You’ve probably seen posts on the Faxon social media showcasing guys and gals lifting heavy things and slinging some sweet Faxon guns (usually Ions, since they’re so much lighter to carry and still get the job done). Those aren’t just avid shooters with an affinity for extreme fitness – no, those are athletes competing in a shooting competition like no other… The Tactical Games.
The Tactical Games is a competition that combines fitness and combat in a truly unique way. Based on a real event held by NATO Tier 1 military units, the games are designed to test athletes through combat-related tasks, including fitness challenges and firearms. As their website details, “The Tactical Games are designed to test the skills, readiness, and mental toughness of these athletes.”
With 10 state and championship games slated for 2022, The Tactical Games truly have “No Off Season”. We chatted with Tactical Games competitor and Faxon Firearms ambassador Tom Dowdy on what the Tactical Games mean to him.
Why do you compete in the Tactical Games?
The reasons why I compete has changed over time. At first it was for personal challenge, I was literally afraid I couldn’t do some of the obstacles (ie. rope climb). Since the games are continuingly evolving the personal challenge remains, but the reason why I compete now of days is about the community and it’s a great excuse to stay healthy (I need to have a physical goal to train for).
How do you prepare for the Tactical Games?
That requires a more drawn-out answer, the Tactical Games is a competition of practical fitness and marksmanship. It’s akin to biathlon, so it’s about pushing your body physically and then focusing on your breathing, setting up a stable shooting platform and getting your hits (every miss is a penalty). When your heart rate goes over 150 beats a minute you lose your fine motor skills and shooting is a fine motor skill. The idea is to be ready for whatever they throw at you (running, carrying weight, going over obstacles and mental duress). My training regime is focused on running (a lot), practical fitness, and diet. Practical fitness is a combination of body weight stuff (pull ups, dips, getting over stuff), sandbag workouts, farmer carries and dead lift. On diet, I use a loose high protein diet and cut down on the unhealthy stuff. When I can I work out on the real implements used in the games. Having a well thought out technique for each expected implement is critical. Many of the CrossFit workouts are good stuff, but the key is avoiding the stuff that will hurt you. Knowing your body and being disciplined on recovery time is critical, especially for us older competitors.
On marksmanship, you must know your rifle, pistol and ammo intimately (in all wind and weather conditions). You must know your holds from 3 to 500 yards on rifle and 2 to 100 yards with pistol, but you also need to know your bore oversight, how to hit strange shaped targets, ambidextrous shooting and shooting in strange positions. I practice the use of sling, loading, holstering and tons of dry firing. Gear is supposed to help you, so it has to be accurate, light weight and extremely durable. Super expensive gear is a waste of money if you can’t get your hits. It’s great to put it all together and meet up for a local training day at a range, where you can run the same battles (stages are called battles). It’s a dress rehearsal and take note of everything that doesn’t work so well. Set up a plan how to correct it, if it’s gear related, physical technique, etc... When it works don’t change it.
What do the Tactical Games mean to you?
To me the Tactical Games is about community. Where else can you meet amazing people of different ages who have a “no stop” mentality? The competitors are often current or former special operations, regular military, law enforcement, fire fighters, competitive shooters, CrossFit superstars and everyday folks. Most could sit around and talk about who they are and what they did (which is often impressive) but they all know the only thing that matters is what they as an individual can do right now. Of course, there is a sense of shared suffering to work through and survive these challenges. There is a lot of joking around. It’s such a contrast to all the people out there who make excuses for everything in life and find a reason to quit. As Tim Burke (the founder of the Tactical Games) said “these are the kind of people you want to do life with”.