Police officers have been avidly competing in Bullseye and PPC competitions for decades, but ironically it wasn't until 2008 that a police officer won the "practical shooting" crown in the United States.
Photo by Chris Vasillon/USPSA
Bob Vogel, a uniformed officer with the Kenton, Ohio, police department, won Production division at the 2008 USPSA National Championships with a nearly stock Glock. This was not an isolated incident, however; not only did Vogel go back to win the USPSA Production nationals again in 2009, he has earned six IDPA national titles. Not bad for someone who has never taken a formal class on shooting.
"Everything I've learned has been on my own," Vogel explains. "Reading books, watching videos, going to a match and watching top shooters. They're the best shooters for a reason, so I tried to study them scientifically, what they do, and tried to replicate that."
Vogel grew up in what he calls a "gun culture" where everyone hunted, but he didn't know anybody who shot competitively. "I got interested in competition from a realistic standpoint because I always wanted to become a cop. I was 19 when I went to my first IDPA match. I loved it."
Competitive people tend to be competitive in everything they do, and Vogel, like many other shooters, is no stranger to other sports, but his choice is a bit unusual: arm wrestling.
"It's something I always liked to do as a kid and had a knack for it. It's pretty neat because with arm wrestling you can't tell by looking at somebody how good they are at it because a lot of it's technique. I like it for shooting because shooting is so much about controlling the gun."
Vogel is the firearms instructor for his department and is on a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. When asked about the real-world value he places on the skills he's learned shooting competitively, Vogel has strong opinions.
"I think competitive shooting helps tremendously," he says. "A lot of cops who are into the 'tactical' thing really put down competition, saying it teaches bad habits. I really haven't found that. Competitive shooters spend so much time with guns in our hands and can shoot so well compared to other cops, it gives me a lot of confidence."
Between being married and having a full-time job, finding time to practice is as hard for him as anybody. "I very rarely live-fire more than once a week, and I dry-fire about four times a week. If you're serious about getting better at shooting, dry-firing is the way to go. A lot of people don't want to do it because they're all about having fun and going blasting, which is fine, but you're not going to get better if that's all you do.
"Have a goal when you go out to practice. Shoot for score, use a timer, keep track of your hits--do something you can measure so you can go out the next time and try to do better."
Vogel has been shooting nothing but Glocks in competition for several years, but that wasn't always the case.
"I shot 1911s for three or four years. I had a lot of issues with them, hammer follow and so on, and I could just never get them to work consistently. So one time I went out and shot a Glock 17 that I'd bought for my wife. I shot an IDPA classifier with it and shot the exact same score that I did with my competition 1911.
"I had this preconception about Glocks--you can't shoot them as fast, they're double action, they've got a longer, heavier trigger pull, there's no way you can shoot them as good, but I did. I shot it some more, did some comparisons, and found I could shoot it just as well. So I sold my 1911s and bought three Glocks and haven't looked back since."