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Lessons from Competitive Shooting for Everyday Life

An Interview with Michael Seeklander by Gila Hayes

A few months ago, we had the opportunity to interview Mike Seeklander. With the increasingly difficult challenge of building and maintaining shooting skills, we were really pleased with the opportunity to ask him about ways to build skills through the fun of competition. The discussion expanded into combining live fire practice and training with dry fire and visualization for skill enhancement, topics that readers who will not compete will also find valuable.

Seeklander is a US Marine Corps combat veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield and a former law enforcement officer, with training leadership credentials from both his military and policing experience, as well as a stint as lead firearms instructor at the Federal Air Marshal Academy. In addition, he is ranked Grand Master as an USPSA shooter. After teaching at the United States Shooting Academy, Seeklander formed his own training company, Shooting-Performance LLC through which he offers classes in both defensive firearms use as well as competitive shooting. Many Network members will recognize Mike from his prominent role on the TV program, The Best Defense, several books and DVDs on training and many published magazine articles. Let’s go now to the interview format and learn from this noted trainer.

eJournal: Many Network members voice questions about the differences between competitive shooting and preparation for self-defense gun use. They’re worried by warnings like, “You’ll learn habits in competition that will get you killed in real self defense,” or “IDPA only makes you use cover for 1/2 of your body! The part you’ve learned to leave outside cover will be shot.”

I know personally, that at a minimum, my gun handling skills improved much more quickly than if we had not been shooting IPSC in the early days. What is your experience?

Seeklander: I’ve been shooting IDPA and IPSC or USPSA for years. My career had two parallels. When I started, I was in the Marine Corps and at the same time started IPSC shooting. Later on, I transitioned into being a full-time police officer. I always had in mind the effects of the competition I was doing and what happens if I get in a shooting on the street.

I’ve always been a proponent of competitive shooting, as long as the individual competing understands what they are going to get out of shooting matches. They’re going to love it. They are going to get some energy from it. They are going to want to do it more. It will make the average person, especially the average police officer who doesn’t get to train much, WANT to train because every human wants to be better at something. BUT the rules of the game are different than the rules of defense with a gun. When you’re competing, you are testing marksmanship and manipulation skills under stress, that’s it!

eJournal: We are told that under stress we will unconsciously do what we have repeated the most and some even say our responses are biased toward what we practiced most recently. In a high stress situation, can we separate shooting habits engrained for competition from the challenge at hand?

Seeklander: A skilled operator of both a motorcycle and a car is able to separate the skills applicable to either. There are a lot of other examples of how our brains can accomplish those things.