I was happy to participate in the Nettum Cup held in Andersonville, Georgia this weekend. Lee Weems and I ended up as the first place team, and I finished as the first place overall shooter.
It was a pleasure to meet so many law enforcement officers from that part of the state. Those individuals came out on their own time to train and compete with their issued equipment. Many of them were being exposed to a competitive shooting atmosphere for the first time. They gained important feedback on the state of their equipment, their ability level and perception under stress and fatigue, and were exposed to new techniques and shooting scenarios that were far superior to standing flat-footed on the range at a qualification course.
Personally, this event highlighted the rewards of shooting multiple disciplines. Many officers state that they don't do competitive shooting because it's not "tactical" and therefore has no benefit to them. I disagree. I've taken a great deal of advanced training in the past two years and have competed in IDPA and 3-Gun. From every class and competition stage, I've learned something to make my shooting cleaner and faster than it was before. From 3-Gun, I took the load-two method of getting rounds into a shotgun, which allows me to load twice as fast as the method taught in the academy. From IDPA, I've taken a very strict and ingrained method of working cover to provide the lowest level of exposure to the target. Throughout it all I've been on a clock and racing to get the most accurate hits in the least amount of time. Further, I'm responsible for keeping my equipment in good working order by fixing malfunctions as they occur during a stage (under time) and also through regular preventative maintenance.
When I pick my gun up, I know its limitations and have an understanding of my own. I know what skills need to be improved upon, and I know what my strengths are in regards to marksmanship. This puts me ahead of the curve when I need to address a situation in a tactical manner because I immediately begin forming strategies that cater to my strengths.
By no means do I have all the answers; I'm learning something new with every trip to the range. My point is that as a shooter, you should do the same. Keep practicing, keep innovating, and get out of your box. If you don't feel comfortable performing a skill, that's a good indication that it needs work. It's better to make your mistakes on the range than in a fight for your life. By the same token, stay away from those guys who tell you that there's only one way of shooting. They've stopped innovating, and will soon be obsolete.