Friday, June 18, 2021

The SSD Short Range Match: An After Match Report

We held our monthly Sensible Self Defense Short Range Match on 13 June 2021 and the match went very well. We had 22 shooters with five shooting a second gun for a total of 27 scores. The match required a total of 81 rounds assuming no misses, so the shooters had to fire a minimum of 2187 rounds during the match. Total dropped points for all shooters for the match was 544 points.

We use IDPA classification standards to enable the shooters to make an apples-to-apples skill comparison.  IDPA-ranked shooter skill levels the this match were as follows:

   -- Novice: 6
   -- Marksman: 5
   -- Sharp Shooter: 7
   -- Expert: 2
   -- Master: 2 

We used 38 targets during the match and the targets had 153 shots outside the down zero resulting in a 7-10% miss rate (an exact figure is impossible given that some shooters missed the target entirely). Five shooters dropped fewer than five points total for the match and five shooters dropped more than forty points total for the match. One shooter had zero points down for the match.

In 2019 we adopted the Shoot Steel target for the Short Range Match as shown below (the picture on the head is a modification we often make). For scoring we count the B & C-zones (upper chest area) and head (above the shoulder/ neck line as down zero and the D zone is down three. We do not have a down one scoring area. A head shot requires the full diameter of the bullet to be inside the target or it is scored as a miss. Depending upon the course of fire, if the target has the face modification, the entire diameter of the bullet must be within the ocular and nasal cavity scoring lines (and not touching the lines) or it costs the shooter points (+1 second).

We cover all threat targets and occasionally non-threats with T-shirts or other clothing so the shooter cannot see the scoring rings, the taped holes from previous shooters, nor their own hits. If a threat target does not have the face modification, we cover the head with a mask. This requires the shooters to call their shots because they cannot simply glance at the target to judge whether they should reengage.

T-Shirt Covering Target

As I was recycling the targets from our June 21 match, I selected the best target (fewest points down) and the worst target (most points down) for comparison.  On the worst target I noticed something that I routinely see in our matches. In general, most of the shots outside of the “down zero” scoring area were shot low on the target. The worst target shown below had fourteen hits outside the down zero and eleven of these were low on the target.  You can also see that many of the down zero hits were also low on the target. In my experience, this is typical of shooters aiming for the proverbial "center of mass."

When the target is covered with a T-shirt, shooters aiming for the T-shirt's center of mass will likely hit very low in the down zero area with very little margin for error. If the shooter judges the center of mass from the top of the head to the bottom of the t-shirt they will hit the down zero. Experienced Short Range Match competitors have learned that they must aim just below the shirt’s neckline to reliably hit the target’s upper chest and score a down zero for the shot.

The concept of “aim for center mass” is very nebulous as the center of the available mass very likely will not represent where you need to hit if you are trying to stop a threat. "Aim for where you do CPR" is a much better choice. Square ranges and two dimension targets cannot adequately replicate real world three dimension threats. However, the t-shirts and Shoot Steel targets we use in the Short Range Match represent our attempt to train shooters to aim for a target area that is more likely to result in a threat-stopping hit.
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  1. Another great article.

    When I ask Soldiers to call their shot (after having to explain what that means...) they almost always reply, "center mass." That's a key indicator they didn't call their shots, they just repeated what drill sergeant said.

    This article shows why "just aim center mass" contributes to subpar shooting.