Defensive Shooting Means Quickly Getting Hits That are Good Enough


I was out at the range yesterday with a friend. We were shooting paper targets at 7 yards. We were using some high visibility Caldwell targets so that we could easily see our hits. We were both shooting inexpensive FMJ practice ammo and getting mediocre groups shooting free handed even from the short distances.

My friend commented that neither of us was shooting the tightest of groups. He was definitely correct. We weren’t. However, I pointed out that in terms of defensive pistol shooting, the perfect bullseye really isn’t the name of the game. He seemed intrigued by my comment.

If a person is forced to defend themselves by using deadly force in the form of their carry pistol, the odds of having the time, dexterity, and presence of mind to line up the sites for a perfect bullseye shot are slim. While the only way to stop an aggressor definitively with any single shot from any pistol caliber is a direct hit to the central nervous system. That isn’t what typically happens in the real world.

Defensive shooting involves aiming for center mass. The largest part of the body is not only the largest target, but also where the vital organs such as the heart and lungs reside. This is the best target area for defensive shooting because the largest target minimizes the risk of collateral damage from a missed shot. This is of course why silhouette targets like the B-27 score hits in this area the highest. They aren’t the mythical “one shot stop” but they are hits to an area that is the largest available target containing vital organs that can quickly (NOT instantly) incapacitate an attacker.

Going out to a range and repeatedly poking holes in a sheet of paper at a fixed distance isn’t really great practice for much of anything other than knowing how to operate your pistol’s controls (safeties, slide release, magazine release, clearing malfunctions, etc.) Few real life defensive situations occur at a fixed distance. Neither an attacker or victim is going to stand still during an exchange of gunfire. No one likes to leak so all involved parties would seek to move to cover.

So, the key to all of this is – don’t focus on trying to get a perfect bullseye on your target. Practice trying to get multiple shots that are “good enough” on target in the least amount of time you reasonably and safely can.

I know that few ranges are going to allow shooters to rapid fire, or draw from concealment, or draw from a holster, or use cover, or provide moving targets, or allow patrons to shoot and move. It’s just too risky with a large number of people. Always work within the rules of what your range permits, but if possible, either work on some dry fire practice at home (with an UNLOADED or simulator firearm) or seek out some quality advanced training courses.

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