Target from Sentinel Concepts, taken during CHE course. One of the best targets out there.

The terms “Combat Effective” and “Combat Accurate” have been swirling around the shooting world for quite some time now. Their definitions however, are a gray area at best, normally used to describe less than ideal (also known as bad) shot placement by a shooter or Instructor. I have seen where an instructor was attempting to demonstrate how easy it was to get a 1.0 second draw at 7 yards and continually placed rounds in the D-zone of a USPSA target (I.e. Shoulder/arm/read as complete miss on an average sized human). Of the five reps, zero impacted the A-zone and none were a “close” C. His response every time was “It’s a combat effective hit.” Does a shot in the arm have an effect on someone? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I think it’s time we redefine combat accuracy and combat effective hits.

What we’ve seen thanks to a decade of war and individuals really putting in the time to study how gunfights happen scientifically, is that if someone is hit in the arm, leg, even chest at times, the only thing that stops them from continuing to fight is their own lack of will to fight. If we want to truly define “Combat Effective” hits, we’d be talking about the A-zone of a USPSA target or the -0 portion of an IDPA target. And even these would be considered somewhat generous by some instructors. If we really want to be effective, we’d be shooting 4×6 and 3×5 cards. Does a hit in the hand have an effect on someone? Sometimes. Does a shot to the face have an effect? Sometimes. But I’ll say this, the shot in the face has a much better chance of having an effect than a a round passing through the meaty part of someone’s hand. (No, I’m not saying immediately go for the head shot.)

When we’re running our Combative Handgun/Carbine or Practical Application of Concealed Carry (PACC) courses, we shoot almost exclusively on B-8 targets, 3×5, and 4×6 cards. We shoot a lot of cards in our other courses as well, but the accuracy standards for the combative courses are far less forgiving. We didn’t do it just to make the courses harder. We did it because it is the most accurate representation of what is needed when fighting with a gun. One thing we’ve learned (and relearned over and over again) is that shot placement is king. Statistically, caliber barely matters, capacity rarely matters, but making good hits in vital areas ALWAYS matters!

So let’s be a bit more realistic, and honest with ourselves. A-zones and -0’s are easy, and they let us go really fast. 4×6 cards and 2″ dots are hard and are a more accurate representation of what stops gunfights. So go out, buy a100 pack of 3×5 cards, glue them to your USPSA/IDPA targets, and get to shooting. Hold yourself to a higher standard.