Download the Marksmanship Kit (Development Tests and Custom Target) to print out for your own use.

There are many ways to improve one’s marksmanship skills, however some efforts also carry the “excess baggage” of inadvertently creating poor tactical habits and detrimental gun handling skills.

We see merit in a more demanding level of accuracy than some may deem sufficient for the average lethal encounter. We make the conscious decision to work on that higher standard of accuracy while fully recognizing that the normal standard of keeping most of your hits within about 4” of the center line is probably adequate for most situations…we want to prepare for the difficult situation not the “average”.

One of the really dangerous habits created inadvertently is to stand still in one place within a short distance of a lethal threat for a period of more than 2 to 3 seconds; a time frame we can reasonably expect the threat to actually inflict a lethal or very dangerous wound if the encounter is at close range, say 21 feet. With that in mind we attempt to set up a good practice program with the incentive to actually move, at least off the line of attack soon after the attack.

Marksmanship is the balance of Accuracy, Power and Speed (Diligentia – Vis – Celeritas in Latin). Today many folks seem to have just accepted that all calibers or at least all normal service handgun calibers are equal. I can assure you that they are not. That is unless you shoot poorly. If one counts all the hits in the torso or to the “center mass” (represented by the Q-zone on an FBI target) and most of the hits are outside the extremely important organs then all handgun calibers are indeed about equally ineffective… and most fights stop when the subject quits the attack even though he is physically capable of continuing. We strive to set the standard a bit higher and include accuracy that results in a good hit representing an area the size of the heart and the aorta above the heart or the ocular window. With hits in this area the more damage you do the organs the more rapidly the fight stops due to physical reasons (there is such a thing as psychological collapse but no one knows how to predict or measure it). Even so, we leave the shooter with the option of including his handguns relative power or just rating everything the same.

Reloading on the clock can often lead to an unsafe sequence since the timer usually updates on the shot. The important aspect of reloading is how long the weapon is down (unavailable for a shot) and if you do a lot of reloading on the clock you develop the habit of punching the magazine release as you reach for a spare magazine… often times raising the muzzle which takes the weapon out of the fight. The important aspect in a lethal encounter is the ability to keep the weapon at the scan – fully extended for as much of the reload as possible and to keep up your physical scan so as to respond with one hand the instant a close range threat appears (even if you have not yet completed the reload). If you can execute a speed reload in less than one second from concealment then this may be a moot point (unless you have managed to lose your spare magazine sometime during the scuffle). However if it normally takes you two seconds to do a speed reload shot to shot then it would be advisable to learn to acquire a spare magazine and orient it to the gun before pressing the magazine release.

Stoppages are a concern with any type of firearm. Stoppages are caught on video with depressing regularity in actual lethal encounters. That is because the grip and positions that are acquired in real life encounters are often less than the ideal we strive for on the range or in competition. It is also clear that at extremely short range, where most encounters occur, the remedial action – be it a “tap-rack-bang” or an emergency reload (running dry is obviously a stoppage) will take longer than it takes the typical bad guy to score a lethal blow. The point being, it is not how fast you can clear the stoppage (no one is fast enough) but rather how fast you can move away from the threat and clear the stoppage – the movement being far more important than the clearance.

AuthorJames Higginbotham