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Real Life is Open Division: Interview with Jeff Gurwitch

Jeff Gurwitch served in the US Army for 26 years, with 19 of those being in Special Forces. Jeff has multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and has seen the gamut of fighting styles from close quarters to long-range mountain fighting.

He’s also been a competitive shooter for over 15 years, competing in USPSA, IDPA, and PRS. On top of that, he also publishes articles for Defense Review and SWAT Magazine.

While his tactical credentials are certainly impressive, I wanted to use this interview to instead talk about competitive shooting and its relationship to defensive and combat shooting.

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Episode Summary

While Jeff has an impressive military and tactical background, that wasn’t what I set out to learn from him. Instead, I wanted to dig into his competitive background and learn how he thinks of the relationship between competitive and tactical worlds.

A lot of people out there, some very good tacticians, often poopoo competitive shooting as a “gamer thing” and declare that such techniques will result in your death in the real world. Jeff would disagree.

When you put things in the correct context, competitive shooting is about being faster and more accurate. By necessity, it weeds out inferior techniques in favor of those that actually work better. While there may be “gamer gear” out there that’s specialized for competition, that doesn’t mean techniques for reloads and manipulation aren’t helpful.


Competition is a game, but to do well in a competition you have to be able to shoot fast and accurately. You have to have the best weapon manipulation techniques to keep your gun running. That's what you bring into the tactical shooting.

Caveman Techniques

There’s a fair bit of chatter on the internet about keeping techniques as simple as possible using gross motor skills. For things like pistol reloads, that means techniques like the slingshot and overhand gripping methods rather of pressing the slide stop lever. Jeff argues, however, that the best and fastest competitive shooters all use the slide release because it’s simply faster.

There are many other fine motor skills that people figure out how to do under stress. It’s really a matter of practice and training so that it happens automatically even when you’re under stress.

Competition vs Tactical Equipment


I asked Jeff about the bleedover from competitive and tactical shooting worlds when it comes to gear and weapon configuration. He outlined several examples of where it’s happened, such as 45-degree offset red dots supplanting the top-mounted configurations of military rifles years past.

You’ll find another example with the longer handguards and rails covering low-profile gas blocks on special operations rifles. This configuration is a direct result of 3-Gun shooting techniques and weapons.

When it comes to personal equipment, there’s a balance between speed and retention. Competition lends itself to higher levels of speed while tactical usage requires better retention. Jeff mentioned that the best balance he found was using duty-configured personal equipment in competition settings. This allowed him, and others like him, to get ample practice with their gear.

Getting Training

Another important topic we covered focused on the sources of training. The big takeaway is that there’s value in learning from both competitive and tactical shooters, but keep things in context. Don’t take tactical advice from someone who has never actually applied it. That’s how we end up with range theatrics like a quick glance left and right to “scan,” but it’s so quick that you aren’t actually searching for anything.

One of the best places for the average person to start is to show up at local competitions. Seasoned shooters will help you learn the rules, learn to shoot, and learn to be safe along the way. 

Don’t just go to watch, show up and compete.

Every time you show up, keep working on some specific thing you want to improve. That works from stage to stage as well as match to match. 

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jeff Gurwitch. He’s a fountain of information about both competitive and defensive shooting. Be sure to leave a comment down below and check him out on Instagram and Facebook.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.


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