For a very long time, I have used 8 inches as the standard of accuracy for combat applications. 8 inches at any distance for most realistic purposes.
Where Did It Begin
When I first started paying attention to standards in the Navy it was mainly during qualifications to receive your Marksmanship Ribbons. A requirement to graduate from BUD’s and routine qualification during the rest of my career. I wanted to score as high as possible for obvious reasons. Most of the targets back in the day were forgiving, very forgiving. I wanted something more challenging and realistic so I would cut out the center of the good ole “E silhouette”. The question was how big of a hole to cut. To keep it simple, I cut a square hole in the high chest region that was about 8 inches wide, the width of the waffle section and about 8 inches tall. I liked using this target because it was so damn durable and easy to use over and over.
Freedom to Let Them Fly
The objective was to not worry about the exact placement of the round, but to just get it in there. I discovered early it was wonderful not worrying about where the bullet was striking. Almost liberating. It allowed me to focus more on my efficiency and open up the throttle. Flash forward to today and modern accuracy standards. We still use 8 inches as our standard of accuracy, but we don’t get to use negative targets (the one with the hole) as much any more. When I was looking for a good accuracy standard 8 inches kept ringing in my head. It made sense since it was about the average size of an adult male’s upper chest cavity, was smaller than most qualifications targets and within repeatable reach of many shooters of various skill levels.
As Fast As Possible
8 inches wasn’t enough, we needed a substitute for the negative targets of old. What I choose was to go with “hit/miss” for scoring. If it was inside the 8 ring it was a hit, if it cut the line or was outside the 8 ring it was a miss. Pretty simple. Boy did that ruffle some feathers, the line cutters. I found the beauty of the hit/miss scoring was not only was it fast to score, but it encouraged shooters to go faster. If they didn’t have to worry so much about the exact impact location it allowed them to be good with a hit anywhere in the 8 ring. To be honest, I never realized the importance of this concept until years later. Pushing students to get their hits as fast as possible with little concern for the exact location. This concept would evolve to what we defined as first, best sight picture. A theory fully developed by the late J. Michael Plaxco as “you must learn what is an acceptable sight picture and trigger control of the shot required.”
I don’t think of it as shooting fast, that is the by product. I think of it as being the best example of efficiency. Using the minimal amount of movement with the highest level of precision required to complete the task at hand. To be specific, when the sight system was inside the target zone, no matter where, it was acceptable for the shot required and let it loose. When the shooter develops their skill to the point there are little to no flaws, along with no wasted movements they are shooting as close to their performance limits as they will probably ever achieve. At this outer limit is where you see the breakpoint. Where the action performed at higher speeds produces enough flaws they overwhelm the 8 inch standard.
That Awkward Pause
Of course, this also opens up another conversation regarding control. I feel when I’m shooting to the 8 inch standard I’m free to let go. I’m not out of control, but I’m riding that razors edge. I see the difference when I shift from shooting for score versus hit/miss. If the goal is to achieve the highest score possible I will throttle back in some fashion. No matter how much I’m not shooting at the higher speed anymore. No matter how small, there is a built in pause or extra moment to achieve a higher level of precision. How much varies, but it is there.
I favor shooting to the 8 inch standard because it provides me the opportunity to shoot as fast as I can guarantee the hits. There is no substitute for this concept in my opinion.