A situation all defensive-minded shooters must prepare for is when an attacker who is threatening you or a loved one is not working alone. Since bad guys generally get to choose when and where they conduct their felonious activities, they also get to choose whom they invite. And if they bring a friend or two, we want to be prepared. In this article I will discuss a transition technique used in engaging multiple targets, followed by a couple of different tactics, and finally we’ll put it all together in a practical application by adding movement.

Efficient Transitions

One of the first challenges we must overcome when shooting multiple targets is the tendency to get ahead of ourselves—we are thinking about the second target before we have finished engaging the first. This leads to misses. You must align the sights and therefore the muzzle on each target long enough to hit it before moving on to the next target.

When going to the next target, you want to move your pistol as efficiently as possible. It would seem like treating your upper body as a tank turret—where your eye remains on the sights as the pistol is transitioned from target to target—would be efficient. But there are a couple of things working against you. The first is reaction time. As the sights move across to the next target, it takes time for your eyes to tell your brain to stop the pistol. This reaction time can lead you to move past the target. The second thing working against you is inertia. Once we get our 30- or 40-ounce pistol in motion, it wants to stay in motion. This can also contribute to moving past the intended target.

An efficient technique for transitioning from target to target involves moving your eyes first. Once you engage your first target, your eyes—not your head—move to the second target. Your head remains in a consistent position relative to your upper-body platform. Once your eyes are on the second target, your upper-body platform brings the sights to your eye and therefore on target. This technique works for both precision-sighted shooting and target-focused shooting.

Greatest Threats First

The first method of multiple-target engagement is called “prioritization.” When facing serveral threats, engage the greatest threat first. Once that threat is neutralized or is no longer the greatest threat, the next-greatest threat is engaged. A common example used to explain this concept is a scenario where one bad guy is armed with a shotgun and the other bad guy is armed with a pistol. Most shooters will understand that the shotgun is a more devastating weapon and further conclude that the shotgun is the threat that must be stopped first. However, we can’t focus simply on the weapon system being employed. Distance will play a factor as well. Let’s reexamine the scenario, but this time our bad guy with the shotgun is 20 yards away and the bad guy with the pistol is only 3 yards away. Now, while the shotgun is still a devastating weapon, the bad guy with the pistol becomes the greater priority due to his proximity.

The second method of multiple-target engagement is called “spread fire.” This method is utilized when all the threats are of equal priority. Let’s imagine a scenario where we have three bad guys, each armed with a pistol and approximately 7 yards away. You engage the first bad guy with a double-tap to the chest, followed by a round to the head. Next, you transition to the second bad guy and engage him with a double-tap to the chest followed by a round to the head. So far so good, but what has the third bad guy had the opportunity to do while you were engaging four separate target areas on two separate threats with a total of six rounds? You have given the third bad guy too much time to focus on putting holes in you.

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