Competition physics vs. defensive engineering

My undergrad degree is in electrical engineering — not physics — but there is a good deal of overlap in the subjects studied while pursuing either degree.  The difference between the two fields is that physics is concerned with discovering the laws of nature, while engineering is concerned with applying them to solve problems.

All metaphors sooner or later break down, but it occurs to me that competitive shooting can be more or less regarded as the physics (science) of shooting, while defensive shooting is the “engineering” discipline that takes the efficient techniques that competitive shooting discovers and applies them to solve real-world problems.

Now a self-defense situation is not concerned with efficiency but rather with effectiveness, although  sometimes – not always – effectiveness comes from being efficient, and efficiency is always good.  Just as an engineering solution may not be (or may be) the most elegant solution from a pure science point of view, but may be “good enough” given the other considerations that the engineer (and their employer) have to consider.

Further, usually self-defense effectiveness is heavily dependent on things other than shooting altogether (such as tactics, awareness, legal considerations, verbal skills, etc.).   Just as an effective engineering solution has to also consider, besides the science of the situation, the other real-world factors of  economics, distribution, backwards compatibility, and existing technology infrastructure (to name but a few).

The end result is that defensive shooters can learn a whole lot about pure shooting from the competitive world — and should.  But no one should confuse shooting competition prowess with the entire toolbox needed to be effective in street encounters.


2 thoughts on “Competition physics vs. defensive engineering

  1. Morning Ralph!

    Dude, have you seen the work of or talked to anyone who has trained with Gabe White:

    During my research on vision and performance I ran across this guy on the Errornet. I’d heard about him being the only person to clean the Rogers standards from concealment, and then started looking at his videos and his new website.

    This dovetails with your post as this guy runs practical shooting competition at a high level with an essentially stock gun in his street concealment gear and does really well. His mission statement is to take the emerging PRINCIPLES of high speed/high stress shooting from competition and directly apply it to defensive shooting and apply rigorous measures and standards to performance.

    I find it very interesting and the most promising evolution of firearms skill evolution in instruction and design I’ve seen in a longish bit.

    Check it out. I took my old and handicapped self out to the range and tested myself on his standards — quite challenging (and I live on humble pie these days, so the taste is quite familiar LOL) and an excellent base, like Paul Howe’s standards to build a practice regiment with benchmarks on. Coupled with Claude’s stuff you’d have a great basic skill practice program. Still requires the hands on stuff though.

    Till we get through with our combat shooting direct neural stimulation program. Then we’ll just plug you into the nearest iPhone, LOL. ; )

    Cheers, m


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