Competition Firearms for Self-Defense

One day at our local BS (Breakfast and Shooting) session, the topic of using a pistol intended for competition as a self-defense firearm came up.

While we all agreed that it would not be a good thing to do, the question has weighed on my mind since that time. I finally have asked the question to myself; “Why not?” But, I also realized that I had to justify the answer to the question in my mind. A little research ensued and what I finally came away with was that it only matters to a jury of your peers should you use a competition pistol or revolver in a self-defensive shooting and end up in court over it.

“I did not have sex with that woman, and I did not shoot this person, who was trying to kill me, with a competition pistol!” Oh, my!

As I pontificated on the subject, I decided to split hairs and stated to myself that a firearm intended for competition is not the same as a firearm that could be used for competition. Case in point is what we call “Race Guns.”

According to Wikipedia; “A racegun is a type of handgun, shotgun, or rifle that has been modified for accuracy, speed, and reliability. Used primarily in NRA Action Pistol (The Bianchi Cup), United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA)/International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and similar styles of competition, raceguns are typically based on common guns and modified to function the best within a certain set of rules, such as weight, size, and capacity requirements.”

Also according to Wilipedia; “Typical modifications include a match-grade barrel fitted with a recoil compensator, electronic optical sights, match-grade hammer and sear, a tuned trigger, and “skeletonizing” (cutouts to reduce mass). In addition to the modifications aforementioned, a typical open class semi-automatic racegun specifically tailored for The Bianchi Cup open division has a “barricade shroud” that completely encircles the slide with “wings” attached to opposing sides, a “moving target scope mount” with a pivoting base adjustable for predetermined lead depending on the bullet’s velocity and speed and direction of the moving target, and a form of grip extension that elevates the gun for better line of sight while shooting in the prone position. Depending upon the competition requirement, some raceguns are modified with reduced-weight recoil springs to allow the use of lightly loaded ammunition that is just barely powerful enough to cycle the gun’s mechanism, in order to reduce recoil and permit a faster rate of fire. The Steel Challenge speed shooting championship is such an event, where in its early days a 120 power factor hit was required to activate the stop plate to stop the clock is now no longer necessary so that competitors can go faster than ever before. To prevent this, certain sanctioning bodies such as IPSC and USPSA require ammunition to meet specific power factors.

-ow, are we talking about firearms modified to the extent that, as Wikipedia states; “…can run upwards of $3,500 USD or more on a Bianchi racegun as compared to a $400 to $1,000 stock gun. Or, are we talking about a Glock G34 or a Glock 21C, or perhaps a Heckler & Koch P30, Smith & Wesson’s M&P M2.0, the Walther Arms PPQ, Springfield Armory’s XD, the P320 X-Five from SIG Sauer and others, or even the Canik longslide version of its TP9? Or, how about a long-slide 1911?

Most people would not even think about carrying a “Race Gun” for defensive use, but most of us already carry firearms that can be used for competition in the “run what you brung” category of competition, should we decide to compete with them. However, in competition, we are not competing against other pistols or other people; we are competing against the clock on a given day at a given moment.

How many times do we read features about a certain handgun that states, “…ready for self-defense or competition right out of the box!” Or, Ready for self-defense, competition, hunting, sport shooting, or holding doors shut during high winds!?

Would I stand a better chance at winning over a jury if I used a Springfield XDm 4.5 with match-grade barrel and trigger or a Springfield XDm 5.25 with match-grade barrel and trigger to defend myself?

What has to be remembered is that most folks on a jury, just like they are when they are out and about among the ‘English’ don’t think that anyone should be carrying around a firearm in the first place – until their life is in jeopardy, law-enforcement is no where to be seen, but that good Samaritan with a permit and a firearm just saved their bacon. Somehow, they would still manage to say, “Well, if this evil person did not have a firearm (or knife, club, machete, 9-iron, etc.), then this good person with a gun would not have had to shoot him!”  It’s enough to make you throw your hands in the air.

Let’s say that I decide to carry my Springfield XDm 5.25 as an everyday carry. Granted that the barrel is longer, but the pistol actually has very little in the way of competition qualities. All XDm pistols have match-grade barrels and triggers. I normally carry a ‘Government’ model 1911, which has a 5” barrel so there is no big advantage between the two. Someone might point out that the XDm 5.25 has a longer barrel and the slide is cut-out; therefore, it must be a competition pistol. Not if I don’t compete with it, it ain’t! But, it’s a ‘Gamer” gun. Well, yeah, until I stuff it in a concealment holster—then it’s a concealed-carry one. Is this so much different from carrying a Springfield XDm 9 Competition?

I once wrote an article about the single-action revolver as a defensive tool. Why did you defend yourself with an old, Western-style revolver? Well, it was the only one that I had in my trousers at the time! Or how about; “I had my Glock 19 with a 33-round magazine on me at the time, but I chose the single-action revolver because it has less than ten rounds and I wanted to be politically correct and keep under the ten round limits, since the aggressor was from California. I thought that he would respect me more for that consideration.”

Momma, what does absurd mean?

Off the shelf pistols that can be used for competition are wide and varied. And, some will modify their firearm for competition; trigger work, better sights or optics, lightened slides, etc. Would a pistol with factory equipped night sights be considered a competition pistol? Would a Canik or Glock with an RMR be considered a competition pistol?

Although nearly every manufacturer of plain-Jane, duty-style semi-automatics these days makes a version with a slightly longer slide, the genre as it exists today traces back to Glock’s introduction of the G34 and G35 in the late 1990s. These were “Gaming” handguns that were marketed as the “Practical/Tactical” models, and they quickly expanded beyond the world of gaming to be found in the duty holsters of SWAT teams and other law enforcement applications.

Is it better that you carry a ‘Practical’ handgun as compared to a ‘Tactical’ handgun? According to most on the anti-gun side, more than ten rounds is not practical, as you would never need them. They need an education, but that takes a commitment to learn and that capability seemingly evades them. Would the lack of a rail on a pistol qualify it as a ‘practical’ handgun, rather than a tactical one?

Let’s say, for a point of contention, that I am a S.W.A.T officer going in on an arrest. I am carrying a pistol equipped with both laser and RMR. During the arrest the subject resists, and is shot. During the internal investigation, I am cleared of any wrong doing. The subject of what I shot the suspect with hasn’t even entered the picture. Switch to a civilian who has to defend his family from a home invasion. His Glock G17 is equipped with; you guessed it, a laser and an RMR. In the ensuing investigation, the homeowner is deemed justified in the shooting that occurred. But, invariably, the subject of the firearm used will come into question simply because it has been equipped with a laser and a RMR. Are the needs of the shooters, the LEO and the civilian, any different?

But, let’s get back to the “competition” pistol.

Pistols used for competition have longer barrels. Ayup! In most cases they do! But, that is an advantage in several ways.

For concealed carry, barrel length really doesn’t matter with an inside-the-waistband holster. I normally carry a 1911 with a 5” barrel so carrying a Glock G41 with a 5.31” barrel is not really going to make a big difference, but a 1911 Long-Slide with a 6” barrel (or a Buntline single-action revolver) might be pushing it a little.

The longer, more nose-heavy slide is easier to shoot fast, having much flatter muzzle-flip than the shorter guns. The longer sight radius makes it a lot easier for precision work at longer distances (or small, precise targets at shorter ranges), as well.

The extra half-inch or inch of barrel will also give a slight increase in velocity bump, which can only enhance terminal ballistic performance, both in the penetration and helping to ensure jacketed hollow-points expansion.

Lastly, the longer slide of the pistol within an IWB holster actually aids in the stability of the gun by positioning a larger proportion of the pistol’s mass below the belt line and eliminating any tendency for the gun to “flop” or try and roll outboard, like can happen with some subcompact carry choices. However, the downsides are that you can no longer carry in a horizontal shoulder holster and your trousers may begin wearing at the holster contact points, and there is nothing more embarrassing than your pistol poking out of your pants when you don’t want it to, especially if you are in a restaurant with Kevin Spacey.

Of course, there are downsides and one of which being that a carrying a heavier, larger gun requires “dressing around the gun” in the way a .380 ACP in a pocket holster doesn’t.  You have to do your part to effectively conceal a large handgun, and that doesn’t include skin-tight or low-cut jeans.

I am trying to transition from a 1911 to something with more cartridges, but I still like the .45 ACP for self defense.  Currently, while my eight-round 1911 might be a “two-bad-guy gun,” there’s an increasing trend of multiple attackers and the Glock G21 has enough ammo on board for a maybe three-bad-guy world. If not, then shame on me. But, I want the upper hand over the bad guys and not the other way around, and that may mean even a further change if I so see fit. If after I try a Glock G41 and determine that it is a better tool, then that’s the way I roll.

Intelligence, they say, is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. It also means analyzing what you have, design a plan, develop the skills, and implement the plan when needed. This also means analyzing the effects, perceived or actual, of the plan.  If you decide that carrying a firearm that can also be used for competition is the right thing to do, then consider the ramifications of that decision should you be forced to implement the plan.

While I could say, “Lord, help any of us if we are ever tasked to pulling a trigger to stop a threat!” Unfortunately, it will take an attorney (or many), lots of money and time. The prosecutor will try and use whatever they can, they may try and make the argument that you used a more lethal firearm than what was needed.

Your lawyer will present why your actions were reasonable. He may point out that it’s primarily a ‘target shooting’ pistol vice something you got for the purpose of killing someone. You chose to carry something you had and were familiar with, vice going out and getting some scary tactical killing machine.

Juries are people with prejudices and emotions: however, the primary consideration will be — were you justified in drawing your weapon and shooting? Would a reasonable person in the same situation believe they were in imminent danger of serious bodily harm? If the facts support that, the type of handgun/trigger becomes irrelevant.

But in court there’s an old maxim- if the facts are with you, argue the facts. If the facts are against you argue the law. If the facts and law are against you–scream like hell. Sure, if the law and facts are on your side, a prosecutor may try and obfuscate by screaming about trigger pull etc. They may even question the number of spare magazines and cartridges that you carry. The fact is that your life is going to become miserable regardless fo what you carry or what you used to defend yourself or family.

So, at this point, although it is nice to debate for or against carrying a competition ready handgun for self defense, and that you may have to use one to defend yourself or family at home or out among the English, I don’t think it matters as long as you survive.

That’s my take on it.


About Taurian

Taurian is a U.S. Army veteran and former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Taurian also has over fifty years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

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