The Moving Target

It is said that in the Vietnam War, American troops required roughly 50,000 rounds to kill a single enemy combatant. Marine snipers on average used 1.33 rounds per kill. The Government Accountability Office reports that in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces fire an estimated 250,000 rounds for every insurgent killed. It just isn’t easy to hit a live, moving target, especially at a long distance or in close-quarters urban warfare. Hunters understand, regardless of how often we brag about making the impossible shot with a rifle or bow. In truth, we miss more often than we make lethal shots.

And I’m supposed to believe that my seven-shot .380 is going to bring down an assailant hopped up on drugs in a street fight? If that assailant is using a weapon, he faces the same considerations as the victim. The difference is that as the aggressor, he chooses his time and place of attack and doesn’t care about being sued because of bystander casualties.

That’s just one of the many reasons the USCCA emphasizes training and being a “responsibly armed American.” A well-trained military sniper can easily shoot a moving target. The SEALs killed the three men who captured the Maersk Alabama ship headed by Captain Richard Phillips with head shots. They fired from the deck of a ship into a bobbing lifeboat. None of us civilians will ever be that good. So how do we learn to shoot a moving target?

One way to understand shooting a moving target is to try a little trap, skeet or sporting clays. The orange clay disks called “birds” fly between 30 and 70 miles per hour. In sport shooting, you take a breath, shoulder the shotgun and shout, “Pull!” The bird flies, you calculate lead, and you fire. You can even have a practice clay to see where it’s going and how fast.

Sport shooting is better moving-target practice than nothing, I suppose. Though if you can get away from an insurance-bound range, you’ll have more flexibility to throw and shoot. Translating clay shooting to self-defense isn’t easy, because an attacker moves maybe 10 miles per hour and the attack will be a close lunge, often at your back. Clay targets aren’t shooting back or swinging their fists either.

Typically, at a gun range, instructors begin with a balanced stance, a firm grip and a steady point of aim. It’s static shooting. Instructors discuss mentally tracking the target before shooting at it and moving your firearm in a smooth, steady manner, but if you think of any of this in a sudden instance of need, you’re going to get hurt.

In a real situation, the aggressor will be moving, and you’ll need to move and get some distance to defend yourself. I think most people stop their swing when the gun fires. They want to see what happened, and this hesitation means they most likely shoot behind the target, so they lose the fight.

Once you pull the trigger, you are committed to one of two paths. The felon will either run away, in which case you most likely stop shooting, or the felon will continue toward you, in which case you continue to fire until you stop the threat.

The key to a good offense or defense is movement — movement and cover. But since few doors or bushes will stop a bullet, my vote goes to move, move, move.