Keads over at Another Day is a certified firearms instructor and just finished up a concealed carry class of 11. This post is for the students, some of whom have become readers here. Congratulations on taking that important step ladies and gentlemen!
Remember that old saying if you're moving too slow, you're just a target.
I remember the very first time I pulled a trigger, 12 years old, under my LEO Mom's supervision, and after years of watching gun safety. I remember the target, a soda pop can. I remember the hesitant deliberation of the hand, the tightening of the muscles in my stance, knees slightly bent, leaning in, that seemed to convey twice the weight of what my childlike body held. And I squeezed and hit the top rim of the can, knocking it off its perch. It took ten minutes for the smile to leave my face.
We practiced with those soda cans in an old quarry, or out in the woods, using the center of the can as a little target area. The .410 bore was pretty light, but it would take small game out to 35 yards consistently. Difficult to use in wing shooting, but a fine starter gun, for garden pests or rogue soda cans. Like any first love, we couldn't get enough, and would work hard during the week, doing our chores and school work to earn another trip to a rustic range. Responsibility had to be earned. Trust had a price. In time we graduated to bigger guns, and more elaborate targets, but that smile of accomplishment remains unchanged, even if there were years where I didn't get to shoot at all.
Targets can be as elaborate or as simple as the weapon you own. Some of the more common types are:
Silhouettes. Experienced hunters, law enforcement and tactical course shooters are familiar with silhouettes, targets that provide a realistic representation of what the shooter is likely to see in a self defense situation. Though I did have a squirrel threaten me in a tree blind once, I'm not expecting to be mugged by either a gopher or a red bullseye target.
These targets range in size and color, and some resemble real "bad guys", though this popular police qualification target reminds me of Matlock in his younger days.
I understand there are ranges that do not allow such targets, as shooting at something resembling a human is not politically correct. I'd take my business elsewhere if my range was that way. I prefer to shoot at a more realistic target once in a while, at least until the first woman is raped and strangled by a 8 x 10" ground hog. Hunters will use targets resembling the game that they will hunt. These targets will often have small bulls eyes on the prime areas for aiming to achieve a humane kill in a real life setting, better for hunter and hunted alike.
When target shooting to improve your skills a bulls eye target is great. The bulls-eye ring(s) should be easy to see from a distance. Color doesn't matter, red green, black, orange, it just needs to stand out from the rest of the target.
In this target, shot at 40 feet, one can look at shot placement to see what worked and what didn't. A bullseye chart can't be beat for diagnosing Common Shooting Errors. In this case, the first shot was in the center. The next few were just barely to the right of that. But what about the higher shot? Shooting to the 9:30 to 12 o'clock position of the bullseye is usually recoil anticipation, in this case likely releasing the trigger too soon causing the front sight to rise to the left. The lower one? Also anticipating the recoil, and perhaps forcing the weapon down before the recoil actually happened Or I just "limp wristed" it (relaxing the wrist before the BANG).metal targets - These are silhouettes ranging from circular or other shapes to animal representations. Some twirl, some just clang. Though more expensive, these can be fun. Don't want to buy your own? Try a steel plate match at your your local fish and game.
Be aware though, metal targets could deflect a bullet, so be sure that you are at a safe distance before attempting to use them. As with paper targets, the knock-down targets can be found at many online sites and traditional retailers.
There are small adhesive backed targets that can be placed on any target. They explode in a bright, fluorescent ring of color around each bullet hole. These will really show up from a distance, showing you placement on those 50-200 yard shots or even a 50 foot shot with a .22 round. I always have a few Birchwood Casey Shoot•N•C® Targets in my range bag. They aren't particularly cheap but I like them. With the current consumer in mind, they have a new "Dirty Bird" target that splatters white on impact and is a price comparable to paper, as well as working well for long distance shooting.
The Best Targets? the Free Ones!
When selecting a target, you don't have to leave the comfort of your little home office. There are many targets available for free downloading on the net. All you need is a printer and some paper. You can even make your own with simple paper, index cards, paper plates and a marker pen. I used to shoot next to a fellow that had an assortment of buck-toothed woodland creature targets all done with a large marker pen on stock paper. He was fairly gifted as an artist and some of the targets were almost too amusing to put holes in.
One day, after I had not shot in a while due to work, the range master at my former indoor range came up with this little number with pen and a piece of regular size copy paper. He ran it to distance, saying I probably couldn't hit the broad side of a barn after weeks away. Ha! Be it a hand drawn target, a paper plate with a dot, or a playing card, there's targets that are effective and cheap.zombies:
Paper targets are indispensable for reinforcing the finer points of accuracy. But for lack of paper, how about water balloons, bowling pins, bobbleheads, and anything involving Ronald McDonald. Just be careful when shooting things that shatter that you have proper eye protection and backdrop.
No matter what target you select there are basic fundamentals to ensure you hit where you want to and practice with the highest level of safety for yourself and those around you.
The proper stance affects nearly every aspect of target shooting, and there are as many stances as there are shooters. You need to find one that is comfortable for you, yet offers stability and range of motion. I thought my stance was just fine until Shooty Buddy, an NRA instructor, gave me some hints one day on bending my knees more. It made a difference in my stability.
Posture does not mean a Emily Post type of stance where one could place a book on their head and walk across the parlor. A correct posture for a shooter is one where lower and upper body are comfortable yet keep the body as a whole, and especially the hands, steady. The width of your stance can affect your target accuracy as much as to what degree you adjust your torso. More than any of the other fundamentals of shooting, personal preference is key in the posture you use. What works for one persons build, may not work for you. You are aiming for stability of platform and a steady hand.
Grip. You can't control your handgun if you can't grip it properly. When you give up control, you give up accuracy. Gun hand grip is simple: the thumb goes to one side of the grip, the other fingers to the other side and wrap around the handgun grip. Until you have identified your target and are ready to fire, the trigger finger should generally rest along or above the trigger guard. Never rest the trigger finger on the trigger. The only time a finger should be near the trigger is when you are going to fire and your target is clear. The support hand normally "cups" the gun hand from underneath.. The pressure from the supporting hand should be even and equal to that of the gun hand. Too little or too much pressure will result in poor results.
Sight Alignment and Sight Picture. The sight picture is what you will see when looking through the sights at your target, at your "ready" position, gun drawn and pointed at your selected target. Sight alignment is simply how the rear sight is “aligned” with the front sight, with the sights aligned along BOTH the vertical and horizontal axis. (the front sight, normally a single post exactly center between the rear sights with the top of it even with the top of the rear sights.)
Eye: To close or not to close. Opinions will vary on whether to close one eye during shooting. I'm cross eye dominant, meaning, though I am right handed, my left eye is dominant and I just do NOT shoot as accurately with the right eye open. However, I practice both ways, as in a defense situation, I may wish to keep my peripheral vision clear and still be able to hit center mass.
Anticipation can help or hurt. A slow steady pull with the index finger pad (the middle of the index fingertip), on the trigger is your goal. Trying to anticipate the moment when the gun will go "bang" will result in shots that are off center or miss the target completely. For, in anticipating your shot, whether you know it or not, you can fling or jerk and it's goodbye bullseye. What helped me was "dry firing", practicing trigger pulls on a well lubed, broken in, unloaded weapon, exercising the same care with it as if it was loaded. It can't be said enough, treat ANY gun as if it were loaded, in however you handle it.
Breathing. I missed my first 10 point bow kill because of bad breathing. Huffing and puffing like the little engine that could, I ended up shooting Mr. Buck in the behind. It was a glancing blow, and I tracked the tiny bit of blood spor and signs in the brush for an hour, trying to ensure he was down as humanely as possible after my blundered effort. The blood was minimal to say the least, and I didn't find him despite tracking til dark. The next day I saw him, he of the non typical rack, prancing around like nothing had happened. Though he looked up at my direction with disdain before scampering off after a doe. Uncontrolled breathing was a mistake I would try not make again. As with the other fundamentals, proper breathing is integral to accurate target shooting. Control is everything. If you breathe in and out during the trigger pull you'll have a shot that's likely off its mark. What works for me it to take a breath between trigger pulls. Breathe out. Trigger Pull . Breathe in. Some people do it breathing in, holding and breathing out. Whatever works for you, but control your breath during the trigger squeeze. Look at the target. Fire. Utter "son of a*(#&" under your breath, and try it again.
If you are a beginner, study the fundamentals, get some expert instruction and shoot where it is safe and supervised. For beginner and sharpshooters alike, whatever you shoot, you'll find as many ways to enjoy the experience as there are targets.