Skip to main content

Shooting on the Edges

Shooting on the Edges

In a fight, your adversary won't present you with an ideal target.

While competitions and most shooting courses reward center-mass shots, the ability to be able to hit just a portion of a threat—an arm, a leg—can be critical to prevailing in a gunfight.

In using a handgun in self-defense, every instructor of any worth teaches that your goal is to be able to fire, on demand, a well-placed--most times high-center-chest--hit. We collectively practice developing, and then maintaining, this ability.

Handgun competitions are built around how well a competitor does this. This ability is then often coupled with tactical considerations of concealment, cover and movement.


Little if any thought or effort, though, is devoted to learning to "shoot what you can see when you can see it," so to speak. In fact, all the competitions penalize the shooter for firing what is, correctly by the rules, a poor shot.


However, a problem can arise when forced to defend yourself because threats do not conveniently present themselves as a full-value, broadside target. But because all your training, practice and competition has habituated you to always attempt to position yourself to get a good hit, you will most likely do this instinctively when engaging a real adversary.

The "cure" for this problem, luckily, is not all that complex. Recognizing that what you are doing in one application is incorrect for the other is almost the solution in and of itself. To reinforce this, practicing shooting at a humanoid target's extremities--its "edges," if you will--can further imprint this difference.


I suggest using realistic human silhouette targets, if possible, to better imprint in your mind what you'll see in a real encounter.


You can position the target behind a sheet of opaque material to further enhance this visual imprinting. You can also blade your target so you can only see and shoot a small portion of it. The only downsides are some long bullet tears on the target and shot-up target supports. (Be sure to use wood, not metal, clips.)

If you want further testing of this skill, you can do so (to some extent) in an International Defensive Pistol Association shooting contest, where using cover is included in many of the courses of fire. Just decide you are going to go through the course of fire using as much cover as you can, not the minimum allowable without penalty.

The applicable rules requires that the contestant have 100 percent of the lower torso and 50 percent or more of the upper torso behind cover while shooting or reloading. There is no rule against using more cover if you choose. Your final score may suffer, since scoring is time-based, but the idea is to learn and test a skill--not win a match.

Obviously, you can't deliberately shoot target extremities in a match, though, as doing so can well ruin both targets and their supports. You won't get to finish the match or be invited back.

What I've found for myself is if I start the match with the intent of shooting stages in the most tactical manner and do this a few times, it becomes much more reflexive and my final score is not all that much lower. So if you can convince yourself to do this, rather than try to win, you are well on your way to having better skills in a real encounter.

Which brings us back to the advice in the beginning of this column: Shoot what you can see when you can see it. Which means any limb or portion of the body that is visible (and a proven threat, of course). You can then move to shoot more of the threat or not, but you have delivered the first blow.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Pistol Skills Drills - Hardball

Pistol Skills Drills - Hardball's Headache

The Hardball's Headache pistol drill is very similar to the El Presidente drill with a higher level of difficulty due to two added twists.

Taurus G3c

Taurus G3c

Taurus introduces the compact version of their wildly successful 9mm pistol; the G3.

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice Training

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Handguns Staff - August 14, 2020

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these...

With the introduction of the XD-M Elite line of pistols, Springfield Armory one-ups itself.Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Review Reviews

Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Review

James Tarr - August 21, 2020

With the introduction of the XD-M Elite line of pistols, Springfield Armory one-ups itself.

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want one.Ruger 57 Pistol Review Reviews

Ruger 57 Pistol Review

James Tarr - June 05, 2020

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want...

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

See More Trending Articles

More Training

For many shooters, the hardest thing to master with a handgun is combining speed with accuracy. The Frank Garcia Dot Drill works on combining the two.Frank Garcia Dot Drill — Skills Drill Training

Frank Garcia Dot Drill — Skills Drill

J. Scott Rupp - September 23, 2020

For many shooters, the hardest thing to master with a handgun is combining speed with...

While there's no absolute correct way to manipulate a pistol, your technique of choice should be based on careful consideration and practice.Discovering What Pistol Manipulation Techniques Work for You Training

Discovering What Pistol Manipulation Techniques Work for You

Richard Nance - May 15, 2019

While there's no absolute correct way to manipulate a pistol, your technique of choice should...

This is a simpler, more compact version of the Box Drill.Handgun Training: The Box Drill Training

Handgun Training: The Box Drill

J. Scott Rupp - February 11, 2019

This is a simpler, more compact version of the Box Drill.

Vicker's Leatham Drill is great for good shooters to do after some time away from the range or from a particular gun to reacquaint themselves with the trigger. Handgun Skill Drill: Vicker's Leatham Drill Training

Handgun Skill Drill: Vicker's Leatham Drill

Eve Flanigan - July 19, 2018

Vicker's Leatham Drill is great for good shooters to do after some time away from the range or...

See More Training

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now