This is what got things rolling — coated card stock with realistic pictures. And the hit zone moved to the appropriate location at the upper thoracic cavity.

Over my last 20 years in law enforcement, I’ve seen a wide variety of training philosophies and targets come and go. Some techniques look really cool on a sterile gun range; yet have no application under the real-world stress on the street. Most of what my agency uses are plain paper targets hanging on a Budgets and training time have steadily been shrinking making it harder for instructors to bring quality on-going training to the table. As training decreases it leads us to wonder during planning sessions, “what can they handle?” While training out of state, a range master from a pretty large agency told me he didn’t think his patrol officers could handle certain types of training. I wondered if I thought similarly regarding my own agency. Isn’t it my responsibility to get officers better training, and not just in order for them to pass qualifications? Absolutely, unequivocally, yes!

For years we’ve taught “center mass” shooting, but I think we’re doing a disservice to our officers. You don’t need to be a doctor to understand where the vital organs are in the human body — the upper chest (upper thoracic cavity aka UTC). So, why do we continue to teach to shoot center mass? Some will say, because it’s easy and what we’ve al-ways done. However, the national average hit ratio for law enforcement officers is around 20 percent. Given this appalling statistic, why not educate officers to shoot at the UTC? One round there has a much better chance of shutting some-one down compared to one round in center mass (abdomen). This is a mindset trainers must accept.


A mixture of UTC and 3D targets offers a variety of challenges to shooters.


Assembly of the UTC 3D targets is a snap.


No, the target can’t blow up the balloon. This is just to show you about where a balloon would sit in the 3D target.





Get away from paper, simulated-torso targets with scoring rings, which amount to no more than bull’s-eye — and gut — shooting. To achieve this for my own agency, I reached out to Targets Online. Specifically, I tasked them with creating a higher-quality, more realistic target to concentrate on the UTC, and for a price less than we were already paying for the paper torso, bull’s-eye targets. Turns out, Targets Online is a division of Standard Paper, who’ve been making paper products since the 1920s, so they’re actually manufacturing the raw goods.

First, we modified a basic paper target, using a heavier, coated card stock and moved the hit zone to the chest area. We also used photographs containing an array of people as the image the shooter looks at, not just emotionless drawings of a pretend person. These simple changes are providing our officers a solid foundation for the right mindset. The heavier card stock is a huge improvement due to its ability to withstand the elements for much longer periods of time; the targets don’t turn to mush in the rain like others.

Next, to create the UTC targets we took a cardboard IPSC-style target and perforated an 8×11″ rectangle, with a smaller 4×6″ rectangle within it — representing the upper thoracic cavity (chest area). We intentionally left off scoring rings because these tar-gets are for LE training — not scoring. (These are also used for the front of the 3D targets.)

We spray-glue a piece of copy paper over the perforated section and then “dress” the target, putting a shirt on it and using binder-clips to attach pants or shorts at the bottom of the target. This is a very simple and cheap way to improve our officers’ training. We shoot on these targets all day. After each shooter, simply lift the shirt, spray-glue a new piece of copy paper over the perforation line, tape any misses out-side the paper and pull the shirt back down; you’re ready for the next relay or drill. Each UTC cardboard target costs only 40-cents for color, 20-cents for B/W and can be used an entire day, sometimes longer.




Here’s the magic. Se-curing the binder-clipped balloon to the hanger ensures the target will fall when the balloon pops.


One target can have several “weapon” options just by using overlays.



Using donated clothes; we dress each cardboard UTC differently so the officers can’t see where their rounds are impacting (darker shirts work better). Officers may think they had a good sight picture or weren’t yanking the trigger, until they complete the shoot and lift up the shirt; for some, it’s a rude awakening. Early on, officers would revert to “gut shooting” or center mass since they couldn’t see the scoring rings. After a few drills, training really be- gins and they adapt to the realism.

Observing our officers’ reactions to these targets on the range is enough to show their incredible value, and has caused me to reflect on my effectiveness as an instructor. Why haven’t I been doing this for years? Have I been cutting short my officers training? Am I being lazy or just sticking to the bare mini-mum? Those days are long over! After all, it’s not about what we instructors can do on the range to prepare ourselves for a shooting; it’s all about what we can get our students and patrol officers to do every day they’re on the street!

The students and instructors like the feedback of the UTC cardboard with clothing and the upper chest hit zone. Once officers understand and practice upper thoracic hits, they can move to the next training evolution. The next step: introducing the cardboard UTC 3D targets.

Targets Online made an inexpensive attachment to the cardboard UTC to make a 3D target. A larger piece of cardboard is scored with fold lines to create a body, simply fold the body panel then attach a UTC front to it. In just a few seconds you have an upper torso target with a 3D appearance. The UTC 3D costs an addition-al $1.10 bringing the grand total cost to a whopping $1.50.

We run special drills with theses targets — drills that force the officers to shoot until the tar-gets fall. We place a balloon (attached to the target hanger arm with a small binder clip) inside the chest area then dress the targets as before. We set up several drills; some, where we get their heart rates up before they shoot the 3D targets — just as in real life, shoot until the threat is gone.

It’s a real eye-opener for many of our officers, but they always want to do it again. It’s easy to understand the 20 percent national average for hits when you see officers’ reactions to shooting “suspects” until they fall to the ground; the only rounds that count are in the upper thoracic cavity. Placing a balloon in the head of the 3D tar-get allows the drill to be modified for body armor drills.

Understand, there are few original thoughts in the training world and dropping targets have been around for a long time. But they’re too expensive, too complicated or time consuming. We need to commit ourselves again to providing the best realistic training for all of our officers. The targets from Targets Online along with these ideas are just one way to start. We owe it to our officers and their families to up-date our training and targets.