MARCH 28, 2017

Editor's Notebook: Targets

As far back as 1999, stencils were used to 'doctor up' blank targets. This photo was taken at the old Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff's range in 1999.
In the beginning, there was an unadorned mark at which to shoot, a plain circle called the "bull's eye." As we got further and further from constant and consistent battle – if that state every truly existed after the advent of bow and arrow – it was decided that a target should in some way resemble something one would face, whether hunting or fighting. The silhouette target was a "bullseye" in the form of a human, more or less. As people found how easy that was to hit in those charming "Mickey Mouse accuracy tests" called qualification, scoring rings were added. People began gaming the system in competition that simulated agency quals and the scoring rings were tightened using the existing ISU scoring system. An "X" was placed at the middle to break ties and game-types kept working the guns, ammo – and the techniques – to beat that game. Somewhere along this mess, I showed up in American law enforcement. My first qualification was fired on 'cartoon targets' from ATS. The scoring was like the B-21 which is somewhat like the FBI-Q. After that, I was propelled backwards in the next agency that used the B-27. Like a big red barn, except a tiny bit smaller, qualification scoring was maxed inside the "8" ring. It's like the A/C zone except maybe bigger. A little. It was brought to my attention that we were shooting at faceless, not apparently armed humanoid shapes wearing scoring rings for a t-shirt.
There are graphic targets out there -- if your agency budget can afford those plus the required targets for POST qualification.
If you want targets with faces and threat indicators these days, the only limit is the agency target budget. Between the cost of targets and the shipping – which is a big part of the cost – it's money that eats into your ammo and training aids budget. Besides, there are states and agencies married to one target or another. In my state, for example, the state says "Agencies must use either the FBIQ or IALEFIQ target for the adopted (that is, state mandated) qualification course of fire." Neither necessarily has a 'face' or a threat indicator. The rules don't say they can't be added and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors has an approved target line, same dimensions, with photo overlays. That could mean you could buy an assortment of state-approved targets, some of which are marginally realistic. But qualification isn't training and targets can be doctored up. I found that the instructor who brought the NRA Law Enforcement into the modern age, Clive Shepherd, had access to a copy machine and knew we did too. He got us to using "faces and guns" by stapling photocopied threat indicators and faces on the standard (at the time) NRA TQ-21, a buff silhouette. Some used stencils and spray paint. I copied some stencils onto copy paper and cut them out of file folders using a hobby knife. Similar techniques are all predicated on making the target something else for a training reason. An instructor who handled LEOSA retiree qualifications for people who'd moved out of the states in which they served to settle in his state was required to have them shoot the state daytime qual and to do a "threat ID" course. He simply had props and would have the retiree face up range while he went down range and set the target up. He'd then give the attendee the very short scenario and have him turn to face the target. There were three evolutions – and it was 100% to pass.
The Patriot Stencils "open hand" stencil is shown between "staple on" face and threat indictor items.
Now – after I'm long out of the training game – Patriot Stencils comes along and makes die-cut stencils that should last practically forever. Made from mylar – a polyester film, it's material used for industrial stencils. As opposed to the cardboard/file-folder cut-outs of mine that were crudely constructed, these can be cleaned and re-used over and over. They can be rolled up for storage – in short, a grand answer. Mark up your plain silhouettes, put the "open hands" or "pointing hand" on some, perhaps the "knife" threat indicator on some that are perhaps a bit far away from the firing point – or use the gun. There's even a bullseye stencil with an 8" diameter outside ring – good for using an aiming point for trainees until they're able to find the "spot" on unmarked targets. I'd been stapling B-8s on my targets. Shooting gear continues to improve and training items are coming right along. If you are stuck with a blank target, take a look at Patriot Stencils to doctor them up. Then document your training. -- Rich Grassi