Shot Placement: A Funny Story of What Not To Do

Shot Placement Matters

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45 ACP on Target Paper - Shot Placement Accuracy Training

A funny story about shot placement

I want to relate a funny experience about shot placement. This was an experience I had with a friend of mine (I use that term loosely) who was a somewhat shallow thinker when it came to Firearms. He was that sort of Self Proclaimed-Know It All kind of guy who had an answer to every question and a response to every subject. Needless to say, he knew “Everything” when it came to guns.

This “friend” of mine, who was an avid shooter and gun enthusiast, had very opinionated views about Semi-Automatic Pistol Cartridges for Self Defense, as many people do. The problem is, a lot of folks talk without real world knowledge and most of what they say is just regurgitated rhetoric they heard from somewhere on the internet. Well, since you can’t be around Firearms enthusiasts without a caliber debateThe Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting popping up every 5 minutes, it was only a matter of time before we heard his high and mighty opinion on the most popular of handgun calibers.

Some people are just hard headed..

His opinion was, in a nutshell, that the 9mm Parabellum was a silly round only good for shooting holes through paper targets. He considered shot placement of secondary importance to a big fat bullet, often poking fun at the 9mm when it was brought up for self-defense, claiming it was too weak and light to be effective. That in turn made me laugh, and if you know me or have read my opinions on the 9mm you’d know why. What he insisted was that you must have at least a 40 S&W to be adequately protected, and even this he considered too weak to really account for anything. He carried around everything from a 40 M&P, a Springfield 1911, Glock 29 10mm, Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum, and a few others.

The first (and last) time we went shooting together, we took a variety of guns with us into the mountains just to hang out and do a little afternoon target practice. We had something to the effect of about 10 different pistols, a variety of rifles and maybe one shotgun. Amongst his collection he brought with him was an AR-15 (chambered in .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO), which I don’t recall the make or model of currently, but he claimed it was a very expensive rifle. It certainly looked nice from what I remember, and I believe he pieced out all the specifics individually as a custom build. He had a soft spot for expensive guns and had the deep pockets to own them. Next to the AR-15 was a first generation Ruger Mini 14, which wouldn’t shoot straight for the life of it. What happened next I will never forget, but before I continue please remember, he had already bestowed upon me and many others his be-all-end-all opinion on semi-automatic calibers.

Shot Placement Matters - Firearms Accuracy

Shot Placement is the Biggest Part of the Equation

Strong Opinions meet Real World Capabilities

After we had arrived at our destination, my friend reaches into his bag and pulls out some Tannerite, mixes it up, and places it upwind about 30 yards. He grabs the AR-15, slides the stock out and leans over the hood of my truck. He peaks through the Red Dot siteThe Burris FastFire Red-Dot Reflex Sight helps with Shot Placement and about 30 seconds later, BANG! …. Miss. I was a little surprised, but it was the first shot and it was a windy day and I had not seen him site in his opticsNIKON M-223 BDC for extremely accurate Shot Placement, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. After looking the rifle over again he fidgets with the optics a little, and returns to his shooting position. Another 5 seconds pass… BANG! Miss….. Looks again at his rifle, insisting something is off. Another few seconds pass. BANG! Miss…….. BANG! BANG! BANG! Miss, Miss, Miss. You get the point. It took him a total of 9 shots to finally connect with the Tannerite.

With a look of frustration and a little embarrassment, he returned to his range bag and pulled out another small pack of Tannerite, mixed it up and placed it back out at the 30 yard line. He hands me the rifle and insists that I give it a try, thinking that he “overlooked” something. I lean over the edge of the truck, look through the Red DotRedfield 117850 Counterstrike is Great for Close Range Shot Placement and… BANG! BOOOM!!! Tannerite is toast.

The Reality of the Situation

Just so you know, I am not the world’s greatest rifleman. In fact, I could use a lot of trainingMarine Corps Marksmanship - Shot Placement professional training myself and feel I have a very long way to go to hit the distances I want. Ultimately though, I am always practicing and working on quick and accurate shot placement. Not only for self defense, but many hunting scenarios can require quick thinking and adaptation when hunting in the bush and thick overgrowth we have here. But that is not the point here. The point was, it was 30 yards and he had a very accurate AR-15 that in fact was functioning quite flawlessly. He was in a resting position, with minimal wind and high visibility. If you’ve ever shot an AR-15, you would know just how soft they shoot and easy they are to handle. It’s not exactly a .300 Win MagRifle Snap Caps are great for practicing Shot Placement dry firing if you know what I mean. Well, after I connected with my target on the first shot, he was quite surprised and played it off somewhat as a lucky shot. So we did it again, and guess what. Yep, same results. Before you ask, he is not a small guy, and size did not factor into this at all. In fact he is 6’2” and probably about 250 lbs, so managing recoil is not a problem. He was just rushing through the motions and had poor shot placement, clear and simple.

Personality Might Have Something To Do With It

Over the next hour, I watched him cycle through several different firearms in a variety of types and calibers. While his horribly inaccurate shot placementPrinciples of Personal Defense - Shot Placement when it Counts stayed consistent, the other things I observed were nothing short of horrifying. Not only was his handling of firearms frightening, but just about everything he did was appalling. Terrible stance, bad posturing, horrible grip, and worst of all, incredibly unsafe. It was no wonder his shot placement was so horrific. Generally when shooting with people I know, especially people who have demonstrated knowledge of firearms and who also own several, I would not feel the need to spray range rules onto them like a first time shooter. Apparently this was a mistake on my part, because I found out the hard way that he was the kind of guy, without calling it out, would just start firing off into whatever direction he pleased, at whatever time he pleased, and whatever target he pleased. That’s not cool. I have an incredibly large and healthy fear of firearms, and I take range safetyFirearms Instructor's Manual - Shot Placement Training very seriously.

Outside of shot placement and being horribly unsafe, I could go on all day about the many flawed things this guy did that day, but the moral of the story is this: You can carry whatever hand cannon you want, but if you can’t hit a white target on a dark background from 30 yards using a highly accurate AR-15, it doesn’t matter what you’re carrying. Shot placement is never a secondary consideration. “Almost” hitting your target does not count in a Self Defense situation, nor in hunting or any firearms related sport. In fact, I’m not sure it counts in any situation. That’s not to say that a big heavy piece of lead is a bad thing, but if you’re going to slam a particular cartridge for being too light or small, you damn well better be able to back up your statements with some quality shooting. In this case, no, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, even with the lightweight easy to shoot .223 RemingtonMagazine Speed Loader - Keep Your Shot Placement Training Moving Uninterrupted.

So remember, Shot Placement, Shot Placement, Shot Placement. Keep up your training and always work on your accuracy because in the end, a single well-placed round of 9mm will stop a bad guy much quicker than 10 shots of heavy lead in the dirt.

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  1. I really hate those hot head know-it-all’s who can’t back up what they say. Some people are just plain stupid and I think your “Friend” was one of them. Really the way you described him just really made me not like him. I’m very surprised and glad that you avoided an accident.

  2. It does sound as if the guy feels insecure or inadequate next to your knowledge. Some people try to brag and bluff their way through situations like that. I prefer to ask a bunch of questions, and try to soak up the information like a sponge. Hopefully he learned something about gun safety during the time you were together.

    • Its really not as if I were some super knowledgeable pro compared to him, it was more like he had technical knowledge but did not practice or handle his firearms often. It would be like someone claiming they were a mechanic because they owned a lot of cars and read a lot about them. If anything, its just a little strange when you expect one thing and are surprised by something completely different. Since that experience, I have largely been a lot more aware of those around me and how they are handling firearms, so I guess all-in-all perhaps it was a lesson I needed for myself as well.

  3. I have been doing as much practicing as I possibly can but it seems like my shot placement isn’t getting any better. I hope to improve my skills in the future but so far my ability to really aim properly has not paid off.

    • There are a lot of techniques out there and many people learn in different ways. Proper stance and grip go a long way, but it still can take many folks a long while to get past the initial “flinch” reaction when pulling the trigger. Keep up your practice, you can only improve through repetition. Keep us updated on your progress :)

  4. I’d bet the first time he missed, he was a little embarrassed and unnerved – maybe even nervous of looking bad and having an article written about him. I’d also bet that continuing to miss made that worse and worse. People should always go back to the basics – sight picture, breathing, trigger control – let the bang surprise you – whether it is 30 yards or 300 yards – the fundamentals will get you through.

    • There is the definite possibility that he was a little nervous. It was a little unsettling though after about an hour, and I started to realize he was just not really trained or had much respect for the firearms he was firing. At that point I just packed my stuff up and stood and watched him, mostly because I couldn’t continue focusing while also trying to keep an eye on what or where he was shooting. It was a little unnerving!

  5. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand the simple basics of using a firearm it’s not necessarily as easy as it looks on TV but when people come to the gun range they seem to think it is an end up almost hurting themselves.

  6. Being accurate is just being responsible. It drives me nuts when I see a person who can’t make a decent grouping carrying. They almost always carry a larger caliber because they think it’ll make up for their lack of skill. What good is their weapon in a real life situation if they can’t properly use it?

    • It never ceases to amaze. For as many intelligent and responsible gun owners as I have met, there is always that one guy who can’t help but be the most irresponsible and dangerous one without even knowing it.

    • Good point there I too agree that the weapon does not matter shot placement does. If you do not have the skill then you do not need the weapon. I mean there are different guns for that reason.

  7. I served in the military. Marine Corps and the Army and sight alignment and sight picture was preached to us constantly until we got the concept explicitly. In other words, there is a picture that you must draw in your mind to sync the front and rear sights on most any weapon whether it be a handgun or a rifle and practice is paramount to accurate shooting. Even if the weapon doesn’t have sights on it, (which is rare these days), one should probably get very familiar with the weapon before you are using it in a self-defense situation. Your life could depend on it.

    • It’s amazing to me what a huge difference concepts like this make in creating an accurate site picture. There are too many people watching movies, thinking its just point the muzzle at what you want and pull the trigger. I’ve been very interested in long distance shooting the last few years, and some people wouldn’t believe the amount of mental and physical control it can take to hit something out at 300, 400, 500+ yards, especially with the elements against you. Watching guys hit a 1000+ yards with a .50 BMG is nothing short of amazing to me.

      • I could remember watching the second season of a weapons competition show called Top Shot. I remembered the former named Brian Zims was able to destroy a target that was 1000 yards away within 15 seconds. He did that with a M82 Barrett which is the .50BMG of weapons that anyone who loves firearms would love to shoot.

        • I remember watching the same episode, they were shooting from on top of a bluff, and the target exploded when he made contact. I can’t imagine having nerves like that to hit something at such a huge distance!

  8. I wish I could send this article to some friends of mine without seeming really snide about it. None of them are willing to admit they just need to practice shooting more and just buy bigger and better guns constantly. At this point I don’t even really think any of them are into shooting and just like to show off and boost their egos. Also +1 for being a fan of 9mm.

      • I am amused too about the whole issue. I never shot a gun but I try to do some research. I do occasionally watch videos showing people shooting a gun. Nothing would do it other than hands on experience.

  9. We have a glock for protection at home but when we go to the range we use other weapons to practice. My accuracy is not too bad but I have found that some days I cant even hit one target and the gun tends to push me back, other days I can handle and dont miss a shot.

  10. Practice does make perfect and I would have to say that when you are in a mode and have to act quickly it sometimes does not work. Using the right ammo with the right gun is imperative and it also helps to ensure that you have your feet firmly on the ground to avoid getting thrown back…that has happened to me!

  11. Obviously you had better experience and training then the so-called friend of yours. I mean just because a weapon is chambered for a certain caliber does not mean the caliber is worthless. I mean you can take two different handguns like the S&W 1911 and the Glock 17 and have different results no matter what. Firearms are one of those things where you got to practice no matter what even when you think you know its better to just shoot the gun. I am still trying to arrive at that point where I can sit down and use one.

    • Practice Practice Practice. Being able to connect with a target when under pressure is definitely key. You could carry a .380 ACP, 9mm, or for that matter even a .22 LR and have adequate protection against potential attackers. Are they all as effective as the next? Not necessarily, but if you can’t shoot a larger caliber, then I think people should train with what they can shoot well and become proficient with it. Even a .22 LR can be highly deadly in the right hands.

      • I know that an .380ACP is quite the caliber to carry on you. I mean a .22 LR could have adequate protection against an attacker. I like the 9mm since its quite common and would be my first choice to use against someone attacking me.

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