Competition Shooting vs the Two Way Range

A disturbing trend has recently developed in the tactical world. Sequenced matches against a shot timer have started to set the bar for how gunfighting is taught. As the 3-gun sport starts to evolve, the art of gunfighting is being lost.

I’m all for speed and proficiency with any firearm. Reloads and all Immediate Actions should be done fast and smooth with the end result to get accurate fire down range fast. Competing against other sport shooters does induce stress and is valuable training to build the basic mindset required. Though this is training and it should be emphasized as just that – training.

Gunfighting isn’t just about speed, it’s about awareness. He who is most aware of the environment around him the fastest, wins.

The layout of the 3-gun matches and how they are sequenced help competition sport shooters become lighting fast. They sacrifice awareness for speed. We have all seen videos of 3 gun shooters running and gunning with incredible efficiency and speed. What allows them to be so fast and accurate is the fact that it’s a sequenced range. With pre set targets and a set number of rounds to use on each target, they easily transition and move to the next. Little tactical awareness is required as you can train for and memorize the range.

No different than a ski racer training for the Olympics. Your awareness is not being tested, your proficiency and speed are. The one who has the best mental preparation and reaction time that day wins.

A gunfight is a completely different world. The only factors that you can control are that of ammo you currently have and yourself. Everything else in this environment is now as random as rolling a pair of dice in crap shoot.

This is not a competition where everyone goes home at the end of the day. If you are slower or have an “off” day it’s not really a huge deal in the sport shooting. In this world of gunfighting second place takes home a casket, not a silver medal.

Here you would be a fool to assume your enemy is not equally, if not better trained than you. He has watched the same YouTube videos and run the same ranges you have. His weapon proficiency and accuracy is likely just as good as yours.

Like you, he understands the consequence of losing this fight and is motivated to be the winner just as much as you are. Bullets travel 2 ways here and only winners walk away. Let’s make no mistake this is a gunfight, someone will die and there is a possibility that will be you.

Not only in this complex world are you having to find the threat and engage but also identify if it is a shoot or no shoot situation. Add to this the distraction of communicating with your team and finding cover. Your awareness becomes so crucial here because regardless of your plan before, it's guaranteed to change as soon as bullets start flying.

In order to gain the initiative and win this gunfight you need to have the awareness coupled with the instinct and ethics of a professional warrior to ebb and flow with the fight.

Unlike 3 gun competitors your barricades and cover are not standardized. The layout and the room your cover will provided as well as the state of the ground are completely random. Sometimes cover is man made, sometimes it’s based on terrain. You have to adapt and make things happen here.

Couple all this with potential driving rain, humid desert heat, or snow and ice. There is no well maintained clear-of-trip hazards range environment here. The dynamics of this environment are complex and completely random. Your enemy is not a clock, it’s a human trained just like you in the art of warfare and gunfighting.

The equipment you carry isn’t designed for competition speed either. It is designed for practicality. The IR lasers, lights, and optics are not with you to be tacti-cool. They are there for a tactical and practical application of violence. Holsters and magazine pouches are designed for retention. They need to retain your ammo and your sidearm from the shock and intensity of exiting an aircraft and in the chaos and unpredictability of a gunfight.

Let’s face it, you are potentially crawling in mud, rolling around in sand, or trudging through knee deep snow. You are not moving through a range where safety is the number one concern not survivability. Where speed is more important than retention.

The encumbrance of your equipment is incredible. Ballistic armor, helmet, ammunition, water, radios, batteries, night vision, more batteries, IFAK, grenades the list goes on and on. The weight is distributed as best you can, however it’s not even. The physical demand here is huge. Your fitness level directly effects your awareness here. If you are not fit here you die.

War fighters train with all this weight in their training environments. Train the way you fight is your mantra. This makes fitness a huge key in how aware you are. It’s the determining factor on wether you live or die in the combat environment. Fitness is not an option here, it is life.

3 gun sport Shooting and gunfighting are completely different worlds. About the only the thing they have in common is accuracy and proficiency with a gun. As a armed professional it’s your responsibility to train the way you fight. Increase your awareness by realistically training with your team. Discussing real world situations and recreating them in training environments.

Your range training needs to simulate your fighting environment. Train in the rain in the snow and in the suck. Remember, when you are not practicing someone somewhere is and when you meet them they will win. For us that stand in harms way, this type of training, mindset and awareness means living or dying. It’s not a medal or points on a 3 gun circuit.



Shaun A. is a former Recce Patrolman with 3 PPCLI who has served in Afghanistan and is now an avid shooter and instructor. Having trained at the Sig Sauer Academy, Shaun continues to work with armed civilians and professionals teaching defensive firearm skill sets. He is a freelance writer for Funker Tactical, War Doll and his own personal website. Shaun is also a brand ambassador for Safariland Group and Patriot Alliance.

Follow his blog and instagram.

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