I got asked for some thoughts on why I thought competition is important for people concerned with protection in the Real World, and after I answered the question I thought you all might like to see that answer:
Couple of quick thoughts on competition...regardless of the style of competition, I think competition has a major effect in three specific areas:
1) Gun-handling skills
2) The ability to "game" a situation
3) Stress inoculation
As it happens, all three of those areas are critical in terms of Real Life shooting skills. First and foremost are gun-handling skills. Let me watch a shooter for 5 minutes and I can tell you if he or she shoots competition simply by watching the gun-handling skills. An example I've used before...I was at an Advanced Concealed Carry class at a major shooting academy a few years back, The class consisted of 6 people, all with years of experience as shooters. Three were competition shooters; 3 non-competitors who shot together in "informal" competition at least once a week.
The informal guys shot on par or better than the competition shooters (2 IDPA; 1 USPSA), but they fell apart on jam clearance (big time!), shooting from awkward (what I call "broken") positions and somewhat on shooting on the move. The informal guys also lacked that fluidity of motion that comes from a steady diet of competition shooting...they still had to think about what they were doing on, say, the draw, whereas pistol competition shooters practice the draw so much that it is truly an ingrained reflex. I once outdrew someone who meant me harm, simply because I have draw a gun so many times it is something that happens without conscious thought (I also scared the crap out of my Sweetie last week while we were walking Alf the Wonder Beagle...two huge black dogs raced out of the nearby woods, barking and running straight for us...I cleared the J-frame from the pocket holster and was indexing the red dot laser on Poochie #1's head when the owner came running out screaming, "Harmless! Harmless!" In truth, I don't recall drawing and indexing the gun at all...and why should I? All my available RAM had to be focused solely on shoot/no shoot decision).
Second, the ability to "game" a situation...I know IDPA rants about how this is a bad thing, but that's bullshit. The difference between living and dying is measured by an individual's ability to perceive a situation, process the information and proceed to the correct action. That is the definition of "gaming." I strongly refer you to Malcolm Gladwell's book BLINK on how quickly we can truly process information. You might also consider Amanda Ripley's THE UNTHINKABLE: WHO SURVIVES WHEN DISASTER STRIKES — AND WHY or Larry Gonzales' DEEP SURVIVAL: WHO LIVES, WHO DIES AND WHY. I';d also recommend my book TRAIL SAFE, but you gotta pay too much for it on eBay these days...I will have an updated version in a couple of months. The ability to game is a fundamental survival skill, and all the shooting sports teach it. As we become more experienced on the range, our ability to game is drastically enhanced...I figure a good USPSA or IDPA competitor has a stage gamed out in less than half-a-second after seeing it...he or she doesn't need to walk around pointing a finger pistol at the target to understand what needs to be done.
Thirdly, and most important of all, stress inoculation...the more you are stressed, both mentally and physically, the better you are able to handle said stress. Think about dry-firing...dry-firing works because your mind doesn't draw a distinction between live fire and dry fire. You ca become a master shooter (in the sense of sight picture and trigger squeeze) without firing a live round or leaving your living room. Similarly, your mind doesn't draw a distinction between "real" stress — I am about to be eaten by a saber-toothed tiger — or "fake" stress — a timer. Stress is stress, and each time you apply that stress to your body and mind, you "inoculate" yourself against "real" stress the same way a mild case of cowpox protects you from the much deadlier smallpox. I have proven this in my own experiences in the extreme sports, and it is an article of faith among police and military trainers. Stress puts a huge chemical load on your body, and the only way to understand how to handle that load is through experience. If we go back to my first gun-handling example, I would wager that the men who spent their time in informal practice, even though they were skilled shooters, did not get the stress inoculation benefits of formal competition because when we practice alone or with friends, even though we may push ourselves, we lack the external stress components, e.g., my performance s being measured by an outside observer and, yes, people are watching and will see if I screw up.
Hope this helps!