Gun Training, Practice, Qualification, Competition & Defensive Shooting Defined

By Bob Harvey

Video Game Guns
Gun Training, Practice, Qualification, Competition & Defensive Shooting Defined
South Florida Gun School
South Florida Gun School

USA – -( I was in a conversation with a relatively new shooter that has not taken a professional marksmanship or self-defense firearms course.

He was explaining to me how he trained weekly. It got rather heated when I explained that he was not really training weekly and that he was practicing. And that I was not exactly sure what he was practicing, since he had no previous training. Over the years, I have had this argument many times. The majority of people, including professionals don’t know the difference.

They do not know the difference between training, practice, qualification, competition (gaming IDPA/IPSC/3gun) and actual defensive shooting. So I thought I would clarify for those that do not know the difference.


  • a : to undergo instruction, discipline, or drill
  • b : to form by instruction, discipline, or drill
  • c : to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient
  • d : to make prepared (as by exercise) for a test of skill


  • a : systematic exercise for proficiency b: the condition of being proficient through systematic exercise

I would contend perfect practice makes perfect proficiency.


  • a : to be or become fit (as for an office)
  • b : meet the required standard
  • c : to acquire legal or competent power or capacity
  • d : to exhibit a required degree of ability in a preliminary contest
  • e : to shoot well enough to earn a marksmanship badge


  • a : to strive for something (as a prize or a reward) for which another is also striving

Defensive Shooting: There isn’t a definition so I will give mine.

  • a : A competition where second place may be the last thing you do.

For the purpose of this article, we will talk about two types of training.

The first is marksmanship. It is the ability to use your firearm proficiently to hit what you are aiming at. Or a better way to think of it is to be able to hit your target, and when you don’t. Knowing what you need to do to fix what went wrong when you miss.

The second, is to be able to defend yourself and loved ones in a violent encounter. In other words, defensive training. If you think of carrying a gun for self-defense as a martial art, you will be a lot closer to understanding. If you know someone that trains for MMA or karate, you know that they train often and practice constantly. It is not a 2 hour state concealed carry safety course. In most cases those that live by the gun, it is a lifetime of training and practice.

This is not to say that practice or qualification or competition should be dismissed as not important or dismissed totally. It also does not mean, just because you compete it is not useful. I am not one of those that will state emphatically that by shooting IPSC/IDPA/3-Gun that it will train you to die. But please do not tell me that competing will save your life in a gunfight.

What I will say. If you don’t know the difference between training, practice, qualification and competing, you really are not a lifelong student of the gun.

Bob Harvey
President and Chief Instructor
South Florida Gun School


About South Florida Gun School
SFLA GunSchool is committed to providing safety, knowledge, and skills to you in an easy, understandable training format. We have a safety record second to none. From New Shooters to Instructor Candidates we can help you in the advancement of your marksmanship and firearms skills. Ask about our money back guarantee on all firearms training classes. SFLA GunSchool is located within Gator Gun & Archery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Visit:

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BillyBob Texas

Question to all:

Is there one of these goggle headsets that does GOOD training for a shooter? When will it come to a point where training with them will actually help you with grip, sighting, trigger pull, recoil, reloading, etc?

Not being crazy here – but I shoot IDPA – and wonder If I could get better with something like this, IF it exists? After all, lasers and laser scoring and timeing, etc. all help.