Targets are Important!
Survive means “to remain in existence”… it is what one does if they have no say in what is occurring, much like the passengers on the Titanic. When engaged in armed conflict, the goal is to win… to be victorious…nothing else is acceptable. To survive means you are hoping luck is on your side and while I have heard it said it is better to be lucky than good, I prefer to make my own luck by being as skilled as possible. You see, the harder I’ve worked, the luckier I’ve become!
Training is just a step in the process of skill. First, one must understand they are at risk and decide on a course of action to thwart danger. In the case of criminal attack, this course of action will involve training in combative skills (“verbal judo”, open hand, impact weapons, chemical sprays, firearms etc.) as just buying a gun is not enough, though many believe it is. Yes, the first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun, but the person skilled with the gun is MUCH more likely to prevail. We have known since the days of the Spartans that the single biggest factor in overcoming fear in conflict is confidence in personal skill(s)!
While the handgun is not the best weapon for security, it is the one you will likely have on/with you when you need a gun! Thus, the focus of my training company is “the combative application of the pistol” meaning I want to make students ready and willing to fight with the handgun. I really don’t care if I help them with their next match, what I want is prepare them for the most serious few seconds of their life. The person who says the stress of competition is the same as combat has never been shot at. I have competed and I have had someone try to take my life, trust me the two are nothing alike. Competition is fine and should be pursued, but there is no expectation of injury or death…no one is shooting back at you.
The primary goal of training is to hit your opponent well enough to stop their immediate action…death is irrelevant! The problem with handguns, of any caliber, is they are underpowered weapons and require hits to vital areas of the body to get true incapacitation. You have to hit an important part of the body…period! I have seen many different caliber bullets removed from bodies at autopsy and I no longer concern myself with the 9mm vs. .45 arguments. I have seen with my own eyes that current generation hollow point ammo works well and bridges the gap between calibers. Pick an HST, DPX or Gold Dot and use the caliber you can control well in rapid fire and hit what you are shooting at multiple times…that is where stopping power comes from in a fight…
Targets are important in this training process though many do not understand this. Some instructors are more concerned with using a target they designed than having one that trains their students to hit vital areas. It is well recognized through the research of SLA Marshal and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman that a combative target must look like a human being. People must look across their sights and see a person if you want them to shoot humans. Bulls-eye targets are fine for marksmanship, but if you want to prepare students to take a life they must train on “people”. A combination of paper, 3D, steel and covered targets works best. It’s certainly acceptable to shoot shapes and objects while working essential shooting skills, but to prepare for conflict the student must shoot human-like targets to be truly prepared.
I have designed a number of targets over the years that emphasized shot placement to vital areas and they have been successful, based on the reports I have received from my students (after doing this for almost 30 years with the majority of students being cops, I have a sizeable number of former students who have won in gunfights!) who have prevailed in gunfights. I have never lost one and all stopped their assailants with accurate outgoing fire. When possible, I combine paper targets with steel plates to stop the student from trying to “score” their targets between shots, an act that takes their eyes off the sights, moves their head and shifts the eyes to the target. Unfortunately, I have had to limit my use of steel targets due to wimpy students who have been hit by bullet splatter and have threatened to sue. “Pussies with guns” I call them since they cry about every little discomfort including being sweaty while training.
While I understand shooters will want to focus on what is attacking them, especially at close range, I believe sighted fire is the best way to stop a threat quickly and if I can keep the shooter on the sights until the target falls in front of them then I have given them a precious skill. Falling 3D targets and knock over steel plates are invaluable for this and I try to incorporate them as much as possible. The final “target” in the process is interaction with moving humans that show impact via Simunitions, paintball or Airsoft and people who are struck do react somewhat even if it is not the same way as they would if incapacitated. When training to save your own life, choose your targets wisely…they may mean the difference between success and failure…and in combat failure is not an option!