What makes a good target? I have been asking that question over the past year as I have been evaluating different targets to use for the drills and evaluation criteria I have been working with on the different courses I am working with. It depends on what you are working on or need the target for. There are so many to choose from sometimes to the point of too many. There are bullseyes, silhouettes, photo targets, B-27, B-29, IALEFI, IPSC/USPSA, poker, darts, groundhogs, and Osama. Even a bullseye isn’t just a simple circle. There is slow fire pistol, rapid-fire pistol, 50-ft small bore, 50-meter small bore, MR-31 reduced to simulate 600 yards, etc… Sometimes the black circle is designed to correspond to the width of the front sight, and I have never known the reasoning behind how the widths of the scoring rings are determined.
A lot of training that I have done over the years has been with a simple, blank sheet of 8.5×11 copier paper. The sheet of paper matches the size of the vital organs in the torso, and will simulate the size of a brain target when folded or cut into fourths. A 9-inch paper plate can accomplish the same thing very inexpensively.
I started out my career with the ubiquitous B-21 silhouette. I have yet to point a gun at someone wearing a suit, but the profile is obviously that. The scoring areas are incredibly generous, with the main 5-ring pretty much taking up the entire upper half of the body. If you hit body and not an appendage, you were good. No real emphasis was placed on correcting hits that were in the stomach or abdomen area, since they were getting qualifying scores. Over time the target changed to a man holding a revolver, but the scoring rings were the same. There was absolutely no focus on getting hits to the upper center of mass where they should be.
Another qualification target I’ve had to use is the B27. This guy still wore a suit, but he didn’t look like he was posing in the mirror anymore. This target had an oval bullseye over the torso area with four scoring rings and a center X ring. Performance could be evaluated based on the points accumilated, and it made sense that more hits to the center should be rewarded. The problems that surface with this target, however, is that head shot that should be rewarded are not even considered. And the center of the bullseye ends up being towards the middle of the torso or diaphragm area, which is in reality below the organs you would target for terminal effectiveness. It promoted hits to the stomach area which may not stop a fight nearly as soon as hits to the heart or CNS.
Numerous target designs have come out over the years. Some are humanoid shaped, some are targets made from actual posed photos. Some have outlines of human organ placement on them while others have different pasters with weapons, cell phones, and even alcoholic beverages printed on them to aid in decision making. Some of theseand other designs and additions have been worthwhile, while others have been pure gimmicks.
So what makes a good target for defensive training or weapons qualifications? It depends. I found that out the hard way as I was searching for targets to fit what I wanted to do and work on. So I decided to make my own. I’ve always been a fan of the thought processes that went into the EAG target design by Pat Rogers of EAG Tactical (www.eagtactical.com ) and Tim Lau. The main target zones are a simple 8-inch circle with a two inch column on top that goes up to a four-inch trapezoid. You’re either in or you’re out for drills that require hits in vital areas. It’s only outlined in a light grey, and is invisible beyond five yards or so. The vitals sit inside a tombstone shaped colored body that also provides a frame of reference of human torso dimensions. The tombstone is additionally set inside an outline that fits dimensions familiar to IDPA and USPSA competition shooters. Additional shapes for various training are strategically placed on the sides, and overall it can be used for handgun or rifle training applications.
I audited a course for Dave Timm and Mike Davis of Timm Training, (www.timmtraining.com or http://www.patroltactical.com ) and saw the results of thought processes of the target they designed for their needs. The cross on the Timm Training target is excellent for trigger control drills, and I’ve always liked using numbers along with the different shapes to aid in target identification drills. The dimensions of the circles aid in their drills as well as establishing initial zeros as well as maintaining accuracy standards. It shows a lot of the competition background that Timm has and uses, and ends up being a very good target for how they instruct fundamentals.
I figured if I was going to need to design a target, I wanted to make the logistics as easy as possible with one target, as well as keeping costs down. It’s an investment to do your own, so one target needed to manage most of the drills that I would use. I initially was determined to make the target as large as the B-21’s and B-27’s I was familiar with so I could have more space for the alternate shape targets. I talked to Kevin Eyre of Milwaukee COPS. Kevin also has a competition background as a Class A USPSA Champion, and has a fondness for those target dimensions. We’ve used cardboard IDPA targets for many of the classes we’ve taught together, simply because he had a bunch and they fit in readily available frames. We had a good conversation over scotch, and we refined it to the point it now became. I say we because after we were done the design was something that met his needs as well, and he had enough input to warrant his logo being placed on it as well.
The 10-32 Solutions/Milwaukee COPS target is currently at the printer. It uses outside dimensions of 19×30 so that it will fit with IDPA/USPSA target frames. Head/Brain CNS shots utilize an inverse triangle two inches below the top of the target, and have equal four-inch sides. Other targets I’ve used with circles, squares or trapezoids to represent this area work as well, but I’ve always felt the upside down triangle fit the dimensions of what I am trying to hit more. A two-inch vertical strip connects the CNS zone with an eight-inch circle center of mass zone that quite frankly works very well already as a dimension, so I didn’t want to mess with it. Inside are one-inch squares with a one-inch center dot, and all of these areas are outlined in a light color that will not be visible past a few yards. Two four-inch circle shapes are set up as additional accuracy aids as well as standards, with one maintaining traditional rings and the other a dot and half inch grid squares for fine tuning any zeroing.
So what makes a good target? I still don’t think there is a single one that can do it all. I’ve outlined some of the mental processes I took on to better myself, not to say that this target is the answer, but to encourage your own thoughts on what you like or need or don’t need. Part of the fun of this was evaluating my needs and ideas, and cross checking them with the knowledge and fundamental skills learned over the years from masters of shooting skills. Does a target like this work for you? And if not, what would, and why?
EAG target is also available at https://tangodown.com/shop/tangodown-eag-target-mctar-02/
Timm Training/Patrol Tactical target is available at https://www.letargets.com/estylez_item.aspx?item=TIMM-1