Emphasis must be placed on the importance of learning proper and safe shooting skills from a qualified and reputable firearms trainer. The techniques you will learn are invaluable, regardless of your preferred firearm platform of training method.
[stat-ik] /ˈstæt ɪk/
1. pertaining to or characterized by a fixed or stationary condition.
2. showing little or no change: a static concept; a static relationship.
3. lacking movement, development, or vitality:
When you train solely with static or stationary targets – be it pieces of paper or standing pieces of steel you are advancing your skills at the maximum pace. Your skills can be made static. Bad habits can be learned, but because the target isn’t moving you can often compensate to mask those bad habits. When shooting stationary targets you can make adjustments (often with using other poor shooting techniques) to make sure you get your shots on target. Moving targets however can expose those habits and help you to build proper fundamental shooting skills to improve your speed and accuracy.
Moving targets, particularly the first run at them can make people uncomfortable. When shooters first try moving target systems they are amazed at the difficulty in acquiring and consistently striking on target. It can be intimidating – but that intimidation is often a subtle hint towards lack of confidence. “Functional Accuracy” is a term we use to describe someone’s ability to hit a moving target. Functional accuracy is the ability of someone to hit their target when faced with a realistic shooting scenario. For instance this could be a self-defense, hunting or competitive scenario such as IDPA or 3 Gun. There aren’t many “real life” situations which will provide a shooter a perfectly stationary target to attempt to hit, much less stay still for multiple shots. If you can face the challenge of a moving shooting target your skills will greatly improve and you will build functional accuracy so you are ready to strike in any situation. As with all reactive targets you must shoot when ready!
Here are some of the core fundamentals to handgun marksmanship and ways that moving targets can help build those shooting abilities:
There are some different philosophies on how to properly hold a handgun and we often find these differences to be shooter preference and handgun platform. There seems to be less debate on the fact that handguns require a strong, straight grip. This means you hold the gun with sufficient pressure to help minimize recoil and give you the best opportunity to get your next shot lined up. As an example: it’s common for us to see the dominant hand holding the grip of the handgun offset, meaning the barrel of the gun is not aligned with the wrist. With stationary targets you can make slight adjustments to compensate for this offset by rotating your wrist, or adjusting your shoulders. This allows you to get your shots on target, particularly by making adjustments after several shots. Compensating with these adjustments is very difficult to do consistently and often you will see big gaps in accuracy when you shoot different handgun platforms or calibers. Someone who consistently is on target with a 9mm Glock 17 may have great difficulty with a 40 caliber Smith and Wesson M&P as the mechanics and feel of the gun changes.
How Moving Targets Help Solve Grip Problems:
If your grip isn’t applying the proper pressure and isn’t aligned with the barrel it will prevent you from properly tracking and striking the target. As you rotate your shoulders and torso to track the moving target your grip wont line up with the target and your shot will be off. When the target is moving and you have the proper grip you will be able to more efficiently maintain sight picture on the target at all times. This ability will more efficiently translate between handgun platforms as you learn the fundamentals to proper grip.
Many shooters struggle with understanding exactly how to line up the sights of the firearm they are shooting. Different handguns often have different sights, or aftermarket sights are placed on the gun. This is one of the easiest problems to compensate for at the gun range on a stationary paper target. The shooter will miss their first shot a bit high or wide and then move their handgun slightly to adjust for that miss. This adjustment is not necessarily made with the sights as much as a change based on estimation of the missed shot.
How Moving Target Systems Improve Sight Alignment:
When the target is moving you don’t have the same ability to see where the last shot struck and adjust off of that stationary point. Moving targets require you to understand sight picture, and train you to see that when all of your fundamentals are correct you will have a consistent proper sight picture when you track a target. You learn to feel when the sights are aligned and you don’t have the opportunity to second guess yourself because the target is constantly moving. When the sights are lined up with a moving target you have to pull the trigger. This will also help shooters to not rely solely on sight picture when aligning the gun with the target.
When pulling a trigger the force can move the barrel pushing the shot off its mark. This is something that you can compensate quite easily for on a static target. Because the target isn’t going to move you have the ability to wait and realign your shot. You can even outright hesitate without causing a miss. Static targets also allow the shooter to stand and line up the target several times before deciding to take the shot. Certainly in real life scenarios you won’t have that same opportunity to examine your first shot and make adjustments for the following rounds. For instance, having too much finger on the trigger can pull the trigger right (for right handed shooters) and pushing the barrel and therefore the shot left. The shooter can then adjust following shots slightly right to adjust for the trigger issues.
Moving Targets and Trigger Control:
When the shot is lined up you have to quickly press the trigger. Hesitating when the shot is aligned wastes time and since the target is moving it will move through the sights. The trigger pull has to be decisive, quick and fluid. The hand manipulating the trigger cannot influence the alignment of the gun. If you wait or hesitate the target will have moved and you will miss. Moving target systems will influence you to use proper trigger mechanics.
Stationary: Stance is another place where you can get away with improper techniques when shooting targets that are still. You can easily adjust your shot after seeing your last round and adjusting. If the target were to move an inch or two in either direction then the shot will be off and the shooter will have to readjust their stance to compensate.
Stance With Moving Targets:
If your stance isn’t correct you won’t be able to properly track your target. A solid, fluid stance is required to make sure that your torso, shoulders, arms and wrists align to facilitate your grip and handgun on target.
Increased Confidence from Shooting Moving Targets
Moving targets create shooters that learn to strike when the shot is aligned. They learn that they must act when the shot is available and any hesitation will cause a miss. The confidence increases with the difficulty of the targets movement creating shooters capable of real life accuracy. Training with moving target systems will also improve your shooting with stationary targets as you won’t be second guessing when the shot is aligned. This increase in ability and confidence is invaluable for everything from self-defense to shooting competitions.
We’ll often talk to people at the range that are consistent with stationary targets and ask them how they think they will perform in different scenarios. If getting your sights on target isn’t second nature how will they handle and intruder in their home? It may be dark, your heart rate would be highly elevated and your body will be shaky. At that instance when you think on your training which will you have wished you trained with?
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