Bottom Line Up Front: I did two Tactical Games competitions last year. This post covers what it is, how I trained for it, and my lessons learned.
What Is The Tactical Games (TTG)?
It’s basically a physical fitness competition with shooting mixed into the events. CrossFit meets three gun competition is another way I have heard it described. The main competitions are eight events spread over the two days. They do these multiple times a year across the country. There are different divisions based on gender, age, and experience level. Official website is here with full details on rules, divisions, and competition dates.
I first heard about it a few years ago when Jacob Heppner, a CrossFit athlete I follow, started competing. It looked very intriguing as it blends two things I love – physical challenges and gear. I really enjoy getting into unnecessary detail when I get into something, whether it’s building computers or taking a hunting trip to Colorado. If I can spend a lot of time learning about something, researching it, trying things out, comparing them, and refining them, I get excited. You can see what I am talking about it you read my after action review of an elk hunt I did.
I decided in 2022 I was going to learn more about firearms, build one myself, and refine my collection. I basically bought various guns over 10-15 years without a well-intentioned plan on what I needed, so I wanted to get rid of ones I didn’t want/need and get new and better ones than what I had. Shortly after building an AR-15, I decided to start shooting a lot more too. Then I got the bright idea to compete in a Tactical Games event, which is something I wanted to do for a while but didn’t have the right gear for honestly. This gave me some challenge to train for while also giving me a good specific goal with regard to my shooting. It also let me get super nerdy on all the gear I would need.
I watched as many videos and read everything I could on the events. I realized my existing training was more than enough. I was already physically prepared for this competition by following my normal military general physical preparedness (GPP) program. So I could sustain what I was doing more or less, but I would have to include shooting while fatigued as part of it. I also didn’t do a lot of training with a plate carrier, gun belt, and while wearing a rifle, so I would have to integrate that.
I realized I didn’t have really any of the right tactical gear to compete, so I went deep into researching what I would need and then went into comparing, contrasting, buying, and trying out different things over the next 3-5 months to end up with what I did.
I lived on a military installation with a personal weapons range, so I had essentially free access to a 400 yard range that is rarely used where you can set up whatever kinds of targets you want. This was a huge plus as it let me basically train however I needed to. If I was the only one on the range, I could set up targets and do workouts out there as if I were on my own farm. I have since moved and miss that range a lot. I would be out there today dragging a sled, running hills, and shooting steel at 200 yards if I could.
So, my initial assessment was I had no physical gaps I needed to specifically prepare for. It wasn’t like I was a distance runner who all of a sudden needed to figure out how to carry a barbell overhead or a powerlifter who gets winded walking into the gym. I did need to shoot a lot more. I hadn’t shot rifle or pistol regularly in many years. I also hadn’t been shooting as part of physical training (I had done this as part of training in the military but not for a decade). I needed new weapons, new optics, a plate carrier, and the associated minor gear (slings, holsters, handstops, triggers, muzzle devices, selector switches, charging handles, mag pouches, etc.).
Physical Training Plan
As I said, I was already doing a training program that was almost made for TTG. My goal is to maintain general military physical preparedness, which means I want to be able to really do any functional task you could find on a battlefield, which pretty much translates to real life. I have to acknowledge that while I am an active duty US Army officer, the chances of me having to apply any of this in an actual combat scenario ever again is pretty much zero (I did see colonels on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, but even then, they weren’t doing three-day patrols in the mountains or clearing houses for a whole day in 115 degrees). I maintain this kind of condition to be healthy, to be able to be capable (see what I did there?) for a real-world emergency. I also do it because I want to lead from the front and set the example for my Soldiers who will fight the next war. I also do it because I enjoy it. I actually enjoy rucking, lifting heavy barbells, burpees, and kettlebell swings. I look forward to dragging sleds and swinging kettlebells. I had a lot of fun doing 1000 box step-ups with a 45lb pack on Veteran’s Day, which took about 90 minutes. Long story long, I ended up just keeping my template but immediately added in wearing a plate carrier and gun belt almost all the time thereafter. I wanted to be comfortable doing all those things I normally do wearing the gear I would compete in.
The general outline was something like this:
Session A: Upper body strength
Session B: Stamina
Session C: Lower body strength
Session D: Cardiovascular endurance
Session E: Sled drags and carries (mixture of strength, stamina, and cardio)
- Strength workouts were fairly standard. One or two major movements and accessory work in the 3-8 rep range for 3-5 sets.
- Stamina workouts have a lot of variability, but the general outline is to pick a few movements and do them over and over for 20-40 minutes. Could be something like 10 kettlebell swings, 10 burpees over and over for 20 minutes. Alternate would be an EMOM (every minute on the minute) such as 5 burpees on the minute for 10 minutes, then 10 air squats on the minute for 10 minutes, then 5 kettlebell cleans on the minute for another 10 minutes.
- Cardio endurance workouts are either steady state or intervals. Something to the effect of 30 seconds of rowing, then 30 seconds of rest, repeated for 20 minutes. Alternate steady state workout would be a simple five-mile run.
- Sled drags and carries was usually dragging sleds with progressively heavier weight around 50 yards. After each 50-yd drag, carry a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell 50 yards. Repeat for 30-60 minutes.
- I wore a plate carrier which weighs 15 pounds (that is the TTG standard weight for men) and gun belt for most of these sessions for the three months prior to the competition and then wore them every time for the last 30 days.
Tactical Training Plan
After getting the guns and gear straight over the course of a few months, my initial plan was simply to start with the fundamentals. Under no physical stress, can I hit what I am aiming at with a pistol and rifle (AR-15) from 10 to 300 yards in various shooting positions. I learned the fundamentals of marksmanship as an adult in the Army, so I didn’t have any bad habits from shooting as a kid. So it didn’t take me long so be very comfortable shooting. When you get good equipment and good optics, it honestly isn’t that hard if you are a disciplined shooter.
When I had my guns zeroed and I was easily hitting targets, I integrated physical challenges into the shooting. Jog down a hill, sprint up the hill, then shoot 5 pistol rounds at 15 yards and 5 rifle rounds at 100 yards. Repeat varying the shot distances. Or drag a sled 100 yards, do 10 burpees, 10 pistol shots at 25 yards then 5 rifle at 100 yards and 5 rifle at 200 yards. Repeat 3 times in a row. I was trying to replicate the kinds of events I was seeing them do at the competitions on YouTube. There was a lot of some short-term unpleasant thing, 5-10 pistol, 5-10 rifle, repeat. Occasionally there would be a long run after having completed a series of shots at varying distances. It was a lot of reasonable shooting tasks done while tired. So I replicated this as many creative ways as I could whenever I hit the range. I tried to shoot at least once per week for an extended period of time. At the end of the training period, I was on leave so I could go more often. I started training in the winter and by the competition it was summer so I was acclimatizing to doing all this in the heat. The last few weeks before the competition, I was spending an hour at the range, doing physical tasks and shooting in the middle of the afternoon in the dead hottest part of the day. I wanted to be able to perform in the most unpleasant of scenarios. Again, having this range let me do what I needed to do. As you can imagine, no one else is out there at noon on a Tuesday in June.
Additionally, whenever I was doing physical training at home, I was dry firing in between sets and rounds. So take any of the workouts above and add in pistol and rifle dry firing while tired. I also was dry firing even when not doing any physical training. Dry firing is a very effective, simple, and easy thing to do to improve your weapons proficiency. If you couple it with unholstering, reholstering, slinging, unslinging, etc. you become very comfortable handling your firearms. Tens of thousands of fake rounds got fired at targets on my garage gym wall.
After Action Review
Both the physical and tactical training plan were a sustain. Wouldn’t change anything really with the physical training. I never felt like I was hitting a wall even at the end of the second day. I wasn’t hurting the days after either. I did a great job pushing myself physically in training. I was in good enough shape to place highly in my division, but I finished in the top 10 of around 30 competitors. I really got outshot a lot by everyone who beat me, which can drastically affect your placing. The scoring system is pretty simple. You get a total time to complete an event, typically there is cap in which you have to finish all the events and shoot all your shots. Depending on the event, time is added for each missed shot. So you could do a 10-minute time-capped workout, finish the whole thing and shoot all your rounds in 8 minutes. Say it was 5 rounds and each round had 5 pistol and 8 rifle shots for a total of 5 x 13 = 65 shots. Each miss adds 10 seconds to your time. So if you crushed everyone physically, getting 8 minutes with everyone else barely getting 10, but you only hit half your targets (33/65), you got 320 seconds (32 shots missed x 10 secs each = 5 mins, 20 secs) added to your time giving you an overall score of 13:20. Your buddy who finished right at 10 minutes but hit 50 out of 65 adds 2 mins, 30 secs to his time for a total of 12:30. He wins. They do it this way so you can’t just show up, be a physical beast, and win. I am just not as good of a shot under competition pressure as I needed to be to place highly. So I would subject myself to more/worse shooting iterations for a future event and/or take more time on my shots in the competition and sacrifice time. A lot of people in these competitions are experienced TTG competitors and/or are law enforcement or military, so they shoot regularly. They are also in good shape too, so you have to be good at shooting and be fit to do well, not one or the other.
The gear I got was perfect. Nothing else would have made a real difference. I would not buy a single new thing if I did another competition. From clothing, shoes, gloves, eye pro all the way to plate carriers, pistols, and rifles, I was happy with how everything worked. Me shooting more accurately was by far the most limiting factor.
If this appeals to you at all, I would recommend you give it a try. It is a really fun atmosphere. Very few people are there to actually win so they are legitimately rooting for everyone to do well, share strategies, give recommendations, etc. The majority are essentially paying someone to set up two really fun range days. It is a lot like running a marathon – only a small percentage are trying to place highly. They are just looking to complete a challenge.
Competing will come with a serious price tag, even for those with weapons already. You can find used gear a lot of places, but even if you do, it has the potential to cost a pretty penny. Keep in mind that everything you would use in a TTG competition has real-life utility so it’s more like you are just pushing your personal kit to the limit than buying items only for this sport. However, if you already had a pistol and rifle, do you have all the right optics? I competed with a Vortex LPVO (1-6) in one event and then with an EOTECH EXPS-2 with 3x multiplier the second time. You are pushing $850-1000 right there minimum just for the optic (the highest end are using Vortex Razors that run $2-3k). Even if you have a basic rifle, do you want to show up with a budget Palmetto State AR you got five years ago for $400? If you don’t have an AR or want to get a new one that is a lifetime purchase such as something from Bravo Company, SOLGW, Triarc, or Geissele, be ready to spend $2k (Knights, LMT, Radian gear is even more). You can get a good gun from Aero or Ballistic Advantage though for less. Then you need a good tactical sling, two-stage Geissele trigger, B5 SOPMOD stock, Radian Raptor charging handle & Radian Talon 45-degree ambi safety selector which will add another $500 to your AR-15. Plate carrier, pouches, and plates is at least $500, more like $750. Pistol belt, pistol and rifle mag pouches, and dump pouch is $350-500. Do you really want to compete with that Glock 19 Gen 3 from 2008? So you need a new Glock 17 or 19 (minimum). Add a red dot, extra magazines, and holster for a total of $1000. Want to get serious and get a Staccato 2011 pistol like the top competitors? Start at $2000, then get a light (have to do it), and Safariland holster to bring that to $3k ($5k if you get the top of the line model). Oh, by the way, you haven’t even bought any ammo or range time! 5.56/.223 runs around 50 cents per round in bulk. 9mm goes for about 33 cents per round right now. So get on the range 10 total times, shoot a hundred rifle and pistol each time. That will cost you $830 in ammo to train without any range time fees or target purchases, so let’s just round that up to an even $1000, which is definitely low. Good shoes, clothes, eye protection, gloves, etc., another $300. Also it costs $350 to enter the competition. And you need to bring another few hundred rounds to use in the competition ($250). I am not going to total it up for you, but you can see it’s not cheap. You get to keep all this and it makes you CAPABLE AS HELL in an emergency situation, so all this training is toward a real, useful endstate. Plus it’s fun and gets you outdoors doing interesting physical things. If you want more specifics about any of my gear, contact me and we can discuss. I didn’t want to get into the eaches of the magazine pouches or which trigger I used here, but I know some of you really may want to know.
There are a lot of little details to know about where to sleep at a competition (overnight and during), what quality of life gear to bring, how much water, what kind of food, etc. that you have to figure out the first time but are very clear afterwards. You have to ask around to get this info. They don’t do a great job of explaining many minor things on their website. Few tutorials about gear requirements and rules, but mostly you have to ask in message boards or find someone who has been to one to talk to.
Given the gear load, you almost have to drive (some do fly, however). Plus, having a vehicle to hang out around in between is events is a must. It’s a lot of effort and expense to add a 300-mile or more drive on both ends, especially when competitions end late on Sunday night. So if you have a far drive, coming in on Friday night isn’t bad. Leaving Sunday at 6 PM is a whole different experience. You will need to take Friday and Monday off for travel unless it’s close to your home.
Hope you found this post interesting, potentially inspiring enough to compete one day. Post thoughts/questions in the comments below.