The Head-Shot Cadence Drill

By Richard Mann

Editor’s Note: The views in this article are the author’s own and don’t necessarily represent those of Action Target, Inc.

Gunsite Instructor Il Ling New believes one of the best ways to train with a defensive handgun is to practice head shots at moderate to extended ranges; meaning as far out as 20 yards. At first glance this may seem a bit extreme but consider that if you can consistently and quickly get heads shots at these distances, center punching a troll at between three and five yards should be easy.

The most common way to practice head shots is to draw from the holster and fire a single shot at the head of a target. Action Target’s Steel Hostage Target works great for this because you can use either the square head of the silhouette or the flapper head that will swing from side to side when hit. This flapper target actually adds a new dimension to head shot training that is impossible to achieve just about any other way.

Regardless of the defensive handgun training that you conduct, training to only deliver one round is not tactically sound and does little to advance your skills, especially when working at varying distances. One question firearms instructors often get asked is, “How soon after my first shot should my next shot be?” In other words, students want to know what their shot cadence should be. The answer is, of course, as fast as you can get hits, and this will vary as your ability increases.

With the Action Target Steel Hostage Target you don’t need a shot timer or an instructor telling you you’re shooting too slowly. Since the flapper target swings from side to side based on energy imparted to it by the bullet, the further away the target is, the slower it will flop over to the other side. The time it takes the target to flop lets the shooter recover from recoil and reengage the target at a new location.

This is realistic because it’s doubtful a bad guy will stand still while you are shooting at him and the greater the distance to the target, the more time it will take you to recover and align your sights. This time is matched very well by the flapper target. If you are ready to shoot as soon as it reappears, you’re shooting fast enough and not too fast, if you get a hit.

Here is a simple drill you can use to practice head-shots at varying ranges while fine tuning your shot cadence:

  • Set Action Target Hostage Targets at 5, 15, and 20 yards
  • Start by practicing at each individual distance, engaging the flapper target only
  • After you are consistent at each range, engage all the flapper targets starting with the closest and moving to the furthest, with at least two shots each (more shots at each range are even better if your handgun has a higher capacity).
  • If you only have two Action Target Hostage Targets or limited ammo capacity, place one at 5 yards and the other at 20.

You don’t need a shot timer. Your goal is to engage each flapper target as soon as it reappears. Do this often and you’ll become at-one with your proper shot cadence at near and far ranges. This drill, coupled with the Action Target Steel Hostage Targets, offers a simple mechanical solution to a complex firearms training problem for shooters of all abilities.

To read more from Richard Mann check out his blog Empty Cases,

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