Defining Practical Marksmanship

Since the beginning of this blog, I’ve but an emphasis on “practical” marksmanship. The tagline at the top reads, “Practical, Not Just Tactical.” Something I realized, though, is that I’ve never really talked about what “practical marksmanship” entails.

The term itself is nebulous. Practical as opposed to what? Tactical marksmanship? Precision marksmanship? Dynamic?

Allow me to reference the Cambridge Dictionary:


adjective /ˈpræk·tɪ·kəl

    1. Relating to actual experience or to use the knowledge in activities rather than knowledge only or ideas
    2. Fitting the needs of a particular situation in a helpful way; helping to solve a problem or difficulty; effective or suitable

Ok, there, I made it sound official and a little academic. I suppose that is interesting, but it’s not really satisfying. What am I really getting at?

To me, practical marksmanship is really about keeping the end goal in mind. I do not discount the value of competition and a focus on precision, those are both vital components of my vision. However, to me, winning a competition is not the end game in of itself. Rather, the focus is on the ability to apply the skills learned through practice and competition and apply them to real world use of hitting targets that need to be hit. That could manifest itself in hunting, field competition, or defensive action. The long term focus is not on the skill in a vacuum, but how that skill will be applied in the real world.

How is that different than tactical or precision marksmanship? I suppose it is not, really. In my view, tactical marksmanship is primarily focused on relatively close range defensive marksmanship (as opposed to hunting or competition); it is a subset of the practical. Precision marksmanship is a bit more vague, and I more closely associate it with competition or long range shooting with more time and planning available.

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, but its just something that I’ve been thinking about. My vision has always been one of being able to walk around with a rifle in the field, recognize the need to take a shot, take a stable position, and hit the mark. I want to do this at any range I can see the target under any weather condition. That is practical marksmanship.

You can see this manifest in a variety of ways. My gear choices and weapon configurations could easily migrate towards specialized setups that would be better for precision, or better for home defense, or better for shooting 3-Gun. But they don’t, because I realize that such configurations are really tailored to specific circumstances. “Space Guns” that run on the ragged edge of reliability in order to decrease shot split times work well enough in a relatively sterile USPSA match with a tailored hand load, but would probably choke after being exposed to cheaper surplus ammo and a healthy dose of dust. Long and heavy barreled F-Class rifles are great for maintaining those tight shot clusters at range, but you sure wouldn’t want to hump one for miles up a mountain on a hunt.

Keep the end goal in mind, and work towards it.



1 thought on “Defining Practical Marksmanship”

  1. Col. Cooper’s parameters for his General Rifle class were getting a first-shot hit in the kill (heart/lung) zone of a medium game animal (8″-10″), from a field position, at unknown range, under time pressure. Practical in the real world indeed.


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