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.

Check Out These Targets

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!


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.

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