The Accuracy Phase: It can be said that the skills of marksmanship by riflemen were an integral part of not only how this country was founded, but also how it is kept safe. The importance of fundamentals of marksmanship is still seen today in the competitions founded years ago to promote them. Unfortunately, it seems all things are cyclical, and the focus is not on developing the skills used for accuracy in shooting. Some of it is because of shifts in thinking. Military thinking changed and started to focus after WWII on how US soldiers have needed to fight at much closer distances in structures and jungle environments, and those changes have continued. Law Enforcement is increasingly urban, and in our litigious society lots of LE managers and the public lost sight of why marksmanship is still vitally important to public safety. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that police shouldn’t be shooting past 50-yards, or that there is no good reason to zero a weapon at 100 yards, because you won’t be shooting that far. Another reason is laziness and the bottom dollar. It costs money to train, in time, ammunition, and support. Sometimes it just can’t be afforded, and other times the money is spent on easier, or other training or pursuits. I could go on, but it’s not my focus here.
One of the best reasons that patrol rifles or defensive carbines should be used if at all possible is that they are just more accurate! Whether it is the longer sight radius’ combined with better sight or optic options, to the ballistics of velocity and more aerodynamic projectiles, to the biomechanics of a more stable shooting platform, no one can successfully argue that either the patrol rifle or defensive carbine would not be the better choice over a handgun if you had the choice.
Picture an empty street in some old cattle town in the Wild Old West. Two cowboys stand one hundred feet apart, squaring off. One is a young, upstart, blowhard that has been trying to make a name for himself. He has been regaling everyone in the taverns with how fast he can whip his revolver from the holster, and has been bragging how he can beat anyone in a gunfight because of that speed. He has called out an experienced cowhand from another company that the young braggart chose to make an example of to build that reputation. The young braggart in a flash whipped up his revolver and fired from the hip just as soon as the muzzle cleared the holster. But the experienced cowhand recognized the signs in the braggart’s body language, and he wasn’t far behind in his draw. The difference is that the experienced cowhand balanced the need for speed with accuracy, and he used the extra time to bring his arm out to full extension where he could line up his sights. His shot only came a half of a second after the braggarts, but his .45 lead slug found its mark, and the young braggart slumped to the ground. You see, the young braggart spend all of his time on perfecting the speed of his draw, but very little on actually hitting a target, while the experienced cowhand understood what he needed to survive at that distance, and it was accuracy from his sights.
That little visualization has some background to it. More and more handgun, defensive firearms, and LE training focus on the speed needed to get a gun into a fight and rounds onto a large silhouette, and this is a very important focus. But what good is that speed and ability to manipulate the firearm if you do not have the accuracy or marksmanship skills to go along with it? You can be the fastest gun in the world, but if you cannot hit the target it means nothing. This is why when you look at the Combat Triad, one of the three legs needed to hold it all together is Marksmanship. Training that I received from Larry Vickers in one of his pistol classes really stuck with me and reinforced all of this with his use of an NRA pistol bullseye target and devotion to fundamentals training. The fundamentals of Stance, Grip, and Trigger were also reinforced through Jeff Gonzales’ instruction using elements of the body to further improve shooting accuracy. Moreover, I saw what students could do in class after class and training after training.
Carbine courses frequently used silhouette targets with an eight-inch circle, and it was repeatedly demonstrated that many shooters can reliably place most of their hits inside it at fifty yards from standing or kneeling positions. Two to four inch groups or better can easily be obtained from the stability of prone. From my notes from a Gonzales course I attended, if we can guarantee hits inside of eight-inches at that distance now, under calm conditions, than we should be able to guarantee hits inside of twelve inches under the stress of a deadly force confrontation. It is with some consternation when I see LE carbine qualifications that do not maximize the increased accuracy standard in their qualifications, and count hits anywhere on the large silhouette as passing, but that’s material for another day.
I chose 50-yards as the distance to use for this part of the phase. I strongly believe in the ability to make hits out to 100, 200, and even 400 yards with patrol or defensive rifles, but that can be accomplished through training opportunities outside of an actual qualification. I also have to be practical, and 50 yard ranges are much more accessible than 100 yard ranges. With the appropriate sized target, the skills needed to shoot at 100 yards will be the same as those needed to accurately shoot at 50, and the achievement won’t be diminished.
There are a number of targets out there, with varying size black bullseyes and scoring areas. I looked at a bunch, including the B6, B8, B19, SR1, SR21C, B16. Some weren’t realistic for use with use at that distance, while others had scoring rings that were either too narrow to develop reliable results, or were too wide so they would not promote improvement. I finally settled on the NRA MR-31C. It is a bullseye that was scaled down so that it simulated a High Power National Match competition bullseye at 600 yards when set at 100. It fits on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, which also makes it easy to use.
These are the dimensions of the rings:
X ring 0.75
10 ring 1.75
9 ring 2.75
8 ring 3.75
7 ring 5.75
6 ring 7.75
5 ring 9.75
Everything inside the 7-ring is a black bullseye. The dimension of the target is already sized to adequately show competency in hitting a deadly force threat. I’d be worried if one is missing this size of a paper target, because then 100% accountability of your shots is less likely under stress. And it is challenging. I went out during a break in the rain today to quick shoot this one cold. And I definitely have room for improvement, as the winter and general ammunition shortage has taken its toll. My heart rate was up in my rush to get the target set up, and I found myself chasing the dot a bit while trying to control my breathing instead of getting a good 1st Best Sight Picture. Plus I missed on a flinch, evidenced by only four holes on target. I used a Navy high kneel for the kneeling portion, and my dot stabilized a bit, but my group shifted to about 4 o’clock. It wasn’t until I got into prone where I got locked in enough to rock the 10-ring with the next five. I was able to identify what fundamentals I needed to work on for next time, with a score of 117 or 78%. There is a total of 150 points possible, with each hit assessed the point value of the ring it’s in. I count the higher value if the line is broke due to the already tight dimension tolerances for this.
The accuracy phase makes up nearly half of the points towards the total aggregate score of the standards, showing the importance I feel that accuracy has for the total picture. Click on the link below to my resources page for a printable PDF of the MR-31 target I’ve found, and go out to work on your own shooting fundamentals. Let me know how you’re doing in them.