ARFCOM Practical & Tactical Shooting Sports

ARFCOM Practical & Tactical Shooting Sports
By Joe DeBergalis (DirectAction)

Honeoye Falls, NY –( Whether it is practicing failure drills at the range, or convincing our gun buddy with the most land to set up barricades so we can practice firing from cover, as members, many of us spend a considerable amount of time honing our self-defense shooting skills.

But how many of us have yet to take that next step to get involved in practical shooting competitions?

The increasing popularity of sports like IPSC and 3-Gun, and the advent of events like NRA’s National Defense Match, have made opportunities to compete more prevalent than ever. And participation isn’t just personally rewarding; taking part in these events also helps protect the right to keep and bear arms.

Among the fastest growing shooting sports is 3-Gun. In 3-Gun competitions, a competitor tests his or her skills with a handgun, rifle and shotgun in a dynamic course. Courses are mentally and physically rigorous. And there is no chance for boredom here, since no two 3-Gun match courses are ever set up the same way.

Practical & Tactical Shooting Sports
Practical & Tactical Shooting Sports

Showing the sport’s strength, in August, NRA sponsored the Pro-Am 3-Gun Championships presented by Brownells, Sinclair, the and Hornady. The event was the largest 3-Gun match in the country with 500 competitors, and raised thousands for Lone Survivor and Task Force Dagger, two charities supporting our servicemen and women.

With its debut at the NRA National Rifle and Pistol Shooting Championships at Camp Perry last summer, NRA’s National Defense Match is another new option for practical shooters. Focusing on proficiency with the rifle platforms commonly used for national and self-defense, the National Defense Match course of fire seeks to test the skills necessary to be effective for those missions. Initial reactions to the new match were overwhelmingly positive, so stay on the lookout for this type of match coming to a range near you.

Members of law enforcement have even more competitive options, including matches set up by the NRA Tactical Police Competitions program.

Similar to 3-gun, NRA Tactical Police Competitions test the competitors’ skills with a duty pistol, a duty shotgun and a patrol rifle. The courses are broken down into the categories of skills-based, where set conditions test an officer’s proficiency with a firearm, or scenario-based, where an officer must think and react to a set of tactical situations. Stressing competition as a way of improving real-world skills, the program shares the same philosophy as NRA’s Law Enforcement Instructor Development Schools, and officers are encouraged to compete with the firearms that they use on the job.

So the options for engaging in practical shooting competition are plentiful, but practical competitions aren’t just a way to test and improve your skills. They are also a way of defending the right to bear arms. How? Because the rifles, pistols and shotguns commonly used in practical shooting events are among the most targeted by anti-gun activists and are of the type most affected by the BATFE’s interpretation of the “sporting purposes” test.

Since the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Attorney General has been required to approve for importation any firearm “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” This means that the Executive Branch can ban from importation any firearms it deems unable to meet this requirement.

In 1989 and 1998 the BATFE used the “sporting purpose” test to ban many popular models of semi-automatic rifles, with the Clinton administration admitting in 1998 that it was “taking the law and bending it as far as we can to capture a whole new class of guns.”

More recently, in early 2011, the BATFE released its “Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns.” The study seeks to justify an import ban on certain shotguns based on their suitability for “sporting purposes.” In developing a feature test for shotguns to be banned, the BATFE ensnared many of the shotguns popular in practical shooting sports.

Obviously, the types of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns the BATFE has banned, or has sought to ban, from importation are suitable for “sporting purposes,” and are used in such a manner on a daily basis in the practical shooting sports. So, in order to justify the bans, the BATFE created a definition of “sporting purposes” that specifically excluded “combat-type competitions.”

With the enormous growth of practical shooting competitions, this definition would laughable if it didn’t impede the exercise of a fundamental right. And every time a shooter joins the ranks of the athletes competing in practical shooting, the definition becomes more implausible. Competing formally is one way to show the BATFE that these guns are suitable for sporting and should be recognized as such.

Similarly, the increasingly common use of these types of firearms, in large part driven by the practical shooting sports, has already made progress for gun rights in the courts. The Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that firearms “in common use” are protected by the Second Amendment. More recently, in an October 4 opinion in the follow-up case of Heller v. District of Columbia (also known as “Heller II”) the U.S. Appeals Court for D.C. noted, “We think it clear enough in the record that semi-automatic rifles and magazines holding more than ten rounds are indeed in ‘common use,’ as the plaintiffs contend. Approximately 1.6 million AR-15s alone have been manufactured since 1986.” (Unfortunately, the court still upheld the District’s California-style “assault weapons” ban, over a strong dissent by Judge Brett Kavanaugh.)

The practical shooting sports offer fun opportunities to improve technique and to defend a fundamental right. So get out there and compete! For help getting started, head over to the website for the NRA Competitive Shooting Division at

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