Shot Placement in Combat Shooting

March 17, 2015  
Categories: Learnin'


Today we bring to you, once again, some words of warrior wisdom (see that awesome and apropos alliteration?) from Jared Ross of Rockwell Tactical. Mad Duo

Grunts: apropos

Shot Placement in Combat Shooting

Jared Ross

As kind of a follow-up to last year’s Why Dots?, I wanted to talk more on shot placement in a combat setting. What do I mean by combat? Any situation with a physical confrontation where there is potential for injury or loss of life. This type of situation causes a surge of adrenaline (Fight or Flight response).

All kinds of things happen to your body physiologically in combat, tunnel vision being one of the most common. When my wife used our Mossberg 590 to defend our home, she experienced “combat” just a real as I did while executing missions in Iraq and other places.

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs with shooters as they go through a shoot house. We see it at every SF CQB class. Combat, as those who have experienced it will attest, is sensory overload. As students are entering the room and scanning for threats, we give them all kinds of targets. What, generally, are they looking for? What are professionals all over the world looking for? Hands. As soon as the hands are identified as having or not having a weapon, the students will react as they are clearing the room.

With minds racing, and weapons identified, the students will begin to shoot to eliminate the threat. What tends to happen is that all the shots go toward the weapon and hands, not at the center of mass or head. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. This needs to be noted by trainers and pointed out to students. We need to train to have good shot placement on threats.


Let me give you an example of what HAS happened. Gun fight: real world threat presents himself with an AK. Soldier identifies threat, sees AK, and immediately engages the threat. After soldier shoots 5-6 rounds AND KNOWS they were hits, the threat falls. Soldier now ignores the fallen threat and starts looking for another. The old threat then rises and continues his original attack, minus the AK, catching the soldier completely off guard.

So what happened? Was this a scene from The Walking Dead?  No, it was real life. All those rounds hit the old-school, milled AK, effectively destroying it and knocking down the threat. Then, much to his surprise, Johnny Taliban realized that instead of being dead, he just had minor injuries to his hands. So with an “Inshallahhe continued the fight.

You need to train for real life. It all starts with MMS (read my first article for an explanation of MMS). That’s why we use dots to work on the fundamental principles of MMS. You need to know your weapon. You need to know your holds. You need to know where your rounds will impact if you are three feet, thirty meters or 600 meters away. It’s not enough to just identify your target, you need to identify the threat and place well-aimed shots that will neutralize the threat.


I can’t emphasize enough the importance of reviewing and practicing the basics of shooting. Every RTG live-fire class starts with three basic types of drills. The rounds per drill, and distance, are up to the individual situation.

First is shooting one single shot at a time. Each round should be treated as a standalone cycle. From target ID, presentation of the weapon, through the shot, and back to the starting position (high ready/low ready/holster/whatever). Take your time and do it right. Make sure you are getting hits where you desire.

Second is shooting controlled pairs. The emphasis here is on keeping a good sight picture before and after each shot.

Third is shooting strings of 3-6 rounds in a steady rhythm. 3-inch dot, 6-inch dot targets, RTG1 and 2 targets or even index cards work great for these drills. You want something with a small, tight area for you to aim at. After these warm-up drills, there are plenty of different drills to help you to shoot increasingly faster while maintaining accuracy.

By starting each training day with these warm-up drills, you are reinforcing the fundamentals of MMS. So, knowing your holds, you are getting rounds where you want them to be. Now, as you make the transition in your training to CMMS, you need to have the discipline to continue putting rounds where you want them.

 A type of drill that we like to do to help reinforce this is by using an RTG 1 or 2 target. The instructor will call out numbers, shapes, or colors in combinations to keep the students/shooters mind occupied as they search for and identify the shape to engage. At some random point, an instructor will call out a “threat”. As soon as the student hears that prompt, no matter where they are in the current drill, they must ID and engage the human silhouette. Specifically, we want them to shoot center (at the center shape that is now representing the heart and lungs), ID and drive the gun to the head (specifically the cranial triangle), then ID and drive the gun to the pelvic girdle. The number of rounds per target can vary depending on the platform and circumstances. One of the main benefits of this drill and others like it is to force the shooter to lock on with his eyes and hit specific areas of the body or threat while under stress.


One of the changes we have made over the past few years when using shoot/no-shoot targets, is to call any hit on a weapon as a miss. We need to force ourselves to become smarter shooters. Using the craw, walk, run method of training as students are going through the Sims/UTM house (walk phase) we sometimes will spray paint different areas of the target to help guide them as to where to place shots. We would do this especially if they are still putting hits on the weapons instead of a good center of mass shot or head shot.

As soon as it is the run phase (live-fire in the house) there should be no help given. It is up to the student to deal with the stress and perform. It is up to the instructors to call the shots as they really are, not let students get away with sloppiness. Make sure those hits are where they should be. After all it is a matter of live and death. I don’t know about you, but I choose life.


With a progressive selection of drills, it will become second nature to place shots where we intend, not just in the general direction of the threat.

Thanks for reading.




Shot placment

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Jared Ross

About the author:Jared Ross has spent about a decade as an 18B Green Beret Weapons Sergeant. A former 82nd ABN 11 Bravo, he has done multiple combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and assorted other shitholes. He spent several years with one of the active duty SFGs, is now with one of the reserve SFGs and remains involved in weapon and CQB instruction. Jared is a what we’d consdier both a well-rounded soldier and an inspired, methodical instructor. His company is called Rockwell Tactical Group, a training organization based in Pennsylvania; everything they teach is predicated on a warrior mindset, whether students are responsible armed citizens, military, LEOs or PMSCs. They teach students of every race, age and gender, striving to ensure they prevail not only over the assailant, but over fear and panic as well. You will be seeing more of him on Breach-Bang-Clear. If you’re interested in training with Jared and his crew, check them out at Rockwell Tactical Group.

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  1. Cesar Lopez

    Good articule

  2. Searcher12

    Both Ayoob’s LFI-1 and Benner’s TDI-2 talked about this problem, even with handguns. The mind concentrates on the “fangs” and not the snake behind them. I understand it’s even more noticeable with 3D targets.

    I once shot the hell out of drawn cell phone, because I was convinced it was a glock.

    The flip side for us civilians is to realize that when approaching LEOs under stress, we need to keep our hands empty. The ability to re-holster a firearm could save you a lot of pain.


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