Defending the Castle: Target Practice vs. Self-Defense Shooting

By Paul Evancoe

When practicing shooting skills, most shooters aim at the bullseye striving for tight groups and leave the range believing they are adequately skilled to defend themselves. Sadly, few properly practice the skills necessary to stop an opponent and win in a gunfight. There is a difference between target practice and self-defense shooting.

Target practice is all about hitting the bullseye under range conditions in a non-stress environment. The opposite is true in real-world, self-defense scenarios where grouping and score don’t matter much. Self-defense shooting focuses on hitting a dinner-plate-sized center of mass on the first shot from the ready position in a life and death gunfight, under all environmental and lighting conditions. What does this really mean and how does one practice the necessary gun skills on the range to win in a real-world gunfight? The answer is twofold.

The first phase of the solution requires building total familiarity with the gun(s) you intend to use for defense. The objective of this first phase is to develop “muscle memory.” We’ll define muscle memory as becoming so familiar with a particular firearm, or firearms, that you no longer have to think about how to operationally use them. You should be completely familiar with its “feel” and operating it; e.g., wearing/carrying, drawing, acquiring the target, pointing it on target, firing it and reloading it when necessary.

This can be accomplished at home—no range time is necessary. For example, if you’re using a handgun for carry, you should begin by repetitively practicing (for hours), wearing the holstered gun, drawing from your carry holster, pointing it on target, dry-firing at dinner plate-sized (12-inch center of mass) targets, along with regular magazine changes or revolver speed loading drills. It should go without saying, but obviously you’ll want to use snap caps in your weapons for your dry fire drills.

A technique employed by many gunfighters is to use 12-inch paper plates as practice targets. Why? A 12-inch plate, if held against one’s chest, covers the human body’s vital organ center of mass. It is anywhere within this...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N9 (November 2017)
and was posted online on September 22, 2017


09-24-2017 3:17 PM

Valuable Information

I had the privilege of reading this article, very valuable information for the novice shooter, such as myself. There is a big difference in both types of shooting and this article reminds me of that fact. Great job gentlemen. Thank you.   

                                                                                                                                        K Murphy

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