am a HUGE advocate of being a firearms generalist. As a gun guy, I want to be as good as I'm able to be with as many firearms as I can. As a gun safety teacher, I have to be able to walk the walk, so to speak. That extends to my support gear, too. Hence wishing for Santa, to deliver a fresh, tasty set of Tacos and a good belt.
Extending that thought to defensive training, we can make a pretty strong case for building as broad a toolbox as is practical. If your plan only involves one gun, one mindset, or one particular dogmatic approach to shooting the bad guy in the face, chances are your game might have a hole or two in it. If your defensive plan includes learning new strategies, refining your mindset, and mastering all of the tools you're likely to use in defense of you and your loved ones, you should be on or ahead of the curve.
To add to my toolbox, sharpen existing skills, and to spend great time with other shooters, I compete in action pistol matches as well as studying and discussing defensive techniques. There are obvious overlaps and well as conflicts between the disciplines, but I find one constantly informing the other. There are few better places to practice the principles of moving, shooting, and problem solving under healthy stress than organized competition. Yes, my competition gear is fairly custom and specialized, but the fundamentals of fast, accurate and dynamic shooting are common to and goals of both realms.
The way I see it, my job when I'm shooting - as one well-known trainer puts it - is to be my gun's master, and not its bitch. And God, I love that job.
Becoming good at that "job" eventually led me to a new one, teaching others about gun safety and thinking defensively. I'm equally passionate about that, both at home and in front of a class. I don't have super secret ninja tactical tier-one DeltaSEALsquirrel skills, and I can't kill you with my thumb. I'm just a good shooter who loves to teach.
While working to develop defensive training ideas, I've been cautioned about thinking "like a competition shooter." Likewise, I was told I was shooting like a "tactical" guy when I started competing in USPSA matches. Weird, huh? I always thought so, too. Especially since all of my training was in "defensive" skills.
It was a little offensive at first. I can outshoot a fair number of "shoot him in the face" instructors, and I'm more versed in use of deadly force laws than most pure competition shooters. After some humble reflection, though, I saw everyone was right, in their own rite. Obviously, standing in one place and shooting faster than you should or blasting through a door without knowing what's on the other side can be catastrophic on the street. You don't get to "preview" the real world. Likewise, pie-ing corners and performing administrative reloads with retention, or shooting every stage cold in a USPSA match won't win any trophies and blows past the point of engaging in a pure shooting sport.
However, each discipline, each world, informs the other. The defensive "tactical" world is a great place to learn and hone fundamentals, learn about situational awareness, and build a practical shooting skill-set you can take into everyday life. Competitive shooting is the ideal venue in which to develop those skills and apply them in an environment which provides healthy stress, offers creative problem solving opportunities, and generally only penalizes tactical or practical mistakes on the scoreboard (assuming all safety rules are followed). And don't be fooled into thinking "competition kills." NASCAR drivers are as capable of going safely to the market on a Tuesday as they are coming around turn 3 at Daytona on Sunday. A conscientious competition shooter should be able to tell the difference between real-world situational awareness and response to threat and what to do when the buzzer goes off.
If used as a training tool as well as being one of the best times you can have with a belt on, taking a new "gunfighter" and tossing him or her into a "walk your walk" environment can be an eye opener. It's also a place where you can have a bad (but safe) day and still go home to fix what went haywire.
Likewise, teaching advanced gun gamers the nuances of self-defense and use of force laws, situational awareness basics, and realities faced in the real world builds a better shooting community and can work to reinforce fundamentals easily cast aside in the competitive arena.
At the end of the day, it boils down to about four simple principles, and they all play together. I love guns and the gun culture... plain and simple. I love teaching, and I get to share healthy, normal life with firearms with the public. If I'm ever in a gunfight, and I don't ever want to be in a gunfight, I want to be the faster, smarter, better, and luckier guy. And finally, on the weekends, I sure feel better about every aspect of my shooting life when my name is closer to the top of the leaderboard than the bottom.
It's been said that competitive shooting isn't gun fighting, but every gunfight is a shooting match. Why not do what you can to build strong skills, and prepare for the former while having fun with the latter?
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