Moving Targets

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

Target shooting is about the only shooting practice that most of us ever get. While useful and enjoyable, we need to realize that target shooting, as we know it, has very little to do with the shooting we’d end up having to do in an active shooter situation. Not only do I never expect that any of us will be attacked by a round black spot, I doubt that the spot will hold still to let us kill it.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of intelligence on the part of the bad guys, to realize that they need to keep moving, if they want to stay alive. They’ve all seen action movies and have absorbed the lesson of what happens to people who stand there, out in the open, just waiting to get shot. While they might not have thought it through, analyzing the situation, they’ll have learned the lesson nonetheless.

What that means is that in any active shooter situation, we can count on the bad guy or guys moving around. They probably won’t be moving in a way that is calculated to make it harder to hit them; but they’ll be moving. That alone will make it harder to hit them.

The basic problem is one that has frustrated militaries throughout history. It’s harder to hit any moving target, from a slow-moving tortoise to a fighter jet, because the target isn’t going to be where it was when you released the shot, by the time the shot gets there. Unless the target is moving towards you, that movement may very well be enough to turn a perfect shot, into a clean miss.

Trap shooters and bird hunters are familiar with this problem, as they are constantly shooting at moving targets. You can’t wait for a clay bird or a real one to stop moving to take your shot. It always has to be while the bird is on the move and it is often moving across your line of sight, which is worse than having it move towards you or away from you. The relative angle changes much more rapidly, when the target is moving crosswise.

With bird hunting and trap shooting, there are two solutions, which are used simultaneously. The first is to use a shotgun, which fires multiple pellets. Those pellets scatter somewhat, over distance, increasing the chance of a hit. Aiming doesn’t have to be quite as accurate, as the shot are covering an area, whereas a bullet is nothing more than one single point.

But it’s the second solution they use, which is of greater use to us in self-defense; that’s leading the target. If someone is attacking you, they should be coming straight at you, minimizing the need to lead the target. But what if they’re attacking someone else, who you need to protect? In that case, you need to lead the target, so that you’re shooting where the target will be when the bullet arrives, not where the target is right now. This can be tricky; but in the type of situations we’ll find ourselves in, they really won’t be moving all that far, unless they’re running.

So, how do we make sure we hit them, rather than that clean miss?

The key is to slow down. Get your sight picture and then pause, giving your brain a chance to roughly calculate their trajectory (the direction they’re moving) and how fast they are moving. Follow them with your sights, as your brain is processing this. That will provide a constant stream of useful data. Then, when you think you’ve got it, you can move your sight picture to lead the target, before pulling the trigger.

There’s one other thing that complicates this whole issue; that’s other people. Somehow you’ve got to keep track of where anyone else is and whether or not they’re moving, while keeping track of your targets. The bad guy could move across an innocent bystander or the innocent bystander can run past the bad guy, in an attempt to get away. That same pause which will allow your brain to calculate their trajectory will also allow you to do a scan for innocent bystanders.

Is this easy? No. It’s something that requires considerable practice. However, there really aren’t chances to practice it. You can’t put real people downrange while practicing; nor can you take a gun out in public to play act an active shooter situation.

Here’s what I do. I go out in public and mentally go through the act of aiming at someone and then doing the calculation. While I have done this just pointing at someone, either with my finger or a stick, I usually just do it mentally. Since the big problem is tracking someone and gauging their movements, while still keeping track of the people in the background, I don’t actually need something to act as the gun’s sights. It still works as training, even without a gun in my hand.

Of course, in a real shooting situation, I have to be moving as well, making things even more complicated. But it’s probably better to work on one part of the issues at a time, then put them together.

Planning, preparing and practice, they all go together; just like keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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