Do You Shoot Human-like Targets?

Do you shoot human-like targets?
Do you shoot human-like targets?
Do you shoot human-like targets?
Do you shoot human-like targets?

Right now I’m still on the West Coast and I’ve been traveling around Utah and Nevada looking at new shooting ranges to use for future training classes.

And the other day while I was inspecting one of the ranges the gentleman who was showing me around said, “You don’t use targets that show real people do you?” I explained to him that I use several different targets throughout my courses and some of them are indeed human-like.

He then got a frown on his face and said, “we do mainly hunter education here and we don’t like to encourage people to shoot other people so we don’t want human-like targets on the range.”

A comedy routine?

When he said that, I almost laughed out loud thinking he was deadpanning some comedy routine, but when I realized he was serious I simply said “okay” and left. The sad fact is, I guess this illustrates, much to my surprise, that all gun people aren’t perfect.

I do realize there are a lot of ranges and even states that don’t allow human-like targets. (I don’t know if this true, but I was once told that the state of Massachusetts did not allow human targets.)

Now for people who have common sense, and I like to think I’m one of them, obviously, shooting a human-like target is not going to encourage me to want to go out and kill people. Normal people (like you and me) have no desire to kill another person and will try to avoid it at all costs.

The only people who want to kill others are already “messed up” in the head and I’m pretty sure they’re going to kill people whether they’ve been training on human-like targets or bottle-shaped targets.

The thing is…

Us “normal people” who carry guns for personal protection need to make our training as reality-based as possible. When someone breaks into your home at 3am and tries to kill your family it’s going to be a person, not a bottle-shaped cardboard silhouette.

And if you’re sitting on the range and you get queasy about shooting at a human-like target then carrying a gun is not for you. It’s better you find out now before the gun is taken from you when you hesitate to use it, and instead it’s used on you.

The bottom line is, at my pistol courses we shoot at human-like targets because that’s what the threat is most likely going to be one day (it could be an animal too) and you need to train as close to real life as possible.

So if your range allows it I encourage you to take a few human-like targets with you next time or if you dry fire in your house you can start dry firing on a human-like target. And if your friends or family members tell you it’s “inhumane” or wrong to use a human-like target, just remember that these will be the same people begging you to grab your gun and protect them when someone’s trying to break into your house or cause them harm.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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Most law enforcement agencies utilitze the standard B27 target, which is human-like. But POST requires a discretionary course of fire that uses pictures of people. We teach assessment and shoot the threat. Real pictures of real humans doing real bad things


Ah, The good old day’s………..The running “Black Man” target………

christopher medina

Sadly yes massachusettes has that very stupid law in place unless your a police officer or agent you cannot shoot at human shaped targets.


Where was Romney Gov.? North Dakota, right? Oh wait. Two lousy choices. We need another “Major” party. Maybe the “I’m not going to do only stupid shit” party?


The security company I work for uses a human-like target, human-like in a rudimentary form. The targets are a paper version of IPSC-CB targets. The local range usually only allows their use for events but granted our company an exception. Personally, when I practice on my own, get around it by posting a square sight in target and staple a paper plate just above it on the board.

Phil Wertanen

Why did they go from black to blue? Hmmmm


I am a new shooter (2/12) and recently took a CCW class. I thought it was required to use a human shaped target. I think everyone should have to do that at least once. I can’t tell you how unnerved I was when my instructor shouted at me… “Shoot him in the chest”. Even though it was just paper…it still took some getting used to the idea. Of course, I hope to never have to “shoot someone” but I think that using the image of a human as a target helps me realize that someday… I may have to.


I have been in law enforcement over 38 years. It has always been taught to shoot at center mass including at least a double tap or until the threat stops. I have been involved in numerous police shootings and investigated police shootings. Most of the time you do not know how many rounds you have fired. I have also been involved in shootings where the subject was so high on drugs that numerous rounds did not put the person down. Had I not seen it with my own eyes it would be hard to believe. You need to shoot at realistic targets and situations so it becomes muscle memory without thinking twice about what to do. This is not TV and the bad guys mind set out weighs most of us.

Glock Fan

People that I have trained with many where or still in LE Some in BP others in ICE then others in local LEO jobs All say to always train that the first clear shot go for the head.


Sadly, what we’ve seen lately with LEOs is the old “close your eyes and pull the trigger as fast as you can until it doesn’t go boom any more” technique. Yeah, yeah stress and adrenaline add to it but, proper and constant training should largely overcome that tendency…


What was it, 16 rounds for like 7 hits and 9 innocent bystanders to stop one armed guy in NYC this summer? These were anti-terrorist guys? The perp never even fired back and they did a heck of a spray and pray, or did I miss something?.


I’ve been leaning away from COM to sniper’s triangle instead. The person on drugs will go down with a spine/CNS shot. LEO’s use h.p.’s so “bonded” ones in the heaviest bullet weight is the way to go. Wondering about “staging” the trigger with those polymer models LEO’s most seem to use for a head shot on a drugged up person.


Back in the old days we trained in the Mozambique Drill. 2 to the head and 1 to the chest. This always worked in the far flung reaches of this Earth. A year or or 2 ago a friend who was taking a Carbine and Pistol class said the demonstrated the technique but called it the failure drill. He asked why the name change and the response was that is was outdated and brought up bad images of the Rhodesian War. Well so be it. I still call it that and always will

Michael Rowe

You do mean 2 in the chest one in the head right? I think failure drill is referring to the condition of your rifle since you are fighting with a pistol.


Negative, It is called the failure drill now by those who are politically correct.

The Mozambique Drill, also known as the Failure to Stop Drill,
or Failure Drill, is a close-quarter shooting technique in which the
shooter fires twice into the torso of a target (known as a double tap to the center of mass), momentarily assesses the hits, then follows them up with a carefully aimed shot to the head of the target. The third shot should be aimed to destroy the brain or brain stem, killing the target and preventing the target from retaliating.

It is important to note that in the heat of such an encounter, all
but the most well-trained shooters will be unlikely to score such a
precise head-shot. For the vast majority of people the point of aim
should remain the torso.


Rhodesian Mike Rousseau was serving as a mercenary in the Mozambican War of Independence. While engaged in fighting at the airport of Lourenço Marques (modern-day Maputo), Rousseau was armed with only a Browning HP35 pistol. As he turned a corner, he bumped into a FRELIMO
guerrilla armed with an AK-47. Rousseau immediately performed a “double
tap” maneuver, a controlled shooting technique in which the shooter
makes two quick shots at the target’s torso. Rousseau hit the target on
either side of the sternum, usually enough to incapacitate or kill a
target outright. Seeing that the guerrilla was still advancing, Rosseau
made an attempt at a head shot that hit the guerrilla through the base
of his neck, severing the spinal cord.

Rousseau later related the story to an acquaintance, shootist Jeff Cooper.
Cooper later incorporated the “triple tap” maneuver (two quick shots to
the torso and one quick-aimed shot to the head) into his practical
shooting technique. Rousseau was later killed in action in the Rhodesian War.


I use human outlines because I have never been attacked, nor do I expect to be attacked, by circular aggressors…unless, of course, tiny UFOs become aggressive.

Dan Ess

Generally use standard bullseye and diamonds for 22 LR & WMR shooting, then put up the police silhouettes for the larger calibers. Zombies seem to be the hot commodity where I practice. Too busy for me, I like the standard B&W or Blue & White outline (no full color). I’ve been places where they have posted that You Cannot bring in Pictures of Real People. I would agree, that indicates some sort of animosity as would a person next to you shooting that might be mentioning a persons name as they shoot a target : ( You don’t go to the range to take out your frustration(s), full concentration should be focused on your skills, safety and awareness of your surroundings when practicing; indoors or outdoors.

Keith Dean

I always use profile targets. I carry a firearm to protect my family and me from bad humans. I want to make sure I can hit a body where I need to should the need arise. But just because I practice with “human-like” targets doesn’t mean I’m gonna nut out and go shooting people. Unless they attack.


I just use two pie plates One large on the bottom and one eight inch on top and have had no issues here in Ontario were gun laws are crazy


I use human based targets and outlines when practicing with my handgun because I am more likely to be attacked by a human and usually don’t see them with a bullseye in the news.


I think this is part of why Zombie targets are so popular. They are anatomically correct and nobody seems to care if you shoot zombies.


Good point. I like it. That should keep the nambie-pambie complainers quiet.


I think shooting ranges should encourage the safe use of firearms for all purposes–target, hunting and self defense. So, in self-defense, we practice shooting people. It’s unpleasant to even write those words, and it should certainly give us no entertainment. I’m happy to see that a shooter is initially a little uneasy about shooting a photograph of a real person–that’s a good sign. But, that uneasiness is part of what you’re training to deal with–if the time comes, the choice has to be decisive and instant, not plagued with reservation.

There is a practical aspect, in my opinion at least, to practice using targets that have distractors. For example, clothing, weapons, a back-pack, and so on, all serve to throw off our focus on shot placement. Threats aren’t squared-off to us like most targets are, threats that are crouched or not entirely exposed, and threats with what we may initially think are barriers to shot placement (the backpack, briefcase, etc). This is all probably good, practical stuff. I personally feel that, for self defense, nearly any target is as good as any other, given you’re standing still at a typical indoor range. There is a benefit and some good practical work that can be done, but it’s limited. If you and/or your target aren’t moving, then the practice is a bit limited in its utility.

Ranting on a little more, I personally don’t care too much for the zombie target theme and that sort of thing. I understand ‘fun’ shooting–tin cans, water jugs, wet phonebooks–but even though I admit to enjoy the zombie movie or two, it’s getting into abusive violence. This is something the film industry can pander to, but I don’t care too much for it at the gun range.


Where i took my CHL class, they provided human-like silhuette targets. The point of carrying a handgun being to protect one’s self from bad humans makes this logical.


Used to be that human shaped targets were not allowed by the NRA.

In World War II; only 15% of the soldiers could sight a rifle on a human and pull the trigger. Most intentionally shot over their head. Most people killed were by machine gun or artillery. The army then changed to human shaped targets and added more realistic training and the number in Vietnam was over 80%.

The reason for this is basic Pavlovian Conditioning. See a human target, pull the trigger. Make sure that this is done only under orders and you have a soldier.

An excellent book that details this is “On Killing” by Dave Grossman. It’s a must read.


And that is exactly what all defensive classes are teaching. Defensive against a human who has the intent of harming us or our loved ones. Hence the necessity of using life like targets.

Jimmie Jacked

Jason ya better watch saying “US NORMAL PEOPLE” or the queers will be threating you like they have Chick-fil-A!!! :o) LOL


I have been shooting handguns for around 40 years, and have had my CCW for the past 6 years. I have yet to see a criminal with a bullseye target on his front or back or any other type for NRA sanctioned type target. When I practice I usually use IDPA targets or the standard B-27 target. When I got my CCW we shot B-27 targets at 3 yards and only had to put 20 out of 25 on the target. That was a joke for me, but some had a hard time meeting the minimum requirement. go figure.;

Mt Buckshot

Our locale sporting goods store will not carry humane shape targets and they are the main seller of our range memberships. By the way there is no ban on shooting the targets at the range. Go figure!


Why would I want to shoot an animal…animals have never harmed me! As a law enforcement officer for 26 years, the only targets I’ve ever shot at were human silhouettes. If a deer or bear breaks into my home; I’ll just have to improvise.


you’re obviously not a cyclist who has been attacked by a crazy dog whilst pedalling down a country road. THAT is what made me get my Mother May I paper and start carrying. That, and the stories of homeless bums waylaying “wealthy” cyclists at a choke point on a local popular bike trail. But the thought did cross my mind, if I did shoot someone’s nasty dog after he bit my leg a few times, I’d likely have more of a time with the dog’s owner once he got HIS gun and came after me… this, the need for humanoid targets………


Try to scare the dog with a warning shot unless seriously attacked by a very dangerous dog.

Tony R.

ANY attack by a dog is potentially serious. You don’t know if the dog is rabid. Where I live, any dog that bites a human in a public place the first time is automatically subject to a 10-day quarantine. The second time the animal may be confiscated and destroyed.

Lynne Radcliffe

Warning shots are a very bad idea in any situation.
1) it shows you weren’t in fear of death or great bodily harm, & that means it’s generally illegal to shoot. (Other than at a range.)
2) you’re wasting ammo. Under stress your aim will be worse anyway.
3) the bullet has to stop somewhere. Just hope it doesn’t hit some_one_. (Less of a problem in the country than the city, but still a bad idea.)


Invite them for dinner

Jim Isbell

I think maybe we should pass another law that requires all perps to wear clothing that has a round, scored, target on the back and chest. Then we can practice with round targets. If this law works and they obey the law, then we can outlaw guns knowing full well that the perps will obey it also.

Oh, I know that someone is going to ask why a target on the back. For Texas where it is legal to shoot the perp in the back if he is carrying some of your property and he is still inside your property lines.

Inglorious Basterd

I respect people’s preference to shoot at whatever targets they prefer. However, the proposition that using human like targets is likely to create an urge to shoot a real person is just nonsense. Personally, I am happy shooting at any target that is available, including zombies, human silhouettes, puppies, or bunny-rabbits! I didn’t realize that photographs were not generally allowed, however that doesn’t stop someone visualizing someone they can’t stand 🙂 Just shows how stupid these rules can be!


I too see nothing wrong with using the standard police B-27 black and white target that I used while in law enforcement for a quarter of a century. It is merely the shadow of a human target and not specific to any particular individual, race, ethnic group, etc. I think some ranges object to some of these human targets when people bring in the Arabic images, the minority images of a someone in a hoodie and things of that nature. Public ranges are there for the use and enjoyment of ALL people from ALL backgrounds and things of this nature can and do offend. However, the use of a nondescript human image is perfectly fine.

Julius Castro

I 2nd that


I use FBI Q targets. Bottle shaped if you will. Range won’t let you use pictures of your wife, ex-wife, recognizable pics like the president etc. So my targets are okay with them and the general bullseye public.


Guess I’m some sort of nut, but I have been known to put a T-shirt over a target frame so that it’s as realistic as possible.

Scott Lanz

Back during the Iran embassy crisis, we put pictures of the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini on our ‘dog’ targets… If I thought a freaking Deer or Javelina was going to invade my home, I suppose I might think about putting Rudolph the red Nosed Rein-deer up on a target!


Have shot T-shirt (old /worn-out shirt) targets in IDPA.


Zombies. Always zombies. And unopened cans of Natty Ice. That stuff sucks.


Wow….And even worse, I know exactly which range you were at just based on that kind of comment.


I do not hunt. I do not shoot skeet. I am not a collector. I own firearms and maintain my skills for one reason- to protect my family, myself and my home. To that end, I will practice with targets that are most applicable to that purpose.


This is exactly what I came here to say.


The ranges here don’t allow human like targets. Front Sight Nevada, where i’ve been going once ayear does.

rev. dave

Well, I like silhouette targets myself. I don’t relish the idea of shooting anyone, but I can’t recall the last time I read or heard of someone being assaulted by a bulls-eye.


Did you go to Frontsight on your swing through Nevada? Human-like targets all the way…

Steve Bonning

I would prefer to make training as realistic as possible so the targets should be as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, at my range here in the Baltimore, MD area, I cannot use human-photo type targets, even of dead humans (bin Laden) since it ‘may be offensive to others’ according to the range owners.

Stephen J Natale

No Human Targets in MA: MYTH! There are ranges that don’t have them, but most do.


I was shocked at this article – we are not allowed to use human like targets at my gun club – I thought it was like that in the whole country. Maria (Massachusetts)


The targets I use are printed free from the internet, on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Most are forms of bullseye and one is a human silhouette. If I can hit an 8 1/2 x 11 silhouette, I think I can hit a full size form. One bullseye target has four 3 inch circles, which allows me to try different ammunition on each circle, or use a couple of different firearms on the same target, using different circles. As I like to say, I’m frugal.

Patti Goettler

I have always used “human like” targets…I do lighten things up by shooting “smiley faces” into the head part…


If I’m ever attacked by concentric circles, I’ll be ready.

green mountain boy

When I can, I get cardboard displays from various stores. Most are “real life” size.


I am a hunter and carry for SD. I shoot almost always at 6″ and 9″ paper plates with a 3/4″ dot in the center (or there about’s). Why? I can staple them on a heavy rubber mat so they won’t blow away. Also as my hunting has shown me, whatever I am shooting at becomes a target, period. Be it a skunk, deer, antelope, or prairie dog. I’m guessing it would be the same with any other target. Pick a spot and shoot at it, “aim small, miss small”


I too am a hunter. I have killed birds, rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, snakes, and deer. Shooting at round targets helped me prepare for shooting these animals and I think it will help if I ever have to shoot at a human. I also think hunting can help prepare a person for the possibility of killing a person. The hunter has already had practice looking down his sights at a living thing and then seeing it die. Part of it is just mental conditioning-thinking about the possibility of needing to kill another human being and what you would do.

.357 Sig

I use all kinds of human type targets.

christopher hisgen

Except when zeroing our weapons, in the US Army all we shot were human pop-up silhouette targets!

Matt Seavey

I can’t imagine practicing on an object that wasn’t shaped like the target I was practicing against. If I was going bear hunting, I would practice shooting at a bear target. Most of my practice and shooting classes are geared toward self-defense, so I use human like targets. I do like to mix my targets up and use targets that have an armed individual mixed in with targets with individuals holding cell phones, wallets, etc., so my clients make sure to practice identifying threats before making a decision to shoot. I would never shoot at a range that didn’t allow human shaped targets.


I have several guns all of which have different uses. I practice with each one occording to their specific uses. My S/D weapons do get used on human shaped targets. My hunting guns get used on animal shaped targets. My range guns ment to make tiny groups in paper get used on target with bullseyes. One exception to that rule is if my of my children are shooting with me and then the point is working on fundamentals or having fun. My daughter likes shooting but doesn’t like to hunt and isint old enough to carry for s/d. My oldest son wants to hunt but is a bit small to handle even the shortest carbine that that I have found. One day they will both shoot human shaped target just not yet.

Dr. Ronald Fountain

I think the best recent work on this point is the book On Killing by Col. Dave Grossman. He cites the work of S. L. A. Marshall and others regarding the resistance by humans to shoot directly at other humans, even when under attack by those humans. It is a classic on this point. Human like tarkets might desensitize the thoughtful person from shooting an attacker but that then only serves to balance the attack/response equation. The time to decide if it is right to shoot an adversary is NOT when you are under attack. At that point it is appropriate to decide where to shoot the attacker and when. I believe that thoughtfully trained people do not look for humans to shoot. At the same time they do not regard themselves as “sheep” targets. That is a good thing.


It’s absurd to me that anyone that wants to practice to defend themselves is then subjugated to defend themselves on how they practice by others who own firearms. My preference is the B-27 style target. Why, because it gives a frame to show where on a person I should be aiming. If I practice that way, then when/if a threat should happen, that is how I will react. I have also been trained to practice the body armor drill: a double tap to the center of mass and if that doesn’t drop them one to the ocular cavity. How do I practice that without a human-like target??

Guess what type of targets I use when I prepare for hunting season? Animal targets… Bingo!!!!

If you don’t like my targets, don’t use them. If you are offended by my targets, grow up and stop bothering me.


Heavens yes I shoot Human Paper targets how else do you learn to place your shots for the most effective wound or kill? When I use my browning .22 I can hit where I want at 45 yards That includes hands knees. When I use my .45 I use all kill shots. Being that weapon is used within15 yards or less. I also use 12×12 inch hit visible targets at various distances. I also practice at least twice a week. No I have never had to use any weapon on a live target since 1975. For that I am extremely grateful. I do carry every day just like I carry my wallet

James Oates

I seem to recall a story years ago about some law enforcement agency that used only bullseye targets…they were having officers getting shot…when they changed to silhouette targets, that caused a training upgrade and officers began hitting the people that they were needing to hit….


People just need to get used to the idea that in a real survival situation there, will be a warm body on the other end of that bullet speeding toward your head


I teach personal defense shooting especially point shooting. Not only do I only use human targets in my shooting drills, many of them have the vital areas outlined so when the targets are pulled back my students can see where their hits actually were and what part of the body was hit. I tell my students that a person is easy to kill but hard to stop. Knowing exactly where to shoot to stop the assault is critical. I teach an anatomy lesson for just this purpose. I also use a 3D target so they can see where shots need to hit to get into the critical areas that must be hit to stop the fight. I can turn This target at various angles to demonstrate that real assailants do not always face you head on. What is the shot where the assailant is quartering you or at a sideways angle. What is it you are high and they are low or vice versa. Conventional center of mass shots in these situations are usually very ineffective.

My students learn how to shoot fast and with combat accuracy in their drills. Some drills are set up to increase their level of discomfort so they can experience a little of what a real fight might be like. I start them with an SIRT training pistol that is laser based so they can learn to aim without relying on the sights. (PS sights do not work very well or at all in low light or in the dark.)
Point shooting is effective when done within the limits of ones skill. Most of my students are combat effective at distances up to 16-18 feet I demonstrate to them that effective point shots can be taken at distances of 30 feet of more with lots of practice. Of course at some distance the sights can be brought into play and indeed need to be used if a precision shot is needed. It is all about trading off speed and precision and knowing what your skill level permits you to do.

In my opinion there is great value in using targets that resemble the criminals they may face in an actual situation. I want them to learn to shoot when the threat has clothes covering the vital areas. I also use targets that are not always face on.


Probably just me, but I like to use somewhat real targets, and I used take, or did take
a standard B-27 and replicated it many times, only smaller… Used the standard silhouetted picture, only it was half size….. I’m retired, not an LEO any longer but I still shoot, and while
it isn’t upper most in my mind to shoot another human, the fact remains that it can happen..
I would hate to have anyone show up in my front room, looking for a handout, by force..
I live alone now, and I have all the tools necessary, to defend against all enemies, foreign
and domestic… I’ve been permitted to carry, since the second year of our ability to do so..
The reason I used smaller versions of the B-27 should be obvious.. aim small, miss small..

Paul P.

Range rules are normally the responsibility of the board of directors, even on ranges that were constructed with Pittman Roberts monies and which may be primarily dedicated to hunters education. So, those of you who may encounter rules barring humanoid targets need to get involved at the board of directors level or at least attend the meetings and get the target situation corrected. I know of no agency concerned with training and self defense (re armed security or law enforcement) that use anything but humanoid targets which is as it should be. The same applies to private sector self defense firearms training which should use the same target types to what ever extent the trainer deems necessary..
Get active at your range, and get the target situation corrected.


I know of a lot of human targets that should be on the range opps human-like targets(humor boys just humor)Our range allows anything you bring in but only supplies round targets.