Humans have a natural tendency to stare at a threat—and keep staring at it. That leads to bizarre ballistics; numerous citizens have shot the weapon hand of their attacker. That’s because armed defenders tend to stare at the bad guy’s weapon. Their shot follows their gaze. Despite all those Westerns that would have you believe that’s a good thing it’s not. For one thing, you’re bound to miss your attacker entirely—at a time where a second chance to stop the threat may be as hard to get as a date with Arizona Muse. But wait! Eye fixation is an even bigger problem than that . . .

There’s a good chance that an armed self-defender will be facing more than one bad guy. The brothers Tsarnaev. Need I say any more? After shooting the primary threat you’re well advised to move your eyes off the target entirely— and search for another threat. And another. And another.

That’s a whole lot more difficult than it sounds—and it doesn’t sound easy. Even if you manage to avoid fixating on the weapon in the bad guy’s hand and hit center mass there’s another natural tendency working against you: the desire to stare at carnage.

When your bullet or bullets find their mark, it’s not going to be pretty. But it will be fascinating. Assuming you haven’t been playing in the Sandbox or doing wet work for The Company, the attendant blood and guts will be a novel experience. You’ll want to watch what happens.

To paraphrase the Talking Heads, that’s no time for dancin’ or lovey dovey (you ain’t got time for that now). There may be more bad guys, first responders responding, innocents who need assistance, etc. When push has come to shove and the initial shoving’s done, you need to start scanning. Reflexively.

I’m sure Doug Koenig will be relieved to know we agree on the value of practicing shooting multiple targets. It trains your brain to move from one target to the next. In fact, once you’ve got your marksmanship sorted, shooting at a single target repeatedly is a bad idea; you program your subconscious for one and done.

If you can’t set-up multiple targets where you practice, use targets with multiple targets on them. Better yet, draw three shapes with three letters (inside each shape) on three sheets of computer paper. Staple them onto the cardboard. Get someone to call out a letter or a shape at random.

[NB: Shooting left to right or right to left sequentially over hundreds of rounds also creates a dangerous pattern.]

One more thing. Koeing doesn’t scan after he’s done shooting. You should. Not just because you need to train yourself to look for other threats but also because you need to instinctively break eye contact with unfathomable gore. Ugly but true.

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13 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Practice Shooting Multiple Targets

  1. Very good observations Robert. Most people with a carry permit, will get the training necessary for that permit and that will be it. Tactical pistol training covers many scenarios including multiple assailants. For those who cannot afford tactical training, the multiple target training is a wonderful stand-in. Now let me go back and check out the chick.

  2. At my local range we have u-frames at 25 yards that are fixed into the ground, but we can also rent freestanding frames for $5 each, per day.
    I was there with some friends today, and we rented three, setting each one out at a different distance, and had a lot of fun transitioning between targets. Definitely ups the fun and the training factor.

  3. I would only add, this is one benefit of shooting at an outdoor range.
    Most indoor ranges are not set up to deviate from your one shooting lane.
    Outdoor ranges did more for my shooting skills than the indoor ranges.
    It’s the one place you can practice “real life” shooting with real live bullets,
    from multiple different angles to your position, like real life would be.

    I’ve heard that Gander Mountain has 360 deg. virtual shooting ranges,
    but I haven’t gone to one yet. Does anyone have experience with those?

    • I actually went to the one in Houston. A great experience and definitely worth the money if you get a chance to do it.

  4. I try to run drills where I’m constantly having to switch between targets, definitely adds a lot of challenge to it. Especially when you start timing yourself, makes for a fun experience at the range.

    On an unrelated note: 5.56 / .223 is starting to return in my area. Stopped by Academy this morning and picked up a 100 round value pack of 5.56. Store still had the one box limit but they had plenty in stock. Still having issues of finding 9mm though.

  5. Very good points Robert. I have never given thought to the blood and guts aspect of a DGU. Its somewhat like passing a motor vehicle wreck. You just have to look………

  6. You might look up the IDPA (Internation Defensive Pistol Association) or USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association – which I’ve never tried).

    This is not a commerical.

    I just shot my first IDPA and believe me, my target shooting is good in a lane but not so good when they set up 5 scenarios (multiple targets, multiiple targets at different distances, innocent targets (oh well, some didn’t make it), shooting in a building and targets that rotate and move back and forth, and moving while shooting, using concealment, etc). My presumed skills shooting at a moving target and while moving were awful. It was a big surprise to me how poorly I did.

    Even after explaining the course of a specific scenario, I failed to follow the course properly (too nervous – not concerned about looking foolish, just concerned that I paid attention to the scenario). So, based on this first time and the stress I felt, how well would I do in a real gunfight? . . . . . .I need more practice!

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