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Man running with handgun shooting moving targets

When most shooters practice personal defense, they fire at static targets they are squared to. This doesn’t teach much about shooting. Firing too quickly doesn’t either. Gunfights are not static.

The shooters run toward one another, away from one another, to one side or the other, and toward cover. Those not prepared will panic. It is important to be able to move quickly and lightly on the feet, and to be able to address moving targets.

The first chore is to master the firing grip, trigger press, sight alignment and sight picture, as well as follow-through. This absolutely must be squared away before we move to advanced drills such as engaging multiple targets and moving targets.

If you cannot hit them standing still, you will never hit a moving target.

Man shooting Hudson H9
Firing quickly and getting hits is a perishable skill. A lot of practice is needed.

Common Misconceptions

Dismiss any idea that shooting moving targets with a shotgun is anything similar to doing so with a handgun. The shotgun fires a cloud of pellets.

This cloud need only contact a small flying or scampering animal with a few pellets. The shotgun also features a three-point lockup on the body and points well.

Dove and quail fly so quickly, that some lead is required to get a hit. None of this prepares you for addressing moving targets with a handgun.

Humans are not as fast as winged animals and don’t spring like rabbits, and combat ranges are short compared to hunting ranges. However, one thing is similar.

When you are moving the shotgun and swinging on a target, you continue the swing as you fire. If you stop your movement short as you fire, a miss is guaranteed.

Shot group on target
The author fired this group, offhand, at 20 yards with the CZ 75B and Winchester 115-grain Silvertip ammunition.

Mastering the basics comes first. It is difficult enough to draw, move into the firing position, and get a hit on a static target. Add movement to the drill and things get more difficult.

There is a lot going on, including that you are being shot at. The target is shooting, or there is no reason to fire!

When you begin to address moving targets, you will maintain the firing stance, but develop the ability to swing your torso swiftly. Keep the feet planted!

Moving and shooting is altogether another skill that simply isn’t practical for most situations, at least moving at anything other than a rapid pace.

There are things you must do that conflict with movement. Drawing the handgun conflicts with movement — you may do one efficiently but not the other.

Movement conflicts with marksmanship. The upper body moves while addressing moving targets, but the feet will be planted solid.

Revolver and Ammo
These 121-grain handloads are clocking 1250 fps. No need to lead a target with these!

Techniques for Moving Targets

There are various shooting games and contests that involve moving targets. Some of these targets move on a wire or are pulled by a chain, others are on a rail.

Very few agencies have complex and expensive gear to teach addressing moving targets. We don’t usually have this kind of thing on the range.

With a little preparation, you may perform drills on the local range that will serve to train your eyes and hands for addressing moving targets.

When firing at humans moving in combat, there is no need to actually lead the target. Shooters do not move that fast, and the distance is short.

When the adversary is moving toward you, there is no need for accounting for the movement at all. Fire for the center of mass. If the adversary is moving from one side or the other, there is no need to lead, but specific tactics must be used.

Man Drawing Handgun from Holster
Beginning with the handgun holstered adds to the value of the drill.

As the threat moves to cover or is moving and firing, you should keep the front sight on the leading edge of their outline. Keep the arms, hands and head moving with the adversary.

As the sights stay on the target, the trigger is pressed smoothly and firmly to the rear. The feet remain firmly planted during this drill, although there may be a need to lightly sidestep and quickly return to a solid stance.

As you move the sights with the threat and press the trigger, keep the handgun moving with the target.

As the shot breaks, keep the handgun moving, do not abruptly stop the swing, stay on the target. It is that simple, and if you do so, you will get hits.

Reactive Steel Moving Targets
These range tools are a great help in building marksmanship.

Practice, Practice Practice

Practicing this drill without a moving target device is possible. Many of us have fired at old tires rolling across a range, but few places are available for this type of work.

An alternative that teaches the same skills, is to hang three or four man-sized targets at seven to 10 yards, and address them with rapid work.

The shooter draws and gets a center hit on the first target, quickly moving to the next target, then the next, and finally the final target.

The handgun is kept moving and the front sight is placed on the target. DON’T STOP THE MOTION! The handgun never stops moving, but rather, it is in motion and the front sight is controlled in recoil.

The handgun is fired, the front sight is recovered from recoil as the handgun moves to the next target and the trigger is pressed, and the procedure is repeated.

This is a simple drill that works well for training against moving targets, and separates the shooter who practices from the one whose goals are more aspirational than operational.

Have you ever practiced shooting moving targets with a handgun? How did it work out? Let us know in the comments section below!

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