Dude: spring for real targets!

For years I was cheap.  I didn’t use actual printed targets unless they were free (which they often were in my LE days).  Instead I used any blank surface and shot at paper plates, small dots, 3×5 cards, folded pieces of paper, whatever.  Hey – they got the job done.

But not as well nor as efficiently as real printed targets.  These have the advantage of wider variety in shapes, scoring zones, and colors, and they come in geometric, photo-realistic and semi-realistic patterns.  In short, they are better tools for training specific skills.

What I missed all those years was just how inexpensive real printed targets are.  But 100 of them and they are like 30 cents each.  Hell, every time I pull the trigger on a 9mm pistol I’m spending 30 cents!  So yeah, they are so inexpensive, in context, that it’s foolish not to use them.


14 thoughts on “Dude: spring for real targets!

  1. I don’t have space to store 100 large targets in my down sized lifestyle these days, so I just buy them at the public range i shoot at. I agree that the new generation of targets provide more opportunity to do focused training and wring a lot of use out of a big piece of paper. Some random thoughts from a couple of generations of using targets:

    1) I was at FLETC when they introduced the Transtar target in blue and white; it was to replace the B-27 silhouette which was the subject of a law suit, as it “trained us to shoot at black humans.” The scoring rings on the B-27 were pretty inadequate for anatomically correct shooting, though it was fine for marksmanship, and the Transtar isn’t too much better. I think a plain silhouette that allows you to judge the distance from head and shoulders to a high upper chest hit is better, but then I’m old fashioned that way.

    2) There’s importance to having the photographic realism of some targets for shooting. One of the most interesting debriefs I had from a former student who called me after his first shooting included this: “You know, you never trained me on what it’s like to shoot someone in the face.” (he had just shot an armed felon twice in the face, saving the lives of himself and several other tactical officers) When we discussed it further, he’d never shot at a photo realistic target in the face (this is back in the 80s), and the limited “Simulations like” training was using heavy dental packing stuffed into .38 special chambers over a large primer and fired through revolvers — shooting in the face worked since there were only safety goggles for the eyes, but we had limited time to train on those.

    So there is some value to that. When I was working in Africa, we couldn’t afford fancy targets, so we made them out of paper trash bags (cut the template and it’s nearly identical to an IDPA target) and stapled T-shirts onto them.

    It translated very well to real work in the field.

    Have a great Labor Day!

    cheers, m


  2. Actually, that should say “90s” instead of “80s”. Old eyes and shaky fingers and only one cup of morning coffee, LOL. That then-young gunslinger is now a middle-aged gunslinger and master trainer. That’s my correction, I’m off to enjoy the day.

    cheers, m

    ps: Ralph, see if you have an edit function that posters can use to correct errors and turn it on, will you?


  3. Hi Ralph. This is an important consideration in our training. The industry has given us great choices in picture style targets. Something I will add that might be helpful. While these picture targets are great for on range training, I integrated the concept into force-on-force training. In a safe environment with air soft , I substitute paper targets with real people to get the participant “used to” pulling the trigger on a person. I use clear face shields so the role player’s face can be seen and I specifically drill by letting the participant look the role player in the face and shoot to the face. The closer we get people to view as real an environment as possible the better. The feedback I received post real combat shootings is that this training was the best preparation the officer received to be ready for the real fight. Just my opinion that might be helpful. Have a great day.


  4. Morning Ralph, morning Mr. Chiodo —

    Thanks for sharing that drill and insight, Mr. Chiodo. For those who aren’t familiar with Mr. Chiodo’s work, you need to get a copy of his book WINNING A HIGH SPEED, CLOSE DISTANCE GUNFIGHT. As Ed Lovette says in his introduction to that book, “Lou’s training program combines the best of the old with the best of the new.”

    The book is clear, pragmatic, and practical in application. The insights and training design tips are among the best written in the last twenty years, and incorporate insights into human performance that are just now being validated in the lab…though they’ve been validated on the street for a long time, by many of his students and those who adhere to his precepts.

    Get the book if you’re a serious practitioner or instructor: http://www.amazon.com/Winning-High-Speed-Close-Distance-Gunfight-Chiodo-ebook/dp/B004Z1C968/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441890629&sr=1-1

    The clear face shield is an excellent idea — do you have a particular brand or type you recommend with green gas airsoft? I recently did something similar while experimenting on a new training evolution — we had the student engage with face shots only past a hostage onto the hostage taker while moving — all real people, using the airsoft. That translated to an extraordinarily high percentage of good hits — and one of the students just relayed to me that drill translated to superior performance in simunition drills just recently in a SWAT level course.

    Thanks again for your work, Mr. Chiodo. You’re saving a lot of lives with your knowledge — for those who are willing to listen. You influenced me a long time ago via Ed, Bob Taubert and Ralph. Thanks for that!

    cheers, m


    • Hi Marcus. I am speechless. Thank you so much for your kind words about what I have been doing in training and for the comments about my book. It is deeply appreciated. Sorry for the delayed response. I have been in a training cycle with the police department in the city where I live along with teaching daily at the martial arts studio. The face shields I have been using are made by AO Safety. They have a hard plastic piece above the shield that protects the forehead and wraps around the side of the head. I have their thick clear plastic face shield that has the following markings on it: WP 96 polycarbonate . A Google search should get you to them. I always add regular safety glasses under the face shield just have added eye protection. I really like using these for training. In fact, I always run a drill that forces the person to look the role player in the face and pull the trigger.

      As a side note, I have been writing a number of articles that are posted in my website, www,gunfightersltd.com
      These articles cover a number of different topics.

      Thanks again for your comments, Marcus.


  5. Hi Lou!

    Your modesty and humility is noted and appreciated, Lou — and my comments are just meant to recognize your work as some of the foundation that the modern evolution of gunfighting (not manipulation/marksmanship) rests on. I heard about you and your work from Ed when he was still OGA’s senior gunslinger in charge of training, and from Bob when he was working up the HRT Gen 1.0. Your pioneering work is something a lot of modern instructors probably can’t pin a name on (though they should) since they’re being influenced by several generations that YOU influenced. That’s a fine legacy, Lou.

    Thanks for the tip on the face shields and the drill you mentioned — this is VERY useful in priming the cognitive processes involved in combat with the pistol so that particular bump never gets noticed in application. Working it through before hand with an EXPERIENCE (as opposed to a LECTURE) is brilliant and simple — and definitely supported by the latest psychological research in cognition and visual processing under stress.

    I probably shouldn’t pull this thread too far off track, but I’d very much like to ask you this: what (if anything) has changed in your training approach in the last 5-10 years? Is it still fundamentally the approach you outline in your book, or have you evolved it in some way? Eliminated or added any steps in the approach? Changed thinking on any aspects of it?

    I’m also curious as to how you find law enforcement to be accepting of it — it’s clean and simple and oriented t the street — but I wonder how many departments are willing to shift paradigms and take that on board?

    Thanks again for your work, Lou. I’ve incorporated aspects into the people I’ve trained over the last 25 years, and it’s definitely the area that comes up again and again in my research into the brain based factors that underlie effective combat gunfighting — your approach works.

    Looking forward to correspondence here and elsewhere!

    VR Marcus


    • HI Marcus. I hope all is well. Your comments about modesty and humility are deeply appreciated. Now to some of the issues and questions you brought up.

      I use airsoft to create drills to teach the methodology in what I teach. It is very inexpensive to learn the mechanics and it can be done almost anywhere. I also have developed prearranged drills that help integrate tactics and the combat shooting together and this ultimately leads to force-on-force scenario based training. I can do things in this type of training environment that cannot be done on the range. So, for those who only do range training, there are MANY things that simply can’t be included in training that are critically important to transition from shooting to fighting concepts.

      As to taking the thread in another direction. I think just the OPPOSITE. We are discussing targets!! The topic evolved around using life-like targets to better prepare the student to face reality. All I am discussing is using a target – a HUMAN target to bring the person as close as possible to confronting a real person in a real fight. A targets on a range – any sort of target, is not a person. It doesn’t do anything except be there. Even the moving target systems are nothing like a real person. Sure, we can teach certain principles about shooting at a moving target on the range with these systems BUT they are not and never will be a person. So, I think we are on solid ground discussing targets that breath and can be programmed to create more reality in training. Of course, this is my opinion.

      Regarding any changes in what I am doing. I think any viable program is always in some sort of evolution. We must always analyze what we are doing and when appropriate, adjust what we do in the training environment. The basics of the methodology is a constant. I believe I have struck the balance in what methods need to be included in a program and that hasn’t changed. I think the element that evolves is how we take those principles and integrate them into training. I believe in simplicity. In fact, one of the statements I always use in classes is that ,”Our goal is to perfect simplicity”. The one thing I have done more of during the let 10 year period is combat simulation training. I have come to the conclusion that the missing link in most people’s training is that they don’t get enough practice learning how to apply what methodology they have learned on the range. To make an analogy, the range is like hitting a heavy bag. We can get really good hitting it or kicking it. If you never take it to the next level and integrate those skills against a person, your training is incomplete and the results we can get in a real fight might not be as good as when we are hitting the heavy bag. So, I include more interactive training using the airsoft gear to try to bridge the gap between shooting at paper and cardboard and getting people used to fighting against another person. I hope that all made sense.

      Well, regarding how what I am doing is accepted. I find that once officers are immersed into the methodology, are properly taught and work through the program – they love it. The reason is because they see how it works and more importantly, they see how their prior training falls on its face when that training was based upon shooting principles, not fighting principles. The problem I have seen is not with the officers. Having been a trooper and worked graveyard for 23 years, I want things that work, The others want the same thing. When they are doing things that don’t make sense and go against their experience in the real world, they reject the training but will do it because it is a department requirement. The problem is usually with the instructor cadres. I say this in humbleness and with respect for others, but once you recognize that something isn’t working, there are two things that can happen. It is ignored or changes have to be made. I have fond that the most resistance to change is in the instructor cadres. Often because of egos, but also because I have seen many who just don’t know what to do in bringing the changes so things stay status quo. Of course this is my opinion. There is also the problem of management in some departments not wanting change. BUT, the end users – they want what will keep them alive. In that regard, I NEVER have a problem with acceptance.

      I will leave it here for now an respond to any other questions. I have to go teach about 4 hours of martial arts classes at the studio. Have a great day and it is great conversing with you and anyone else that is reading this.


  6. Hey Lou — thanks for sharing your wisdom here. A couple of random thoughts here — where the training target selection and simulation training comes together is under the concept of “high fidelity reality simulation” which is a fancy term (I stole it from NASA when consulting with them) for making the training as real in all aspects as you can. One of the barriers you crossed way back in the day is one that I think many trainers (or training administrators, or management) get stuck on — and that’s the balance between “safety” and high fidelity training. I put quotes around “safety” because that definition, when it comes to firearms training, seems very much fixated on the 4 Rules (and I’m not saying those are not of value…I’m saying that in order to train to a high standard as one will be using the skills you MAY have to violate those rules…) and the potential liability involved (both from students getting injured doing training, or people getting injured by those people who have been trained).

    My position, and I own it as such, is that the profession and practice of arms and going in harm’s way on behalf of others is inherently dangerous, and calls for a greater risk to life and limb in training so as to be fully prepared to do one’s job out on the street or battlefield. I remember my early experiments in adding high fidelity to firearms training (which was pre-Simunitions, when we were using dental packing stuffed into .38 special cases over a large primer and shooting them out of revolvers) the outrage on the part of some trainers and some “instructors” that we were “pointing guns at students and allowing them to point guns at other students…real guns!” Albeit those that had been rigorously checked by two qualified instructors who hand loaded each and every round under the other’s supervision…but I digress.

    You were one of the pioneers in getting to the real point of why LEO carry a firearm. Setting aside the politically correct answers, its (IMHO) to use the threat of lethal force, or lethal force, to stop the actions of a dangerous human being. Period. Which presupposes, setting aside all other training, the willingness to use lethal force. And, in the drill you outline, the willingness to shoot a human being in the face while seeing their face, which I touched on in my first post here.

    I think bringing the FIGHT to the forefront of firearms training, instead of that being on the end of a progression that starts with safety, manipulation, known distance marksmanship, KD marksmanship with time constraints, etc. may just be the real key to enhancing the survival of the good guys and gals when things get serious. And reality simulation is the way to do that.

    One of the evolutions I’ve been working on in my own training design methodology (caveat here for you, Lou, and other readers — I’m not an instructor anymore. I design training, and coach instructors, but don’t teach techniques/tactics etc. anymore due to degraded physical ability due to disease and age) is how to add the next levels of reality simulation. Airsoft with minimal protection or protection that allows joint/limb articulation and the facial expressions to be read (like your see through face mask) is an excellent way to fully realize the “in the moment” expression of the firearms part of the CQB fight…I’m actively experimenting with some of my martial arts friends how best to integrate FIST suits or modified suits to allow the high fidelity to transition into full body strikes, etc. — and also integrating knife trainers into it. There’s some good evolutions on some of this, but the protection gear tends to inhibit some of the response. Having a good armor set that allows movement but protects the armored opponent from full blast attacks AND allows for weapons manipulation is one piece; crafting the scenarios to create the real desired end-state in terms of skill set, and in my piece, designing the cognitive strategies that work and integrating those into the training, the practice, the scenarios, and the street application. That requires significant modification on what constitutes “safe” in training and practice, and requires a greater tolerance for some cuts, bruises (and bruised egos), and successful mental strategies to apply in the moment of application.

    It’s very cool stuff! Thanks for all you’ve done, Lou. It’s seen and appreciated and a fine legacy — and I’m looking forward to more about how you’re continuing to evolve that legacy…. and maybe a continuation of that in Book Two!

    cheers, m


    • Hi Marcus. I have a few minutes to respond. I am preparing for 11 hours of range teaching tomorrow. It should be a fun day. FIrst and foremost, your response is one of the absolute best and thoughtful analysis of the topics you have discussed that I have read. You focused on the points that are so critical in developing training. Outstanding!!!

      Let me approach this in the order you have organized your response. Regarding the safety aspect as it relates to training. Great points. Here is a way I look at it. When I am doing live fire drills that cause more safety concerns, I do the drill individually rather than try to run the line doing the drill at the same time. This is especially true when we do any shooting while moving drills. Also, each range has to be evaluated as to what can be done safely. You nailed it about the liaibility issues. It has really watered down training in many places. This is why the trainers really have to know what they are doing. Unfortunately, becoming an instructor because you go to a 4-5 day school is GROSSLY inadequate to call someone an instructor. I come form a martial arts background of almost 52 years. I VERY humbly say that I have attained my 9th degree and Grand Master status and it is absurd to think that we would put someone through a 30-40 hour course and call them an instructor. So, many times, the training gets watered down because the trainers don’t really understand how to do more complex training safely. This, of course, is my opinion based upon a lot of observation over the years.

      You are absolutely right about the mere fact that you are out in the field on patrol is in itself inherently dangerous. I have first hand experience with it. It is dangerous. I have seen the issue of people being leery of pointing a real handgun, rifle or shotgun at another person as part of training. I have personal encountered this in classes. When I first started in law enforcement, we ROUTINELY did that in training. Of source , appropriate safety measure were always followed to the letter when doing truing but it was a given to our training program. Nobody was ever injured and it really broke the ice with many people and if there was any hesitation to do it, it is better to find out in training not in a real fight. Hesitation kills.

      You are so right about me pounding the point home that we carry loaded firearms on duty because there is a high potential of using them to fight people who are trying to hurt or kill us or someone else. If people can’t face that fact, they don’t need to be in law enforcement. Just my opinion.

      Now, I will get this out before I have to leave and I will catch up with any follow up when I am clear tomorrow.

      I have faced the same issues about protective equipment VS reality training. Here is what I have concluded. First, while we always strive to make training as real as possible, there will always be some limitations. Those limitations can be either physical or psychological. So where where does that leave us. I have learned over the years to maximize on the training value of whatever I am using as a training tool. If I am on the range, I will try to maximize the training value of each drill and use the live fire to help increase the mechanical performance of the shooter. There are things that can be done on the range that can’t be done in simulation training like recoil control and other issues that will best be done live fire. Likewise, I can’t have a real human target on the range to replicate real body movement so I will use the airsoft gear and a role player to help maximize my time in teaching shooting at moving targets. If I am doing integrated training where we use other tools like batons, etc in conjunction with the firearm, the use of protective gear will sometimes limit movement etc., but it will be still be better than not doing the training due to the limitation. We do the same thing in sparring in martial arts. You do the best you can given the limitation of equipment.

      Here is the final point i can make before I go, What I have learned to do is maximize each training evolution and the key is that if I can at least get the most training value out of each evolution and then create training that combines the various evolutions together, I will always produce a better product than if I just did range training or never attempted to integrate the parts in simulation training. The more we expose the person to this sort of training, the better they get. While reality in training is the ultimate goal, it is sometimes difficult to completely replicate reality, the next default to that is to create as close a scenario as we can and we will do our best job to help those that we train. Let me know if this creates any more questions. Have a great night.


  7. Thanks for taking the time, Lou, and sharing your expertise. I wish I was out on the range for 11 hours today, LOL, instead of chained to the laptop doing research papers.

    Couple more thoughts —

    We’ve worked through the whole high fidelity reality simulation with gear, and then there’s the creation of the realistic simulation scenario with appropriately trained and scripted role players in a realistic context (like in a room instead of a taped off square outside, etc.).

    This leaves the area that my research focuses in on — the interior landscape, in other words, what we’ve been talking about is making the experience of the student real from the OUTSIDE IN…that is we load up their perceptual channels with visual and auditory cues that set a context that signals REALITY to the student and hopefully elicits a physiological state that they need to be in when they use those skills.

    So how do we train the student’s brain from the INSIDE OUT? In other words, how do we educate them to maximize their own training experience by consciously manipulating their perception of the outside stimuli that we’ve crafted to closely approximate reality and simultaneously allowing for safety?

    An example of the kind of technique that’s useful in this context (and I’ve tested in airsoft/simunitions/life fire scenarios with extraordinary retention and success as validated by outside academic researchers very recently) is this:

    The trainee is coached in advanced techniques of visualization.
    The trainee is challenged to visualize “the person they care most about in the world.” Whoever that might be.
    The trainee is further challenged to visualize that person standing behind them.
    And then the trainee is presented with a threat to that person, the threat being an armed aggressor standing in front of the trainee (with the visualized “person they care about” standing behind them).
    And then the trainee must resolve that threat, knowing that failure will result in harm to that person standing behind them.

    Simple, yeah? What that sequence does is elicit an emotional/physiological response in a trainee that in effect primes the brain to pay attention to the use of the skills (shooting, hand to hand, whatever) in the moment — that translates to those skills being available when a similar emotional state is evoked or elicited by outside stimuli.

    Which gives the trainee the ability to add realism to their training while doing ANYTHING…and ramps up the training value through engagement of the neurology (emotional response, higher order cognitive response, and activation of appropriate motor patterns).

    And as a long time martial artist, you know the value of doing a form, kata, drill with full emotional content., as though you’re actually fighting the opponent..it’s the same thing, just dressed up in science-y words now that the technology exists to actually measure it, LOL.

    These simple techniques embedded appropriately in any standard training program (by a skilled and experienced instructor, not the five day shake and bake you describe) will ramp up the speed and depth of skill acquisition by the practitioner. Try it out and let me know what you think!

    Thanks so much, Lou! Really enjoying the dialogue.

    cheers, m


    • Hi Marcus. Just back from training. Great day. I am also enjoying the dialog. Great info and approach. My approach to training has been that there are a number of seperate training evolutions that combine to increase an individual’s capability to perform in the arena that is created in a training environment, but I never take my eye off the fact that the arena where it counts is in the field on real calls. So, I understand via experience in both the training environment backed up by a career of staying in the field while doing my training duties simultaneously that nothing is more important than gaining field experience in conjunction with training. You make a great point about properly programmed role players and properly orchestrated scenarios. Here is where I have seen atrocities done to trainees. Role players who aren’t properly trained for that duty and scenarios that don’t replicate what actually goes on in the field. This creates insecurity and doubt in the trainee’s mind. No win scenarios, role players who don’t follow the game plan and ,as you wrote, in an I appraise environment leads to a situation that does more harm than good. In short, I am sometimes at a loss for words about what goes on in training.

      A major problem in training is that sometimes the most simple training evolutions aren’t done in a way that can help the trainee. Your suggestions are all valid, completely useful ways of getting better performance from a trainee. The problem is there aren’t many people who can do it correctly or will take the time to learn. Many trIners just stay in their comfort zone and little progress can be made due to their attitudes towRds training.

      I have to leave but will simply say that being around experienced officers in the field is a great way to increase knowledge. When that is coupled with sound training like you have presented, we can get appropriate responses in in the field. Take care.


  8. Hey Lou! Yeah, I’ve got to get back to work in the research mine, but I completely agree that working with experienced officers is one of the fastest ways to improve performance. The presuppositions in that are: 1) that the experienced officer understands best how to convey his knowledge in a useful fashion to the trainee 2) that the trainee knows how to learn from an experienced officer (he or she has “learned how to learn”) Those are nuances that experienced master instructors (like you) can wring out and install; and I think the evolution of firearms/law enforcement training really requires attention to those kind of skills, and not just the hard skills in application.

    Anyway, thank you for a great and informative discussion! I rarely (never) post on blogs or forums anymore after writing several books worth on various forums back in the Dark Ages, LOL, but this has been a very enjoyable exception. I’ll e-mail you through the Gunfighters website so we can keep in touch.

    Thanks, Lou! Your work is seen and appreciated.

    cheers, m


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