I've heard this question come up many times, and I've seen many people list sport shooting, such as IDPA or USPSA, as their monthly/weekly training session. So, is sport shooting a good place to train? Well, that depends.
First off, I have nothing against sport shooting. I compete in IDPA, and it's a lot of fun. There are lots of great people to hang around, and any day on the range is a good one. I've also shot in local 3-gun matches. So, please, don't take anything I say as a slam against the shooting sports, merely an attempt to ensure people take a serious look at their training and what goes into their training plans.
With the disclaimer out of the way, I personally believe that sport shooting presents an excellent chance to practice your fundamentals. It's also a great place to get tips on your fundamentals, if you are willing to ask others to observe and critique you. Since sport shooting generally focuses on time as its scoring mechanism, your fundamentals are key. Everything from stance to grip to recoil management eventually affects your score. In some cases, it can also present a chance to shoot in unusual positions or scenarios that you normally couldn't practice on a static range, such as prone shooting, drawing from concealment (some ranges don't allow holsters), and shooting around barricades.
Sport shooting, however, is a horrible place to learn tactics. Due to the very nature of it being a sport, there are artificial rules in place to ensure a level playing field. Rules govern gear, carry positions, magazine capacity, etc. Other rules require ditching your empty firearms into strategically placed barrels and clearing firearms when transitioning. Also, because time is critical, less emphasis is placed on shot placement. Gaming the system for most shooters requires finding a balance between accuracy and speed, where one is sacrificed for the other. In the real world, when your life is on the line, "speed is fine, accuracy is final," as Larry Vickers says.
My recommendation: enjoy sport shooting, but don't let it be a substitute for solid training from a knowledgeable professional trainer.
About the Author
Woody is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.