How to Hit Moving Targets

Recently I spent a couple days working at my local gun club’s deer sight-in event. I landed a cool job- working the running deer target. The skill level of participants varied over the course of the days but this clip is a good example of the typical pass- dirt was the biggest threat to the running target.

A day of watching this play out over and over inspired this article- a few tips on how to shoot moving targets. The basic concept is pretty simple- lead your target enough to ensure that your shot can arrive at the desired point of impact at the right time to score a hit. 

There are two types of moving targets as defined by the heroes at Camp LeJune: steady moving targets and stop-and-go moving targets. Steady moving targets are like the trolly-laden running deer in the video above. Stop-and-go targets are more erratic because they tend to run to and from points of cover or concealment. Stop-and-go targets are easiest to hit as they leave cover because they require time to accelerate.

The lead is the distance ahead of your target that you aim a shot to ensure that the projectile does not fall short of the target since it will keep moving after your shot breaks. Lead is affected by range, angle and speed of movement. There are three types of leads:

1) Full Lead. The target is moving straight across your line of sight with only one arm and half the body visible. This target requires a full lead because it will move the greatest distance across your line of sight during the flight of the bullet.

2) Half Lead. The target is moving obliquely across your line of sight (at about a 45 degree angle). One arm and over half of the back or chest are visible. This target requires half of a full lead because it will move half as far as a target moving directly across your line of sight during the flight of the bullet.

3) No Lead. A target moving directly toward or away from you presents a full view of both arms and the entire back or chest. No lead is required. This target is engaged in the same manner as a stationary target because it is not moving across your line of sight.

 The USMC uses a system for calculating lead amount in points of aim- it’s covered here if you’re interested. There are two methods used to engage moving targets: tracking and trapping (aka ambush method).

Tracking a moving target requires the user to match the movement of the target with the front sight and establish the proper amount of lead before breaking the shot:

1) Point the weapon downrange and disengage safety.

2) Take up trigger slack and track the muzzle of the weapon through the target to the desired point of aim (lead). The point of aim may be on the target or some point in front of the target depending upon the target’s range, speed, and angle of movement.

3) Track and maintain focus on the front sight while applying trigger pressure and acquiring sight alignment.
4) Continue tracking and applying trigger pressure and acquire sight picture. When sight picture is established, engage the target while maintaining the proper point of aim (lead).

5) Follow through so the lead is maintained as the bullet exits the muzzle. Continuing to track also enables a second shot to be fired on target, if necessary.

Follow through is very important when tracking a target- if you stop moving before the shot breaks it is easy to miss. Remember that the target is still moving. Also this keeps you in position for a follow up shot if required.

The Trapping method requires the user to pick a spot and wait for the target to cross that spot. This method is useful for start-and-stop targets since a pattern can fequently be discerned if you study the movement quickly (OODA Loop again? Yep).

1) Look for a pattern of exposure, such as every five seconds, etc.

2) Rifle pointed downrange, safety off, trained on a selected point of aim ahead of the target. Take up trigger slack.

3) While applying trigger pressure, obtain sight alignment in the aiming area.

4) While continuing trigger pressure, hold sight alignment until the target moves into the predetermined engagement point and the desired sight picture is established.

5) When sight picture is acquired, engage the target.

6) Follow through (hold steady)  so the sights are not disturbed as the bullet exits the muzzle.

 And there you have it – two tried and true methods of engaging moving targets- 2 legged, 4 legged and even rolling! Stay safe out there.

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