Reactive Target Training

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 12.56.20 AMWhen I first started taking my son shooting at the range, it didn’t take long for him to get seriously bored with putting holes in paper targets.  I have found this to be true with many shooters once they get past the initial thrill of firing a gun.  There is certainly a benefit to shooting at a simple flat target, but it can also have some disadvantages. Boredom is one of them.

Boredom is certainly a major concern because it will eventually lead to a deterioration of skills because the shooter won’t be as inclined to practice once the thrill is gone.  But another issue with paper targets is that they aren’t as affective at teaching proper marksmanship as reactive targets are.  So it becomes a double whammy because the shooter practices less, and gets less out of the practice they do engage in.

It isn’t a surprise to anybody when I tell you that you will do a better job, be it shooting at the range or preparing reports for your boss at work, if you receive praise for a job well done.  It also shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that the negative feedback you receive for poor performance can also serve you in a positive way depending on how you react to it.  This is amplified when we are talking about a physical skill.

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Let’s take shooting a basketball as an example.  When you take your shot, you find out in relatively short order whether or not you have practiced good form resulting in a made shot.  You see the ball either go in, or miss, and you make adjustments from there for your next shot.  You don’t need somebody to praise you for using good form because making the shot provides instant feedback, as does missing it.

When we are shooting at the range, there are times, depending on how far the shot is, that we cannot tell whether or not we made the shot or not. And if you miss, you generally cannot see precisely where.  In our basketball example, you know if you miss high, or low, or left, or right.  Target shooting doesn’t always provide this type of precise feedback unless you are utilizing a spotter.

With a reactive target, you know either by sight, or sound, or both, immediately if you hit your mark. And it is scientifically proven that the more instant the feedback, the better from a standpoint of learning the skill.  When shooting, the feedback is usually received in less than a second.  And this positive feedback makes you feel good mentally which helps to ingrain the proper technique.  It also motivates the shooter to correct and then stay away from bad habits that result in misses.

So reactive targets will make you a better shooter, and, they will serve to increase the enjoyment of going to the range which will inspire you to go more often which will result in you becoming an even better shooter.  It’s a win win.

In my opinion, the best reactive target are steel. You see your hits and you hear them instantly.  Depending on where you shoot though, steel targets might not be available to you. So an alternative must be found if we are to receive the benefits found in reactive targets.

One very popular type of reactive target are the color changing targets.  Essentially what happens is that when the bullet passes through it, the area around the hole will change color to distinguish it from the rest of the target.  Let’s say the background of the target is black, when the bullet goes through it, the color will change to orange, or green or maybe yellow.  You will be able to see, even at some distance whether you have hit it or not.  You will not get an audable sound, but you will get instant visual verification.Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 1.02.52 AM

If you want something that is a step up from the color changing paper target, you can opt for a self-sealing plastic target.  These targets come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, even ones that resemble and work just like steel targets, but without the distinctive sound you get from steel.  Still, these self-sealing targets are a fun way to practice shooting and most outdoor ranges will allow their use.

So do some research on what is out there in the way of reactive targets and go with the one that best works for you and your situation.  I guarantee you will have more fun at the range and you skills will improve at the same time.

Don’t just survive, thrive!

Dennis

Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

Shooting on the Move

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 1.34.00 PMI have been talking recently about improving your shooting skills by utilizing targets that are more realistic and targets that are reactive.  I next want to address another important skill to master in order to come out on top after a gunfight; that being shooting on the move.

If you are faced with a bad guy with a weapon, any type of weapon, one of the worst things you can do is to remain standing in the same spot for the duration of the encounter.  You must be moving as much as possible to make yourself a harder target to hit and to be seeking cover and or concealment.  In fact, during a shootout, nobody is likely to be standing still for long.

If you are going to be moving, it might be a good idea to practice doing so while shooting.  Better put, you are going to have to practice shooting, while moving.  And if you have trouble hitting the target while stationary, hitting the target while moving is gonna be difficult at best, but it’s a skill that is vital to learn and one that can be mastered with some practice.

The most difficult part about moving and shooting is trying to keep the sights aligned to the target.  Even if you are moving in a straight line towards or away from the target, you will find your sights will be bouncing up and down in relation to the target because you will be bouncing up and down.  There is practically nothing that can be done to stop some movement, either up and down or side to side, but you can reduce it and or compensate for it.

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The first thing to understand is that you cannot take on a rigid profile.  Many people who are stationary target shooting try and make themselves as rigid as possible to minimize movement of the sights before the shot and to brace for recoil after the shot.  Being rigid while moving and shooting is the wrong approach.  As you move, your legs need to be acting as shock absorbers.  The knees have to remain bent and the legs flexible as you move. Next, you need to learn to walk heel to toe moving forward, toe to heel moving back and never cross one foot in front of the other as you move side to side.  This will help reduce the up and down movement of your upper body and keep you from tripping yourself.

Your upper body, in particular your arms also need to be more flexible while moving and shooting than they are if you are standing still.  You cannot reduce all of the sights movements with your lower body alone, your upper body, in particular your arms also have to take on some of the burden.  Image that the gun is floating in front of you on a cushion of air as you move.  Your elbows should be slightly bent and your shoulders acting as shock absorbers similar to your legs.

Trigger control is absolutely critical while moving and shooting. As you see the target appear in your sights, there will be a tendency to mash the trigger.  This will inevitably result in shots low on or missing  the target altogether.  It is important to practice good trigger control all the time, but while stationary, you can be slightly off with the trigger, while moving you cannot.  You should work on developing a rhythm in which you pull the trigger at the same point in your movements.  Generally a good rule of thumb is to pull the trigger while the heel of one foot is on the ground and the toe of the other is down.  This is usually the most stable portion of your movement.

Keep in mind that even the best shooters accuracy will suffer somewhat when shooting on the move.  Your grouping will not be as tight, and you should not expect it to be. But with practice, you will develop enough skill to put rounds on target consistently while moving.  The important thing to remember is you have to practice to get there.

Lastly, the best thing you can do in a gun fight is do your best to be stationary when you return fire.  As best you can you should try to move in between shots, either to cover or concealment and limit your shooting until after you get there. But as best laid plans of mice and men goes, that aint always gonna happen.

Don’t just survive, thrive!

Dennis

Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

 

What’s the Real Threat?

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 3.08.38 AMWhen shooting, as it is when you throw a ball, it is critical to look where you want the shot to go.  This is especially true when point shooting, a procedure whereby the shooter doesn’t aim utilizing the guns sights, but rather by pushing the gun out towards the target and aiming by looking the gun into the target.  We will discuss point shooting in an upcoming article, for now, I want to focus on what it is you should be focusing on when engaging a target.

The target should be the bad guy, and not the tool he is employing as a weapon.  Remember the old adage, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?”  Well, this is more than just some outdated expression, it’s a fact.  The threat you should be concerned about, and the one you should focus on and engage is the person behind the weapon, be it a knife, bat or gun.  Eliminate the person and the weapon becomes useless.

Why distinguishing between the human threat and the target is important is because as stated above, you have to look at your target in order to hit it.

I can remember the first time I participated in a gunfight with another human utilizing simunition rounds.  In the scenario, we stood about 10 feet apart with our guns holstered.  At the command to fight, both of us drew and fired our guns until the magazines were empty.  The objective was to stay in the fight and on target despite the fact that you were taking rounds from the other person.  Yeah, they were essentially paintball rounds, but at 10 feet, they hurt like hell.  (I cannot recommend this type of reality based training more strongly)

During this training, I was surprised at how often I was hit either in the hand or the gun itself was struck by the sim-rounds.  I was also surprised by how often I did the same to the other guy, especially since I was point shooting and not using my sights.  The reason, because there is a strong tendency to look at the gun in the other guys hands.  And when you do, you tend to shoot it because your gun follows your eyes.

It can certainly end a gun fight should you shot the weapon out of the bad guys hand, or you disable the hand, but it is by far the least practical option. Let’s say the guy has a knife in his hand and it is held out to the side.  If you look at the weapon and not the bad guy, you will more times than not miss.  Same holds true with a bat or pipe that is generally held out to the side.  Missing your first or second shot will most likely give the bad guy time to close the distance and get to you before you can get off more shots.

Looking at the weapon can also increase your level of stress making it even harder to get off properly aimed shots allowing you to eliminate the threat before the threat eliminates you.  It is far more effective and efficient to focus on the threat, and not the weapon.

During your training, utilize targets that depict images of bad guys holding weapons and practice looking past or through the weapon at the bad guy himself.  Practice focusing on the real threat, the human being and not the perceived threat, in this case the weapon.  Train like you fight and fight like you train.

Don’t just survive, thrive!

Dennis

It is also worth noting that in a conflict where you are unarmed and the bad guy has a knife or a blunt object, it is just as important to focus on the human being and not the weapon.  Don’t try to disarm the bad guy, rather, take out the bad guy which will render the weapon useless.  That’s a topic for another discussion though.

Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

Pick Your Targets Wisely

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.32.01 AMChoosing the correct target is extremely important both on and off the range.  It goes without saying why doing so is important during an armed encounter, but it might be a little more confusing when we are referring to practice.

Law enforcement and military personnel train using targets with images of real people on them, a practice that started sometime over the past 25 years.  Some of the images are of good guys holding groceries or a cell phone, and others depict bad guys holding weapons like knives and guns.  The purpose of these realistic targets is to not only improve a shooter’s accuracy, but also to improve their ability to distinguish between innocent civilians and bad guys determined to engage in violent acts.  It also serves to desensitize the officer or soldier to the horrors of shooting an actual person. It is a serious shock to the system when all you have ever done is shot at qualification type targets and then you are confronted with the need to shot a real life human being.  These realistic targets help by addressing that problem.  (If you want to learn more about desensitizing in this context, and why it is important during combat, check out Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book, “On Killing.”)

Incidentally, simulators that use video with real life scenarios being played out on an interactive screen take it multiple steps further.  If you ever get a chance to train on a device like this, I highly recommend it.  But for purpose of our discussion here, let’s stick to paper targets.

Hopefully you can see the value in shooting more realistic type targets.  Not only do they get your mind accustomed to looking at another human being as you shoot, it also can aid in identifying good guys and bad guys and helping you with your shoot, no shoot decision making, and train your brain to aim for center mass, in the case of a human being, that being the upper torso area.

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Now, let’s take it one step further and make the targets even more realistic. One thing that even targets depicting people don’t have is texture and differing shapes.  A human beings body isn’t flat or smooth and they generally won’t be standing perfectly square to you if you should have to shoot them.  They might be running which means they are slightly bent forward.  Perhaps they are seated, standing bladed to you or are partially behind cover.  In any of those instances, the area of center mass you need to shoot at will not be squared off in relation to you and the target area will be smaller.  Believe me, if you start shooting at a bad guy, he is most likely not going to remain standing in front of you.  He will be moving to cover, just like you should be.Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.35.12 AM

It is certainly hard to simulate a moving target, especially one that shoots back using paper targets, and that’s why simunition training is so good.  But, you can manipulate a paper target in a manner that changes its shape and obscures part of it.

Most gun ranges and gun stores sell realistic targets depicting people. There are also plenty of places online that also sell these types of targets, even ones with everybody’s favorite bad guy, the zombie.  (Shooting should be fun, so don’t laugh too hard at the zombie targets)  Go purchase a variety “people” targets and then get yourself a piece of cardboard approximately the same size.  The cardboard will be used as a backing to apply your paper target to.  Now, staple or tape the target to the cardboard allowing the center to protrude outward just like a human being would if looked him from the side.  About 6 or 8 inches is sufficient.  Now, hang the target by the cardboard backing and begin training.  If you can, and I know if you go to an indoor range you are limited, but if you have the ability to do so, change the angle of the target so it’s bladed,  or lower it to depict the bad guy being seated or standing lower than you like on a hill or stairs.  You can get yourself a second piece of cardboard and set up a scenario where the bad guy is partially behind cover.  Get multiple targets and set up a multiple bad guy scenario and don’t forget to add in some good guys as well.  Remember, not shooting the good guys is more important than shooing the bad guys.  You should be practicing both.

Hopefully I have given you some ideas to use when making targets that are more realistic.  Get creative.  If your range allows it, you can even purchase life sized targets that you can dress up and which self-seal when shot.  These targets are a great option, but will set you back a few dollars more than a simple dollar paper target.  Whatever you decide, remember that the more realistic you can make your training, the better prepared you will be should the life changing event such as an armed encounter ever occur.  Let’s try to make it a significant life changing event for the bad guy, and not so much for you.

Don’t just survive, thrive!

Dennis

Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.