PPC Competition

Obsolete for defensive training purposes?

Specialized “PPC guns” like this Colt .38 Special aren’t necessary in PPC.
Custom barrel and sight rib by Austin Behlert, action by Reeves Jungkind.

Depending on who you talk to, PPC stands for “Practical Police Course,” “Police Pistol Course” or “Police Pistol, Combat.” LAPD veteran, champion shooter and gun writer Fred Romero, a veteran of the violent big city streets, calls this discipline “the perfect balance between speed and accuracy.”

I got into PPC, then “police only,” as soon as they pinned a badge on me in 1972. The course had been developed by the FBI in the second quarter of the 20th century and adopted by the NRA the next quarter. NRA still runs it at the National Police Shooting Championships in Jackson, Miss., and still limits entries to L.E. However, numerous gun clubs around the country offer “Outlaw” PPC matches to law-abiding private citizens.

I had jumped into PPC because the bull’s-eye matches I’d shot previously seemed old and slow. When IPSC began in 1976 I didn’t hesitate to join, and later IDPA because PPC was old and slow by comparison.

Later still, I tried to get back into PPC because I had become old and slow. It was a good fit. Unfortunately, by then PPC had become moribund and matches were few and far between. I hadn’t been the only one who preferred a faster pace and constantly changing courses of fire. I had won some state and regional PPC matches over the years and came in first or second in the last half dozen I was able to shoot in the 21st century, but they were harder and harder to find. Then …

By the time you get back to 7 yards, you can shoot two handed in PPC.

To the barricades — much of PPC is shot from behind replicated cover.

Whaddaya Know

In August 2022, I was teaching a class at the Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers club in the eponymous city. Lo and behold, there was a monthly outlaw PPC match going on one morning and I was able to put on a training video and sneak away from class long enough to shoot a relay along with a couple of MAG staff members. We shot the guns we had with us: Ken Kelly’s Ruger GP-100, Brad Newton’s Kahr 9mm and my carry gun I was also teaching with, a Wilson Combat Beretta 92 Compact 9mm.

The gun categories had adapted to the times — small autos shot in what used to be called the Off-Duty Gun match. Brad’s gun and mine were barely too long in the barrels, so we signed up for Stock Auto and Ken did the same for Stock Revolver. The PPC revolvers of yore were still there and used in Open class alongside compensated autos and red dot-equipped pistols. I managed to take second place in Stock Auto with a 588-34X out of a possible 600 for the 60 shots. Kudos to Harry Russell who trounced us all with a magnificent 596-44X score.

I enjoyed the heck out of it, and the match reminded my why I’ve always appreciated PPC despite its slowness and sameness.

Under NRA rules, the left-side barricade must be shot with the left hand working the gun.

Mas assesses his first 30 hits with a Wilson Beretta at a PPC match. Good shootin’
but still only good enough for second place because PPC places such a premium on accuracy.

PPC Love

The sameness of PPC gives you a benchmark of progress and skill maintenance. The tiny oval competition scoring rings on the B27 silhouette may be in the wrong place — the solar plexus instead of high chest — but the course tests accuracy, not tactical anatomy as quantified by Dr. Jim Williams. A group in the 10 ring is the right size to take out a human’s cardiac complex if the darn rings were placed a little higher. As Bill Jordan used to say, “Speed’s fine, but accuracy’s final.”

PPC emphasizes use of cover. At 25 yards you shoot from behind a barricade — kneeling, standing left side and standing right side. If the hosts have included a 50-yard component, there’s standing barricade for six shots on each side, plus six from sitting and six from prone, which presumably would also be fired from behind solid cover.

There’s emphasis on shooting with either hand. NRA rules for PPC require the left hand to have the master firing grip on the left side of any standing barricade, and the right hand doing so on the right side.

In the Police Service Pistol and Police Service Revolver events, NRA has you firing strong hand-only from the 3-yard line, six shots in eight seconds. At the Outlaw match open to both police and “civilian” in Harrisburg, this was modified to six dominant hand only, reload, and six non-dominant hand only, all in 25 seconds from the same 3-yard line.

Reloading under time is part of PPC, too. At standard speeds, the times are “revolver neutral,” going back to the days when cops couldn’t even carry speedloaders on duty, never mind semiautomatic service pistols. Today, it gives relevant practice to the many who carry a revolver daily backed up with speed strips and gives such people a shooting game at which they can be competitive.

I’ve always thought PPC’s emphasis on accuracy and shooting from cover made it a valuable, skill-nourishing ingredient in a balanced diet of defensive handgun training and competition. I appreciate the chance for a refresher at Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers.


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