The Downside of Competition on Firearms Development

I love competition. I have been slacking with doing it due to family commitments and taking up BJJ, but I’m hoping to do a bit more USPSA in July-September. Competition really drives the standard for speed, accuracy, and efficient movement, so I want to lead off the post by saying this isn’t some sort of variation on “competition gets you killed in the streets” or other nonsense. However, I just want to talk about how competition has had something of a negative effect on firearms development in a couple areas, because I think that has been inadequately explored.

First and foremost, I think factory compensated pistols have not been nearly as developed as they could be due to the fact that they dump you straight into USPSA Open division. Contrary to nonsense opinions on the Internet, good compensators make a noticeable difference with 9mm ammo, and I really think their downsides (cycling problems) could be greatly reduced if manufacturers spent some R&D time on resolving them.

Second, detachable-mag shotguns. As I think I’ve noted previously, Swearengen’s well-written 1970s-era book “The World’s Fighting Shotguns” extols the virtues of detachable-mag shotguns. He felt that if you were going into trouble, they were a superb weapon in almost any close-in environment (note that the book was written before the proliferation of effective body armor, though). While I readily acknowledge that they have logistical issues in a home defense situation, they put far more firepower on target in a sustained fire engagement (like 15+ rounds), can be changed from breaching to buckshot ammunition much more quickly, and provide certain benefits in gun handling and administration.

Unfortunately, that detachable magazine dumps your shotgun into 3 Gun Open (and maybe USPSA Open), which is a huge disincentive to their use in more casual competition settings (and makes pump guns with them completely unusable). Courses of fire and training classes are designed around the limitations (and sometime strengths!) of tube-fed guns. This leads people to downplay the advantages they bring, because they are never put into a situation where they need to use them. (I would suggest that shoot-load drills with more than three rounds are where detachable mag shotguns start looking substantially better.)

Honorable mention: IDPA is doing no one any favors by banning weapon lights. I don’t think this has significantly harmed the development of weapon lights, but it’s contrary to the IDPA “run what you brung” mindset.

Those are the two that come to mind. I’d love to hear if my readers can think of others.

3 thoughts on “The Downside of Competition on Firearms Development”

  1. IPSC used to have a division called Modified. Pretty much any modification was legal as long as the pistol and its magazine could fit in the Standard Division box.

    Alas, it was met with a huge “Meh” and was dropped.

    I suppose if IDPA wanted a Roland Special friendly division, they could adopt a similar format. Call it the Professional Service Pistol (PSP) division. For the most part, I’d use the existing Carry Optics rules, adding allowances for a WML and comps/porting. However, I’d be very tempted to mandate that the box dimensions remain exactly the same as ESP; the optic has to fit inside the box without a cut-out.

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    1. You could write a legit thesis paper on Cooper’s impact on the gun community. To be fair, he was a product of his times, and I try to keep that in mind when some of his more flawed opinions are brought up (especially vis a vis big bore calibers).

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