Is Using a Carry Gun for Competition a Mistake?

By Nic Lenze
Posted in #Skills
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Is Using a Carry Gun for Competition a Mistake?

May 3rd, 2023

5 minute read

The concealed carry landscape has changed drastically over the last several years. Many micro-sized or compact carry guns were often limited to just seven or eight rounds, meaning they were stuck in their role as a concealment gun. That has changed. Now, gun store counters are lined with compact yet capable guns with impressive capacity, expanding the potential role of these firearms.

competing with your carry pistol
Should you compete with your carry gun? What self-defense advantages can you gain from shooting competition with it? Are there any downsides?

With features like optics compatibility and accessory rails, can your carry gun easily fill the role of a home defense gun or even be run through a weekend competition? This is a huge potential benefit, allowing shooters to spend more time behind the gun they’re most likely to use during a defensive encounter.

So, is shooting competitions with it one of the best ways to train and see what your CCW gear can do for you?

author competing with his carry gun
Here the author competes with his carry gun, a Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro. He carries the gun with a Vortex Defender 6 MOA red dot.

Competitive shooting is fun and educational. If you think way back to your days in school, were you more likely to learn if a lesson was made entirely of charts and graphs, or if new skills were used in a fun and practical setting?

Competition makes me more likely to train and, as a bonus, highlights what is and isn’t working with my gear. I treat my everyday carry as a system and testing that system before I need it is crucial. So, I decided it was time to start competing with my carry gun.

The Gun

I’ve been carrying a Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro since they were released. Guns are expensive, and dedicating a handgun to the home defense role and then buying another one for carry didn’t make financial sense. I was looking for one gun to fill both roles, and the Hellcat Pro met those needs. 

carry pistol for competition
The author carries his Hellcat Pro in a Black Arch Entrada holster. The rig carries inside the waistband and offers a spare magazine pouch.

My Hellcat Pro, which I have had customized with a two-tone finish featuring a black slide and Desert FDE frame, is equipped with a Vortex Defender-CCW 6 MOA red dot. It follows me everywhere in a Black Arch Entrada appendix holster, attached to an AttackPAK Venom Inner belt.

I mean it. I take this everywhere I can legally carry! Through my carry journey, I found that having a smaller gun isn’t necessarily better, and the Hellcat Pro strikes that middle ground between being small enough to carry and large enough to shoot well. Also, here in Colorado we have a magazine limit to contend with, and 16 rounds (15 in the magazine, and one in the chamber) is the most I can legally carry. Magazines that carry 15 rounds in such a slim package are exactly what I need.

The Match

I called my buddies for a friendly competition at my favorite outdoor range, MODTAC Training Group. The match consisted of four stages. Each one posed unique challenges like partially obstructed targets, headshot-only sections, and rogue tumbleweeds destroying a perfectly good box of morale-boosting donuts.

using your carry handgun for competition
Both competition and real-world defensive encounters encourage the use of cover.

Modeled loosely on IDPA rules, all targets had to be engaged with real-world considerations. Shots must be taken from behind cover, if it’s available. They also need to be shot in the order of tactical priority to simulate what would be done in an actual encounter.

We ran it as a two-gun match. Each competitor had a long gun and a handgun, forcing them to deal with transitioning to their pistol. Operating your pistol with one hand while the other is occupied is excellent practice for the real world.

There was too much running, too much wind and too much fun. At the end of the day, shooting matches (official or otherwise) is a great time and a perfect way to catch up with friends.

The Rub

Formal training can never be replaced as the best way to really learn your weapon system. Nobody can spot your shooting deficiencies like a quality instructor. However, formal training is also costly as a husband and father of two (plus one cat). I’ve used competition as an affordable way to supplement my skill-building.

shooting your carry gun in competition
While competition is not identical to real defensive encounters, it can force you to improve your accuracy and speed under stress. This alone can be beneficial to your survivability.

I fired fewer than 100 rounds in this match through my carry gun. Sadly, that’s probably more than most carriers will do in a year. Not only did I fire the rounds, but I also ran, moved safely, thought ahead, problem solved, and had intention behind every single shot.

At times, all-day courses can drag on to the point where I’m just shooting and not thinking, wasting time and ammunition. With competition, the downtime between stages can also drag on. Instead of being bored, that time is a study hall for the wins and losses of the previous stage.

Competition has the added benefit of stress. Whether you’re there to win or just to challenge yourself, the pressure is on. Your heart rate will elevate and give you a small adrenaline rush. Shot timers are often compared to the mind-erasing devices from Men in Black.

Even the most well-planned stage can vanish from your mind with the sound of a beeeeep. This can devastate your score or can be used as a time to practice your improvisational skills. Keep fighting, get through it, and triumph.

Everyday carry is more than a gun. The entire system must work together and mesh with how you dress. I keep other pieces of gear on me and have the opportunity to move dynamically with my flashlight, tourniquet, keys, and wallet. The range I use is parts grass, gravel and dirt, so testing the performance of footwear is a bonus. No flip-flops, people. 


Competition Isn’t a replacement for formal classes, but it has rounded out my training and showed me where my deficits really are. Unfortunately, they’re still all over the place, but continue to dwindle with each additional match.

If you’re serious about your defense, being a well-rounded shooter should be something that interests you. Those smooth edges come from stepping out of your comfort zone and learning in new ways. So, hop onto Practiscore, find a match at a local range, and let me know how it goes. If you can’t get a hold of me, I’m probably off shooting my own match.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Nic Lenze

Nic Lenze

Nic Lenze is a lover of all things that go bang. Originally from Southern California, he now lives in the beautiful state of Colorado where he shoots anything and everything he can get his hands on. Pistol shooting is his main focus, but slapping steel at 610 yards is a regular occurrence. Living in a nature-rich state has opened more opportunities for fishing, hunting, and camping. He enjoys goose hunting and two-day, bird-free grouse hunts. He is a husband, father, and lover of liberty.

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