Personal Combat: Shooting moving targets with a handgun
By Tom Givens, The Shooting Channel
When the bullets start flying, the feet start working!
During gunfights it is very common for participants to run toward cover, run toward exits, or simply run because they are being shot at.
Therefore, the ability to reliably hit a moving target is an important skill in the defensive gunner’s repertoire.
Before learning to hit moving targets with a handgun, you must first be made aware of some basic principles that will apply.
First, you need to forget much of what you may have learned in the past when wing shooting ducks and geese or clay birds with a shotgun.
To hit these aerial targets the shooter must swing ahead of the target, a process called “leading”.
That’s lead (leed), not lead (led). This is because game birds fly very quickly.
Leading the dove or target.
A dove can hit 40 miles per hour, so a fair bit of lead ahead of the bird is needed to assure that the flight path of the bird and the flight path of the shot charge intersect.
Live bird and clay bird shooting often involve distances of 20-30 yards.
Human beings cannot move nearly that fast.
At typical defensive distances, a human target cannot move fast enough to need any appreciable amount of lead.
The reason people miss moving targets with the handgun is not lead, but rather it is stopping the swing the instant the gun fires.
This invariably results in the bullet passing right behind the intended target.
This is caused by a chain of events that most people don’t really think about until it is pointed out to them.
When your brain makes the decision to fire the handgun, the shot does not take place instantaneously.
Rather, a whole series of events has to take place. This series of events can be called the “ignition train”, and it looks like this:
· The command impulse has to travel down the spinal cord from the brain to the brachial nerve, then the radial nerve and to the finger.
· The trigger finger’s muscles have to contract.
·The trigger has to move through its arc, which may be a half inch or more.
· The sear has to release the hammer or striker, which then must overcome its inertia and move forward to strike the primer.
· The primer has to detonate, lighting the powder charge, which has to burn and generate gas pressure; so that the bullet is kicked loose from the cartridge and accelerated down the barrel until it exits; and then the bullet must fly from the gun to the target.
That’s a lot of stuff going on. Although the increments of time involved may be very small (microseconds).
Once we add them all up it becomes an appreciable amount of delay between the decision to fire and the actual launch of the bullet.
So, if you stop your swing as your brain says “Fire!”, your bullet will get to the point where the target WAS, not where it is now.
Many larger police firing ranges have “runners”, mechanical moving target systems that move a silhouette target along a track or on wires to allow trainees to learn to keep the gun swinging.
You may not, however, have access to such a system. No problem.
All you have to do is learn to keep the gun moving while you track the sights and work the trigger smoothly.
This can be easily done with a static target array, as illustrated.
Set up three to four targets in line abreast of each other, fairly closely spaced (see photo), at 5-6 yards as a starting point. Fire 1 round at each target, working your way across so that all targets are engaged in one continuous string.
A static target array can be used to learn to keep your front sight moving, without stopping your swing as you transition from one target to the next. This is the key to hitting moving targets.
Your shots should not sound like “1……..2……..3……..4…….”, but instead, should simply sound like “1,2,3,4”. Another way to describe it is thus: all four shots should sound like they are being fired at one stationary target in a 4 shot string”.
Shoot from left to right, and right to left.
Once you can do this smoothly, fire 2 rounds per target. Again, the goal is to have eight consecutive shots that sound like an eight shot string on one target, not like four pairs.
“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8”, rather than “1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8”
The key here is to learn to track your front sight as the gun moves.
When the front sight rises in recoil, bring it down on the next target to be engaged, rather than bringing it back down on the last target.
Work on this a bit, and at pistol engagement distances no one will be able to move fast enough to keep from being hit by your gunfire, unless they are running so flat out that they pose no threat to you, anyway.
A static target array can be used to learn to keep your front sight moving, without stopping your swing as you transition from one target to the next.
This is the key to hitting moving targets.
Tom Givens runs www.rangemaster.com and writes for The Shooting Channel – take a moment and visit their site by clicking here.