American Handgunner May/June 2013 Digital Edition - Page 24

COPTALK Bob Vogel was a career cop in Ohio when he embarked on competitive shooting to improve his own chances of survival, and evolved into a world champion. Photo: Yamil Sued, Courstesy of Panteao Productions opiNioN aND facts from the meaN streets massaD ayooB When Cops Compete I n his book Guns, Bullets and Gunfighting, Jim Cirillo made it clear why men who had distinguished themselves in shooting competition were prized by the legendary NYPD Stakeout Squad: they were already accustomed to shooting straight under pressure. The two men on that highrisk unit who won the most gunfights were Cirillo’s partner Bill Allard and Cirillo himself. Allard, who racked up the most shootout victories and never missed a shot he fired at a man in combat, explained the importance of competition experience when I interviewed him for the ProArms Podcast (downloadable to your computer or iTunes for free at Allard, now retired, won a National Championship in conventional pistol shooting at Camp Perry, among his many titles. Cirillo shot mainly PPC during the time he was on the Stakeout Unit, but later became a big fan of IPSC, and had become a fan of IDPA as well before his untimely death in a traffic accident. Irrespective of which discipline they preferred, each had learned to make perfect shots under time limits “when the pressure was on.” Jim and I were on the same squad at the first Bianchi Cup match in 1979, and at one point in the tournament he told me he was feeling more pressure than he had in any of his gun battles. When I asked him why, he explained there had been a lot of time for the pressure to build at the match he knew was certain — and the fights happened so fast he was often able to run on auto pilot. n my book Combat Shooting With Massad Ayoob (F-W Publishing), I compared Cirillo with Wyatt Earp and Col. Charles Askins, Jr. and the gunfights he experienced during the Depression years with the Border Patrol, through his WWII combat time, up to the 1950s when he won his last known shootout. I had the privilege to know and be friends with Charlie and Jim. I only look old enough to have known Wyatt Earp. Askins won hundreds of shooting medals over the years — all in bull’s-eye, “the only game in town” — insofar as pistol shooting, during his heyday. Most famously, he won the National Championship of the United States in the 1930s. The point is he also won many a shootout with armed men. The confidence he had earned with a gun in his hand at the “match wars” stood him in good stead during the real battles, both police and military. Shooting fast and straight under pressure had become second nature for him. Earp told his biogthe late rapher Stuart Lake Jim Cirillo he competed in the said his informal shooting matches in the cow-towns he competition policed, long before the epic series of shootouts shooting that began near the OK Corral in Tombstone, experience Ariz. in 1881. Earp had made a point of picking helped him the brains of gunfight survivors as soon as he survive pinned on his first badge, and testing his skill gunfights. against others with his firearms was something he learned early could give him a leg up when fighting for his life. nothIng neW I it still makes sense i ’m writing this a couple of weeks after competing in the South Mountain Showdown IDPA match in Phoenix, Ariz. On my shooting squad was a young Border Patrolman who ran the match with his duty gear, a Bianchi uniform holster and .40-caliber HK P2000 pistol. He shot damn well, too. I asked him why he was shooting. He replied he wanted to test his survival skills. No argument here. My old friend John Pride, long since retired from LAPD, began his shooting career with a gunfight on the mean streets. He felt he survived by luck more than by skill, when he dropped his opponent with a .38 slug. He didn’t want that to happen again. He then began a journey leading him to major championships in PPC, and several years of dominating the Bianchi Cup. While he didn’t need those skills later, it turned out, he transferred those skills to many other officers whose lives were saved by them. Some of today’s great shooting champions started out as career cops in harm’s way who wanted to do everything they could to make damn sure they came home. Whether or not they ever had to shoot an armed felon in the line of duty, each transferred his skill to countless cops who did use them to survive. If you haven’t tried competition shooting to hone your survival skills, please give it some thought. We all agree a shooting match is not a gunfight — but we all have to remember a gunfight is a shooting match. History shows us that, all other things being equal, the combatant who has the most experience in shooting quickly and accurately under pressure has a significant, perhaps lifesaving, edge. * 24 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE2013

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